Dishing Up Friendship

Dishing Up Friendship

Dishing Up Friendship

Friendships are formed in many ways. Pam Mangus and Lisa Pruitt bonded over, not dinner, but over dinnerware. Pam collects Depression-era glass and Lisa collects Fiesta pottery. Now, their 20-year friendship revolves around a routine of shopping at antique stores—looking for the next special dish to take home and add to the hundreds of dishes they already own. 

Pam, a church secretary, and Lisa, a school secretary, are a bit like Lucy and Ethel from the I Love Lucy show. Pam is more reserved and practical, while Lisa is more spontaneous and primed for adventure. They believe it’s their “opposites attract” chemistry that make their friendship special. They’ve shared many laughs while spurring each other toward the purchase of just one more plate.

Although Pam and Lisa have rare and valuable items in their collections, neither pay premium prices. They find greater joy in buying pieces for a few dollars at a thrift store.

Lisa, who owns nearly 300 Fiesta items, admits that her collecting tendency might be an addiction. “Don’t judge,” she said with a laugh. “FiestaWare is so much a part of me, and I do use it! I should be ashamed to admit that I own over 60 luncheon plates, but that’s because I wanted to open a tea room at one time.

Fiesta was commercially produced as a more expensive line of dinnerware during the 1930s. Lisa purchased her first piece 32 years ago by saving green stamps for a cobalt blue pitcher. Although she’s perfectly happy with modern pieces, she loves finding old originals to brighten her table.

Pam owns over 500 pieces of Depression glass, because it is “cheerful and pretty.” Depression glass, which was cheap and prone to flaws, was originally used as a freebie giveaway during the 1930s. “It was much like finding a prize in a box a Cracker Jacks,” Pam said. “You’d open a container of oats or detergent and find a saucer inside; then you’d go to the store and buy matching pieces.

Although the glass was only worth pennies then, it’s now quite valuable. “After I inherited my grandma’s green sugar bowl and lid, I learned how rare it is to have a lid, because it just rested on top without nesting into the bowl,” Pam said. “The fact that it survived intact on a cluttered cabinet for 70 years, from her marriage to the end of her life, just fascinates me.

Pam finds herself distracted anytime she notices Depression glass in a movie, such as the scene in The Green Mile where the characters are eating under a tree. “I can hardly listen to what they are talking about because I’m so focused on the dishware and thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got that one!

Neither Pam nor Lisa are distracted when it comes to scouting through an antique store or estate sale. They have a solid routine developed which includes pre-scheduling visits based upon opening and closing times. They occasionally take a road trip that results in a friendly competition to find the most pieces or the most valuable pieces.

“It’s more about the memories and the bonding than the stuff,” Lisa said with a laugh. “We don’t need any more, but we continue because it’s truly about our friendship. “For me, every piece has a story,” said Pam. “I think about how I got it, who owned it before me, and how it survived for so many decades. I’d say that if you’re interested in collecting, get a guide book and narrow down what you most want—so that you don’t end up with 500 pieces like me!

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