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Rose Ginsberg’s Glass

A New Year’s Resolution for 2007


            My great-grandmother, Rose Ginsberg, was a dressmaker in the heart of central Philadelphia. She was a hard working, self-made entrepreneur in an era geared exclusively to male success.

          I was in elementary school in the early 1960s when we would visit her shop, which was also her residence. In a time before antidiscrimination legislation my elderly great-grandmother graciously assisted her black clientele, assuring them of the appropriate garment and satisfactory fit.

          Sitting in a dress shop with a great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother was not a fun way to pass a Saturday. I was forced to sit with the adults and retain an adult demeanor as after all, this was a business establishment.

          At some point I earned permission to be in my great-grandmother’s home, alone. She lived above her shop as was typical for downtown storefront enterprises.

My memories of her abode are lost, except for climbing the stairs to the third floor to sit in one special room. My Mom Mom Ginsberg decorated one small room with china closets on three walls, and filled those display pieces with cut glass. There were small pieces, there were large pieces. The shelves were packed with glassware that sparkled and glistened and reflected in the mirrored backs of the cabinets. Three generations of women sat in the store while the fourth generation sat on the floor of this kaleidoscope of beauty, totally mesmerized.

Rose Ginsberg died while I was in Junior High. Hers was the first funeral I ever attended, and even though I never felt particularly close to my great-grandmother I remember crying heartfelt tears through the service. After her passing the task of liquidating her assets and distributing her possessions fell upon her daughter (my grandmother), and her grand-daughters (my mother and her sister). As my visits in Mom Mom Ginsberg’s home were exclusively to my third floor sanctuary I was unaware of her cabinets loaded with pink Depression Glass, dated blue canning jars, and other vintage delights.

Thirty years later my husband, Jim, and I began our antiques and collectibles business, Today’s Pleasures Tomorrow’s Treasures. Originally Jim and I sold a general line of antiques. Over a period of several years we evolved into the vintage kitchen specialists for which we are known, and sold from our location in a Sunday market for almost twenty years. Through most of that period I ended my day with a call to my grandmother, Dorothy Drucker. My Mom Mom was the one family member to show a huge interest in our business and our minor successes. As time passed Mom Mom would compare me to her mother as she felt we were both successful business women carving a unique path in our area. Mom Mom was the one to tell me about her mother’s pink Depression Glass and blue canning jars that went in the dumpster after her death. “After all,” I still recall her saying, “It reminded us of poverty.”

How ironic. You see, for all of those years selling face-to-face with the public, Jim and I counseled countless customers regarding family heirloom glass. We would consistently attempt to convince people to not sell glassware and other treasures that were in their family, but to write the history down pertaining to these gems and pass them along through the family. Likewise, we often had someone come into our shop with a single piece of Depression Glass, and the story was usually the same: it was a piece that was inherited from some deceased relative, it needed to be identified, and this was going to be the initiation of a collection. Meanwhile, I, who literally preached the importance of preserving family glassware and its history, was without a single piece from my great-grandmother.

At the age of 92 and suffering from macular degeneration my Mom Mom placed herself into an assisted living facility and her daughters were again in a position to liquidate possessions. In the back of my grandmother’s turquoise blue kitchen cabinets were three pieces of pink Depression Glass: a Cambridge ice bucket, a “generic” creamer, and a Floral relish dish. I was thrilled that these were discovered and passed immediately to me! But the best part was when my aunt and my mother found two pieces of Mom Mom Ginsberg’s cut glass! Neither my aunt nor my mother had any inkling that these pieces had been pushed to the back corners of their mother’s cabinets, but they knew with a certainty that I deserved to receive both the pitcher and the candy dish.

Five years later Mom Mom passed away. In fact, my mother, my aunt, my daughter, and I were with her when she fell asleep for the final time. I still cry over her loss, but know that she must have felt a huge measure of joy being surrounded by the love of four women from three generations. Her private memorial service was held at my aunt’s house a few days later. After the service my aunt took me upstairs to a room rarely used and showed me something that almost made me whoop with joy, and this was only minutes after the conclusion of my Mom Mom’s memorial; there were four more pieces of my great-grandmother’s cut glass!

As I write this four years have passed, and I have my six pieces of cut glass together in a display that doesn’t begin to rival the extent and collective beauty of Rose Ginsberg’s original display, but I am thrilled just the same. And after years of suggesting, cajoling, and nagging customers to write down the family history of their glassware, guess who never took the time to do so? Well, I guess I just did.

A new year is upon us and the memories you may carry regarding your family treasures are now another year older and another year duller. How many of us make resolutions we never keep like exercising every day, losing weight, or quitting smoking? Here’s one that is easy, fun, and of timeless importance: make 2007 your year to document your family heirlooms. Future generations depend upon your memories and they will thank you even if you aren’t walking the earth when they do.

Jim and I wish all of you a wonderful, healthy, blessed year!

Views: 160

Replies to This Discussion

What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us!
I wish I had read this story 30 or 40 years ago when my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were still alive.  I'm now the only one left with little or no information about family pieces. Great story!
Vicki, Barbara~ Thanks for the feedback! :-)

Wonderful article Barbara, truly enjoyed it!  Thank you for sharing your story :)



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