Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tea party, seventies-style


Come back in time with me, to an era when colors like rust, cocoa brown, harvest gold and avocado green ruled home decor, extending even to the very dishware. An era when both boys and girls were encouraged to engage in domestic play, when pink, purple and glitter rarely appeared on a toy or its packaging, unless it was a Barbie doll. There were no Disney Princesses, as such - just a handful of princess characters in movies you could only see every few years when they were re-released in theaters. I'm a preschooler opening a Christmas gift I'll still enjoy decades later for its colors and functionality, though I will also learn to appreciate it for its lack of divisiveness, especially as I will someday find myself raising both a boy and a girl. But I don't know any of this at the time. I just really like my Tupperware Mini-Serve-It set, as I still do today.



This tea (or "serving") set was made for Tupperware by Dart Industries in 1979. It was given to me around 1981. This set is from the first incarnation of the toy, though later versions were made into the 1990's. My set is still in its original box, though the box sustained some water damage somewhere along the way. There must have been a leak in my childhood closet. I've done little research into the value of my old toys, because I'd rather keep them than sell them. I have seen these sets on eBay, in original boxes, listed for $20 to $40 - but mostly the lower end of that range.

The provenance of this toy is a little unusual. My parents knew a couple who sold Tupperware together, back in the days when Tupperware house parties were very common (now people mostly order from their website, as I understand it). The male half of this couple was actually the more prolific Tupperware salesperson; he truly enjoyed displaying the products for gaggles of ladies and had a popular following in the community. He worked days for the postal service and nights as a Tupperware guy. My parents bought their Tupperware from him, including this set. I was a fastidious child, very careful with my toys. Books, dolls, even crayons still looked new years after they were given to me. One of the best parts of any game was cleaning up. I've always been a neatnik, it's just who I am.


I find the packaging utterly fascinating. It features both boys and girls playing contentedly. There is no sense that it's only a toy for girls. These photos appear on two sides of the box and I attempted to put them together in a continuous way. The children are dressed simply, mostly wearing turtleneck tops and jeans. One boy wears a button-down western-style shirt, in the "cowboy" style popular at the time. Another wears a sweater vest over a plaid shirt. None of the girls wears anything pink or sparkly. Some are even wearing blue. Only one girl appears to be wearing a dress, and it's a red plaid jumper. Hairstyles are simple. This is what children looked like when I was small, and in my mind, they still do. In my home today, they mostly look like this too, though my daughter does wear a lot of pink; I have trouble finding much else. It's not that I dislike pink or girly fashion, mind you; it's just that this seems so much simpler. I find myself thinking about these issues a lot, and I realize it's not only girls who are affected by today's attitudes. But I am glad I saw more of this when I was growing up.


The inner part of the box has some wear and tear, but in general it holds everything in place. The set contains tiny versions of real Tupperware items of the era, including little mugs with handles, a pitcher with real sealing lid and small bowls with sealing lids of their own. The colors are exactly the same as Tupperware my mother had when I was a small child. We had regular-sized bowls identical to these. I ate my breakfast - oatmeal, or cold cereal - from them every morning. We had the pitcher too, a dark brown one. I remember as a child thinking that these were "M&M colors" because back then, there were no blue or red M&M's - only light brown, dark brown, green, yellow and orange. The greens were different - M&M's included a bright kelly green - but it was a strong association otherwise.


The pitcher's lid works exactly the same way old Tupperware sealing lids worked. I'm pretty sure you can still buy this type of pitcher from them today, though I don't actually own much Tupperware as an adult - it's expensive and we started our plastic-ware collection when we were still in school, so we mostly have Rubbermaid items you could buy right in the grocery or discount store. But I do have a few older Tupperware items handed down by various relatives and I have to say that they are good; I can't seem to kill them.



The pieces are in pretty good shape, except for that brown bowl. It was a casualty of a dog we had when I was growing up, a boxer with a chewing problem. I got it away from him before anything really bad happened to it. Don't you love the colors, though? They even seem fashionable again. The cups, especially, give off sort of an Orla Kiely vibe, I think. Or Scandinavian, straight out of IKEA - form as well as function; durable, modern and streamlined for the family on the go. My grandmother had mugs like this, and she let me drink real tea from them. She made my tea with milk and honey, which is something I always crave today when I am sick.


The bowls have sealing lids, which don't seal so well anymore. The plastic has become brittle. I don't want to force them to seal, for fear of breaking them. But when they did seal properly, they were just like the real ones, and I liked to put small items inside. Possibly M&M's; it would have been just like me to hoard them for later.


For these photos, I've placed the tea set on an old tablecloth made by the Bear's grandmother. I love the way the colors look together. The tablecloth is actually substantially older than the tea set, probably by fifteen or twenty years, but I like the overall vintage effect. The GB was thrilled when I took out the tea set, which lives in my current bedroom closet too. I don't let them play with the set often, which is selfish of me, but I'm concerned the pieces will break. The small Bears have a pretty fantastic set of play dishes themselves, so I keep this one a rare playtime treat.

They can't believe the brown dish and cup; they tell me it's ugly, but I don't mind. In the first house I can remember, there was rust-colored carpeting in my bedroom (with blue Holly Hobbie bedspread and curtains). Downstairs, the carpeting was cocoa brown, with fake-brick linoleum and harvest-gold appliances in the kitchen. There was a soup tureen shaped like a big, brown mushroom on top of the refrigerator, an avocado-green Oster blender on the almond Formica counter, orange and yellow plastic measuring cups in a drawer, a yellow rotary telephone on the wall. It would not be long before softer colors took over in fashion and home decor, but these are the colors of my earliest memories.

47 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking us on this little nostalgic journey with you. I find lately that I am also yearning for simpler times. I have been craving my own childhood. I was a child of the 80s. I loved the simple gifts like this that made my year at Christmas. A teddy bear, a pull along doggy, a tea set.
    I would love to take my family on a journey back in time and learn the values we held. We had no money and what little we had went of providing not indulging. We knew the value of everything and appreciated all the more.
    I was thinking of making the last Christmas a nostalgic one but life got in the way. Maybe with a little planning I could take my kids back in time to an old fashioned Christmas Mummy style :)

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  2. It's nice to have a bit of nostailgia now and then isn't it? Like Emma, I find I think about my childhood days often (must be a sign of growing older!!). My Mum used to take me to see Father Christmas at the co-op and in those days in England, you paid to see him and he gave you a gift. One year I got a beautiful mini china tea service and I played with that thing for years! I smiled when you said you ate your oatmeal out of similar ones as a child because I always gave our two boys a hard time when they were younger about the amount of cereal they had in their bowls (huge mountains!) I told them the cereal bowls I ate out of were small and there was no way I could have piled that much in if I'd wanted to. When my Granddad died a few years ago, we went over for the funeral and cleaned out his flat. There in the kitchen were the small pyrex cereal bowls I'd eaten from as a child. I had to bring them home with me and now the boys know I was telling the truth!!

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  3. What a lovely trip down memory lane, Jennifer! Those colours are coming back in again. Well, not for major appliances, but for lots of other things. How nice you can share that bit of your childhood with your own children!

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  4. My mother had one of the full-size jugs (pitchers) like that - in a mustardy yellow! I still have my childhood tea-set. It's white china with a blue floral pattern on it. I have a teapot, four cups and saucers, a milk jug and sugar dish. Neither of my girls have ever used it as it would break too easily. It's still in the original box, on which I wrote my name and address! Seventies decor was very distinctive, I think. Our kitchen had white cabinets with orange vinyl in a tile pattern on the walls and my grandmother's kitchen was white with red. My mother even had an orange Kenwood Chef mixer (which, I found out a couple of years ago, she threw out :o as she didn't use it). I hope you and the little Bears have a great time playing with your tea-set :)

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  5. There was always invitations arriving to Tupperware parties when I was a child. My mum bought the odd bit or two but we didn't really have many pieces. The tea set is wonderful and how lovely that you've kept it all these years.

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  6. Oh Jennifer, thank you for the walk down memory lane. I had one of these! I wish I still had it. Your photos are awesome and I do not mind the brown either. ;-)

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  7. You are so right in everything that you have said here Jennifer. These colours are so reminiscent for me too. My Dad's Mum was a Tupperware salesperson, but all the things she had were so well used they were not worth keeping, but they had done decades of sterling service. My parents have some larger pieces - a cake store amongst them - in these colours, especially the orange and the green, and they are used on a semi regular basis. Apart from the lids which as you say seem to get brittle, your pieces will probably go on for many more decades as they are so well cared for! I do wish that children now had toys that promoted a simpler image like these did. When I shop for toys they all seem to be sterotyped and the boxes are full of little tiny bits that break off and/or get lost and can so often only be used for one thing, or need lots of other bits to go with them to make them work or be versatile. Hey, simpler times, what great memories!! xx

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  8. Oh my goodness Jennifer!! I have just showed this post to my Mum (she is visiting) and we have wandered off down amnesia lane together. I absolutley love your set. My Mum had the adult versions of all of this when I was younger. I think it's just brillint that you still have this. All your colour memories could be mine. I was born in 1970, so am a total seventies child. I remember coveting a holly hobby necklace that a girl at my junior school wore. I simply love this post. Thank you.

    Leanne xx

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  9. This was a wonderful trip down memory lane for me too. Although Hubby and I married in 1978, so I wasn't a small child then. I still have Tupperware from our wedding gifts that is used daily. It certainly does hold up well. I have the adult size pitcher just like yours!
    Thank you for the memories.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  10. I loved reading this! Although I don't remember those specific pieces, I well recall the kitchen color scheme you describe so vividly. I like how little boys are depicted playing with dishes with not a second thought. In a early eighties moment, striving for "gender neutrality" for my oldest daughter (born 1980) I gifted her with a Fisher Price dump truck and the Little People parking garage. Both items remain nearly untouched! It is fun to look for these items on ebay and see the prices they hope to fetch for them. I'm glad I saved most of the toys my daughters played with!

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  11. I remember using tupperware fondly - my school packed lunches were safely tucked in different boxes.
    As you say - my first thoughts of the colours when I saw your post was Orla Kiely! :)
    x

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  12. What a lovely trip down memory lane :) I had a similar set when I was younger and it was nice to remember back to those times. The vintage table cloth is adorable too :) xx

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  13. Oh my gosh! It's the Tupperware set! I can feel my thumb pushing down the button on the pitcher lid right now...such a perfect seal...the colours, I have been transported back to my mom's kitchen when we were kids, avocado fridge, orange shelves and curtains...and matching Tupperware. You have made me feel all happy and youthful, dear Jennifer! I bet we would have played with our sets for hours as kids...Chrissie x

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  14. Oh My Goodness!! I remember all of these pieces and oh those bowls just rang the clearest bell ever-what an adorable post and your photos are amazing.
    Jemma

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  15. Love your late Winter pictures, glad the little ones and you are all feeling better. I have a teenager home ill, the first day of school missed in two years. You are younger than me so I did not have that Tupperware set, but I remember those colors with the Tupperware my Mother had, our whole house was avocado green.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  16. How lovely! Jennifer, I really enjoyed this post! The bowls, cups, and pitcher- it's all just so lovely. :)

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  17. This is absolutely one of my favourite post ever Jennifer! I, too remember the Tupperware of the Seventies. In fact, my mum still has some of the original containers and uses them all the time. I seem to replace my plastic containers every few months.... I think the lids are replaceable? I was born in 1970 and have vivid memories of the colours of the time. Hurrah for the colours of the Seventies (although I didn't like our avocado green bathroom suite)!
    I agree with you, it is difficult to find girl outfits that are not pink, especially for littler girls. I found it got a bit easier as Annie grew older (she is 10). James is using Annie's pink water bottle with butterflies on at the moment, he tells me every day that he gets teased for it. What a shame, he likes the bottle but he might be "encouraged" by his peers to get a proper boy's bottle again. I hate to see my children forced into these new stereotypes children seem to have to fit into now and I actively encourage "otherness". Thanks for this trip down memory lane Jennifer! Cx

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  18. What an awesome set! I don't remember ever seeing this kind of Tupperware.

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  19. Great memories there. I think it is a pretty brilliant set and so evocative of the 1970's - enjoy playing with it, you know you really want to! Jo x

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  20. I so relate to this post. As a society I think we have strayed away from some really basic, good traditions and overall importance of what we value. I am with you on the clothes for kids and not drawing lines between boys and girls. The emphasis wasn't on defining what a child should be or look like...it seemed to happen more organically. Your set is fantastic and your memories of your childhood home are outstanding. So glad to know there are other parents like me. All the best this week friend!!! Nicole xo

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  21. What fun to see this! I had the orange pitcher in full size. Good for you for taking such good care of your toys, so they are still in great condition.

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  22. When I was young I absolutely use to love it when my mom had Tupperware parties !
    They were so much fun and as my mom always said "A great product , all around " :)

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  23. Loving the 70's colour, my Mum and Dad got married in the 70's and set up home, Mum always tells the tale of them decaraing the lounge in 70's colours (thoses colours in fact) and my great nan coming to visit and saying what horrible colours at least you can decorate Doh !! thanks for sharing, reminds me so much of my childhood we had brown curtain with flowers on and a stripey sofa that match you're teaset
    Clare xx

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  24. Colors of different periods are memorable in my lifetime, too. The first home my husband and I bought in the mid 70's had a lot of avocado green...I'm not so keen on that these days :) I realize after reading your thoughts that I have often said I avoid buying cheap plastic toys for children, but I have bought many plastic toys for kids...Fisher Price and Lego. And I know I bought plastic tea sets for the girls, too. I am not keen on Disney themed products with the exception of Winnie the Pooh. But all in all I think I favor the plain and simple and utilitarian and creative with emphasis on natural beauty and handmade. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jennifer, and for stimulating mine :) xx

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  25. Jennifer, What memories this brings back. Don't know if you remember, but Tupperware guaranteed their products for life, and will probably replaceyour lids. Seriously! I think you should contact them, and then do a post on the outcome. :)

    The only Tupperware I own is a ser of salt and pepper shakers for camping and picnicking. I used to love my lettuce crisper best. Fun post.

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  26. I remember seeing those somewhere. I do love Tupperware. My latest one is a lovely lime green. I even have the "ice cream keeper" that you'd put a whole half gallon of ice cream in it and it would keep it from freezer burn. Fun memories. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  27. The kids on the box are obviously members of the Slow Food movement ... as evidenced by their air of leisurely conversation.

    What a fun trip down memory lane ... I still miss the old M&M colours. Can't seem to get used to the blue ones at all.

    We actually have fake-brick linoleum and an avocado-green stove in our (rental) kitchen! Now all I need is a set just like this one ... though to be honest I already have a dark-red Tupperware pitcher and a pumpkin-orange bowl with lid (both full size) that would perfectly complement your set.

    I grew up in the 60s and 70s and would have loved to have some pink or purple clothing available - lavender was my favourite colour and it couldn't be got for love or money. :)

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  28. I smiled the whole way through this post. We had that EXACT orange lidded jug when I was little, but in a much larger size - I'm wondering if my mum still has it now. I love the way you talked about the colours; I agree, they are fashionable again, very Orla Kiely. Mainly I just really like how it's not all pink, which is what a tea set today would probably be. x

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  29. What lovely memories Jennifer, and how nice that you still have the set. I only have one or two books from my childhood; like your things they are in great condition though. I grew up with a lot of bright colours as well - a royal blue carpet, orange curtains, lots of florals.

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  30. Amazing Jennifer how many memories are stirred by the old Tupperware, and you make a really good point about children's things being so pink or blue these days. I find it quite annoying when going to buy things for my grandchildren as my children grew up with these gender neutrals. We had that very same orange pitcher, for years and years. A few years ago I inherited from my mother-in-law some Tupperware of this era, unused, so am now proud owner of a good avocado green tupper fruit bowl, a mustard yellow cake container, and a few other bits. Proud to use them :) Great, popular post Jennifer!

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  31. Wow I love tupperware but have never seen anything like this before! It must be some much fun using it. Sarah x

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  32. I have the same orange jug in real life size ... actually two since I kept my mom's as well ... AND I bought both of them for us at a Tupperware party before I was married (about 30 years ago). The lids still seal, and in fact, are difficult to get open. There was also a mixing bowl set in orange, red & yellow and a cheese storage box (still have & use them all). Tupperware never seems to wear out. This is a great little set you have. I used to keep my childhood toys away from my kids because I also didn't want them ruined. But then I didn't want my old toys being left in a closet and no one ever enjoying them again, so I passed them along. My kids learned that the toys were still special to me and treated them with the same care they gave their own toys. Now they're all stored in their closets as my kids are finished with toys! Wendy x

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  33. PS I love the quilt-style tablecloth ... wonderful heirloom :) Wendy

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  34. Gosh this has taken me down memory lane Jennifer. I used to sell Tupperware in the day for what we used to call a bit of 'pin money'. I used to go out in the evenings and set up my wares to demonstrate to a bunch of women in the hope that I could make a nice commission at the end of the evening. I so remember this set, I bought one (at a discount) for my daughter. We had Tupperware in our house for years - it really did make the ten year guarantee mark too. I loved the bright colours and the seals really did work too. I often wish that I could buy it now, although you mentioned they have a website which I'll take a look at. Thank you for sharing this, I enjoyed reading your post.
    Patricia x

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  35. Oh my what a trip down memory lane. I used to have a set like this and boy did I love it. I don't think there is anything that comes close to traditional Tupperware and I have seen some bits around vintage fairs around the years, but they cost an arm and a leg. So lovely that you kept it all these years and yes I can see how you love it just as much today, I would be playing with it every day. How very special!! xoxo

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  36. That's a gorgeous wee set, thank you for sharing it with us. I agree the. Ok ours are very Orla Kiely.
    Marianne x

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  37. Jennifer!

    You are my fairy godmother today, granting me my wish to be 9 and not 49, soon to be 50! You have waved your seventies wand and with it warm and cozy colours appeared before my tired eyes, mini teacups and saucers and scratchy, plastic bowls for goodies, which were shared with my Raggedy Ann doll, while watching the Polka Dot Door, as it snowed softly outside my window!

    Poppy

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  38. Jennifer, this post brought back lots of memories. Tupperware parties used to be big things in the 60's, 70's and 80's and I and my mum had loads of this type of thing. My mum still has quite a few bits and pieces, albeit well used. I left mine behind when my first marriage broke up so the ex has probably thrown it all out! It lasts forever though doesnt it and I still come across old tupperware as I browse the charity shops from time to time.

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  39. I really loved this post, Jennifer, though the colours took me back to my early married life, rather than my childhood. I remember my next-door neighbour inviting me to a Tupperware party soon after we moved in to our first house. :-) The tea-set I had as a child was made of china and sadly didn't survive, but somewhere in a box in the barn we have a tea-set which was given to DD in the late 70s, when she'd have been 6 or 7. It was red plastic and had cups, saucers, tea plates and even a milk jug and sugar basin. As for the grown-up Tupperware jug with lid, my mother-in-law still has hers from many years ago. See what memories your post has stirred.

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  40. Oh you have no idea how much I love this! I have lots of new and old Tupperware. Wonderful! xo

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  41. I remember my mom having Tupperware in all of these colors when I was growing up. I think she even had a few Tupperware parties at our house, too. And how great that you still have this set. It's so nice that you can now share it with your children. Your tablecloth is extra special, too.

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  42. This is so fun, Jennifer! I think I must have had every piece of tupperware they made back in the 70's & 80's -- I think my friends & I (all very young mothers) used tupperware parties as our social outing. I had lots of those parties and garnered lots of free goodies. I bought this tea set and a mixing set for our daughter when she was about five. She and our 3-year old son had lots of tea parties on their little wooden child's table. BTW....that must have worked out well for our son since he grew up to be a chef (you just never know). I still have quite a few of the pieces and our grandchildren have all played with them over the years. So funny, in my young married years, I had all those colors at different times in our kitchens!

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  43. Oh wow, my mum totally still has the big version of those bowls in pastel colours and the jug too, in the same orange - we have lemonade or punch in it at bbqs or picnics. i love the original tuperware, i have a small pink box that is older then me, but i have my breakfast in it every work day morning and it's still going strong! Your tea party looks like a lot of fun! x

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  44. My 70s childhood had the same colours as you remember, but never such a neat set of play dishes ... what a joy these are :)

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