Mr. Jess Saves the Day

I’m fortunate that my buffet has an excellent drawer for silver, including tarnish-proof cloth under and over the silver. My sterling pattern is Gorham Andante and we received most of it as wedding gifts. My parents gave us the rest for Christmas and birthday gifts the first few years after we were married. I was proud to have real sterling silverware.

Can you tell which is sterling and which is silverplate?

Can you tell which is sterling and which is silverplate?

As I was growing up, we called everything “silverware,” whether or not it was silver. Nowadays, the correct term is “flatware.” (And may have been then, but I was oblivious.) I am glad my original flatware, Frostfire by Oneida, has changed little by being used daily for over 51 years. I’m still happy with the simple design.

After a few years of marriage, I decided to add to my silverware drawer an accumulation of gifts given to me by an elderly friend, Mr. Jess. We shared a birthday, so he always wanted to give me a present. He would deposit $100 in the local savings bank and receive a place setting of silverplate, which, for six years, he gave to me. When I first had my silver, I’d turned my nose up at mere silverplate. But then I realized that it could come in handy when I had more than eight guests, and I reclaimed it from my parents’ home.

I can still see little, wizened Mr. Jess smiling as I opened his present. He’d always say, “Some day I’ll be under the ground on that hill over yonder, and you’ll still be using this silverware!” And he was right.

But his gift saved my silverware in another way, too. In November of 1976, Steve’s mother died and we were away for several days. When we returned, we discovered that our house had been burglarized while we were gone. What a feeling! Our television was gone, and so was some special jewelry—a ring that had been in my family for 75 years, Steve’s graduation ring, a pin that had been Steve’s grandmother’s. We were just sick. When the police came, they asked if anything of value to pawn was still there, and we realized my sterling had not been taken.

The silverware drawer was left open, and tossed aside was one of the silverplate forks from Mr. Jess. The thieves had clearly known the difference in sterling and silverplate and decided the drawer only held worthless silverplate. The silverplate had saved the sterling.

Thank you, Mr. Jess! May you rest in peace on that hill in Tennessee.