There’s Always Hope

Nov 23, 2011 | 2 comments

Hope Chest/Jewelry Box

     In the spring of 1953, a San Rafael furniture store gave each of us graduating high school senior girls a miniature Lane Cedar Chest.  It was a promotional item, of course, intended to prompt us or our parents into buying a full-sized ‘hope chest’ – a dowry box in which to tuck away household linens and other treasures that would be needed to begin married life.
     In my case, getting the ‘real deal’ hope chest didn’t happen, and I suspect that few of my classmates ever had more than that little give-away box, either.  With its built-in lock and tiny brass key, it made a perfect container for jewelry and we all loved and used them for years.
     I don’t know what happened to mine.  The one we have now belonged to Nyel’s mother.  We use it as the donation box for every House Concert.  In a way, it is still serving the hope chest function for the musicians who collect its contents at the end of the evening.
     By my generation, the concept of a hope chest was on its way out.  I can’t think of a single person among my high school girl friends who spent their leisure time embroidering pillow cases or crocheting table runners to put away for their future marriage.  I think, by our generation, hope had given way to confidence.  Some way or other, we would acquire the things we needed when the time came.
     I thought about all those things as I polished silver yesterday in preparation for our big Thanksgiving feast.  There will be seven of us, so I was working on my mother’s Hunt Club pattern by Gorham.  She chose her pattern when she was sixteen and was given a spoon or fork or serving piece each birthday or Christmas from then on. By the time she married six years later, she had a good start on the set of eight – a set she completed about the time I, myself, was sweet sixteen.
     Although I, too, selected a silver pattern as part of the sixteenth birthday ritual, my own set has never been completed beyond four of everything.  As it turned out, my lifestyle lent itself to stainless steel and pottery rather than to sterling silver and china.  Who knew that, at this late date,  I’d be enjoying the items that came from the hope chests of my forebears?


  1. Nancy

    Near the top of my gratitude list, all of the memories of many, many years lived, collectively, by our forebears. Thank you for today’s post. I too, have misplaced my cedar chest from 1953, but used it often for many of those years lived. The seven to sit at your table are indeed fortunate to “share the silver” with your family.

  2. Jo

    My family also had a silverware tradition. From our 16th birthday on, by sister and I were each given 1 place setting of our chosen stainless silver patter. I actually acquired a full service for 12. Some years I received a place setting on my birthday, also. The first year, we received a wooden silverware box to place them in. I still have my set. That’s as far as the family tradition went…no table linen, towels, bedding, etc. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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