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March 2010

This is my Tetley teapot, a gift from Aunt Maurine, my husband's aunt. I never knew the story behind the Tetley Teapots until she gave it to me after my mother-in-law had passed away.

And this is my miniture setting, a tribute to Aunt Maurine and her father, Grandaddy Watford.

It was always fun visiting Aunt Maurine and Uncle Elvin and they loved coming to El Paso. Uncle Elvin was the inspiration for the fireworks stand which Miss Minnie runs each summer and the Anniversary Dome was made for their 55th wedding anniversary.

Aunt Maurine was a wonderful cook with a great sense of humor and Uncle Elvin loved telling all the old family stories. I learned more about my husband's family from him (even though he was only related to the Watfords and Newmans by marriage) than I did from anyone else. I will always remember after a family funeral his driving us up one block and down the other in the small East Texas town where he had grown up. It had hardly changed in all those years because he could point out who had lived in each house, who had owned what business, what adventures he shared when he was young. I have often wished I had a tape recorder for all those times he talked that way.

On one of our last visits we were joined by my husband's sister Paula, and Uncle Elvin got out a very old family Bible that had belonged to his mother where so much of his family history was recorded (boy, I wish I had that Bible!). Then we looked through old family photos as he talked about people long gone and laughed joyfully as he recalled his and his brother's youthful escapades with my father-in-law. Paula took some of those pictures to a local drugstore to have copies made, including a picture of my husband's maternal grandfather in his store, which I had never seen before.

I did not know Grandaddy Watford as well as the rest of my husband's family, as I only saw him when one of our visits coincided with one of his, and he was not very talkative, at least with me. He passed away January 11, 1961, less than two weeks after our daughter, the first grandchild in both our families, was born. My husband made a rush trip to our home town to visit with his grandfather just two days before he died, and to tell him that he had a great-granddaughter, and then turned around and drove straight back to El Paso because I was alone.

Grandaddy Watford married late. He waited years for his future bride, a school teacher who helped care for her younger brothers and sisters after her mother passed away. He was a butcher and used to have his own shop where, according to Aunt Maurine, in addition to meats he sold other food items, including condiments like ketchup, oils and vinegars, jams, pickles, preserved fruits, vanilla flavoring, salt, pepper, spices and seasonings, coffee and tea, etc.

When Grandmother Watford died giving birth to their sixth child, Carlton, in 1925, they already had five children, Theresa, Ruth (my husband's mother), Maurine, Hillery and James. Although it was a very painful decision, Grandaddy allowed childless relatives, the Taylors, to raise the baby.

Hillery Watford put in long hours in his store and struggled to raise the other five children and keep them together as a family. He hired a black woman to help with the housekeeping and cooking, and the children did chores. By the way, that lady and Maurine were friends well into her old age; she used to come by and visit sometimes when she was in town. (When Maurine was just a little girl the housekeeper took her to town with her one night to peek from some bushes at the Ku Klux Klan marching. Can you imagine such a nervy- and dangerous - thing? I used that story in my novel. I guess I'm having too much fun with minis and this kind of storytelling to do enough about getting it to a publisher.)

Not long after my mother-in-law Ruth passed away, we drove down for a visit, and that's when Aunt Maurine told me about the Tetley Teapots.

In the 1930s, in the midst of the Depression, the Tetley Tea Company had a special for its wholesale customers; buy Tetley Tea in certain amounts (she didn't know how much) and you would receive one of their teapots.

After great deliberation, Grandaddy Watford ordered enough Tetley Tea so that each of his daughters could have a teapot.

I wonder what he thought when he grabbed the hammer to open those crates.

It must've been a risky thing for him to do in those hard times, not knowing if his customers could afford to buy that much tea from him.

He must've been excited when he saw the first teapot, ...

... and a bit unnerved as he started unloading all that tea.

Who knew that tea bags were invented in the 1930s? (I don't really remember seeing anything other than loose tea until about the late 50s or early 60s.) I wonder how many people would've been able to afford to buy those tea bags in the midst of the Depression ...

... or all of that loose tea, either, for that matter.

Sometime after that large purchase, like so many other small businessmen during those hard times, Grandaddy Watford lost his store. And for the rest of his life, he lived for varying periods of time with each of his children, who all adored him. Presumably each of his daughters cherished their Tetley teapots, as Aunt Maurine did hers.

(NOTE: Uncle Elvin told my sister-in-law Paula that Grandaddy was a Methodist. "I did not know that," she said, "until he (Uncle Elvin) told me.  Emma Taylor's father was a Baptist minister so I thought all of our family were Baptists.  Anyway, Uncle Elvin said that when Grandaddy was living with them, he would not go to the Baptist church with them on Sunday morning, but every Sunday he would shave and put on a white shirt and tie and watch the Methodist Church service on TV.")

Back to the story ...

During WW II, the lid to Aunt Maurine's teapot was broken. So the next time my husband's family came for a visit, she got out the teapot to see if my late father-in-law Paul, who was a remarkable fix-it man, could repair it. For some reason she had no glue - maybe there was a shortage of glue during WWII? My ingenious father-in-law somehow found a piece of very thin wire and used that to hold the broken pieces together so well on the inside of the lid - the part that fits down in the pot - that no one really noticed the break.

For something like sixty years that teapot resided in Aunt Maurine's dining room, wherever she moved. The day she told me the story she took it off the shelf of her hutch and said, "Open the lid, Wanna." And sure enough, if you looked very closely, there was the wee twist of that tiny wire that my dear late father-in-law had attached during WWII, still holding firmly.

"I don't know what happened to the other girls' teapots," she said, rubbing her hands over the sides of her teapot. "But I want you to have mine. I know how you always loved hearing the old stories, so I know you will appreciate it."

And that survivor Tetley Teapot has already been sitting in my china cabinet for around fifteen years with its secret hidden inside its lid...

... unless I tell the story, and then everyone wants to look.



In January 2009 I was replacing holiday china in the cabinet and as I looked at the Tetley teapot I mused once more about the miniature setting I wanted to do connected with Aunt Maurine's story. Frustrated because it still wasn't coming together in my mind, I decided impulsively to fill the little hutch on the right with miniature teapots anyway.

Another year passed and it wasn't until after I located the picture of my grandmother when I was working on Granny's Kitchen that I remembered that old photo of Grandaddy - and then the setting finally clicked for me. I decided to use another shadow box like the one for my grandmother's kitchen, except in a darker color, and finally get it done.

All I needed for furnishings was a display cabinet and the crates, with the picture in the background, because I already had the teapots. Back in August of 2008 I had put out a call on the mini lists I belong to seeking miniature teapots that were within my budget. I eventually ordered four from Dawn Reese of DollsandMinis. They were plain Brown Bettys, but I figured I could fake the Tetley pot with a bit of dot and dash painting.

The next thing I needed was authentic images for the tea containers, so I Googled for 1930s images for Tetley tea. I also discovered in my searching, incidentally, that Tetley was one of the first companies to make tea bags, long before it became a common practice.

Metal tins were commonly used in those days for loose tea, and I found two from the 1930s.

It helped that someone had used a ruler in photographing this tin.

I spent a LOT of time with the redesign and creation of the boxes and canisters, Stage 1.

I cut the most legible parts from the pictures and then began working to duplicate the trims, lettering and designs. I spent considerable time freshening the colors and redrawing lines and various design elements.

Here is how the new side looks after I have duplicated the lettering, cleaned up the elephant in the circle, etc. I even carefully redid the border. Nothing's been done with the top yet ....

These are the cleaned up and residesigned units that were used as I planned to make the blue and red boxes.

This was the final printout for the boxes and canisters. (The tabs don't show here.) The tea bags box was on another sheet.

Stage 2 was cutting them out; stage 3 was creasing the folds. I did most of this while sitting in my chair watching tv at night. By the way, I've learned from working with my book covers that folding a straight edge over a metal ruler gets an effective crease with the least amount of work, so that's what I did here. Stage 4 was gluing. Stage 5 was touch-up painting.

Along the way I discovered several things that I would do differently next time. For one thing, I would extend the color so that the tabs would not show white. I also discovered that when I am designing boxes my eye tricks me into thinking a tab belongs one place when it really belongs somewhere else. And finally, I don't LIKE making boxes from cardstock; next time I will make them from Fimo or wood or whatever else I can find and glue the cardstock sides and tops in place.

I ordered four teapots to use in this setting, but only wound up showing three. They were a bit larger in scale than the original, but I felt it was close enough. I did some dot and dash painting to suggest a design similar to the original and painted a gold line around the spout; not great, but from a distance and riding a fast horse, passable.

(NOTE: Almost immediately after I first put these pages on my website, I had an email from Steve of STREAMofSERENITY, who wrote, "During the time frame of '97-2004 I was collecting the [Tetley] teapots. As I recall, I was sent 2-3 from a lady in Canada who during our communications told me there were, I want to say less than 10 in the collection, with a few certain ones very difficult to find, even for those in canada who were collectors." Thanks for the info, Steve!)

Since I did not know how the teapots were originally sent, I figured that one teapot would come with a certain number of boxes of tea. I used a crate from my stash, and since the sides and bottom had open sections, I cut some balsa pieces to slide inside. They proved to be too thick, however.

So, I used a piece of manila file folder weight paper to cut the pieces to line the crate.

Here the pieces have been glued inside the crate, and a piece of balsa has been cut to form the top of the box. I used my chalks to grunge up the wood. I chose not to use a wash, figuring that the wood might've been new when the pot and tea were originally shipped, so all that was needed was the natural grunging that came from the delivery.

Sequin pins were used for nails, and needle-nosed pliers were helpful to insert them in the wood.

For the slats, I folded and glued together the manila paper, then cut it into the strips that were then glued to the crate top. Here the nails have been added, and further grunging has been done. After this I added the labels to the top and to the ends of the crate.

The last thing I did was to create the "This Side Up" and "Handle with Care" slats, using my Advertisers Gothic Light font from the Deco period to print out the lettering, again on the manila paper. I grunged them, as well.

In those days, excelsior was used for cushioning in crates and barrels, and I just happened to have some fine excelsior on hand (I don't even remember where I got it). I just snipped it into smaller pieces.

Once I had the tea boxes and crates ready, I went on to the background for the box. After all the work of creating the tea containers and crate, I was dismayed to discover that I had somehow lost our copy of the photo of Grandaddy in his store.

After looking everywhere I decided to go to Ancestry.com to see if by chance someone in the family had put it in with family information and by golly, there it was, thanks to my dear sister-in-law Paula, who had made the copies for us years ago at Maurine and Elvin's. It had a funny kind of green color online, but I figured I could clean it up.

Here it is after the One-Step Photo Fix in PaintShopPro.

I wonder what was in those barrels and the tin container on the right; meat products? Pickles? Pigs' feet? Seems like every butcher shop I saw when I was a child had big barrels or jars of both. My parents both loved pickled pigs' feet, although I never acquired a desire for them, I suppose because of the look.

The doors on the right look like the lockers where meat cuts were kept cold. You can barely tell that is glass in the windows. Aunt Maurine said the women of the community would come in the morning to pick up the meat for their evening meals and her father knew each one's preferences and pocketbook limitations.

Meat lockers could also be rented in those days before people had their own freezers. People could have a calf or pig butchered, cut into select pieces, and stored. Then they would come in and pick up chops or steaks or whatever as they wanted. I remember going with my dad to pick up packets of beef, and occasionally venison and wild turkeys.

I at first speculated that was the meat slicer on the left with the paper roll overhead, but shortly after I put these pages on my website, I had an email from Christy B in San Antonio, who wrote, "My eyes zeroed in on one item in your grandfather’s store immediately.  Just to the right of grandpa, sitting on the back counter, is the twin to the grocer’s scale I have in my kitchen!"

Here's the photo she sent. Isn't this fantastic?

And later in the day, she sent another one of the back of the scales. Thanks, Christy!

That white cone thing was a twine dispenser for tying up packages, I believe, and the hanging item to the right was one of varying sizes of weights used to set in one side of the hanging pans' type of scales for weighing up the meats. Looks like some kind of little cupboard there on the counter. Wonder what that curved arm thing may be? Maybe it held the scales' pans? That's a large wheel of cheese on the corner of the counter, with the cutter that pulls down to slice through, kind of like a paper cutter. I remember seeing items like these in the little country store where I used to go to buy wedges of cheese for my grandmother.

I suppose the main butchering facilities were in the back; perhaps there was more on the right side of the room; and who knows what was behind the photographer?

After test fitting the printout inside my shadowbox, I realized that the image of Grandaddy needed to be further to the left so it wouldn't be too close to the tea display cabinet.

Using PaintShopPro I did the following:

1. Removed the barrels and crate top;
2. Erased the sign (no idea what it really said);
3. Using cut and paste extended the ceiling, counter and the back wall;
4. I also duplicated in another image the now cleared floor so that it could be used for both the bottom and top of the box.

With the lengthening on the right, Grandaddy has now been moved so that he will be spotlighted in the box!

I then tried a sepia tone, but didn't like it.

So, here is the box, lined nicely, with the photo extending to cover each side, and Grandaddy now moved to best location. I didn't really have to go to the trouble of removing those barrels, as it turned out the display counter would have covered them completely anyway, but somehow it made me feel better to take them away. lol (This looks too dark here, but then the whole setting is a bit on the dark side because of the box and the photo.

This was an original image I found online. I worked to straighten it, copying and pasting certain parts. I had to redo the text, as well.

Here is my completed sign, which I planned for the back of the box. It was printed on cardstock and two layers were glued together. I used a black marker to cover the white edges. I debated about making it black and white, but liked the pop of the green.

Scrapbooking glue squares attach the sign so that it has a bit more dimension.

So, here again is the completed setting. And thank you, Paula, for copying that photo all those years ago!

Paula wrote me, "I think I remember someone saying that he lost the store because everyone bought on credit and during the depression they couldn't pay their bills." My husband mused again if buying all that tea might've been the tipping point in Grandaddy's losing his store. Who knows?

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