Maw's Dish


This is the story of a small dish that belonged to Shirley Audra Wiseman Leith, more commonly known as 'Maw". The plate/dish in question has a history but that history has been lost. Thus we will never really know the true origin of the the small dish. For the purposes of this story we begin about 1964 in Shirley's home at 775 Watson Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Although the dish, by all appearances, has seen a lot of use over time (faded purpulish coloring forming two rings around the outer and inner portions of the dish which contained white markings with gold filligree between these two borders, all badly scratched and faded), in 1964 it occupied a small space on a table in Maw's living room. Except for the faded and scratched intricate markings and filligree around the outter and inner borders and the faded motiff that adorns the center, there is nothing particularly remarkable about the plate.

It was Christmas time and although Maw's daughter, Nancy Ellen Leith Carr lived in Houston, Texas with her husband Everette and two children Tracy Ellen and Kelly Cathlene, she and her family were visiting for the holidays. Everette's parents, Everette Sr. and Josephine Rainey Kemp Carr, who lived in West Point, Mississippi had also come to Memphis for the season and were staying with friends that lived close by.

It was on a day when all of the above indiviuals were seated in Maw's living room that Maw suggested that if there was anything in the house that anyone was interested in they should put there name on it. Not at all sure what prompted this remark so it went mostly unnoticed, or so I thought at the time.

Photograph's of Maw's dish are shown below:


After Maw retired from the Veteran's Administration she sold her home at 775 Watson and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to be near her oldest daughter and her Florida grandchildren and her great grandchildren. After all, her other daughter and granchildren lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Tough choice!

Maw passed away in July, 1992. Her Pennsylvania daughter, Nancy passed away in January, 2001. Josephine (Jo) Carr passed away in May, 2001. Not sure of the time frame, but Betsy was looking through some of maw's possessions in the early 2000's and opened a styrofoam container that had a dish inside. When the styrofoam container was opened properly the plate was facing down in the container and a small piece of masking tape with the name 'Jo Carr' was attached to the bottom of the dish. Betsy had no idea why my mother's name, Jo Carr was attached to the plate. Yet it had been there since December, 1964.

Betsy sent the plate along with a note to me in Pennsylvania. I don't remember when but it was well after both my Mother ('Honey') and my wife Nancy had passed away. In the photos below take note of the tape with Jo Carr in my mother's handwriting. Betsy's hand written note. The styrofoam box shows considerable wear and tear.

The note to me from Betsy reads as follows:

"Don't know if Honey gave to Maw or Maw was giving it to Honey - Maybe one of the girls would like to have it. Love Betsy"

Well, We all know now that the dish belonged to Maw (Shirley Leith). We also know that my mother (Jo Carr) put her name on it so that she would get it when Maw passed away. It is most likely that the dish was placed in it's original carton when Maw moved from Memphis to Fort Lauderdale. It is also likely that the dish was never unwraped or opened after the move. Thus, the fact that Jo Carr's name was taped to the bottom was not revealed until Betsy happened upon it while going through some of Maw's possessions many years later.

The dish has been hiding in my closet since I received it from Betsy. Although Betsy though one of the girls would like it; the rub comes in that their are two of them (daughters). The dish is certainly a keepsake and I can see why Honey would have liked to have had it. I like it too! But how do you divide a dish among two people? So I kept it, out of sight I kept it. The girls will find it upon my passing and they will have the burden of what to do with it.

While contemplating these web pages I wondered about the true origin of the dish. Could it have been a family heirloom dating back to Maw's ancestors? Pretty much ruled that out as Maw was on of nine children, eight of which were female. Maw was the next to last of the nine so unlikely that she would come into possession of a family heirloom. There is no marking on the plate that would allow identification. Besides, the styrofoam box was obviously made especially for this dish. The fit is perfect. Styrofoam wasn't invented until 1941 by Dow Chemicle so it is likely that Maw purchased the single dish, used it frequently and then at some point placed it on a table as decoration.

So there you have the story of maw's dish; the dish that traveled from Memphis to Ft. Lauderdale and then to Allentown, Pennsylvania. And except for the fact that it is chiped, faded, scratched and shows obvious signs of age, it is a beautiful plate or dish that hopefully will be used or displayed once again.

The principle participants in this story:




[Maw's Dish Part 2]

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