Tea

Does anyone have teas anymore?

I’m not talking about a tea bag plunked in a mug of hot water. I’m referring to TEAS – ladies dressed in their finest, tea poured from a china tea pot, flowery china cups and saucers, loose tea, cut crystal cream and sugar, little spoons, and plates of fancy sandwiches and “dainties” (the prairie term for squares and other tooth-achingly sweet confections).

I found several of Mom’s china cups and saucers when packing up everything in my brother’s house prior to moving him into an apartment (more of that in a future post). They brought back so many memories:

  • a cup and saucer given as a wedding shower gift
  • my brother and I scraping together our collective pennies, nickels and dimes to buy Mom another cup and saucer for Mother’s Day
  • enduring the Ladies Aid meetings that Mom had dragged me to (no baby-sitters then) so that I could have my version of “tea” – a glass of milk, a fancy sandwich and a dainty (I always peeled the icing off the cake and ate it last).

But most of all, they brought back memories of church teas, a fund-raiser of epic proportions for a small prairie village. A multitude of decisions had to be made. Who would be the hostess? Who would provide the sandwiches, and who the dainties? Who would bring the cream and sugar, and who the sweet pickles? Who would provide coffee (someone always wanted coffee instead of tea)? How much would be charged for the privilege of taking tea (25 cents was the standard, as I recall).

A day or two before the tea, all the ladies swung into high gear preparing the food. I remember helping Mom make fancy sandwiches – checkerboard, pinwheel or striped – by alternating slices of white and whole wheat bread filled with egg salad, salmon salad or deviled ham. Other times I helped make matrimonial cake, chocolate brownies, peanut butter squares with tiny marshmallows, Nanaimo bars, divinity fudge or spice cake topped with mocha icing.

Come the morning of the big day, all the food, extra tea cups and chairs from the church basement were delivered to the hostess’s house. About two o’clock, the ladies began to arrive, all dressed to the nines in their best dresses, hats, gloves and purses. Only the rare man ventured in, looking decidedly uncomfortable not because he was the only man in a room of women but because he had to change from his usual work-a-day farm clothes into his Sunday suit and white shirt and tie.

We young girls were pressed into service. The older ones asked each lady, “Tea or coffee?” and when the chosen beverage was delivered then asked, “Milk and sugar?” The younger ones passed plates of sandwiches and dainties. Each lady smiled and said, “Thank you” to each of us. It was all very proper. The room was soon filled with the buzz of chatter, talk of children and grandchildren, the price of butter, how the gardens were doing, who was getting married or expecting a baby, So-and-so’s trip into Moose Jaw or Swift Current. Never mind that they had already exchanged all the local gossip earlier that day at the post office or grocery store.

By five o’clock, it was over except for the washing up and putting away and returning borrowed items. Leftover food was saved for coffee following next Sunday’s service. The hostess counted up the quarters and handed them over to the minister who, come Sunday, praised everyone for their hard work and the handsome sum they had raised.

* * *

I packed Mom’s cups and saucers, not to move them to my brother’s new apartment but to put into the garage sale. Only two out of the dozen or so were bought, and not to be used, either. No, the person who bought them had some sort of frame in which he glued the cups to be admired. No one would ever drink tea out of them again. Those that remained after the sale were repacked and sent to the thrift store.

I wonder who will buy them. I wonder why they will buy them.

At least I still have my memories.

#Tea #ChildhoodMemories #ChurchTeas #PrairieTraditions #TeaFundRaisers #MargaretGHanna

4 thoughts on “Tea

  1. I remember those “teas” too, but actually quite recently. We used to have a holiday home in the Cumbrian village where I grew up, and whenever we visited we would have an afternoon tea who were people from my past and also in retirement. A large teapot, proper leaf tea from Nepal, scones, a large Victoria sponge cake and strawberries if in season. Then there is the memory of what our daughter chose as here special day out on her 16th birthday …… she chose Afternoon Tea at The Ritz in London, which included champagne and a three piece “orchestra” playing music from the 1920s! A very informed choice by my daughter, accompanied by her grandmother and ourselves …… brother excluded!

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    1. I think the reason “teas” have died out in small prairie villages is because the villages themselves have all but died. The Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina serves a very good (and proper) afternoon tea, complete with harpist. Mom and I enjoyed it several times. And yes, we were dressed in our finest, including hats!

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  2. I also remember those teas. We also put on one as a 4-H fundraiser and as a beef girl it was not my favourite thing to do – getting dressed up and serving tea. The boys helped as well. It was very well attended. The church ones were similar to yours as there was no men except the minister.
    The tea cups – I have a few as my mom likes her tea from a cup not a mug.

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