The BCCS Community
Getting To Know Each Other/ Everyday Women and Their Compacts
Doline lives in rural Aberdeenshire with her husband. They have two daughters and ‘four fantastic grandchildren’. She works as a Visitor Services Manager at a local castle which keeps her very busy. She is very lucky to have lots of great areas around for walking and also lives not too far from the coast. Despite her busy life she finds time to enjoy shopping, knitting, sewing and, of course, trawling round junk/antique shops for that special something, which has included in the past, Lilliput Lane Cottages (but they took up too much room) and small silver items such as Vesta cases and butter forks. However, one of her best finds were two small black Deco compacts sitting in a pile in a cabinet in a shop full to the brim of all sorts of antiques, junk etc. They were not expensive and she was thrilled to find them. Compacts have become her most enjoyable collecting hobby- so far!
Doline has been collecting for about twelve years after she was given one as a gift. Her husband purchased a silver compact for her for her 50th birthday on a visit to a local antique shop. He was running out of gift ideas and, as husbands tend to do, grabbed the opportunity to buy it when he saw she was admiring it. It is obviously his fault that she is now totally hooked! This first compact (pictured) is quite a simple little square silver one. On the rear it says ‘Sterling and Birks’. According to Doline ‘Birks’ are a Canadian firm still running today it would seem. Henry Birks parents’ emigrated to Canada from England and his ancestry can be traced back to a Sheffield cutler called William Birks.
At the last count Doline had 422 compacts about half of these are Strattons which she loves for the huge variety of designs and that they also made sorts of items from portable ashtrays to pill boxes and address books. She is reminded of Hercule Poirot each time she sees the little portable ashtrays but Doline finds the 1960s compacts the most fun. She also adores little Deco compacts and has quite a few with initials on them. Like many of us she often wonders who these people were.
It is often interesting to know how collectors look after and care for their compacts. Doline says that she stores them in little plastic front bags but does check them every now and again. She also tends to take out any old powder.
One of the downsides of Doline’s location is that she has to travel a fair distance to find compacts so if anyone is selling any unusual ones or if there are any Scottish collectors’ out there she would love to hear from you so please get in touch with her for, as she says ‘It can get a bit isolated from other collectors’ and finally she hopes, ‘one of these days’ to get to a Convention. (Maybe this is could be a special treat for her from someone who has run out of ideas for a birthday in the future!)
If you would like to get in touch with Doline please email firstname.lastname@example.org and your email will be forwarded to her.
This article appeared in the
July Issue of Face Facts 2017
We would like to add any of your stories about ‘Everyday Women and Their Compacts’ to an archive so if you have a compact and you know who owned it we would love to hear about it and the life of its owner.
THE LIVES OF EVERYDAY WOMEN
AND THEIR COMPACTS
This article really began at the Bracknell Convention in 2014 when Katherine Higgins was our Guest Speaker and ‘The Lightbox’, in Woking, had the exhibition ‘Beauty on the Go’. As I have become more involved with BCCS one thing that always strikes me is that most members ask the same question - ‘I wonder who owned this?’ As collectors we hold a little piece of social history in lovers, each with a story to tell. At that Convention I bought an Estee Lauder ‘Bermuda Blue Blossom’ compact. On the back is inscribed ‘Forever in my Heart’ and around the edge of the powder well ‘Jenny R ‘04’. Inside, the mirror is engraved with ‘Smile’ (although this may have been in the original limited edition design). So, I wondered, ‘Who was Jenny? Why did she no longer own the compact?’ ‘Who gave it to her?’ and as the compact had been moved on was ‘he’ now ‘forever in someone else’s heart!’
Then as I walked around ‘The Lightbox’ exhibition I kept thinking that each of these compacts had a story to be told but now, although prized and cared for, inevitably had anonymous original owners. I recalled a conversation with Helen H when she told me about having her Grandmother’s compact in the drawer of her dressing table so she could look at it every time she opened the drawer and I thought of the compact which started my own collection. It belonged to my mother who gave it to me more than twenty years ago arousing my interest in collecting and, although not of great monetary value is a precious piece but, if my collection is disposed of in the future, how will a new owner know about her or her life? This, then, is the story of the woman who owned the compact. It is not very valuable, made of precious metals or jewels but it does hold fond memories.
The compact is approximately 2¾" Square, constructed from goldtone metal with an edge decorated in patterned squares. The centre of the compact is plain metal with a faux jewel decoration made of green and white glass. The base of the compact is finished in black enamel. ‘Manufactured in Czechoslovakia’ is stamped into the metal.
My mother (pictured here in 1942) named Phyllis Ethel (she hated both these names!). In the 2000s she kept a journal for her Grandchildren. It made me realise just how much times had changed during her very long lifetime and that her compact had also witnessed these events both world and more intimate social history of family and friends. My mother enjoyed history, particularly historical novels, and it seemed appropriate that so much history had taken place during her 93 years. She witnessed the reigns of four monarchs; major changes in British and World events including the Second World War; the break-up of the British Empire; the assassination of John F. Kennedy; man on the moon and space travel; the beginning of the National Health Service; the first organ transplant and she had been alive when women aviation pioneers such as Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart took to the air. She also lived through a time of great progress in technology including television, cars and computers. My mother always had a ‘thing’ about electricity; plugs could never be left in sockets overnight; operation of new ‘gadgets’ was beyond her but she did find it amazing that she could sit in front of a computer screen in England to see and talk to her granddaughter in America via Skype.
She was born near Northleach, Gloucestershire in 1921 to Richard and Louisa and was the eldest of three children. The family moved around the Cotswold farms and villages as her father moved from one place of work to another. She attended Westwood Grammar School in Northleach; the only one in her school to pass the eleven plus that year. However despite this education, she ended up at fourteen, as did most young girls of her age, working in service in one of the ‘big houses’. She worked as a parlour maid at ‘Luggers Hill’ in Broadway for the nephew of the local artist, Alfred Parsons RA, and was employed near Burford in 1936 or 1937 when she purchased the compact from a jeweller on Burford High Street. She saw it for sale in the shop window and fell in love with it because she thought it was unusual. She saved one month’s wages to buy it and hoped it would still be there when she went back for it. In the journal my mother mentions many conflicts including Korea, Vietnam and Ireland, but it was the Second World War that was the catalyst for major changes and opportunities for her. Most importantly she was able to have a new career as a nursing auxiliary which she loved. Some of this time was spent nursing wounded American servicemen at St Paul’s Hospital and other hospitals in Cheltenham and later caring for mothers at Sunnyside Maternity Hospital when maternity care still had to be paid for.
She married my father in 1942 at Cheltenham Registry Office which, because it was the only time they could both have off, opened especially for them on a Saturday. She, her brother, John and sister, Dorothy, cycled from Alstone Fields near Teddington, Gloucestershire to Cheltenham in wind and rain and then cycled back again for tea and a wedding cake with no icing! There was no honeymoon as she was back on duty on the Monday and her new husband was off to war. After the war, when her children came along, she became a full time homemaker devoting herself to the care of her family including both her parents and sister.
She used the loose powder compact everyday throughout the Second World War, into the fifties and the sixties when she found that it was more and more difficult to find loose powder available and it was easier to buy compressed powder in either metal or plastic containers.
All compacts have a story to tell and this was my mother’s. We all have an idea of our compacts value or what was happening in the wider society at the time of manufacture; our favourite; most expensive; the first ones collected but what we don’t often have recorded are their owners or the everyday lives of these women. I would like to try to put an archive together centred on the ‘stories’ of these ‘everyday compacts ‘and the lives of the women who bought them. I hope that BCCS members will send me stories and pictures of their compacts and also of the women who owned them so that an archive can be put together for the BCCS membership of the future. They do not have to be expensive or even in particularly good condition, just compacts that tell a story – ‘The lives of everyday women and their compacts’.
If you would like to add to this archive contact:
Andrea at email@example.com or send to Compact Archive, 50 Little Herberts Road, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, Glos. GL53 8LU