I cleaned silver this weekend, some of it small trophies I’ve won over the years. It was another trip down memory lane. We’re cleaning out drawers and cupboards and a lot of this stuff will be donated somewhere or go in a yard sale.
I found the first trophy I ever won at a recognized dressage show, a silver Jefferson cup. I remember thinking how lovely the shape was. The club I belonged to, DVCTA, west of Philadelphia, had an annual dinner the night of the show. I took my cup with me. There was a cash bar and I only had a dollar on me, so I got a frozen daiquiri and nursed it ostentatiously so folks could admire my pretty little prize. I decided that I needed to earn a lot more Jefferson cups so I could have a set for parties. I eventually won a few more like it but the usual style for trophies morphed into different shapes and then into pewter, so I never completed the set. But, I’m going to keep that first cup while the rest of the odd bits of silver and pewter go into the sale stack.
This got me thinking about how our prizes have changed over the years. I remember a wonderful American saddlebred named Highland’s Animation in our barn in Oregon when I was a kid that won so many year-end awards his owners had to clean the trophies in their bathtub. My own trophy cleaning efforts have never exceeded a plastic pan in the sink. Eventually the style for silver and pewter turned into frames, plaques, and etched glass and now it’s usually more practical items. My daughter was delighted when I came home from a show with two director’s chairs that I’d won as high-score awards. I always appreciate saddle pads, and I’m still using the grooming bag I won several years ago.
Real silver, both sterling and silver plate, seems to be disappearing from our lives in general, not just in show prizes, except maybe for jewelry. I went to the hardware store to get more silver polish and couldn’t find any on the shelf. The clerk was eager to help and pointed out one lonely tin of metal polish for brass and stainless steel. No, I said, it won’t do for silver. He was sure, though, that it would clean any metal and showed me the label where it said “stainless.” I explained that the chemistry was different and that it would damage silver. The poor fellow was terribly confused – he didn’t know the difference between stainless and silver. Again, it was a mental head slap for me, another example of how times keep changing, perhaps more rapidly than I would prefer.