My youngest son is a bit hooked on T.V. This is par-for-the-course (as I understand it) for American 11 year old boys, and especially so for boys who suffer from severe ADHD and have trouble focusing on so many other types of activities.
We try to limit the amount of brain-eating YouTube videos (hyperdramatized droning Minecraft commentaries, etc.!) that we allow him to watch and instead look for shows that have educational components or shows that give him a glimpse of history. “I Love Lucy” is the classic sitcom, rooted in – comically exaggerated, but very real – human drives, ambitions, challenges, foibles; our better angels, and our weaknesses, excesses, and failings [so much in one place — oh my goodness!].
As far as history and culture and the entertainment industry go, “I Love Lucy” teaches about vaudeville (dance and singing and music), marriage and finance, the 1950s, fashion, design, television script-writing, plot development and so much more.
Watching I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show (both which our son is now pretty much hooked on!) also gives him insight to cultural references across the medium of film and T.V. For example, last night I convinced him to watch an episode of The X-Files (because it was “Mommy’s turn”, and that’s what Mommy likes to watch! lol) and in that episode (in Season Six), Mulder and Scully go under cover in a gated housing community as “Rob & Laura Pee-tree” to try to discover the perpetrator of a crime. Because of Charlie’s fandom of Dick Van Dyke, he understood the comic reference in the “X-Files” episode and was cracking up! Without exposure to classic T.V., he never would have gotten that joke. Having learned so many classic cultural references in the last year or so he is now on the constant lookout for this sort of historical reference joke whenever he is watching modern shows.
While Charlie is soaking in so many vintage gems [which really are nearly all classic Commedia Dell’arte scenarios repackaged for the 1950s or 1960s], his theater-major, actor/director, set & costume designer mom (me) is always looking at the sets and background decor…
Hmmm…did they know the crib was painted with Lead-paint?
Hmmm…that vacuum probably has Lead-paint.
Woah!…check out that potato slicer thing — that really looks like it is painted with Lead-paint!
And then I noticed… Lucy Ricardo’s dishes! WOW! …..
I spotted them instantly in one early episode, and then saw them in nearly every subsequent episode where they had a scene at the dining table or in the kitchen! 1951-vintage Franciscan Ivy Earthenware pattern china set — among the most toxic / highly-Leaded china I have ever tested, with pieces (like the tray pictured below) coming in at levels of 300,000 ppm Lead and higher in the glaze! [30% Lead!]
After double-checking the pattern and making sure that this was, in fact, what Lucy and Desi were eating off of and drinking out of in all of those episodes, I kinda felt sick!
Please continue reading below the images.
I read their Wikipedia pages, and learned about how each of them died. I thought about how their health complications in life may have been impacted by their Lead exposure on the set (and in their homes) and how they were each taken from us too soon. I thought about Desi and his smoking — and his Lead exposure from that, as well.
Then I got a little mad…mad that these dishes were so popular — and likely popularized as a result of Lucy Ricardo’s use of them on the show…and mad about how many families have potentially been impacted (potentially had their health compromised) over the past 70 years as a result of using vintage Franciscan Ware china as their every day dishes.
I don’t know that I have anything more profound than that to say, but now we may know a little more about this product’s symbolic association with status, and perhaps even a little bit of why your grandmother may have cherished her Franciscan Ivy dishes! [And my readers know a little more about how Lead Safe Mama’s brain works when I watch T.V. (“Oh! Look! Leaded vintage dishes! What pattern is that? What year were those made? What manufacturer was that? What was the Lead level on those again!?)]
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.
Please let me know if you have any questions.