NEWELL - In the world of pottery making, what goes around comes around.
Suzanne Cross can attest to that fact, now that a 1954 magazine featuring her mother on the cover is part of the Homer Laughlin China Co. archives.
Cross, 67, an East Liverpool native who lives in Henderson, Texas, donated a copy of the Rohm & Haas Reporter to Homer Laughlin on Wednesday because of a historically-significant article. She hopes, in doing so, that she creates a legacy out of a childhood memory.
East Liverpool native Suzanne Cross (third from left) explains a picture to (from left) Rich Brinkman, Homer Laughlin vice president for retail sales, Dan Williams, director of marketing, Dave Conley, company historian, and Liz McIlvain, executive vice president, on Wednesday at the Homer Laughlin China Co. museum. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
Cross was watching a segment on Homer Laughlin on "CBS Sunday Morning" in March when a brief image appeared, showing her mother on the cover of the Rohm & Haas Reporter surrounded by brightly colored Fiesta dinnerware.
"I was 10 years old when that picture was taken," Cross said. "I grew up with that picture."
Cross immediately recognized the photo, which appeared in the November-December 1954 issue of the magazine, the official publication of the Rohm & Haas Co. in Philadelphia. The cover article, titled "Resins Aid in Ceramic Glazing," included seven pages of text and pictures on how Homer Laughlin, among other companies, was using a new Rohm & Haas resin in the manufacturing of pottery.
When Cross saw it on TV, she jumped up to retrieve the magazine. "I thought, 'That's my mother. I cannot believe this.' I had it in my chest of drawers in my bedroom, so I grabbed it," she said. Cross called Homer Laughlin the next day, and, before long, arrangements were made for her to visit and bring a copy with her. She has two copies of the magazine.
On Wednesday, she donated it and a 1921 wallet-sized, company calendar to Homer Laughlin. Company officials gushed over the donation during a reception in the Homer Laughlin museum.
"We appreciate you bringing these things to us because the history of Homer Laughlin is very important to us," said Liz McIlvain, executive vice president. "It's always good to have pictures of how things were, for comparison."
"This is marvelous stuff we can add to our archives. This is just wonderful," said Dan Williams, director of marketing. Williams said the article is significant because it documents, through pictures and text, the pottery-making process in the 1950s.
The article has a subheadline that explains, "Rhoplex AC-33, Rohm & Haas resin widely used in coatings, finds new role as bonding agent for underglaze color decoration in the making of dinnerware."
The magazine cover shows Cross' mother, Eileen Brookes Brown, looking like a 1950s housewife, sitting amid colorful stacks of Fiesta dinnerware, performing a task. According to the magazine, "The operator here is removing the tiny rough spots left on all flatware by the ceramic pins which support the pieces as the glaze is fired."
McIlvain took one look at the picture and exclaimed, "She was a beauty - there's no doubt about that."
Brown worked at Homer Laughlin from 1940 to 1943 and from 1950 to 1957, Cross said. One of Cross' pictures of her mother at work has the words "IBM card sorter" written on the back. Cross has another picture showing employees on their lunch break.
"The ladies played canasta, and the guys played ping pong," Cross said.
In addition to her mother, Cross' maternal grandfather and her mother's siblings worked at Homer Laughlin. "Between all of them, they had 117 years of employment at Homer Laughlin, so there's definitely a family history there," she said.
Although Cross, a 1963 graduate of East Liverpool High School, never worked at Homer Laughlin, the company's influence on her remains.
"Homer Laughlin played such a major part in my growing up," she said. "It revolved around their lives so much that it trickled down to me."
For one thing, Cross said she is a confirmed plate-turner, always looking for the manufacturer on the bottom of cups and plates whenever she visits a restaurant.
"I learned that from my mother," she said.
There's one plate that Cross won't have to flip. It's a marigold base plate for the 75th anniversary soup tureen that she received as a gift from Homer Laughlin on Wednesday. The one-of-a-kind plate, whose color will be retired at the end of the year, contains the inscription, "Thanks for visiting. Suzanne Cross. July 18, 2012."