Pyrex-cellent! Memories of dinner at grandma’s bubble up inside the museum | Kitsap Week
By ERIN JENNINGS
North Kitsap Herald Kitsap Week
October 31, 2011 · Updated 12:18 PM
BREMERTON — When you walk into the Pyrex Museum inside the Amy Burnett Gallery in Bremerton, you can practically taste scalloped potatoes. Or chicken divan—or any other dish that once was served in these retro, decorative dishes.
Inside the museum, the colors and patterns transport visitors back to a time when visiting family was an all-day affair and salads were made from marshmallows and Jell-O.
“Pyrex is like baseball and apple pie,” owner Amy Burnett said. “It's that American.”
Inside the museum, visitors exclaim, “My grandmother had that piece!” Or, “I remember eating off those dishes.”
Pyrex got its start in 1915 when Bessie Littleton became frustrated that her casserole dishes kept cracking. Her husband worked for Corning Glass Works manufacturing glass for the railroads and the glass needed to withstand extreme temperature changes. He cut a piece in half for Bessie; she baked a flawless flan in the glass —and became enamored with the product.
“It cooked faster, released easier and did everything better,” Burnett said.
After advertising in Good Housekeeping, more than four million pieces of Pyrex were sold within the first few years.
In addition to their superb cooking qualities, Pyrex became part of the American culture. During World War I, it was considered patriotic to use Pyrex because it didn't use metal. Department stores began requesting specially designed Pyrex pieces just for their stores. A wall in the museum shows the different design patterns used over the years.
Burnett estimates that she has about 1,000 pieces, including the lids. “Give or take a hundred,” she said.
The aqua and pink glassware are typical 1950s pieces, while the butterfly gold and spring blossom (in avocado green) are pieces from the 1960s. The Pyrex in Burnett’s collection are in mint-condition and many have never been used.
“Back then you didn't return wedding gifts like people do today,” she said. “If Aunt Sarah came over, at least the gift was in the cupboard.”
From stacking bowls to double-sided casserole dishes to tiny salt and peppershakers, the small museum is filled with everything Pyrex. The majority of the items Burnett obtained by donations and any duplicates she receives are sold in the gift shop to help offset the cost of the not-for-profit museum.
A coffee carafe and its warmer, complete with its orignial packaging, take center stage in the museum. “I like to explain to the kids that this isn't a coffee maker, but a warmer. It was used to keep coffee warm so people could slowly converse in person,” Burnett said.
In the four years since it opened, people from across the country have visited the museum. The guest book is filled with comments from people near and far. “Blast from the past!” wrote a visitor from South Carolina. A visitor from Arizona wrote “My daughter would just die —it's so beautiful.”
With its floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with candy-colored pieces, the museum is a colorful sight. In the corner a radio is tuned to a retro station and Perry Como and Frank Sinatra croon. You practically expect June Cleaver to appear in her apron and pearls.
“The grumpiest man could walk through the doors,” Burnett said. “But when he goes over to the Pyrex Museum, he gives a big smile.”
Like one guest from Boise, Idaho wrote, “Pyrexciting!”
Located inside the Amy Burnett Gallery at 402 Pacific Ave., Bremerton. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit www.amyburnettgallery.com
Contact North Kitsap Herald Kitsap Week Erin Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 779-4464.