Monday, February 22, 2016

A Ghost Story. Sort of.

Last week on Saturday I saw a Craigslist ad for an estate sale over in Monmouth (about 12 miles west of Salem). It promised lots of stuff and I noticed some vintage Christmas ornaments in the pictures, so off I went.

I figured there would be a zillion people there, but found parking right in front of the house. The family was busily pulling stuff out of the garage. A handful of people were lined up at the front door, so I joined them. A few minutes later a large young man came up and got in line in front of me. You ladies who are my age no doubt have had similar experiences of being invisible. He wasn’t joining someone already in line either. If the line had been longer I might have kicked him in the ankle and told him to get behind me. In a few minutes he got bored and left the line to see what was coming out of the garage.

Desultory conversation among the line standers ensued as the time for the sale to open passed and we were still standing there. Another lady got in line behind me, we chatted. Then Large Young Man came back and got in line in front of me again. This time he seemed to notice us and muttered something about being there earlier. I stared at him and he turned away. It's pretty rare around here to encounter this kind of rudeness.

“I wonder what he thinks we might have snatched away from him,” I said to the other lady as we finally entered.

Entering turned out not to be easy. Everything in the house was piled (literally) in the living room with a sort of circular path through it. We all did a sort of shuffle around anyone who stopped to inspect something. I admit I paused to look at the demonic squirrel lamp, but decided to leave him where he was.

After all, what kind of shade could possibly go with the squirrel?

At the far end of the room I found a couple of boxes of Shiny Brites. A buck a box put them in my price range.

Did you know Shiny Brites started in the late Thirties and were made by Corning Glass using the same technique as their clear light bulbs? Then they went to the SB factories to be hand painted. Which some of these definitely are.

The only other thing of interest was a Jadeite dish, minus its lid. But it says on the bottom you can bake in it, so we can consider it a very small bread pan - and it was but fifty cents.

I went back outside and noticed there was a lot of stuff piled up along the side of the house. I overheard one guy telling another that all the stuff out in the side yard was free. I found one of the family to double check this info and sure enough, free it was. So I went to take a look and quickly decided that they had the pricing about right. 

Junk piled by the fence, and junk in boxes. I did unearth a few vintage home magazines that look kind of fun (and smell a bit musty, so probably not a permanent addition to my home). 

Another guy was industriously digging through boxes and among other things had unearthed a Bakelite dial telephone, but without having gloves on I was not doing any serious digging.

I headed toward my car, but stopped when I saw two old hoop chairs with stuff piled on them. I've actually had my eye out for these since I started seeing pictures of them refurbished with colorful rope.

Alas, my pair have plastic frames instead of metal, but what the heck. They were free and will be perfect to practice on. And I bet I can paint the frames black and no one will know the difference. 

As I lugged my Shiny Brites, magazines and chairs to the car (got the chairs in the back seat by putting the top down, then was able to put it back up for the ride home; it's still too chilly to really be convertible weather) I saw the lady in charge and stopped to thank her for the free stuff and commiserate on how much work it is to do this kind of sale. She shook her head. “You would not have believed it. When we started, the living room was piled so full with stuff we couldn’t even get the door open.”

I looked at her with some concern. “Ummm, no one was living here, were they?” “Oh no, Grandma left years ago.” Whew, I thought. And since the old lady passed long ago condolences did not seem to be required. Then the woman said, “The real problem was, she kept bringing stuff and leaving it here.”

I'm afraid my eyes goggled. “She left stuff here after she was dead?” I blurted. She laughed. “No, no, she didn’t die, she just moved out. But you know, we did talk about advertising this as a haunted house sale. My sister said we could sell ten dollar tickets and let people take whatever they wanted.”

I said they would probably have made just as much money.

I wonder if the place had really been haunted if Grandma might have spirited away the rude young man. Or at least scared him to the back of the line!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Queueing Up

Friday was a standing-in-line kind of day. The first estate sale started at 8, in an old house. At the time it was built it would have been way out in the country. Remember the picture book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton? The one where the city grows out and around the sweet little house? (If not, we can wait while you Google it and look at some of the pictures.) 

This wasn’t so urban as the picture book house, but the once-country lane is now a fairly busy main street – with no shoulders to park on. Fortunately we got there early enough to park in the yard. They actually had a lady directing cars where to park. Kind of like a mini – VERY mini – state fair.

We got in line. More people got in line. More cars arrived. The line had to move over so the cars could get past us. We made new friends in line. At last we entered the little house, which was one of those little houses that had rooms added here and there over the years as the family grew and there was enough money. With about 30 people in there it was crowded. And not a darned thing I wanted to take home! I don’t think Judy found anything either. KK found a bundle of crochet hooks back in one bedroom marked $6. “Really?” she asked the lady minding the sale back there. (We have high standards for low prices.) After a minute the nice lady put a new piece of masking tape on the bundle - $3. “We need to make as much for the client as we can on the first day,” she told me. “But…well, I also know who marked that.” We chuckled together over how differently people price things.

The next estate sale didn’t start until 9, and we did our best to make the first one last long enough not to be too early. But sure enough, we arrived, and there was a line. More cars arrived, more people in line. The same people from the first line. We all greeted each other and traded stories on what we had found. The two ladies behind us buy furniture to paint and resell.

When we finally entered, we found another little old house chock full of…pretty much nothing I wanted. (Which is not a problem. When you go garaging just about every week, it's more about what you don’t buy than what you do!) Then on a pass through the kitchen I spotted a couple of hammered aluminum lids.

I'd never seen any quite like these, though when I looked them up online they don’t seem to be particularly rare. (I also looked up how to clean them. Happy to report that boiling water & vinegar took off just about all the grunge.) Thanks to my well-practiced bargaining skills they weren’t very spendy either. Neither had a price tag, so I asked the young woman keeping an eye on the kitchen how much. “Ummm, five dollars each?” she ventured. I was polite. I did not laugh in her face. “No, guess not, I was thinking something more like fifty cents each.” I laid them back down on the crowded table. “A dollar each?” I picked them back up. “Okay, thanks.” Just then an older woman swooped into the kitchen. In a pleasant enough voice but with a smile that looked a bit wooden, she said, “I'll take over in here. You can go mind the door.” But she didn't try to renegotiate my lids, so I was good.

When I paid for them, the lady taking money told me, “We looked everywhere for whatever those go with and never found anything. But come back tomorrow, maybe they will turn up.”

But all I really want is the pretty lids. (Which are much prettier now after their hot vinegar bath!) I'm trying to think of some creative way to display them. Maybe as yard art? Anyone have any ideas?

The next place again had nothing. The house had been closed up for a while they said, and there was a weird smell. Made me think of bug spray. Ick. Didn’t stay long in there! Then we headed for another estate sale east of town. Where I met an absolutely wonderful dog. This is Jetta.

She is probably a Basset/border collie mix, and the darling of the family. The grandkids dress her up and have tea parties with her. But for me, she had a kind of special meaning. She looks very much like a dog we met many years ago (he was probably Basset and Lab) who was apparently homeless, and I have always regretted not putting him in the car and taking him home. For those of you who have read any of my mystery novels, he is the dog I immortalized in the books as Jack. I almost felt like I was visiting with an old friend when Jetta came out.

This sale was for a lady who was very creative; they said she was a notable quilter. I picked up a leather thimble to try.

Also succumbed to this vintage embroidery. Handmade. Fifty cents.

Maybe I can actually use it as a bell pull – I tug it, and it rings in my husband’s office downstairs (a la Downton Abbey) and he comes up and waits on me. Think that would work?

Our last stop was in one of my favorite Salem neighborhoods, near Bush’s Pasture Park. When we pulled up in front of the huge old Victorian house Judy said, “I have always wanted to see inside this house!” We met the nice old lady who has lived there for sixty years and several daughters and a granddaughter.  A big transition for her to sell the house and move somewhere more manageable, but the folks who bought the house reportedly plan to restore it. Which made us happy. After all, one family spending sixty years in a house is what local history is all about. And buying and using some of their things weaves their story into the fabric of many other lives.

So we had a great morning, and at the end off we went for lunch. And I'm very happy to report we did not have to stand in line for a table! 
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