I have a kind of love/hate relationship with flea markets. They’re generally loaded with crap I have no interest in, like socks. Why are there so many socks being sold at flea markets?? And handmade crafty stuff (ugh!). And garbage like sparkly cell phone cases and chargers that will likely burn your house to the fucking ground. Or weird crap like swords and Japanese throwing stars. And there are always people hawking “vintage” household items from 2005 or whatever. 2005 was a couple of weekends ago, as far as I know. Even stuff from the 1980s doesn’t interest me. At this point, it’s gotta be the ’70s or earlier. Anything newer than that just looks like somebody else’s trash to me. A plastic Spuds MacKenzie bank does not get my blood a-pumpin’. But maybe I’m the weird one?
However… there’s usually a stand or two amongst the boolshit that sells old advertising signs, election buttons, etc. And I’m all=in on that stuff. Or you walk into a place that feels like a full-blown museum, obviously curated by a person with elevated tastes. Know what I mean? You’re strolling along and it’s just faded stuffed animals probably saturated with Hep C and dusty oscillating fans from 1996, and suddenly there’s a booth filled with genuinely interesting items from the 1950s and earlier. And it’s all displayed with care and feels wildly out of place in this shithole.
So, there’s always hope in those kinds of places. Enough to make me occasionally roll the dice. But it almost always just leads to heartache and frantic hand-washing.
Antique stores are better, but I have no interest whatsoever in antique furniture or lamps or any of that stuff. I’m always just looking at the “smalls” as they call them on American Pickers. You know, signage and various doo-dads? But at least those places have a lower percentage of just straight-up trash. And almost no socks.
Toney hates all of it, ’cause she was raised by Sunshine in apartments packed to the gills with all manner of flea market-style items. So, she’s gone the opposite direction and adopted a minimalist approach. On the rare occasion she finds herself walking through a flea market I can see distress in her face. She genuinely dislikes the whole thing. So, I don’t find myself visiting too many flea markets or antique stores or yard sales. And it’s no hardship on me, believe me.
Therefore, I don’t have much to offer in response to the question above. One thing does jump immediately to mind, and it happened in the 1970s. When I was 12 or 13 or whatever I started taking the bus to Charleston, usually with Steve, and we’d walk around the downtown area. There were record stores (Turner’s, National Record Mart), great book stores (Moore’s, Major’s), and a sprawling place that sold every magazine published on the planet, it seemed. I think it might’ve been called Arcade News, but I’m not sure. They had an enormous comic book section, and we spent a lot of time looking at those. And sometimes even buying a few. These weren’t vintage, they were current comic books. Stuff like Sgt. Rock and G.I. Combat.
But upstairs, inside the same (very cool) building, there were several fancy-ass shops. All of them intimidating… It was all upscale and expensive and probably not conducive to a couple of smartass younglings from Dunbar with seven dollars between us. However… one day we ventured into an antique store up there. I remember the woman behind the counter was eyeing us warily as we perused the one-of-a-kind items. Then we saw it! Inside a glass case, way in the back of the store were several large stacks of very old baseball cards. We later learned they’re designated as T206 by collectors, and were included in packages of tobacco back during the early 1900s. The ones they had were from the Piedmont Tobacco company, from 1909(!). And they had a shitload of them. We nearly soiled our Towncrafts and asked the woman how much they cost. A dollar each, she said. I couldn’t believe it.
We bought as many as we could afford that day, and returned many times. I have a Cy Young card, purchased there. Cy Young! And Ty Cobb, and Christy Mathewson. Just a mindblowing parade of mythological Hall of Famers, mixed in with the players we didn’t know. But even those were cool. It was crazy. A dollar each! It was wild. And the woman eventually accepted us into her snooty kingdom. She seemed to actually like us. The joy it brought us was probably appealing to her.
And that’s my meager offering. What do you have on this one? It doesn’t have to be something valuable, it can be anything of note. Just tell us your stories about all your memorable finds. Use the comments section.
Episode 2 of the world-famous West Virginia Surf Report podcast is now live. I just uploaded it, roughly two minutes ago. And I’m pretty happy with it. Planning and preparing make a big difference, I’ve learned. Who knew? Please give it a listen right here, or wherever you get podcasts. I’m making the first three available everywhere, but starting next week the Thursday editions will be Patreon-only again. Here’s the summary:
Toney and I are now operating under the delusion that we might someday be able to retire and spent a substantial percentage of our recent trip to Myrtle Beach scouting out towns and neighborhoods and subdivisions where we might possibly relocate in the future. Needless to say, there were complications. You’ll hear all about it in this second edition of The West Virginia Surf Report podcast. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening!
Seriously, please give it a shot. I’m trying to make it halfway decent. I’m working hard on this nonsense, my friends.
I’ll see you guys again on Monday. It’s going to be a fully-ridiculous weekend, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Have a great one!