One of my favorite pass times is traveling out to small towns throughout the world, hunting Antique Malls or small antique stores. Before I tell you why, let’s discuss what those are.
One town not too far from me is Gladewater, Texas. Gladewater, which is also close to Canton, is known for its abundance of antique malls. If you travel to the old downtown part of Gladewater, you will see that the place was transformed for tourists. Yes, there are locals but, the town’s economy depends upon people like me poking through stuff that might ‘charm’ me.
I mention Canton as it is famous for the First Monday sale. Much of the town turns up to market’ stuff.’
The buildings have been re-purposed after the ‘death of the town.‘ Big box stores wiped out the mom and pop shops. If you go into these ‘malls’, you will see that the edifice has been divided up into areas dedicated to rental property.
The owners of the building or perhaps the lessee has divided the total square footage of the building and subleased it out to individuals or perhaps small businesses for retail purposes. As part of the leasing agreement, the store staffs the building, and they act as the person’s agent and collect funds for goods and or services.
No viable place of the building is off-limits. Even the bathrooms are rented out to vendors. One building I was in, the attic had been stuffed chock o block full of stuff.
In a typical non-COVID environment, this works out well for the tenants. It will be interesting in a macabre sort of way to see who survives. Many of the tenants of those buildings are paying a lot of money to store their junk, in the hopes that someone will buy it. In reality, what they are doing is converting their loved one’s treasures into liquid assets, for the person who leased or owns the building.
I have lost count of the day’s since ‘normal’ left town. This much I do know for sure, the automobile insurance companies are making a killing. I am getting months to the gallon, or the liter if that is your standard of measurement.
That ends the pragmatic part of this blog. Now, let’s get on to why I search for antiques.
As a writer, I am always on the hunt for stories or fodder. Sorting through the buttons, jewels, and other things, they become much like a time capsule.
The styles that were in decades ago are now not only gaudy, but some are societally incorrect.
Societal norms notwithstanding, what charmed us back then and now?
Mink coats, hats and so on.
Things made from ivory.
Lamps with dangly things on them. Glass cabinets loaded with pins, tchotchkes, and other sparkling things. As you go from cabinet to cabinet, it is all different, but all the same. Much like rocks in the river, they are entirely different, but all the same.
In the end, that is about the value they possess. We value gold for its monetary equivalence, but we wear it, why? Could it be we wear it to show the world we can spend perfectly good cash on a status symbol?
There is a chain of islands by Bermuda that are owned by people like Johnny Depp, who is a whopping 57 years old. Why? Why would you want your own island unless you were ‘Epstein like’ and did not want the cops showing up at any given moment unannounced? What laws are there on your private island? Is it lord of the flies or possibly a land looking for a volleyball to anthropomorphize as a companion? What about owning an island charms someone? Do you suppose they value their privacy so much they have to buy an island?
I wrote a novel called Schadenfreude that takes place on such an island right after Epstein did not hang himself. I digress.
As we age, our friends either leave us, or we leave them. The things that charmed us are not loaded into a U-Haul trailer, (self-moving rental) and pulled behind the hearse. Before the last bar of Amazing Grace or perhaps the bugler playing Taps, our friends or family are already wondering what to do with our’ stuff.’
Recently I acquired boxes of ‘stuff’ that charmed my best friend. On an old phone was only one song. Charging the phone, I was amazed to hear it.
I am the last of such a group of friends who spent countless hours together when not with family. The laughter still echoes in my mind as I think back on all of those silly conversations. The long nights where too much wine was poured, where we talked until sunrise. Those times we compared notes about our families, poking holes in the air with our fingers saying, ‘By God, that is what I need to change.’
Of course, we never did. The next year those same conversations reoccurred until one by one, there were fewer of us to have them.
There were nights where we listened to music, extolling the virtues of real composers: Glenn Miller, Arty Shaw, and singers like Vera Lynn. No, I am not that old, but I was born way too late. I am convinced I have an old soul.
‘Please say hello to the friends we both know…’ That song echoes through my heart and tugs at it each time I hear it.
Now it is you, my dearest of friends who must say hello to the friends we both know, as I am the last one here.
While the stuff that charms you might entertain you for a few moments, it is friends and family who provide the reasons to live. If you need convincing, go check out those antique malls. Walk the aisles one by one and try to imagine the person who owned it.
As their stuff sits in an old building collecting dust, and revenue for the building owner, try to imagine it as it once was. An old hat with a feather in it. A purse with more spangles than cloth. Yes, that mink stole or perhaps that dress that belonged to a ‘flapper.’ Can you hear the music of the roaring ’20s?
Both the Victrola and the typewriter were made in 1920. Yes, they both work very nicely. See what we can do if we try.
I am still on the hunt for some Vera Lynn Records. I peruse antique malls and garage sales searching for 78’s.
Someday, someone will have to wonder what to do with my’ stuff,’ as I say ‘hello.’
Much Love -TW