Leader Board Ad

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dig Report 3/27/10 Trains, Planes, and Italian Immigrants

Even though I live in a small corner of the world, it's a little disappointing not to find something every week.  It has a lot to do with karma, I used to think it had more to do with quantity, but the fact is, I would rather spend a day at one sale then 15 minutes at 30 of them.  Unfortunately, it takes a search of 30 to find the one, but I'll know it when I see it.  It is usually upon viewing that first genuine artifact (meaning, it wasn't placed there like a prop in a play), or it could be the demeanor of the people at, or running the sale.  When  you find that sale, it is not unlike Apocalypse Now!  I can almost hear Martin Sheen's narrative: "as I head up the winding  uncharted paper roads, towards the overweight elusive and enigmatic  Brando-like find.  I can see the neighbors quietly emerge from their hiding places, their vacuous foreboding stares upon my foreign transport (Subaru) chill me to the bone.  My crew, now reduced to one, murmurs from behind, "I don't know daddy...I don't know about this..." She wonders why we are going so far; my only Intel is the last communicade I received (the classifieds) and I have to trust it until I see the signs...
That's another reason why I don't run out to the sales at the crack of dawn, I will find something when it is ready to be found.  I only know that serendipity is where you find it   My photographer and I stumbled on something like that:
After flunking out of 3 sales in New Milford (1 Non-existent, 1 Drive by, and 1 big waste of gas) we took the back roads back to reality and saw the signs. This weekend was the annual train exhibition at the Brookfield Historical Society's building at the corner of 25 & 133. AVA likes trains, mainly from visiting a friend's store in Danbury, "Railworks" where  she can go in and run the big railroad layout there. 

I think AVA is a better camera jockey that I am.  She uses a Kodak 1 megapixel camera that was $4 dollars at a sale last year.  With a fixed focus and large shutter button she wouldn't be overwhelmed in complexity, and if she dropped it, so what.  I watched as she went around from layout to layout trying to capture the trains as they sped by.  She was almost leaping at the trains to get the shot.  I figured they would be a blurry mess,

but I didn't want to ruin her fun by directing her, she wouldn't have wanted it anyway.  Then without any prompting she began placing the camera on the layout and pushing straight down on the shutter for a steady shot.  She experimented her way into some unique comparison shots.


Not bad for a 6-year old, which I think is a good segue for some old paper, because it has to do with what our grandparents (or great grandparents) do to their kids.  In a box of old papers pulled from the elephants trunk flea market, I found pictures and picture cards form the early 20th century.  The letters were written in Italian, but I can't tell from the pictures if they are first generation Italian-Americans or true immigrants.  In my favorite image of the bunch, they all look gaunt and weary as though they just got off the boat and on to Ellis Island. Take a look:
This has to be Coney Island or some boardwalk amusement photo set.  Maybe it was dad that coaxed them into this ridiculous scene. If they didn't  already look like they just "get off the boat," someone has got them right back on it, and they are not amused.  Only Mom looks as though she is barely about to crack half a smile, and the kids look like they regret coming to America. This card is from about 1912. There was also an interesting letter in the pile that I have tried to translate and would implore any reader to help me with it (Click for a larger image).

Clearly from 1930, and Napoli, but that's the best I can do. Here is the front and back of another picture post card:
I can make out the date on the post mark 7-7-14, but I can't do any better to read the note or figure out how it was delivered without an address.  These pictures are on the large side, so I apologize if they take a little while to download.  Please read it  and take a guess at who Figleo Cologero was writing to and what he had to say.  Comments are no longer moderated so, have at it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dig Report 3/20/10

There were several estate sale listed this past weekend, but I couldn't hit them all.  Sale'ing is not an alternate source of income (though someday I should make it one), nor is it an all consuming obsession. Leaving only a window of a couple hours on a Saturday doesn't give me much of an opportunity to bring home more of the treasure that may, or may not, be out there.  This is probably why I don't deserve the "hoarder" or "Pack Rat" label.  My "stuff" grows like weeds in a brick walkway, a little maintenance is all it takes to keep it in control.    This weekend's take is a good example of that. (note to readers: While I would like to keep from inciting your inner sensibilities, sometime I will post items that you may not find appropriate. Click away now before it's too late!  This Disclaimer Hath Ended)

I was going to call this post "I went to the Shriner's convention wearing nothing but this sexual harassment suit." but that was too long. I like a sign that gets right to bottom of what's for sale.  No need to list the details, just "Contents." and there's nothing better than a good basement:
I'm noticing that a lot of these digs, have had a "sportsman" theme.  From the Hunting and Trapping items in an earlier post to this one.  There must have been a period in the 40's and 50's when everyone did some kind of "livin off the land" mostly for sport, but some for income.  The map to the left is from 1936 and only its condition kept me from asking, "How much." This basement was owned by a gunsmith, or at least a guy who packed his own shells and bullets. It was also very clean, and very cleaned-out. There might have been more items there but the clutter was tidied before the sale began. Too bad, I'll bet there was some local history there.

I searched through every drawer and hardware box in that peg board-filled workbench and eventually did cpme up with the thing that didn't belong...or did it?
 This novelty coin coin was a gem for several reasons, the detail, the location, the poor taste, and the fact that I am dying to know it's age and who made it.  It may be possible to guess from the clothing, the thin tie the hairstyle, but how many of these "artists" were looking to keep it in the "now?" I would say late 50's early 60's.  Can't find another like it on the internet.  The reverse is what makes it priceless and tasteless at the same time.
I love it, and the clear copyright symbols on both side. The woman almost looks like Jackie Kennedy, and the guy could well be your uncle Bob, you know, the Shriner. I found what I was looking for, but kept looking just in case.  My side kick was happy discovering the deadly Lawn Jarts, that were the acid test for her common sense.  When I explained them to her she sensed the danger and moved on to something else.  I inspected the ceiling for anything tucked away and after pulling down a couple of table tennis nets, I found this:
To me this was one of those things that you were either too young to buy (but really wanted it) or you too old to buy, because you'd moved on to something else.  Uncle box probably was right there at Halloween ready to scare the neighbor hood kids.
  If you've never seen one, the placement of a coin on the top activates a mechanism which causes a skeleton arm and hand to reach from under a coffin lid and pull the coin it with it.  I got a kick out of the morbidity of someone writing UNICEF on the box and a couple of places on the bank as well.  It had seen better days, but AVA loved it and I told here to set a price, and if it was over we'd haggle, and if it was way over we'd leave it. We agreed on a dollar and our price was met, the coin was tossed in for free.  We didn't have much time, but as brief as it was, I think we made the best of it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dig Report 3/13/10...Wordy, but worth it!

  This weekend was a test, a test to see how far I would go to feed my curiosity.  With the threat of rain, most folks planning to have a sale roll up their signs, and shutter their garages like Floridians preparing for a hurricane.  True, I wouldn't want a bunch of strangers plodding through my house, even if I am selling the place, or I am 6 feet under.  The rain doesn't stop everybody, and if this storm wasn't proof enough, I don't know what is.  

I had noticed an estate sale advertised in Norwalk, CT.  At that distance, there has to be some kind of draw, some item in the ad that screams "Buried treasure- not so buried!"  Nope, I would have passed this up like many others that far away, but while the heart may be a lonely hunter, with a bored six-year old in the house, your psyche can quickly become a motivated buyer.  AVA didn't need to twist my arm much to point me toward Norwalk, and in a blink we were out of the house.

This is not a trip I would recommend in a driving rain storm, but I didn't know the extent of the risk.  Until we reached the other side I-95, it was challenging but not deadly, yet.  The sale was managed by a service, and as much as my photographer wanted to take pictures, It seemed a little like bad timing, so the camera stayed in the car.  The house was packed with many collectibles: Blue glass, Hummels, antiques, all with a thick patina of Marlboro ash and smoke.  It didn't make us want to stay, so we cruised quickly though the living room and the bedrooms.  Seeing the lights flicker and hearing the wind grow louder made it difficult to look carefully at the thousands of items strewn about the house. Maybe out of a sense of self-preservation, we headed for the basement.

AVA made a bee-line for a huge exercise ball at one end of the basement, while I found a pile of books at the other end.  She made her desire known as she pawed and rolled the ball around her person.  I looked at her and said, "you don't need an exercise ball! You're the perfect weight for your height."  She pointed her secret weapon at me, but I am impervious to her dimples, which are mainly for melting senior citizens and the dimply-challenged.  Her pleading drew me to her, and I, knowing that a long-distance chide would not settle her, made my way to her through the clutter. At the half way point, I scanned a set of shelves and there was something that I recognized.

  I am a dyed-in-the-wool gadget-ologist. If it has buttons, or a screen, switches, lights, plugs, or connectors, or any combination of the above, and it looks like it might work -  you got me.  You know my kryptonite. I picked up the box - it had weight.  I opened it up and there was the radio and the charger! Missing was the antenna and manual, but I had my bargaining point.  I knew what this was (I'll explain how later); a triple band heavy-duty radio that can transmit like a portable Ham Radio and receive just about every band under the sun. A million features and possibilities and here it was in my hand - with no price. My gadget-ologist heart was racing (or maybe it was whirring and buzzing).

I had a price in my head ($20) and I was prepared to haggle to keep it near that.  Now, I am not one of those foxy types that will ask a wheelchair bound senior how much the gold-plated Uzi is.  I know what this radio is worth, but right now I am taking a chance, because it may not even work.  I didn't go right to the head of the estate sale service, I asked the first person I saw, a lady, who had been tossing out $50 and $100 dollar prices like they were frisbees, immediately shrugged and handed it to the boss. Amazingly, he shrugged too, looked back at her, and then at me and said, "$10?" I nodded and asked if he would keep it for me behind the check-out table.  

The rest of the sale was a blur, there could have been gold bars for a buck, but I couldn't get my heart to stop racing.  We made our way through kitchen and told the guy we were all set.  Back in the car I marveled at what I had found (above).  The Yaesu VX-7RB is what I love about hitting the sales. I find myself buying things I have no right to own, have no license to use, and almost no idea how to use it, but I can't wait to try. Don't think I have forgotten my little buddy, she managed to find a cute little hollow body zither for $10 that we haggled down to $5. On the way home she strummed to her hearts content, and so did I.  

We made it safely home, though no thanks to bumper-bumper traffic on I-95, which we avoided, only to be stuck for 30 minutes in stop and go on the Merritt when a branch blocked one of the lanes. The people going south were stopped dead for much longer by a large tree that had fallen across the road. I had known the radio was a keeper because it was my second one.  At Brookfield estate sale 3 years ago I had found the VX-5R (below-gave the antenna to the VX-7!) in a Ziploc on a table in the garage for $20 (talked  them down to $15). I didn't know what it was at the time, but the internet told me I had picked up a $250 radio for a song.  This day I had found the next model up and paid even less.  The most ridiculous feature on this radio, and the most apropos for the day - It's submersible!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

In The Navy!

The best thing to find sometimes is a complete package.  There are many paper items out there that, alone, are appealing.  When you can show more of the story, it's better.  In a box of old papers at an estate sale in Southbury, I got somewhat of a complete picture...almost.
What I really want from the paper I find is to know what the owner was thinking, when they got this, and why they kept it. Did they enter the Navy, did a relative? Why keep it? Not knowing is painful, but I have to take what I can get and make up the rest.
I have to guess that the appeal of the navy around the time this collection was printed (late 20's early 30's), the Navy might be looking pretty good.
I think I may have the order of these reversed.  With the country in deep economic doo-doo and in the midst of minor unrest in the world, consideration for a career in the Navy didn't look to bad.

Look at those trades! One thing the military has always seemed to be good at is marketing.  I don't know which of these trades would seem like gems in the early 20th century, but if it was anything like when I walked into the recruiter on Mammaronek Avenue in White Plains, NY in 1980. Those cool jobs were not exactly guaranteed.  Hats off to those recruiters who could have lied to sign a couple of gullible High Schoolers, but instead gave us enough factual information so we could figure it out for ourselves.

The sales pitch for this 1930's promotion keeps coming at you, how could they have turnned down such a temping offer?
Click on the page for a readable version, but don't get too close.  They throw so much into the offer, you can't say "no" right away.
I have more to share from this box, which has a very Italian immigrant flair to it.  Look for my next post to search for someone that can translate a page of handwritten Italian (or at least I think it's Italian).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flagpole Radio Cafe: Another Great Show This Saturday!


Hey, it isn't all about me.  Just like the things I pick up at sales, I found this local stage show just under a year ago. This is a great local effort and is run by a nice group of folks.  The musical special guest is Vaneese Thomas and if you like R&B music, or just watching talented musicians and performers do their stuff, then you couldn't do any better this Saturday night.  I'll be there with my camera, I haven't contributed any material to this show, but I have created a blog to display those stills from the last few shows. Go here to see what you've been missing. Click on the Arts Commission link above to buy tickets (all seats are $15).Click on Vaneese Thomas' name to read her bio.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Dig Report Continued 3/6/10

The dissappointment of the day was that I was not able to report
immediatly from the road. Still too cheap to hand ATT more cash, I am
limited to wifi hotspots, which are few and far between (or not at all
Hers is the wrap up for the day. Our next Estate sale was in Danbury
and although it had potential, it may have been a better sale on
Friday. Now picked over, it was almost a waste of time.

The Dig Report (from the road) 3/6/10

Well, This is a new way to post! I and my camera child are enjoying
this warm Day to take advantage of the sales that. Couldn't be held in
last week's weather.
River Rd in New Milford is more river than road. There was an estate sale along here somewhere...
Not much of a road plus not much of a sign equals

Not much of a sale. Their excuse was that they had been inundated earlier. Methinks this wasn't an estate sale as advertised, but a moving sale and barely that.

Report to be continued...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Finger on the Button

For someone who claims not to be a collector, or a pack rat, it does seem as though I have a lot of different items.  One theory could be, that when I am out looking, hunting, digging, I am not interested in any one item, the thing I am collecting is the hunt itself.  I may just be looking for an experience, and adventure - and if I am unsuccessful - an excuse to escape from a chore, or the mundane.  What I return with are the touchstones and amulets that freeze the memory for me, hopefully, forever. Now, if you think that's the only reason I dig, well at least give me the benefit of one more dimension. Sometimes I come across stuff that I think is cool, or amazing, or just unique, and if I am really lucky - important.  I didn't intend to spill my guts, but this is what blogging is about. Try it.

As I scan a sale I am often looking for the thing that doesn't belong, an item that got left behind.  A good friend of mine once told me: "Buy jars or boxes of sewing buttons, because you never know what may be in among them."  Now, unless you want to get stuck with a load of buttons, you may want to temper that advice with the state in which you find the buttons. Looking through dress making items may not be the thing you want your family to catch you doing, but gold is where you find it.
  This pin back button was in a sewing kit, actually a small make up suitcase that had sewing items stored in it.  The detail of the photo, unfortunately, brings out a false impression of the condition. It is just 3/4" in diameter and circa 1939.  Nothing benefits from being shot so close.
It is an old piece and it should look that way. In real life the colors are slightly muted which really accentuates the character.  
In honor of the "Equal Time" mandate I give you the other candidate:
Neither "Willkie" button is in as good a condition as the FDR, but then again that's how history played it out. The 2 Willkie buttons were found in a desk drawer. I didn't have to buy the desk to get the buttons.  I often go through the drawers in nightstands, wardrobes, and desks to see if anything was left behind.  Wendell Willkie, was not the winner in the 1940 election, but he did do well enough that FDR made him an ambassador and WW worked to support FDR's policies. You can read more about him here.

Finally, I have the last button, in my "collection". This came from a box of buttons, which were part of another sewing kit.  It's amazing how finding something like this puts all the denial of ever doing it again completely to rest.
Ahh, good old Tricky Dick.  I have mentioned him in an earlier post from another piece of campaign memorabilia.  There really isn't much to say.  These buttons all have a special place in my collection.  I am not about to go and look for more, but if they find me? I'll keep them.