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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I was hoping to find something from the vault for a Halloween post, but either I couldn't find it, or it doesn't exist. That means only one thing...gotta go get something! I guess this will just have to be a Halloween grab-bag of sorts. 

I get weak when I see a Sharpie (any color) and a blank piece of paper. AVA's snack bag for school is the perfect victim.
These are the bags we sent her to school with on Thursday and Friday.
I titled the one above "The great redundancy in the sky."  I started doing this to her lunch bags during Summer camp. One day, she came back from camp and said "they liked your drawing."  Starved for attention as I am, that was all the encouragement I needed to keep on going. 

Finally, I will leave you with a piece of Halloween nostalgia, although I can't say I've ever seen this on Halloween...I wonder why?

 Well, "The Great Pumpkin" it ain't. But with all the cable networks there are, I am surprised one of them doesn't buy the rights to air this classic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You could tune a piano...but you couldn't tune a fish...until now.

Guest author Janice Vance returns with another story of her travels and the treasure that is out there for the taking.

A fish story: the two that didn’t get away and the one that did

Okay, I confess to liking fish. Not just to eat. I like cartoonish fish with goofy expressions in wild colors, maybe striped or polka-dotted, fish that remind me of summer and beach cottages, fish that make me smile when I look at them.

So when I found the two small greenish-blue ceramic fish in my local Thrift Mart, priced at a buck-fifty each, I grabbed them without really looking all that closely. There was a maroon one too, but he didn’t fit into my color scheme, so I left him behind. Bad decision, in hindsight.

My fish are the same aqua color you might see on a 1956 Buick, and these little guys have Attitude in the same way the butler Jeeves does: upturned nose, a no-nonsense, disapproving gaze. The dorsal fin is part of a lid that lifts off. I thought: how clever, inside this little critter you could store sugar packets, cotton balls, spare change, or anything you really wanted to hide, like your Rolex or great-grandmother’s diamonds, because no burglar worth his watch cap would give these fish a second look. In the Thrift Mart, they stuck out from the surrounding mugs, wicker baskets, picture frames, candle holders and lamps, but that’s only because I have a well developed fish-interceptor sense.

It wasn’t until I got the fish home that I flipped them over and looked at the bottoms. Yeah, I know, all serious antiques aficionados always check out the bottom of plates, figurines, and vases, looking for Really Important Manufacturers. Not me. I’m thinking of color and function. They either work in the d├ęcor, or they don’t come home with me.

The Really Important Manufacturer information on the bottom of the fish turned out to be “Made in California.” But the oddity was the “Chicken Of The Sea Tuna Baker-Salad Server” line just below it. We all grew up eating Chicken Of The Sea tuna. In fact, my mother served me so many Chicken Of The Sea tunafish sandwiches for school lunches I pretty much cannot look tunafish in the face even today. But I had no memory of ever seeing a Chicken Of The Sea Tuna-Baker-Salad Server when I was growing up.

To the internet I went. In among the links to various tuna recipes (flipped past those real fast!) I found a few sites by folks selling various retro and classic ceramic items. And there was my fish, along with this information: “Bauer Pottery made this individual... tuna fish baker as a promotion for Chicken of the Sea in the 1940s.” Apparently the fish were available in several colors: green, yellow, red, and burgundy. Originally they came with a metal stand that fit snugly around the fish’s bottom section. Mine have no stand, but whataya want for a buck fifty?
You can purchase one of these fish online for $48 to $59, plus shipping.

Well. I’ve been looking at my fish more respectfully now. Obviously there is a reason they have Attitude. They are Fish with a West Coast pedigree. Fish made by an actual serious Art Pottery. Fish that can be viewed as a nest egg, instead of simply a vessel to hold a nest egg. I’ll keep them safe and warm.

And you can bet I won’t be using them to serve tunafish. 

Thank you Janice, for giving me the night off to get an extra hour of sleep..maybe.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Testing out the new design templates in Blogger...Not sure if I like it. I was getting tired of my old design. Can you guess what the background image is?  Please enjoy the following message from our sponsor, while I take a step back and see if I can handle change...
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Skipping Sunday School

I have vague memories of Sunday school and some not-so-vague. I remember not wanting to be there - I think I was 6 or 7. The things we were doing seemed odd and incomprehensible, but then what doesn't at that age? I seem to remember making etchings of the gravestones out in the cemetery next door to the church - some of them dating to the 1700's, and the teacher pulling on a cord in the ceiling which turned on a speaker so we could hear a portion of the sermon being given to our parents. The only thing that I vividly remember happened one of those Sundays. 
My mother was teaching a Sunday School class and I was content to have her there despite my misgivings. I had raised my hand to go to the bathroom, and after finishing, I walked back to the class. 2 other teachers were in the hallway, one I had just passed and the other was suddenly in front of me. "Where are you going?" she asked (actually demanded). My 6 year-old brain couldn't do much more than  point weakly in the direction of my class, to which she said, "Aren't you supposed to be in this class?" pointing to a completely different room. All I could do was mumble, "m-my mom is the teacher." And as I stared walking away from this stern disciple, she called out to the other teacher in the hallway "Get him!"  I was marched off crying to a foreign classroom against my will.  That left an indelible impression on me to where I can still remember that line with a wry smile today. Get him, indeed.
So, while hunting for treasure this weekend, I came across an estate sale that was wrapping up and closing down. AVA and I made a bee-line for the books and looked through several shelves before coming across a bible. I often look through bibles as obvious sources of mementos tucked  between the pages, the older the bible the better, but I'll look at anything. These are not usually the best found items, but every now and again you come across things like this:
Well, it looks like an innocent greeting card, until you read the caption on the bottom.  There's Billy happy, carefree and clearly skipping Sunday School, going off to the park to play ball with the neighborhood blasphemers. I realize it could have another meaning, but this one seems to play on the guilt one might feel by choosing a leisure activity over time with the lord.  I liked the back of this gentle reminder even better. "Post Card" looks as though it has been written by the Lord Himself:
So I may have added a little something to this card, but can't a guy try to live his life without someone from the church catching him between 3rd and Home and saying "Get him!"  Friendly reminder or veiled threat? I wonder if that old Sunday school marm had something to do with this?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Update To "Tray Bizzarre" Post!

If this is your first visit, please start by reading the previous post, click here

Some of the friendly readers of one of my favorite sites: Bits & Pieces were kind enough to take a look at the odd trays I presented in the last post. One of them -Scott - found the answers to all the questions I posed.

The trays themselves are likely "Tip Trays" just like the one offered for sale here.

The tray depicting the 2 men planning to bicycle around the US actually did make it and one of them wrote a book about their adventure. The mysterious Scott found a long Chronological bibliography on bicycling in which this book is listed and the compiler of the list makes a brief yet humorous comment on the book:

Murphey, Claude C. Around the United States by bicycle.  Detroit: Press of Raynor & Taylor, 1906.  {1471644}
            From May, 1904 through August, 1905, Claude Murphey and Clarence Darling  rode
through forty five states four territories and the District of Columbia to win a bet of five
thousand dollars that they could complete the ride within eighteen months supporting
themselves solely through the sale of trinkets.  They lost in Vermont when they ran out of

I sure would like to find this book and read it some day.

The tray with the heavy artillery piece from Hartford CT (Which I so grievously called a "cannon" and reader Don so politely corrected me that it was in fact a mortar) is a living breathing monument in Hartford!

Thanks again to Don, DJ, and especially Scott, the comment-ors, the curious, and the down-right ingenious for helping me wrap this mystery up!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tray Bizzarre

This is how it sometimes goes down.  I am on the road headed for I-don't-know-where. I have the classifieds to my right and a Hagstrom street guide for Western CT there as well.  I have scanned the ads for a few targets, but they are mainly designed to get me going in a direction. On my way I look for the tell-tale signs and upon seeing one, I am off-course yet on-track to see what I can see.  Late Summer/early Fall, the distractions are many, and with no time to visit them all, a process of elimination is necessary. The worst and first offender are the sales with "Lot's of Children's Items!" listed. Although AVA hasn't always been with me (she's only 7) these sales spell trouble.  The one sign that's a "lock" every time is the estate sale sign. No matter how foolish or impromptu they appear.(Moo!)

Upon entering an estate sale the first thing to do is greet the people running it. Don't expect a hearty handshake, they have a thousand things on their minds and congeniality left with the first 100 folks that were there before the sale started. However, just "touching base" is a good idea, respect works even better if later you want to haggle on an item.  Finally, you want to get the lay of the land and make sure that there isn't some sub-basement you'll miss because you didn't ask, "Is it throughout the whole house?" The fun part about that question is, once they say "Yes" you often have carte blanche to look every where. Stay away from closed doors and always ask, but otherwise begin the hunt.  Several years ago at a Brookfield sale I looked in a closet and saw some items stacked on the top shelf.
I took them down and after 5 minutes turning them over and reading fine print, I still didn't know what they were. Today as I look at them, I still have only theories and no definite answer. But at the time they were cool and the lot was only $5. Maybe you can help?  They are all aluminum (some spots are corroding), about 5" x 3.25" and likely date from the start of the 20th century. Here is tray, or clue #1:
The Lusitania was a modern sailing vessel and main line of transportation for people traveling between Europe and the U.S. beginning in 1907. She was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915. Read the Wiki article here. The question is, would this sort of item have been a souvenir or a common coin or ashtray of the time of her launch, or more an item of rememberance?
I guess you could say these 4-stack ocean liners were the "Space Shuttles " of their time.

Tray #2 is the one in the poorest condition...
...and another tough one to figure out. You would think that a search for "Hartford Cannon Monument" would at least get me an historical society description...but no. Hartford Conn (month, date unreadable) and the year 1902 are printed along with the cannon, other than the fuzzy plaque on the monument (1865)  there are no other clues. This may still exist, but after 108 years who knows?

Here is #3:

SO! You want to tour the U.S. on a bicycle? Hmmm...OK let's print your images up with the bikes and let everyone know that you're doing this. Can we print something on the back too? Sure! Why not?
How about every city we plan to visit?  Between this one and the last one we at least have vague confirmation that the era is correct. If you take the time to read all of this you may wonder the same thing I was...Is this the order they plan to visit these cities? No wonder it's going to take 18 months. Of all the cities, I like the one that lists Ardmore, Oklahoma as I.T. (Indian Territory).  I also liked how their mode of transport was featured on the front of the tray. (Click for a larger image)

OK, last tray. This one leads to my theory of what these are. They may be samples for this kind of "tintype" photography - possibly "Ferro-type" though I can find no sample to compare it to. These trays could have been salesman's samples featuring styles and purposes someone or some business might want.
The Richard E Thibaut company still exists to day, and they still sell wall paper. No idea if this is a one-of or a teaser for the company to hand out to good customers, or possibly as a business card. The cool part is not the advertisement but the image. The "Garden Of The Gods" park in Colorado Springs still exists today and though a black and white image, it hasn't changed much. Compare the 2:
Hope you've enjoyed this brief odyssey. I never know what I'm going to find when I step into the door of the next sale, and that's ok with me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Flux Capacitor!

It happens....every now and then I won't find...anything. By "anything" I mean the kind of things that need some deeper research to establish what they are, or were. Then there are the items you buy sometimes because after spending 45 minutes to 2 hours at a sale...you feel obligated to buy something, anything.  Similar to the "Lee Press-On Nails" Jeopardy losers used to get.   I refer to these oft meaningless tag sale purchases as parting gifts,  "Thanks for letting me dig, I couldn't find any treasure, but here's a buck for this, uh, thing so I can duck out of here."

This happened a few weeks ago at a Danbury estate sale. Plenty to dig through, especially since the owner was an avid hunter and tinkerer, but either he was grossly meticulous, or the estate sale service was, because I could not find one piece of ancient local history anywhere....even the dirt was clean. Ugh.  But this caught my eye:
My first thought was: (Now, you have to do this in your best strained Christopher Lloyd - Doc voice): "Marty! The Flux Capacitor makes time travel possible!" The battery is shown for scale (it's a "D")
But there was a simpler explanation:
I think the appeal for me was design.  It's all machined and brushed aluminum and brass and it doesn't look like any of those wrought iron tavern puzzles someone bought me when I was 12. When a blacksmith gets bored you get tavern puzzles. When a machinist got bored he created the Torpedo! Not only does it look impossible, it is.
If you were expecting an image of the puzzle solved, well, I hate to disappoint but I can't crack it. The greatest challenge is to NOT search Google for the solution. Oh, it's there. Google knows the answer to everything.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Another Bright Idea from Schlitz

There are 2 questions I am often asked:
  1. Why do you buy this stuff?
  2. Why do you keep it?

Does every question have to have an answer?  I found this back when I used to collect Brewerina, which really is somewhere near the beginning.  If it had a beer brand on it, I bought it (being a little strapped for cash as a young person - I couldn't buy it all). If it was a beer sign with a mechanical motion to it..I bought it, even if it didn't work (My father and I once spent several hours and trips to a hardware store trying to restore a large "Falstaff Ale" sign in which a back lit piece of celluloid rotated an image of each of the 4 seasons). I can still remember the rhythmic hum of the motor that cranked those same four scenes over and over again. A tip of the bottle  (not the hat) goes to George of Beer Cans R Us, who let me use the coaster for this post. Take a look at his collection, all of which is for sale here. But I digress, the bottle above, as you may notice, is not an ordinary bottle.

Just like the Coke from the previous post, this beer "bottle" is also not a bottle at all. Just add a couple of "D" cell batteries, twist the top, and you are left with the lightest of beers.  Just when I thought it couldn't get any lighter than this, I started looking through my archives and I saw the light:
The answer to the questions above: Why Not?
Coming next time:  The Flux Capacitor!