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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Candlewood Lake History: The Romance of the Rocky River


Sometimes you are at the mercy of an estate sale service.  They have a business to run and they don't have to care if the right piece gets a good home. They work on commission, or they have contracted for a flat fee, either way you can't always cajole them into giving you the price you want. If you are lucky enough to find a treasure on the 2nd or 3rd day of the sale you'll have desperation on your side...they are happy to unload even the smallest item because even though it's small it still represents one more in the sold column.  While I still prefer to treat each sale like a "dig" and uncover something cool, I have now gotten used to looking at the high-priced treasures at the table by the cashier, sometimes it's a jewelery case and sometimes it's just a pile. I used to ignore it thinking all the fun in discovering it is gone at that point. Then, I started to find some success.  On the left is my case in point.

 While hunting a couple of weeks ago I came across a sign for a New Milford estate sale  and decided to check it out.  The house was a ranch with many rooms and a large workshop in the basement. Though my partner and I searched and searched we found little to be interested in. This was also a well organized sale with a meticulous price on everything that wasn't nailed down.  That much organization is my kryptonite, sucking all my superpowers away. Suddenly I can't see in the dark crevasses of the basement or garage, the tactile sense for feeling the back edge of a closet shelf is gone, and my super-haggling mind meld is deadened. I had seen the valuables by the check-out as we entered and now as we made our retreat I took a second look.  

(click on any image for a larger view) I don't read a lot of romance stories but I did recognize the Rocky river. Living near one of the largest man-made lakes in the East, one gets to know a little of its history. I will keep it short, much like this 14 page booklet did. Candlewood lake was born out of the Rocky River basin. The valleys that may have been carved by much of the rocky river are what made the Lake possible for a power project in the 1930's. Read the book, it tells the whole story. Click the "Read More" link below.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Guest "Treasure Hunter" Janice Vance tells her story...

Everyone has a story of the "one" that got away, and the "one" that didn't. Sit back and enjoy Jan's experiences while I dust off the scanner in preparation for the next post....

I contend that the major attraction of going to a tag sale is the thrill of the hunt. Most of us will never prospect for gold in a California stream, win the lottery, or have a rich uncle leave us millions. But there’s always a chance – we think – that the ugly painting we purchase for ten bucks will yield a second painting hidden inside that turns out to be a missing Monet worth millions. 
We hope to find a Rookwood vase behind the pile of supermarket dishes, a signed Tiffany lamp in a box lot of tangled electrical parts,

a 1909 S VDB Lincoln penny in the drawer of that filthy old cupboard.

Along the way, we learn that we probably won’t get rich, but at least we’ll be able to pick up some unique pieces here and there that will help make our house into a home. Our eyes get more sophisticated, our taste more defined. And if our taste changes – no problem! We have our own tag sale, and start over again.

When we furnish our pad this way, we have to kiss a lot of frogs before we find the prince. The gradual acquisition and editing of “the right stuff” is conducted over a period of years, and requires our attendance at hundreds of tag sales, flea markets, and thrift shops, because let’s face it, the average tag sale is just that: pretty average. Some times we don’t even have to get out of the car to know. All we have to do is cruise past slowly, and even from a distance our now-trained eye can pick out the dusty exercise equipment, outgrown baby stuff, chipped and sagging pressed-board computer tables, framed pictures faded to shades of pink and baby blue, glass vases, old Easter baskets, and that neighborhood’s winner of the Ugly Lamp Award. Naw, forget this one. Waste of time.  But wait – hold it! We see an oak chair that matches the three clustered around our kitchen table. Slam on the brakes. Back up. A keeper!
If we’re really, really lucky, some fine day we stumble upon the Tag Sale of The Century, and that makes us forget the thirty-odd weenie tag sales we went to that summer.
Click below to read the rest of Jan's Story

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Honey!? Who took a wizzz in my orange juice?

It may be dangerous to go tag sale'ing because I am only going to find things so nostalgic to me, that I am left with no option but to buy them.  I always liked orange juice and there was something about this can that made it more appealing than any other...
I did have this as a kid and I cherished it for the few minutes of my attention that anything would hold at that age. There was no better marketing ploy that to sell fake products that looked like the real thing to the 8-12 year old set. Even better, sell the fake product disguised as a cool toy.
Ah yes. the Wizzzer! Take a toy from 100 or more years ago (the Top), merge it with a set of self-lubricating bearings and add a gyroscope and you have this thing that makes a cool "wizzzzing!" sound. It was almost as if it was going to take off. The manufacturer's goal may have been to take a bite out of the market share that the Yo-Yo was enjoying around the same time in the 70's. The ironic twist (or should I say "spin?") to this saga is that Duncan eventually bought the Wizzzer name and began distributing even stranger versions of it. Most of the people who remember the Wizzzer also seem to remember it ending up in getting stuck in their hair or an unlucky sibling's hair.  But wait there's more!  It also did tricks!
It was difficult to get it to do all those amazing stunts like on the commercial without  an armful of steroids. Any surface with a finish that you remotely cared about  (zero as a 10 year-old) was forever scuffed. Don't let mom see! A masterful step was this faux product packaging phase. I could only find the commercial before that made this move.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Things Found In....

Whether you found something you've lost, something someone else has lost, or just something you weren't even looking for...a "find" is something special.  I have given away my best secret time and time again because I know the supply of things to find is endless. Heck, I estimate that every 5 seconds another item is lost, misplaced or just plain forgotten, and something is found only every three days!  With that kind of ratio there should be a never ending supply of things to find for eternity. There are other sites dedicated to the subject of this post: Things found in books directs readers to browse through their library and post items found between the pages. I have used it several times to help promote this blog and help me research what I've found.

I recently found a well preserved souvenier program from 1945:
In flipping through it I found myself enjoying the ridiculous size of the production and the number of performers. This was a really big shoe (or skate, as it were). There were also an number of ads to which I may have to devote another post. Here is the reverse, truly aimed at the folks enjoying the close of WWII (Click on either for a larger image):
As I flipped through the pages at the sale, I noticed a small envelope that wasn't empty and quickly closed up the book and asked for a price. I didn't pay more than a dollar as it was purchsed with other items. A small price to pay for a "find" within a "find."

Somebody went to Boston, first for the ice follies and then liked it so much they returned  to see a show. The Colonial Theatre was and is well known, though I am sure that the theater district in Boston was a little more vibrant in 1945. Today it is available for rental for parties and is as well preserved as the Vanderbilt mansions in Newport. The envelope contained what you might expect from your own trip to the big city:
I was glad to see that the playbill had been kept as well:
You can click on it for a larger image, but I couldn't for the life of me (or the life of father) recognize any of the actors in the play. Carl Benton Reid had been acting on Broadway since 1929 and only 4 years before this off Broadway stint had begun acting in Film and TV. He became a steady character actor in series television throughout the 50's and 60's. Part of the fun of this find was reconstructing the performers and where they were in their careers.  The back of the "bill" gives the ever important escape route in the event of a fire:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Medical Examination Continues...

Well, there's a good chance I may just write something about what ever I find in the box of medical equipment. I was lucky enough to discover this a few weeks ago (read this post first).  If you were wondering what the odd item I asked about previously was, guess no more.  My lone lone commenter Dave S hit it right on the head.  It was a set of cork borers.  Yes it was the bore-ing part of the box, but it looked like it could be more interesting. Anyway, if you Google cork borers you will find that they can still be purchased from laboratory supply companies.  Apparently, in the early or mid part of the 20th century, no scientist (mad or otherwise) should be without a set.

I am keeping the box and its content near my furnace, which may be helping the musty odor.  These items were clearly left in a damp place for many years.  This next item has to be a surgical kit...maybe, and was in the worst shape. It wanted to fall apart as I opened it.
It is a small kit and folds up neatly with a snap. There are loops for each tool and another pouch for sharp or pointed instruments (note the "corked" area at the top).  There is a single wallet section underneath (empty-darn!) and only the following tools as a clue as to exactly what its true purpose was.
Three forceps, 2 of which are locking), one tweezers, and three tools I can't place, None of them are sharp and nothing has any markings on it. Would you care to take a guess? There probably was a blade in the kit, but the absence of one makes me think it could have been dental and not medical. I have already searched for a similar kit in numerous web collections and a few 19th century books on medicine.  I am going to have to let someone else discover this mystery, while I go back to the box for another treasure. 

Coming Soon!

 The early Otoscope.  No home should be without one.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Not unlike my guest blogger's story of the estate sale from heaven – I had one good Saturday  a few weeks ago, except this wasn’t a dream. No, I didn’t think I was in heaven, though to say I felt fortunate would be somewhat of an understatement. If you have read my June posts, especially the wordy ones about the GPS, then it would be useful to inform you that my latest success came after finding the GPS. I mean, right after, like the next sale after, really. Well, maybe I am getting a little ahead of myself with the build up.

Deep in a woodsy and marshy area of Danbury are several 60’s and 70’s developments that are so remote they seem out of place. The lawns are neat, the streets are nice, but the roads you have to take to get there seem to be losing the battle with the swamp land they were built on. Add to that the numerous frost heaves and you have one heck of a gastro-intestinal roller coaster ride. However, a Moving Sale sign and the karma of a re-born GPS was motivation enough to bounce down these roads.

The house was accompanied by a large barn, which contained a wood shop along with a mess of semi-organized flotsam and jetsam of a full life. The sale was run by 2 families connected by brothers, one, the woodworker had built the barn and numerous other things over the years and the 2 families seemed to be moving out to California. There was such an expanse of items in the Barn and garage that I knew this was going to be a long one. Fortunately my junior partner is plenty curious with just the right amount of caution. Never has she tipped, tripped or trashed something that would create a stir, an odd side-glance or even a “tsk!” from anyone. This day she occupied herself by sweeping the sawdust from around the tables and items in the shop with a paintbrush she had discovered. The power-tools were sold and she happily brushed and swept to the delight of the whole family.  I focused on the odd collection in the garage having found nothing in the barn.

This is why I often visit only a few sales on a saturday, I find I need to spend extra time viewing and re-viewing the variety of items at the few quality sales. There is almost too much to see in a single, double, or even triple pass. I feel as though I am looking at one of AVA's hidden picture books.  I need to keep looking until I can explain it, buy it, or dismiss it. This takes time because I also need to work around the other hunters and my own curious ignorance. If I knew what I was looking at, I could quickly pass it up and move on. There was no pattern to the items on the tables at this sale. All neatly laid out, but in almost no order which made it more confusing for someone like me. And then I noticed a box under one of the tables.
Medical items especially old ones are magnetic to me. I am fascinated by the history of medicine and quackery and the promise of cures with bizarre implements and little scientific knowledge. The unfortunate first impression of this box was the smell, deep bitter mildew, which is difficult to remove. There was so much to explore I had to ask, “How much?”

With little hesitation she said, “Ten dollars?”

I gulped (mainly from the odor) and said, “Sure.” Now, I could probably do 2 months worth of posts from the sheer variety alone, but if I try to write something up for each piece, I may never get there. So, take a look at the contents once I emptied the box.
There are a few obvious items and there are some real mysteries. Sadly, almost no paper to explain who's this was or exactly how old it was.  For example, Do you know what this is?
13 individual rods that fit into each other numbered 1-13, though one seems to be absent. My first guess was something for surgery and too gross to mention, but I was wrong. Submit your guesses in the comments (if you dare) and I will reveal more from the mystery box next post. It gets better, lots better.