Hiding in Plain Sight

Posted March 18th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in My collections, Thrifting Mondays, Uncategorized, Vintage

Several years ago, one of our neighbors died at the ripe old age of 106.  A native Charlottean, the woman grew up with film star Randolph Scott, also a hometowner.

Mrs. M, as I shall call her, had lived in her home for at least 75 years.   And the place was stuffed to the gills.  I’d been in the home just once, shortly after we moved to the street as newlyweds.  Mrs. M. had invited several of her new neighbors in for tea.  I remember being fascinated by the tiny green stove on legs in the miniscule kitchen.

After Mrs. M. died, the family went through the home’s contents.  What they didn’t want was to be sold at an estate sale.  How thrilling – an estate sale right down the street!   I wanted to buy the contents of the garage, filled to the rafters, until I learned it had to be emptied and taken away the day of the sale.

My biggest purchase that day was a beautiful old rope bed (what was I thinking)?  To this day, it sits in our garage.  I missed out on a fabulous vintage typewriter – curved and in its original carrying case.  In pristine condition, I don’t think it had ever been used.  I’ve never seen another like it.

I ended up buying three or four old mirrors and samplers wrought on punched paper.  All have been leaning against the west end of our upright piano ever since.  Finally deciding to let them go, I recently got them out to dust.  All must have been stored in an attic at one time, as the paper on the backs was crumbly and disintegrating.   I removed what was left, only to find the cardboard graphics used as liners.  What fun!  I’m sure the advertisement for Ward’s Fine Bread  (circa 1920?) is worth more that the mirror on the other side.  Another  vintage piece was backed with a small portion of an old ad. The biggest clue to its origin is the image of a woman’s skirt and high heeled pumps on the upper right hand side.  Portions of several words are also visible.

For years I’ve collected vintage kitchen containers and advertising.  I can’t wait to peek inside the frames of my other purchases to view what’s been hiding in plain sight!

Time to Let Go?

Posted March 8th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in My collections, Personal, Thrifting Mondays, Vintage

Yo Yo Quilt, Circa 1930

Lone Star, Circa 1900-1920

Courthouse Steps, Circa 1890-1910

I was 26 when we moved into this house.  We lived here when our son was born.  We lived here when he graduated from college.  We lived here when he got married and we live here now that he and his wife have two adorable babies.  There are more than 40 years of memories within these walls.  Besides those, I would be hard pressed to name everything our home contains.  Its contents are boundless.

In my defense, I’m a child of parents whose early years of marriage were in the middle of The Great Depression.  They were extremely frugal, hard working midwestern stock – the original generation of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”  Those traits and skills were passed on to my three sisters and me.  I NEVER get rid of something which can be used by someone else.  Things are  repaired, recycled, donated, passed down, clung to or sometimes sold.  It literally hurts my heart to see useful things discarded.

I also love old things, family things.  Our house is furnished with things from our parents, thrift stores, estate sales or SOR (side of road). Although we really don’t have the space, how can I get rid of the 19th century piano my father purchased when I was 10 years old?   Or the Eastlake chair painstakingly needlepointed by my aunt Alda, the same person who paid for a year’s worth of piano lessons for me?  Or the solid oak oval table I bought for $10. in 1963?

For many years I was an antiques dealer, doing two markets a month.  “A booth must look fresh,” was the advice from a seasoned friend.  So every Saturday morning I was out before dawn, scrounging merchandise from garage sales.  Back in the day I was usually home by 9 a.m. with a carload of treasures.  Days were spent combing thrift stores for things old and different.  Goods turned over quickly, necessitating the never ending quest.  I’ve also rented space in antiques shops, selling on consignment.  Today, the internet offers me the best options for a quick sale.  Although I have a record of the hundreds I’ve things I’ve sold since 1985, some of which I should have held onto, such as the Charleston sweetgrass beverage tray with attached glass holders,  I still have too much.

All of our son’s childhood books and toys (with their original boxes) are here, as are his special baby clothes.  One day the kids will have fun going through his things in the attic, deciding what to keep for their own children and perhaps what to sell.

Regular readers will know I’ve been culling for years.  When I get discouraged and think I’m not making progress, I look at the huge pile of once overflowing Rubbermaid containers, now empty,  and know I’ve come a long way.

My late father-in-law spent the last few years of his life doling out possessions to family members.  A friend dying of lung cancer did the same thing.  I treasure the things which came from granddaddy, and the china from my late friend James Dial.

Shown above are three quilts I’ll probably sell soon.  They aren’t family pieces and were originally purchased to sell.  Maybe it’s time to let go.

Thrifting Mondays – Isn’t it Romantic?

Posted June 25th, 2012 by Ellen and filed in Mid century, Thrifting Mondays, Vintage

Ready for her date?

I found this outstanding photo at an estate sale.  It fascinated me for several reasons.  First, the taffeta dress. Love the flirty little half-cap straps – not quite sleeves but more than just straps.  The dress fits well with a bodice embellished with lots of  crystal or gold beads.  Our “date” is wearing very long earrings and has placed bracelets over each elbow length glove.  DH and I cannot agreee whether she’s holding a clutch (my guess) or if parts of the fingers on her right hand are visible – perhaps to show off her red nails?

Our date night woman is obviously “all dolled up” as they said back in the day.  Her hair is styled, her cheeks rosy, lipstick (Revlon’s “Love That Red” perhaps?)  perfect, and eyebrows carefully drawn on.   She is wearing glittery shoes, barely visible in the photo and her shoulder sports a floral corsage.  When I was in junior high school, cymbidium orchids were the popular choice.  They could be purchased in the grocery store, their fragile beauty carefully packaged in  plastic boxes.

I’m guessing this photo is from the late 1950’s.  I’ll have to contact my friend Bill Little who collects vintage clothing. He could tell me in a heartbeat.  He and I used to watch old Hollywood movies on the telly whilst chatting on the phone, commenting on every costume and set detail.  I still love movies like that.  Many were so romantic with sweeping soundtracks.  I can look at this photo and immediately begin singing Rodgers and Hart’s “Isn’t it Romantic?”

Isn’t it romantic?
Music in the night, a dream that can be heard
Isn’t it romantic?
Moving shadows write the oldest magic word
I hear the breezes playing in the trees above
While all the world is saying you were meant for love

Isn’t it romantic?
Merely to be young on such a night as this?
Isn’t it romantic?
Every note that’s sung is like a lover’s kiss
Sweet symbols in the moonlight
Do you mean that I will fall in love per chance?
Isn’t it romance?

Sweet symbols in the moonlight
Do you mean that I will fall in love per chance?
Isn’t it romantic?
Isn’t it romance?

Ahhhhhhhh, I’m a sucker for romance every time.

Our mystery woman obviously paid close attention to every detail of her ensemble.  Such detail that surely she would have made note of the event for which she’d gone to such lengths.  But no.  Amazingly, nearly all notations on the back of the photograph refer to the room in which she’s standing:  Champagne white beads; white brick;  gold chair on right, green fringe;  blue wall; rose drapes; pink candles; pink and white flowers.

Where was she going?  DH tells me the photograph was done by a professional.  The lighting and weight of the paper were the clues.  Hiring a professional photographer to come to one’s home could not have been cheap.  Our damsel was dressed to the nines.  Was this a case of “all dressed up and no place to go?”  I hope not.  She’s smiling and looks happy.  I’m going to imagine her swept off her feet by a handsome beau, thoroughly enjoying a night on the town. Isn’t it romantic?


Thrifting Mondays

Posted February 20th, 2012 by Ellen and filed in Thrifting Mondays

I have the most luck thrifting when I’m not looking for anything specific.  This great little maple table caught my eye because of its clean lines and storage drawer.  At $12.12, the price was certainly right. Before I could get to it, another shopper approached  and  started looking it over.  I began my silent mantra to her: “Walk away, walk away, walk away.” And she did!  This always works for me, btw.  One just has to have faith.  Yay!  The table was mine!

Although small, the table is very heavy.  I had it loaded into the trunk of my car where it remained until delivered to the kids in Greensboro.  Seems they had the perfect spot for it.  I’m glad, as I so wanted someone I love to have it.

Photo credit:  Matthew Guerrant

Thrifting Mondays

Posted February 13th, 2012 by Ellen and filed in Thrifting Mondays

When I saw this Victorian chair, it reminded me of my Aunt Alda.  I bought it just for that reason.  She was an important part of my life.    Her home held many beautiful antiques including chairs similar to this one.

The wood is beautiful.  The seat needs a little more cush for my tush, but that’s an easy fix.  The fabric will also be changed.  I may redo it with a faux pinto pony “hide”  I’ve been saving for years.

The chair came from our local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  I hadn’t gone there in search of anything, just for a “walkabout.”  We don’t really need chairs, but this one had to come home with me, along with a cup of green tea from the adjacent Julia’s and fond memories of my aunt Alda.