Back in the day,my friend Nola and I spent many a happy afternoon shopping junk stores, looking for that waiting-to-be-discovered hidden treasure that we were sure we couldn’t live without. And in those days, the stores tended to be heavy on the junk; real antiques were few and far between in the stores we visited. But that didn’t mean the merchandise was any less appealing. It was just cheaper and matched our early-marriage budgets better. I’m sure big city bona-fide antique dealers cringe when they are lumped in the junk category, but face it, some old stuff is just junk. And it has been my experience that even if a dealer has true antiques, junk is also lurking around as well. And that’s not a bad thing.
The beauty of having both kinds of merchandise is that there is something for everyone, and along the way, the customer winds up with a history lesson for the day, disguised as shopping.
While in Kingsland the other day, I stopped at Southern Pickers, an antique store which also happened to have junk in the back. I was told by Doug Chapman, dad of owner Mark Chapman, the store had been open about a year. As I looked around the front rooms of the building I was struck by how neat and orderly everything was arranged. Several beautiful hutches of the true antique variety displayed sets of older dishes; an old bed was dressed with an old handmade quilt, over which were scattered other linens, perhaps not as old, but still embellished with carefully hand-sewn embroidery patterns and tatting. Along the shelves sat old-fashioned utensils and household items, all dusted and displayed for easy viewing. One small room was set aside for old military uniforms. I felt of the heavy wool material and marveled that soldiers could fight a war under the burden of those jackets. In some of the last rooms the furniture and items weren’t old enough to be true antiques but were certainly not modern.
As I opened the last door and walked into what was labeled the warehouse, I knew I had come to the junk part of the place. But wait… This was a large, open, high-ceilinged barn-type building, but where was all the junk? Where were the stacks and piles of old tools, magazines, dusty second-hand furniture, boxes of odds and ends, stuff piled up and crammed into corners.? It was all right there, only it was just as neat and clean and orderly as the nice things up front. And it was a pleasure to take a trip back to the old days, way last century…
And that’s where the history lesson comes in. As I looked at all the discarded and no longer desired artifacts of life, some were familiar to me, others not so much. Many of the old and rusty tools and farm implements I had seen before. This store had the typical cast-offs you expect to see in a junk store: lots of glassware, old tools, records, books, signs, salt and pepper shakers, glass utility pole wire insulators, rusty tools like an old post-hole digger, kitchen utensils that have been replaced by modern day conveniences, on and on.
In the warehouse I had noticed a really nice wooden Indian and failed to take a picture of it as I was making my way through all the displays. When I went back to get the picture, it was gone! That quickly he had disappeared. Then I realized he was being wrapped and loaded into the bed of a pick-up that had pulled into the loading area. Luckily, another Indian was standing guard on the porch, so he was willing to pose for the picture.
When this stove was new, it was shiny and clean, but can you imagine trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner on one of these? And by the time one meal was over, it was time to start working on the next one; everything was made from scratch.
This wood lathe, above, and the farm press below are typical of the tools used generations ago. I fear today we don’t have a clue how to work with anything like them. We think we are so smart, but compare our tools to theirs, and compare the attention to detail and hands-on quality of what they were able to do without high-tech equipment.
We take our lives so for granted and all the things that make our lives so easy. Visiting a junk store should make us all appreciate the debt we owe to the generations before us that lived successful and happy lives without all the time and labor-saving devices we think we couldn’t live without. And I always wonder what will show up in junk stores of the future, what people will deem important enough to save to show to future generations. I also wonder how much of it will actually last long enough to make it into a museum disguised as a junk store. We are such a throw-away society that I am not sure anything will be around to display.
So if you have never shopped a junk store or an antique store, take the time to stop and visit the next one you see. You’ll be amazed at what what you may find and learn. And I suspect you will see something that brings back long lost memories and a smile. And if you are too young to have those memories, you might learn something about what you think is ancient history. Enjoy.
My thanks to Doug Chapman, manager of Southern Pickers, who graciously visited with me and allowed me to take pictures of the store. If you wish to visit a neat, clean store with items categorized for easy viewing, visit the store located at 2247 W. Ranch Rd. 1431, Kingsland, Texas, near Lake LBJ.