Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pint sized dealer

When most kids were setting up lemonade stands their front lawns, I set up an antiques stand.

Sold a few 'treasures' to the neighborhood kids, all tagged with carefully ripped masking tape price tags of 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents got tagged on those really rare items. Alas, I didn't exactly make bundles of cash. Had I put Coca-Cola in the 1950s Coke bottles I was selling, tennis enthusiasts on the courts across from our house would have bought like crazy. hen I could have gone and picked up the bottles again. Should have figured out then that a lemonade/beverage stand would have been a more lucrative idea. Or, perhaps I should have just had both. Hmmmm...that thought has only has taken 30 years of after sight to come to light!

It was kind of cool to have a crowd (well, ok, 4 or 5) kids crowded around my little entrepreneurial enterprise. My interest in this junk was somehow appreciated and validated. The items were somehow more appreciated by others. Some of those orphaned relics found new homes.

Part of my entrepreneurial drive was created by my parents. I had an allowance, which at its greatest height reached a grand sum of $2. Chocolate bars were 40 to 60 cents, bottled or canned drinks 50 - 75 cents, etc, so this still did not go far. When it came to buying something like a stereo, a bike, etc, I was virtually on my own, with occasional assistance. Nothing really got "handed to me". So, I collected bottles, beer & pop, for the deposit refund...which was 2 1/2 cents for beer bottles, 5, and eventually 10 cents for pop bottles. Took quite a few bottles to pay for a bike or stereo. But, I did regular rounds on the weekends, checking in the bushes, ditches, back lanes, accumulated them from abandoned campsites when we went camping, etc. Bought most of my own "luxury" items that way. Of course, my father helped me haul them to the grocery store & hotel when I had accumulated enough to make it worth while...or my mother got tired of them stacked up in the basement.

My father had a job at a small town machine shop as a welder, and was under appreciated, underpaid with no company benefits. Not tons of money around. I remember the basement having a big shelf full of cut down laundry detergent boxes, stuffed with UPC codes, box tops, etc. My mother was into refunding & clipping coupons, so that added a little cash to the family coffers, and, as a result of having to buy brand name items for the refunding, we also ate ok. Our income was technically below what the government considered "The Poverty Line", but as far as I am concerned, we lived pretty much as middle class. Perhaps that is easier to do in a small town, with industrious & thrifty parents.

The town I grew up in had a population of just over 3000 people. Not really a stereo-typical small town stuck in time. Virden is the "Oil Capital Of Manitoba." Still booming now, and not really affected by the "recession" of recent time. Some parts of the back roads south of town are reminiscent of scenes I have see of driving through Texas...pump jacks everywhere you look.

It is still a small town, however. Progressive enough that there is money flowing, but small town enough that the place didn't get totally levelled when oil and money started flowing in the 1950s. A few facades got changed on buildings, some demolition occurred, but there is virtually a whole block of downtown, just past the single set of stoplights, that still retains virtually all the buildings from the early 1900s, as well as a few dotted along a couple side streets. There is much they could do with it to make it like those historically restored and picturesque towns in the US, and are finally making a little effort to shine up the place.

Another part of the town's ability to survive, is the fact it is right on Canada's main highway, which we just call "Number 1". Many towns along its route have been bypassed, with the straightening of its former many curves. The advent of bigger and better machinery to carve up the landscape has made the highway straighter than it was originally, and more fuel efficient vehicles, larger gas tanks, etc, has resulted in the disappearance of the gas stations that used to dot its route. That, and the fact that assorted little towns and villages have been bypassed, in order to keep traffic flowing at a high rate of speed, rather than forcing vehicles to slow down while they scoot through the multitude of little towns. In Canada, most towns that have been bypassed by that oh-so-influential highway have withered to a skeleton of their former selves.

Depressing, really, this death of towns along its route. But, as a picker, it has left some of them stuck in time, so I suppose there was a slight benefit to my profession. Still not worth their death, however.

How did I end up on this sad subject, anyway?

So, that is my home town, Virden, former home of some noted public figures, such as David Rockola, inventor of the Rockola Jukebox, Jim Treliving (one of the 'Dragons' from the TV show "Dragon's Den" & owner of Boston Pizza & Mr Lube chains),the founding editor of Reader's Digest, among others.

Have I bored you to death, yet?

I think a picking story is in order for the next blog....

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