Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rumors, TV, and the Antiques Biz.

You know, my previous  post really is a is a darn good idea for a TV program...Following up the facts behind the stories we hear! I'd love to hear the back story on the guy who bought the picture with the Declaration of Independence hidden behind it, and an interview with the guy who scored the movie posters, and find out what is true and what is not. You have heard of the huge antique auto hoard in Portugal? Check out the photos. Well, it is not so.

Oh well, it is a good story, eh?

Talking about stories, here is one about my "missed opportunity" to get rich in the antiques biz....

I had gotten a call from a cousin of mine, who had bought an old gas station. He had an old Coke machine that he was willing to give me if I wanted it. The little town he lived in was a bit over 3 hours away from the city. I figured I'd just pick the area while I was there to look at the machine...who knows, it could be a Vendo 44, Vendo 39 or some other highly sought after machine. Then again, I could be a boat anchor, but, I had to check it out. He said it had round corners, which made it a 1950s or earlier machine, and, besides, free was a darn good price!

So, I hopped in my old brown, 1988 Dodge half-ton about noon, and set off....with the first stop being the nearest 7-11 for a HUGE Slurpee. It was June, and abnormally hot, about 35 Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Add high humidity to that, and all I can say is it was a wickedly sticky heat. No air conditioning (save for the windows) and a black interior made for a quickly melted Slurpee, and an irritated & soaked self.

And, I still 3 hours drive ahead of me.

It wasn't that bad, for the first hour anyway. After 3 hours on the road, I reached the town just before his. Forever with a darting eagle eye, I spotted an old store that was obviously just starting to be renovated. Prime time to check in.....this is when the basement, backrooms, sheds, etc get cleaned out in many cases. New owner, different mindset about "old junk", a fresh start, etc, etc. But, man, was I hot, wet with 3 hours of humidity induced sweat, and irritable...I just wanted to get where I was going, and see if the trip was worthwhile for the Coke machine. In my drenched & annoyed state, I really did not feel like going through the banter to try to talk my way in to the basement or backrooms. With my state of mind being stuck in "don't piss me off or I'll rip your head off", I kept driving towards my destination.

In about 20 minutes, I arrived at my cousin's garage. Checked out the Coke machine, and it was a monster...round cornered, but the biggest Coke machine I have ever seen. Big is NOT better when it comes to Coke machines. Oh well, free is still free, after all....don't look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say. I looked around his garage, and found nothing else or interest. So, after making arrangements to come back and pick it up another day, I went on my way, and, the humidity seemed to drop, making the day go oh-so-much smoother. Did buy a few neat things, but was far from having a full truck by evening. I can remember getting a couple gas pump glass inserts, pump faces, some other pump parts, and not too much else of note. Not a great day, really. Covered my gas and food, and that was about it.

So, I retraced my steps, and went back through the town where the old grocery store under renovation was, hoping it would be open. I was in a pretty relaxed state of mind, warm wind blowing in the windows, the comfortable evening breeze and somewhat lower temps were creating a calming feeling.

As I drove up the main drag of the town, all 2 blocks of it, I saw the store was closed. On the opposite corner and next block was another old grocery store, and it was open. To get into the closed store would have to take some door knocking to get the owners name & number, talking, convincing, and some concerted effort, which might be all for naught in the end anyway. So, taking the path of least resistance, I pulled over to the open store, went in, and after a brief conversation, ended up heading to the basement, flashlight in hand.

No lights in the basement, which makes things a little tougher. Always carried a couple flashlights, so I flicked the one I had on.

As it turned out, the place had foundation issues, and the fellow had just spent a few thousand dollars getting one of the basement walls repaired. The 3 inches of mud on the floor squeezing up around my running shoes confirmed this. The first thing I saw was an old oak showcase. No glass left in it at all, and it nearly fell apart when I touched it. Years of moisture induced rot will do that. So, after confirming with the owner that it was OK, I ripped off the ornate, but heavily rusted, cast iron feet, salvaging the only salvageable pieces of the unit. They came off with out the use of a hammer or crowbar, with a quick snap of the wrist.

Beside it was an expand metal frame, which Coca-Cola used for their posters in the 1950s/70s. The would give you the frame, establishing their piece of real estate on your store's wall. Then the Coke salesman would change the sign periodically. This frame was, as you can imagine, not exactly pristine in condition, with the moisture it was exposed to.

So, venturing in further, I looked around with the beam of my flashlight.


Lots of mud....

And lots of something else....

Empty space.

Oh well, time to check up in the floor joists and along the walls where there tends to be nooks and crannies at the top of the walls, etc. Never know what you will find hidden away.

So, doing this, I made my way along the walls. Then, I heard a waterfall.

Yes, a waterfall!

Somewhat dumbfounded, and concerned for my safety, I flipped the beam of my flashlight around the walls. I quickly found the source of the rushing water noise.

In one of the 3 original walls was an opening about the size of your fist, and out of it was pouring a stream of water, pouring out with enough force to send it about a foot from teh wall before it fell to the mud floor.

I squished through the mud, dashed upstairs to report the waterfall to the owner.

Standing in the doorway, he was watching a Canadian prairies summer store, which in this case was a major, sudden, torrential downpour.

He rushed outside to the back of the building, where he found the eaves troughs pulled away from the edge of the roof, and hurriedly grabbed a ladder, and pushed the gutters back in place.

So, I saved him the major expense of having the wall collapse, and I still had to pay for the rusty feet & frame.

Oh well.

So, after the rain ceased, I loaded up my "rusty no-so-much gold" and headed home, getting back at around 2 AM.

* * *
Along comes late August, and my cousin calls me to tell me he is now cleaning out another part of the station I hadn't looked through, and is offering my another look.

So, off I head, on a beautiful August day, not too hot, and not too cold...just right.

I left in the morning, with the intent of doing some picking along the way, rather than rushing straight there. Stopped here and there, visiting a bit with a dealer I know, buying a few bits and pieces; just making a leisurely trip of it.

I arrive at the town before my cousin's community, and looked to where the old store that was being renovated in June was. What stood there was a brand new facade, bright white vinyl, new signs, all gleaming. I thought "Well, might as well check it out."

I went in, and was greeted with the a shiny, bright, modern store.

I approached the counter, and asked to speak with the owner. Turned out it was him, a middle aged fellow. I pulled out my flyer, which featured pictures of various signs, and items I was interested in buying, and went into my usual spiel about who I was, what I was interested in, etc.

He responded with a somewhat surprised look, and with the matter of fact comment:

"You should have been here in early summer."

He went on to tell me that the place was actually two old stores, with a shared basement....AND, when he bought the place, he could not even get into the basement, because it was SO FULL, and that is full right up the stairs with "old junk."

He proceeded to say things like how there were metal signs with paper still on them, not ever used, various displays, and described a cardboard Coke sign with a jazz musician on it that was like new, and on, and on, and on...

I wonder if my mouth was agape.

He had no idea what he was describing, judging by his descriptions...but the key things popped up..."like new", "never used", "wax paper on the signs", and the Coca-Cola, jazz musician sign....ohmigawd....the motherlode was under my feet!!! I did a quick mental calculation of how much cash I had on me....Cripes, definitely not enough....would he take a check, I wondered? Oh geeze.....this is going to be FANTASTIC...now just have to get IN to the basement!

My heart started beating faster and faster with each description of what amounted to PURE GOLD....!

Then, suddenly he pulled out a knife and thrust it deep into my heart!

Well, not quite, but he might as well have.

He proceeded to explain that he ended up paying two teenage kids who had a half ton truck $100 bucks a piece to haul it all to the dump. (Yes, I got their names and numbers, of course.)

I explained, and noted the values of some of the items he described, which could well have reached well into the thousands and he dismissed it all with:

"It was just old junk to me. It might be valuable to you, but it is still old junk to me."

Oh gawd.

Then, he TWISTED the knife....

He said "You know, if you had shown up in early summer, you could have just had the stuff, just hauled it away for me."


I was so devastated and bewildered I didn't even suggest taking a look into the basement in case they missed something. I said my thank-yous and wandered out in a bit of a stupor.

I did track down the teenagers, who kept next to nothing of what they hauled out. I went out to the town's dump and found it bulldozed flat.


No comments:

Post a Comment