The following is a reprint of my column – Sincerely, Vintage – that appears in the July issue of the New Century Collector. Happy junking!
I’m all a-flutter for junk. I just spent the past few hours with a bolt cutter performing surgery on a deliciously rusty set of bed springs, preparing them to be used individually in all manner of DIY projects. At least now the bed springs won’t be propped up against the side of the garage and my house will look a tad less like a salvage yard for a few days – until I bring home the next deliciously rusty __________ to prop up in its place.
Actually, it might only be a day until the slot gets filled again, since we’re headed out in the morning for my second trip in a week to Nephi, home of Picker’s Paradise - Larry Ray’s Heaven-on-earth for junkers. I got to know Larry a little when he was a vendor at our flea market, fleattitude, last month. Larry’s the guy with the twinkle in his eye and the good stuff in his booth that everybody wants – pedal cars and road signs and rotary telephones and traffic signals (yup, the real kind) and rusty wagons and more rust – lots of rust.
After seeing what treasures Larry had in his flea market booth I just had to see “paradise” for myself. . . so a friend and I set out earlier this week with an empty SUV, some leather gloves and a few cold drinks and made the trek to Nephi. We were not disappointed. In the least. Here’s a partial list of our haul:
Two old sewing machines, one totally rusted.
Several faucet handles.
A double bike basket, the kind that goes over the back fender.
One wire shopping cart, the old kind.
A basket full of ornate door knobs.
Several glass bottles.
Two Chevrolet emblems.
Two feet for a cast iron tub.
One rusty bucket.
A couple of huge rusty hinges.
A small painted wood drawer.
A minnow bucket.
Two rake heads, very useful for hanging jewelry.
And a very old Frigidaire refrigerator.
Oooh – it was a good day for junkin’.
So. . . what is this new-found attraction to stuff that used to be tagged to go to the landfill? Junk seems to be popping up everywhere the past few years, and in well-respected antique circles to boot. Take, for example, Junk Bonanza, Junk Salvation and Funky Junk. . . all flea markets ranked among the best in the country (in Minnesota, Washington state and Idaho, respectively). There are books about junking. A few of my favorites are the “Junk” series by Mary Randolph Carter; Found, Free, and Flea: Creating Collections from Vintage Treasures by Tereasa Surratt; and The Salvage Sisters’ Guide to Finding Style in the Street and Inspiration in the Attic by Hackett and Young. There’s even a Facebook page and blog that represents a guy’s perspective on junking, Junk Nation Review. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. . . or, perhaps a better analogy is that this is just the junk we can see from the curb, not even touching what’s in the garage, the yard or the shed.
Curious as to exactly why junk is America’s newest antique “darling,” I put out the question to some fellow junkers. Their replies were eerily similar.
* “Simply said, we live in a disposable world nowadays. I love collecting and junking because it reminds me of my grandparents and simpler times. Getting something new was a real treat back in those times. I treasure my vintage finds as they spark memories of my awesome childhood.”
* “I think that our history and heritage is being lost in the new generation and it's so important. There are certain things that I feel like we need to keep in order for those who come after us know what it was like for those who came before us.”
* “My grandparents are gone and there were 90 grandchildren to share with, so I watch for things they had so I can have them too. My most treasured item from my grandpa is an old chew can. Smells like grandpa, I love it, cried when my sister found it.”
* “When I see a piece that resembles something we had when I was a child I want it. It is my "comfort quilt" in this crazy busy world. I miss Mayberry.”
There was another stream of thought in the replies I got, this one along the line of how junking is “green” and affordable, and that we can turn our junk-treasures into something “more” than what they originally were: “The creativity of people absolutely blows my mind!! Junking is a new art form and I love seeing what people do with things that would otherwise be destined for the landfills.” And another view: “Personally I have always been a "Junkie." ;) But I think the recent surge has been spawned from the recession: people are getting more creative with less means; to help with either making ends meet or making money; or finding fun and inexpensive ways to feed their addictions, create art, etc. Right now I am making some very cool bathroom towel hangers out of cement finishing tools. . . ha – who would of thought?!”
So. . . what do I think about all this? I love antiques that show their age. Love the rust, the dents, the chipping paint, the frayed edges. I love things that are not perfect. Love things that have earned their place in the world by having been here for a while. I love my rusty sewing machine that was likely cast off when a newer, sleeker model came along. I think I’ll hang onto it to remind me of all delicious things from years past. I miss Mayberry, too.