Forward Living: This ‘trash’ has value beyond measure

10/08/2011 12:43 PM |

For everything there is a season. And on the North Fork, the yard sale season is a long one. From early spring until a few weeks from now, when folks start thinking storm windows, we put our stuff out on lawns, on village greens, in driveways. Then it seems just about everyone stops by to browse, perchance to buy.

Know what caught my attention recently? A yard sale on Main Road in Cutchogue. Those who ran the sale, members of Old Town Art and Crafts Guild, gave it a name: Trash to Treasure. That sounded fine till I thought about it a bit.
I imagine there’s no trash at a yard sale. Every item is a kind of treasure — if only for its history. Who first owned it? Where was it made? How far has it traveled? What memories does it evoke? Why, the history of our lives and times might well be read in yard sale items.

So I stopped at the Trash to Treasure sale and looked around. Just as I thought. There, on the very first table, was a pre-1920 Victrola. A windup Victor Talking Machine. That’s exactly what was printed on one of the Victrola’s wood panels.

I told the Victrola’s owner, guild member Anne Engelhardt, that I recalled a Victrola just like hers. Back in the 1940s, my across-the-road friend Marilyn often asked me into her home, where we spent time listening to some old guy named Caruso. He was pretty good, according to Marilyn’s parents, but Marilyn and I were more interested in someone much younger named Sinatra.

On to the next table. Here I met Riverhead’s Gayle Wagner. Most of Gayle’s offerings were clothes and I paid special attention to a blue denim jean jacket Gayle called “vintage.” According to Gayle, it was fashionable in the 1960s. This particular jacket had the original price tag still attached. I don’t remember what that price was but I do know Gayle sold the jacket for one dollar. Some buy. I’m wondering if people can be described as “vintage.” If so, I guess I qualify.

Then to a table, actually several of them, belonging to Ginny Kuhne of New Suffolk. Ginny must have come to Trash to Treasure via truck, she had so many items displayed. For example, just in case I planned on making a crepe paper costume for Halloween, I could have purchased a 1952 book of patterns put out by Dennison’s. I remember working very close to that “party store” on Fifth Avenue in New York City back in the late ’50s. Kind of a predecessor to Michaels in Riverhead.

On another table Ginny had three black velvet skating skirts, brand-new, from Lord & Taylor. Ginny said they dated to the 1940s and I believe her. I know I really wanted one of those skirts when I ice skated on the lake in Flushing’s Kissena Park. But my mother ignored my pleas and dark brown leggings were the dowdy substitute. Oh, well.

And look over there. Ginny had full-page laminated ads for a late 1930s Borden’s product called Hemo. Back then a pound of it cost 59 cents. Add a spoonful of Hemo to a glass of milk and you could “pep up your step.” Now in the ’30s I was pretty peppy and never did taste Hemo. But I did enjoy seeing featured in Ginny’s ads several early Borden friends. Their names? Elmer the bull and Elsie the cow. Those two had several offspring: Beulah, Beauregard and the twins, Larabee and Lobelia. I have a suspicion Elmer and Elsie drank plenty of Hemo.

Just before I moved away from Ginny’s tables, I spied some large photos framed quite elegantly. Each photo showed a stylishly dressed man or woman from the 1800s. How stern and severe, how prim and proper they looked. Ginny said such photos were in demand. They are called “instant family” photos and when hung in your living room can add luster to your family tree. I’ve start searching around for a Joshua Chamberlain look-alike photo. He was a pretty cool guy and my Civil War hero, a guy I’d be proud to have in the family. No luck yet, but I think the North Fork will come through for me. Just about everything is stored in our attics.

I left Trash to Treasure with lots of memories and more than a few treats from the bake sale table. After all, 1940 or 2011 — a brownie is a brownie and an oatmeal cookie will always be meant to be dunked in a cup of cold milk.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.