A Relaxing Stroll Through A Slower Time

By Angela Bristow

Before the technology and fast pace of life today, people moved through their days at a comfortable pace, made things with their hands, and instead of being a throw-away society, took pride in making quality products that lasted for generations. If you’re looking for a respite from the fast pace of life, try antiquing.

Area antique co-ops with dozens of dealers carry items that appeal to a wide variety of age groups and interests. The prices range from a couple dollars to a few hundred dollars, making this an activity open to most people and enjoyed by teenagers, adults and seniors alike. The staff is usually made up of antique dealers, so they are most often helpful and knowledgeable about the antiques. There are several antique co-ops and stores in the Lehigh Valley, such as Zionsville Antique Mall, that are open year-round. Just like retail establishments, antique co-ops also run sales throughout the year.

Antiquing is something I’ve enjoyed for many years and introduced my husband to after we were married. Now it’s an activity we do when on vacation or when we’re looking for a day-trip idea or just have a lazy afternoon to spend together.

On a recent trip to a local antique store, my husband and I came across all kinds of household, fashion, furniture and architectural pieces – not to mention jewelry, coins, books, toys and “thingamajigs.” At the co-op I saw many items for the home such as fine Royal Doulton china, Blue Willow Ware, Wagner Ware cast iron pans, wooden shoe forms, an oak bow-front china closet, a cherry gateleg table, a cast-iron coffee mill, and even vintage McDonald’s drinking glasses!

Walking through the aisles I could feel my muscles relax, lulled back into a time when people used salt servers with tiny spoons on their dinner tables, crocheted doilies, and watched their children play on a Murray pedal tractor made from metal, not plastic. While music plays over the store’s speakers, my eyes fall on the stoic faces of individuals gathered for sepia family photos in their best outfits.

From the moment my feet hit the creaking floorboards and the musty smell of attic finds hits my nose, my eyes begin focusing on individual items and I find things that remind me of my not-so-distant childhood – not everything in the store is an actual antique, some are just vintage. In one of the first dealer stalls I spot a bag of wooden blocks like the ones I had as a child and a box from Hess’s department store where my mother worked as a young adult. A couple rows over I spot five Hollie Hobbie glasses that remind me of the Hollie Hobbie doll I had growing up.

These co-ops are also a great place to identify the description and value of items that either my family or I have in our homes. It’s like Antiques Roadshow without the cameras and microphones. On my recent shopping foray into the past, I saw a set of drinking glasses like one that was given to my husband and me. Now I know the maker and approximate value of them. They’re not valuable, but it’s fun to come across items I have at home.

A lot of the fun of shopping at antique stores is the thrill of the hunt. I am always on the lookout for china pieces that match my dish patterns at home. When I see something, like the canister set that I found in pristine condition that matches one of my dish patterns for a reasonable cost, it makes the whole
trip worthwhile.

Architectural items have become really hot sellers in recent years. On my shopping trip I saw architectural bricks with an imprinted design for $14.00 each and a cast iron floor register for $55.00.

There are funny items too, like the oak commode used before indoor plumbing and the 1950s vintage highchair with an odd-looking dog-like animal on its vinyl seat I saw at a local co-op. My husband enjoys looking at the toys and musical instruments, I can always find him that way – just follow
the noise!

When I spot items like a Bell & Howell film projector I can just picture some family gathered around the projector screen watching family vacation film, or the dollhouse furniture that a little girl must have used to create stories with her little dolls. Now with computers it’s hard to imagine that in an office somewhere somebody actually used the $22.00 Spectrograph check writer I
came across.

Antique stores are a great way to support green initiatives. For one thing they encourage the reuse of items and they are literally a hotbed of practical items for today’s home. On my recent shopping trip I bought an oil lamp, on sale, for the next time a storm knocks out the electric. I have several storage baskets that I’ve found antiquing that are great for hiding clutter.

Finding other uses for items in addition to their original purpose is a great way to exercise your creative green ideas. In my home office I currently use a berry-picking box tote to house my desk items like tape and paper clips.

After a day of antiquing it’s fun to unwrap our finds and talk about our good deals and the items we might go back for. Slower days of times gone by may be a thing of the past, but they are not forgotten.

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