I love bears. A lot. So I sure would have been lured into staying at this motel promoted by an ad featuring dancing bears — especially when the ad says, “You’ll feel like doing a dance too when you Visit Your Smokies!”
But, unfortunately, this vintage advertisement was for the Bearskin Motel. Which doesn’t bode well for bears. And if I dance too, am I also performing some sort of death dance?
That’s too frightening. Too much for recommendations from Triple A and even Duncan Hines to overcome.
I’m not certain this Bearskin Motel, of Gatlinburg, is affiliated with the Bearskin Lodge in Gatlinburg. Even though it looks likely to the same same family ownership, they probably shouldn’t be condemned for the promotional sins of their fathers. But I’m not sure I can move past it… If I find myself visiting The Smokies, I don’t think I’ll be staying there. Oh, the nightmares of the poor bears!
Andrea Porter, an honors graduate from Fashion Institute of Technology, spent over 14 years working in the textile business until one day she found herself in need of a new coffee table. Unhappy with the current options available in today’s commercial design world, she decided to look into the past and created a coffee table out of an old rusted gear she’d previously found at a flea market. When the newly repurposed piece came home from the local welder and friends began to express interest in having their own, gears began to turn in Porter’s mind… Now, with the help of her sister, Ameri Spurgin, Porter cranks out repurposed items from the past into new functional pieces of home decor via Arms and Barnes.
The company’s name honors the sisters’ childhood nicknames while the company itself honors the American past in (re)purpose and motto, “Finding the beauty and potential in things forgotten.”
Old industrial, factory and farming items (such as iron fence pieces, old gears, thrasher wheels), architectural pieces (like scrolled window grates, register vents, fire place covers) and even more domesticated pieces (cast iron cookware and the wooden harness of weaving looms, for example) now find themselves converted into practical, conversational, chic tables for your home.
I just wanted to share this photo of an antique street cleaner because it reminds me of one of my fondest memories. Every Forth Of July, I love watching not the parades, but my dad‘s face. He always has such joy watching the street cleaners or street sweepers clean up all the crepe paper, bullet casings, horse poo, and other stuff left behind by the parade participants.
You may have heard about it, sometimes promoted or promised under other names such as Rick’s Restorations and Rusty Nuts (I prefer the title Rusty Nuts, but with the success of American Pickers, I guess the corporate guys figured American Restoration was more bankable). This latest show to join the History Channel’s Monday night lineup for collectors follows the work of Rick’s Restorations, the Las Vegas business owned by Rick Dale.
You’ll remember Dale’s appearances on Pawn Stars; he’s the guy who’s restored such things as old gas pumps and soda machines.
Dale and his staff focus mainly on the classic restoration of vintage and antique mechanical Americana. I think I may have just made that category of collectibles up, so if you don’t know what I mean, it’s vintage appliances, motorcycles, radios, pedal cars, railroad memorabilia, candy dispensers, pinball machines, jukeboxes, barber chairs, bicycles, and all sorts of things made in the American Rust Belt — you know, back when we made stuff in the USA.
(Not that their work is limited to made in the USA only; but you will see a lot of what America once manufactured, both for retail as well as to sell items at retail, i.e. advertising, service tools, and salesmen’s stuff.)
Rick and his staff are a colorful bunch of personalities (something I’ve admitted I love about Pawn Stars), however it’s clear that they not only know what they are doing, technically speaking, but they know the importance of what they do: they are reclaiming the history of objects, both in terms of an owner’s personal nostalgia and the workmanship of yesteryear.
While it is made quite clear that what Dale and his team mainly do is classic restorations, restoring antique and vintage items to their former glory keeping the item’s integrity by keeping the item as original as possible using parts specific to the object, viewers of Pawn Stars will recall that Dale himself has pointed out that some items can and should be modified or customized to make them more usable.
The example that leaps most vividly to my mind was a Coke machine which Dale made more useful by modifying the old machine to dispense modern bottles. I recall being surprised because I’m so used to being told not to ruin a patina, let alone update such vintage things, especially if you want to resell the item. But when Dale explained, I totally understood it. This is exactly the sort of thing I want to learn more about, and why I’ve been looking forward to the show!
Along with seeing so many old things once made by hand &/or manufactured with pride, Dale does a nice job of informing us about the item, its purpose, and who made it. (You know I’m a sucker for such context!)
Dale also tells you the cost of what he and his team have done, as well as the retail value it now has; especially useful if you are considering or justifying the restoration of something you own.
But perhaps the biggest thrills (and bulk of the show) revolve around the actual restoration process of antiques and vintage collectibles.
If you aren’t the handy DIY restorative type, you’ll gain a better understanding of just how much work and man hours go into classic restoration. Because the majority of the items are metal, there’s the removal of rust and old paint (do you use sand blasting, walnut blasting or sodium pressure washing?), general body work, painting, recreating or replacing graphics and logos — and that’s not even getting to the mechanical parts!
This is what Rick Dale calls the “grunt work.” But there’s still the time and money spent searching for authentic missing parts. (And what can’t be found might have to be recreated too.) Whew!
The amount of work shown in American Restoration may not inspire you to restore your own antiques and collectibles, but it will help you as a collector of mechanical Americana. You’ll learn more about the collectibles you covet and how to appraise their condition; you learn to understand the price tags on restored collectibles and antiques as well as appreciate the fees charged by professional restoration companies.
If nothing else, collectors will enjoy seeing such classic and iconic Americana.
Typically, you grab the knob, turn it to open the door and step inside. How many doorknobs have you had in your hand and not really noticed them at all? I like the unique, decadent doorknobs made of crystal, glass and metals. I’ve seen especially nice brass doorknobs in Creemore, Ontario.
If you look for antique or vintage doorknobs online you will find yourself pulling up a lot of salvage sites. As an explorer of old and abandoned homes I’m not quite happy about salvage companies/ people who basically find old houses so they can rob them and then sell their stolen good for a lot of money. While I may cross the line and fall into trespassing on property to get photos, I don’t harvest, remove or take away anything from inside the house. I usually don’t even go inside of them at all. “Take only photos; leave only footsteps” is the basic rule for urban and rural explorers.
There are a lot of places that sell salvaged hardware from old houses. I don’t think you can ever know if they come by the hardware legitimately or not. It’s a shame because the old doorknobs are so glamorous and decadent, very hard to resist. Some modern hardware is designed to replicate the old. This seems a better option to me. Or, there are artists who work with glass, brass and other materials. I’m sure you could commission a truly unique, glamorous and decadent doorknob. It may not be old but it could be even better, designed to your own style.
I remember luggage from the old movies. Big trunks, body size standing up and deep enough for a couple of bodies. Inside were drawers and a full closet with a mirror.
When I started planning for my first big trip as a kid I wanted one of those. My Mother and I went shopping for my first luggage (of my own!) I was looking for one of those big trunks. Even though I had no idea how I would cart that trunk around on my own, I was already having the adventure of planning everything I would pack into it!
I didn’t find a big trunk. But I wasn’t disappointed. I got a new suitcase, vintage 1970’s, blue, with tiny wheels. Mine was pretty plain and practical, none of those handles that extend out, no extra pockets on the outside to stash secret treasures or books to read. It’s long gone now. On some kind of trip of it’s own I guess.
Later, I wanted a suitcase like my Grandmother’s. It was plain brown with a broken handle. It’s only real charm were stickers from all kinds of places. I don’t know if she had been to all of them herself or if some came from other family and she kept adding to them that way. I do know that she came from Ireland as a young woman and went out to BC as a married women with her husband and children. After that she moved back to Ontario again, when I was already born or at least heading that way.
We went on family trips, sometimes my Grandmother took trips with us. I never noticed her getting stickers for that suitcase then, but I was just a kid. There was a lot I didn’t notice and a lot I did notice. We were in dozens of US states up and down starting from Ontario and ending up back there eventually. We took drives out to BC in a big, huge camper which we delivered to Red Deer, Alberta and then took the train the rest of the way. She may have added more stickers to that suitcase all along the way.
She’s been gone awhile now. I don’t know where the suitcase is. I never would have dared to go looking through her things, it just wasn’t something I would have felt right to do and I know she liked to have her things left alone. I don’t have any truly firm beliefs about what happens after we die. But, if we get to choose I think my Grandma would be keeping up with what we are doing and yet, I hope, she takes a few road trips too. Pack up her suitcase with the essentials and enjoy her sense of adventure forever.
These two old wooden pieces with metal hardware, which I believe were used to hook horses or mules up to wagons, carts or some such, were found at a local thrift shop.
Finds like this here in Fargo continue to surprise this former city girl from Milwaukee. At farm auctions it’s de rigueur to find such rustic things (where they are quickly snatched-up), but finding them at thrift shops still surprises me. I’m more used to finding them displayed on walls.
Thinking of taking a family vacation by car this year so you can go antiquing along the way? Getting there is half the fun — or at least half the story you and the kids remember (complain about?) years later. Below are 10 tips for creating a great family road trip — with a heavy emphasis on journaling or scrapbooking to preserve your memories.
A quick word about my emphasis on actively collecting souvenirs and journaling (or blogging) during the trip: It’s an excellent way to provide each member of the family with some much-needed “down time” and individual attention. It slows things down, allows events to be savored more “in the moment, “which makes for much better memory building and sharing later.
1. If you have a destination in mind, a place where you’ll be spending some time, call ahead. Not only for a guaranteed hotel or motel reservation, but for antiquing too. Search online and through your saved booklets, fliers, and antiquing publications for antique shops and malls in the area you’ll be visiting. Call to snailmail to verify hours and dates open (some smaller shops may be closed for their own vacation time) and ask them for a list of other shops in the area. (This can be done with any attraction or shopping plans.)
2. Road trip music. Yes, each kid over the age of four will have his and her own individual Mp3 player or other gadget, but I’m talking about shared music for sing-a-longs. Make a “family mixed tape” with each member of the family suggesting a handful of songs to be burned or downloaded to the compilation audio. (I heartily recommend including some Three Dog Night and folk music!)
3. Along with your usual antiquing gear, make sure you have all chargers, cords, memory cards, etc. for your cell phones, digital cameras, laptops, audio players, etc. packed.
4. But don’t only count on your gadgets. You’ll hit places without cell phone service to upload photos, no WiFi spots for travel blogging from the road, etc. So bring along pads of paper or — even better — a few of those blank journals for the family to write diary entries in. Not only is this a way to record in the moment, but you’ll have paper pages for scrapbooking — and nothing beats the feeling of sitting down together and turning the pages to share the memories. Plus you’ll have another family project for when you return home.
5. You’ll want to take photos — lots of photos. Having a few of those disposable film cameras is also nice. Not only as a backup for technology issues, but waiting for the film to be developed and gathering to share the photos is fun too. Plus, younger children you don’t wish to entrust with the care of expensive gadgets can still carry around a camera to take pictures with.
6. Don’t only rely only on GPS; bring actual maps. You can more readily see your options, your spouse or navigator in the shotgun seat can more easily assist you, and paper never hits zones without service bars *wink* Plus, you can mark maps with your own notes and include those pages or panels in your scrapbook. (Including an angrily circled “got lost here!” lol) And isn’t the whole point of vacation to take those roads not traveled?
But Keep It Flexible:
7. Include plenty of time for spontaneous stops. When kids have had enough of each other and the close quarters, take a pit stop to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, or enjoy a roadside treat. Keep whiny and sullen kids entertained by looking ahead on the map to help make decisions or rock picking (especially if you have a rock polisher!).
Even if this means you end up with a destination much closer to home, you’ll all have more fun if your pace and agenda is more relaxed.
8. Speaking of spontaneous souvenir hunts… Challenge or inspire the whole family to collect souvenirs for your travel scrapbook. Along with taking photos, have family members snap-up promotional pieces like brochures and place mats from the places you visited. (Multiple copies are a good idea.)
Other souvenir possibilities can be handmade, such as doodling the huge roadside Paul Bunyan statue, sketching every breakfast, or handwriting a diary page of the silliest things said that day.
9. Take as many of the smaller roads as you can, go through as many smaller cities as you can. Not only is the scenery more beautiful, the speed limits lower (resulting in better gas millage and increased safety), but here’s where you’ll find all the fun — and old — roadside attractions. Don’t fear that this will limit your antique shopping; many of the smaller towns do have antique shops. Heck, you’ll even be able to find local flea markets, farmers markets and even rummage sales this way!
As history-loving’ geeks, we find winding your way through smaller towns also means quaint and interesting local historical societies often many of these are free to visit or have a very small suggested donation. (Note: Purchasing postcards from historical society museums and small attractions helps support them — and your family’s journal of your trip!)
10. Always bring swimsuits. Even if you don’t plan on swimming, it never fails that there will be swimming or some water attraction along the way. Don’t dampen the fun; make sure everyone brings a swimsuit along. And mom, remember those towels!
Scan from a page in one of my vintage scrapbooks (crayon and ephemera glued in).
I do like maps, strongly, not quite enough to love them. Love being such a big word in small letters. I use a map when I explore rural ruins. I use it to find the locations when others tell me they have found an abandoned farmhouse in my area. I have a backroad map which (so far) has been very reliable, even when I’ve taken some pretty far fetched turns.
For his birthday, I gave my nephew two full poster-sized maps. One of Canada and the other of the World. We put them up in his bedroom. Is it only a co-incidence that geography is the subject he seems to be having the most trouble with this year? I hope so. I may not be ready to tell him everything he needs to know about geography but I would like to see him learn about rocks, maps and navigation. One of the most important things in life is knowing how to navigate your way.
I remember the last time I looked at a really old map. I liked seeing the terrors written on there like monsters and the edge of the world. Thanks to cartographers and world explorers and ancient navigators we know the world does not end with a sudden drop. Modern explorers and those into geocaching use a GPS to find their way around. But even then, the old fashioned map is at the root of every exploration.
One of the things I find most interesting about collecting as a hobby in general is the vast differences in object availability and appeal by geographical area.
Having moved from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area to Fargo, North Dakota, you might not think (as I did) that there’d be so many differences. But there’s roughly a 100 year age difference as well as cultural differences — and the evidence of this is found in every rummage sale, antique shop, estate sale, flea market, and thrift store.
On Saturday, I found the sort of thing one typically does not find at thrift stores in Milwaukee: a rather large display of what I ignorantly yet affectionately call “rusty junk” at a Fargo city thrift shop.
Hubby, being both male and a former farm kid, can identify this sort of stuff. Not me.
But I am drawn to the sense of mystery of each piece and the artistic appeal of tools Vs. natural consequences (wear from use, nature, etc.). And I know from years of collecting just how popular such pieces are.
At farm auctions here, I’m never really sure if the (mostly) male bidders who gather around the old rusty tools and parts are buying solely for the sake of collecting (either for their own collections or as dealers who serve as middlemen to collectors or interior designers of T.G.I . Friday’s), if they intend to use the tools and parts to repair other collectibles, or if they simply want to use these old rusty tools “because they don’t make ’em like that anymore…” But I do know people want these old used and rusty tools.
And I know how they found their way to the thrift shop to — or at least I have a pretty good guess.
One old farmer moved to the city, and when he passed away (may he rest in peace), these things either didn’t sell at the estate sale or, because it’s too cold here to have a garage sale, were directly taken in for donation at the thrift shop. Because if these things had been available at a farm auction, they would have sold. And it’s rarely ever too cold for a farm auction here in Faro, North Dakota.
I know, because I’ve been to plenty of them. Even if I can’t identify half the things being sold in front of me.
This is the first house I ever explored. I had my first digital camera from my Mother for my birthday/ Christmas, an early present before she went down to Florida for the winter. It was great. But, I did not know I would need to buy a memory card. I assumed the memory with the camera would give me all the space I needed to photograph the house.
I never did get all the way around to the back of it. Not long after the house was demolished so now I never will get back there for more exploring. But, I did learn to do my best while at the site and not leave anything for another trip. Another trip might not happen.