antiquing

All posts in the antiquing category

Victrola model G: the outtakes Sept. 30, 2016

Published October 1, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1

In all of my nine plus years of amassing a huge 78 collection that vary in condition from playable to excellent, there are a certain few that fly under my radar that are in extremely poor to terrible condition. There’s surface noise and that’s to be expected for a 78 that was released eighty-eight years ago. There’s no buyer’s remorse on my part. I buy 78’s if I feel they are in ‘playable’ condition at the very least. Condition-wise, I’m not too terribly picky if the 78 is near mint, very good, excellent condition, etc. And I do realize I could be doing my Victrola more harm than good opting for the undesirable 78s. So long as there’s no needle drops, huge scratches or gouges that would render the 78 unplayable, then I will buy it if the price doesn’t exceed $5 per record and even at that I find that’s a tad steep for the more common 78s.  Oh, yeah, if they’re cracked, don’t waste your money just some helpful first-hand experience. 😉

I don’t know what possessed me to stop in a used furniture store on a day I had to be somewhere. Normally, I don’t like to browse when I know I really can’t make the time. But it was the same place I acquired my Victrola model G. I was very excited that I finally got it fully repaired from the mainsprings to the sound box that required an overhaul and new rear flange gasket. That much about it was well worth it and I knew it would require some extensive work that was beyond my capabilities since I haven’t serviced any of my antique phonographs in over nine years. Yet again, none of them require any work since I had them restored professionally eons ago.

I glance at my wrist watch, counting off the minutes. I appear to be in a hurry, but I still have time to look around before I head off and start my day. I always try to make it a point to take in the beauty of various antiques at least once a day. I always use antiques in my daily life. Its what brings me happiness. Some people can’t start their mornings off right without their favorite cup of coffee or a latte, maybe even a cappuccino. And other folks probably don’t get off on the right foot without their nicotine fix before their lunch break.

 

I don’t smoke. I don’t consume caffeine. I will, however, pack some toothpicks on me and some steeped hot tea for when its cold outside. Otherwise, I keep my creature comforts to a minimal when I have to be at work. I reward myself when I do arrive home after work. And here I found myself in the small second hand store on the corner. I browse through the books and a dusty, massively thick Webster’s dictionary catches my eye. The binding has come completely loose from the spine. The pages are all there and in tact. I gingerly remove the antique dictionary. It was an “Original Webster’s Unabridged” dictionary published in 1874. The price scared me. $39.99, holy mackerel! Are they serious? :O

I scrutinize the antique dictionary for a long moment, then glance at the time. I needed to be on my way. Another day, another dollar so the saying goes. I return the dictionary to the bookshelf and get ready to leave when something small catches my eye. I’m gazing at two 5 ½” Little Wonder one-sided disc records from 1909. These were actually tiny shellac records made for a child-sized upright antique phonograph. However, I couldn’t say for certain whether or not they’d play on Victrola since I didn’t have any Little Wonder discs in my collection to say for certain. I know from past experience I had difficulties with similar 7” Parakeet shellac records manufactured sometime during the early 1900 to mid-Teens, so naturally, I wrongly assumed the same would hold true for these Little Wonder records. And there was a Cameo 78 that called out to me.

I ask the man at the counter how much for the 78’s and was told $2.99 per record. Uhm… I feel that is asking a bit much. I politely thanked him, placed the records back and waited until I could do some research. Depending on the rarity of the Little Wonder records and who the artist was that recorded the song(s), I surfed onto eBay and did some price-comparison. $2.99 was looking okay for what these tiny records are. And so I bide my time. I return to the store when another person is working. I’m quoted a steeper price for the records. Again, I kindly thanked the person and went on my way.

Yeah, they’re one of a kind. Okay, they’re “special records”, but Cameo 78s are common to run across although inferior in sound quality and material-wise. Little Wonder shellac records don’t turn up all that often, so I’ll give credit where its due on that for being extra special. But the prices for the Little Wonders online vary in price and their condition were no less than what I discovered in this store. I think about it for a long while. If they’re still there come some other time then I’ll know it was meant to be.

And they were there when I returned, so I bought them and the Cameo 78. Another Fox Trot song and who is the artist this time? Sam Lanin and His Orchestra “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” and the flipside “He Ain’t Never Been to College” by the Varsity Eight. Both songs were released in 1928. And last night I finally made the time to do more recordings, something I haven’t done in quite a while. But the recording process doesn’t always run smoothly, thus the outtakes and bloopers happen.

Oh, the Little Wonders played excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed the songs, “I Want to Go Back to Michigan” duet disc No. 60. It sounded a lot like Ernest Hare and Billy Jones from the Edison Diamond Discs I have of them. And the other song, “Beets and Turnips” – [Little Wonder] Band disc No. 30. Both songs were released sometime in 1914. The Michigan song dates somewhere between 1914-15. The flipside of the one-sided Little Wonders have patent dates of Nov. 1909. These are some incredibly old tiny disc records pushing 107 years old (if going by the patent dates, that is). The sound quality of the Little Wonders exceeded my expectations. I was satisfied and my little one-bedroom was full of cheerful music for a little bit. I tried the Cameo 78 next. The song He Ain’t Never Been to College recorded nice in one take, no problems there.

 

Then the unexpected happened and it worried me when I played the flipside of the Cameo 78. It sounds very worn out due to the surface wear and tear that’s common for a record that’s likely been played many times over. But until last night I never encountered a 78 that would make the sound box lag and the turntable slow down and eventually stop all together. Worried doesn’t cut it. I was almost heart sick thinking of all the problems that can happen to a Victrola. The mainsprings might have hardened grease, but this would have been eliminated since the machine was completely overhauled by a professional in July. Another troubleshooting idea popped into my head; maybe the mainsprings slipped out of alignment in their barrels. Yikes! That’s an invasive and costly repair. Then I decided to try playing the same 78 on a different baby upright Victrola of mine that’s been my secondary recording machine. Surely, two machines are not alike.

Well, same problem occurred on the baby Victrola. And I couldn’t figure it out.

How can two machines encounter the same exact problem? Was this particular song cursed? Is the past deceased owner of said 78 trying to send me a message from the great beyond? What about the… oh, heck. Just try a lighter weight reproducer and so that’s what I did. Now the final recording didn’t come from the Victrola G as I had planned. I had to record the 78 playing it on my Edison C-19 with the proper 78 Ken-Tone attachment and it played okay. Not good, but its late. I’m tired. I want to get this last song uploaded to my MP3 player so I can call it a night. Edison has always been my ‘go-to’ phonograph when making recordings. In the beginning I didn’t always have a Victrola to fall back on. Therefore, my Edison C-19 picked up all the slack of my recording processes. I was relieved to know that my expensive Victrola G didn’t fall to crap after all and neither had my baby Victrola. Do I care to try Cream in My Coffee Fox Trot on my other upright?… Nope. So, hopefully I haven’t bought a cursed 78 and if I did, then eh, oh well. I suppose if the darned Fox Trot is cursed it wouldn’t be the first song to go down infamy for that. Thanks for reading, commenting, blogging, sharing, tweeting. I truly appreciate it a lot! 🙂

 

 

Advertisements

Antique Fountain Pens: where to buy and how to use them.

Published September 30, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1

Writing is difficult enough as is nowadays. Can you imagine that somewhere during 1955 through the 60s all public school children were taught how to use a fountain pen and ink well? According to one such tutorial website I gleaned some helpful insight into the often ignored bygone use of a fountain pen.

Oh… are those the fancy quill pens with a beautiful, graceful feather, right?

 

Well, okay, maybe those can be included too…but I was more inclined to add the Calligraphy pen/ fountain pen, and one thing that had always piqued my interest was whenever my great grandmother would write me snail mail letters. She would always write in this extremely fine penmanship that was lost to my generation. How can I describe her penmanship? It was dainty-like. Her cursive always straight even in cards and pages that weren’t notebook paper. Her penmanship was always graceful and it  always garnered my interest. It was always the same ‘sepia-tone’ brown ink, sort of faded that I knew wasn’t possible from a standard ball point pen. And I knew that no writing pen no matter how cheap or crappy could produce such eye-catching legible lines. In fact, it had me so curious and I never did ask in my letters to my great grandmother what type of pen and brand of ink she used. And for the life of me, I don’t know why I never asked. I only recall one time when she wrote to me in pencil and that was something that was very out of character for my great grandmother to do when corresponding in all the years we wrote to each other. I knew then something wasn’t right and my intuition was correct, sadly.

When my great grandmother could no longer write me back, I continued to write to her (wishing, hoping and praying) for a response only to no avail. By this point I had no idea how badly her mental health had declined. I was kept in the dark about a lot of the horrendous details of what went on while she was still alive. She required the assistance of a caregiver who didn’t look after her well at all. Were my letters thrown in the trash unread? I began to think to myself. They were getting delivered to somebody since I never had one returned to me during the entire time, so who knows.

I was intrigued, and me being… well, me wanted to teach myself this lost form of fountain pen penmanship, and as luck would have it, I purchased an old antique Palmer’s fountain pen writing instruction red soft-cover book. The book had been around with black ink stains on the cover, and a partial missing corner from its cover. I was missing two more things: a fountain pen and ink. The ink I use is India ink and a very helpful antique store owner told me to always water down the ink with cold water prior to use or else the nib of the fountain pen will get gummed up and the writing won’t appear as fluent nor clean, and always allow the page to completely dry first before folding it and cramming it into an envelope. I thanked the antique store owner (her name is Carol), but she couldn’t help me track down a bottle of brown ink and didn’t know if any even existed or not. So, the curiosity regarding where my great grandmother’s mysterious ‘sepia-toned’ brown ink came from will forever remain a mystery since my great grandmother is no longer alive to tell me or even show me.

It still didn’t stop me from picking up something a new form of long lost writing. And oh yes, I LOVE to write. I love it so much that I’m known to write incredibly long snail mail letters to family and friends and always have loved doing so. I’ve been told by strangers even that my penmanship is beautiful, graceful and very legible.

“Legible?” I think to myself. “Why wouldn’t my penmanship be otherwise?”

And here again my quest for knowledge was never-ending and I wanted to know why. I don’t ask, silly me. 😛

Instead, the answers I sought was a long time in coming, but eventually I would see why. I see a younger generation’s writing and doesn’t just stun me, it makes me nervous. It makes me crook my eyebrow and scrutinize every word and line. I cool it on my inner need to ‘proofread’ what they wrote. That isn’t part of my job requirements, but making sense of their writing is important, and if I can’t understand it, then miscommunication often occurs. And not to down on anybody that was born during the 1980s and are part of the millennial crowd, but boy howdy, I never knew chicken scratch was a perquisite to learning how to read and write while in elementary school nowadays. Actually, most of it I can’t even say is chicken scratch, it’s likened to pre-school scribbling and its coming from a twenty-something youngster.

So maybe it will sound as though I’m being hard on these millennials, but their writing is atrocious. Any English teacher would cringe if they saw it turned in on a hand-written assignment and their butts would be served to them on a silverplate platter because of it.

In my line of work I have to jot down any information that would be pertinent if ever a situation arises while I’m on the clock. There are days when nothing happens, and then there’s the hectic days where anything can happen and it needs to be logged.

And then there’s the pre-school scribbles that often appears and misspelled words. I try to decipher it the best I can, but the writing is often very illegible. Now I see why I’m told my penmanship is legible and this is thanks in part to my older brother who taught me cursive writing when I was young as four or five years old. Yes, that young believe it or not because he didn’t want me to go through life not knowing how to read or write since public schools would barely cover the bare bone basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic (a bygone name for mathematics). My older brother was already in school at the time and was a few grades a head of me.

In retrospect, I sincerely believe we came from the last generation that was taught cursive writing when it was still being taught in public schools during the 1980s. I later read that anybody that attended public school post 1955-60s lost out on learning how to use a fountain pen and ink well though. And it brings me back to the antique writing instruments of yesteryear. They can range in price from a dollar on up to a few hundred. And it depends on the make of fountain pen and when it was produced.

When I attended college in 2013 (per my course requirement), I had to log into a message board to converse with the instructor and fellow students, and while on there, somebody chimed in how excited they were to receive a fancy pen with a very fluent, sensitive response. Well, they weren’t talking about a pen you write with. They referred to a stylus pen for their Kindle or some other technological touch-screen device.

I barely batted an eyelash when I figured out it was a pen for a touch screen device.

I don’t get all s**** and giggles over technology. In fact, I don’t find myself running out to buy the newest updated computer setup. I don’t have any new generation Kindles on my wish list and all of my stylus touch-screen pens came straight from the Dollar Tree where everything’s a dollar. However, I do collect antique fountain pens and antique ink wells. Some are very basic heavy glass, I’d say likely used in the rural public schools way, way back when. And other ink wells I have are slightly more fancy with a pen holder and two ink wells with silver caps. And another one I turned up recently has a brass design around it. I don’t know the specific dates when these ink wells were produced, but the fancier ones I’d guess were produced in the 1800s or very early 1900s. The basic no bells or whistles ink wells could likely date anywhere in that same time frame. The antique fountain pens I have scattered in an old wooden cigar box are plastic with brass nibs, which tells me they were produced post- 1930’s probably in the 60s or 70s maybe. I have about four or five fountain pens that go way back to the early 1900s and these I didn’t acquire all at once. I would occasionally run across them in the antique stores from time to time, and if they appealed to me, I’d buy them. At least fountain pens are a light-weight antique item to collect unlike my Bavaria porcelain dishes and silverplate.

And so I’ve returned to practicing my fountain pen writing. This is something I enjoy doing in my spare time when I can make the time that is. I do it mostly for fun nowadays and I’ve read that it isn’t so much what you write but how you hold the pen which is balanced on your knuckles and not clutched between the thumb and index finger. It was awkward for me to try at first, but once I quickly got accustomed to it, my writing was less complicated and flowed onto the page a lot easier. And this is all for my blog about antique fountain pens and ink wells. If interested I’m sure places like eBay, Etsy, and Ruby Lane might have fountain pens and ink wells for sale. Thanks as always for reading, liking, blogging, commenting and sharing. I truly appreciate it.  🙂

Antique Bavaria, R.S. Prussia, and Austria Porcelain.

Published September 16, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1

bavaria-set-9-14-16

I know, don’t make it a habit. Don’t eat off of them. Don’t drink from those gorgeous delicate Bavaria tea cups, and steer clear of those antique silver plate Demi spoons and put that antique Demitasse cup back as it was. You can appreciate it with your eyes, just not your taste buds. It was once called The Rich Man’s curse because only the rich fell ill with lead-poisoning from porcelain dishes they used everyday back in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

It was at the antique store a while back where I discovered a demi-cup (not a bra), a Demitasse cup for drinking espresso coffee that was usually served after supper. Prices vary for antique dishes. Sometimes you might get lucky and find a near complete set of beautiful antique pristine dishes for dirt cheap.

bavaria-sugar-and-creamer-9-12-16

And where did I find out about it being a ‘rich man’s curse’? I actually had to do a lot of research on this topic of antique porcelain dishes to find this out. Way back in the Victorian era and I’m going to include the Edwardians in this as well since high society tended to drink and eat from gold-painted and hand-painted porcelain dishes. Those crazed, dusty, often times, aged antique porcelain dishes that appear too fragile to even look at with an undecided glance are what I’m talking about. The kind of dishes that would have given our ancestors lead poisoning in accumulative doses over time.

However, the low income Victorians and even the Edwardians did not have disposable incomes to throw around in their time when these antique dishes were brand new, so they more than likely ate and drank from inferior table wear and/ or tin cups perhaps.

The most expensive antique porcelain I’ve come across recently was stamped R.S. Prussia, which I later discovered, is incredibly scarce to find in mint and flawless condition nowadays. Even at that, expect to pay upwards of $85 for one sugar container that has no signs of crazing under the glaze, no chips, no cracks, and no blemishes, etc. I’ve even scoured eBay for price comparisons and was shocked by the higher prices for similar near complete sets of antique R.S. Prussia porcelain. I assume the prices reflect the era in which they were made somewhere between 1847-1914. Well, when pigs fly or if I ever win the lottery, then I might upgrade to some exquisite antique R.S. Prussia China.

I’m a little wiser now than I was a year ago in terms of collecting antique porcelain dishes and what to look for. I know to avoid using those gold-rimmed tea cups, plates, saucers, bread plates, oh and tea tiles. Excuse me?

I believe they were once called ‘tea tiles’ back in the 1800’s and a pot of steeped tea would be placed on the tile like a trivet. I don’t know when the tea tile fell out of fashion. In fact, I had no idea tea tiles existed until just recently when I laid eyes on a set of Bavaria stamped antique dishes and discovered a few miscellaneous tea tiles placed in with other misc. antique dishes.

Do I plan to use these antique Bavaria dishes? No. They will be for display until I can do further research. And since they’re one of a kind I may display them in a inset book shelf. I scoured the net and came across some porcelain collectors’ blogs describing in length what to avoid when buying/collecting antique porcelain dishes and whether or not they’re safe for everyday use. The verdict on how safe they are is still very up in the air and there’s a lot of inconclusive answers floating around.

The very early makers of porcelain dishes may have maker’s stamps, or they might not have any markings. Transferware is nice. However, it didn’t call to me nor does it ‘fit’ in my Victorian-themed porcelain dishes. My heart and eyes were set on that particular ‘Bavaria’ porcelain set that included a covered butter dish with pink roses. And it was pristine white. Can’t beat that. There were no chips, no cracks, no crazing under the glaze, no stains, but one or two dark spots likely from when it was produced and trapped under the glaze.

And that wraps up my antique dishes blog post. I do apologize if I’m unable to blog as often as I used to on here, but will continue to do so as my new schedule permits. I will continue to answer all comments on here like always, but there might be a delay due to my work load. Please keep checking back for more interesting antiques I might happen across. As always thank you for commenting, re-blogging, sharing, tweeting and liking. I always appreciate it. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Is it a Kestner, Handwerck, or a reproduction?

Published June 14, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1
German bisque head doll 23 inches 6-13-2016

Is she the real deal or a knock-off Kestner or a Simon and Handwerck German bisque head doll? Either way she’s gorgeous!

She looks like a Kestner and/ or Simon & Handwerck German bisque head doll. She’s 23 inches tall and her body is composition (pressed saw dust and painted) which for its age appears to be in excellent condition. Okay, she’s my birthday present to myself. However, I have no provenance about this beautiful doll. I have no idea if she’s an antique or a remake of those lovely antique German bisque head dolls.

I surfed onto the doll reference website and still couldn’t find any answers to my questions. All I found was the number “13” stamped into the back of her head. Her wig screams and feels synthetic. Her glass eyes are stationary. Her mouth is open revealing an impressive set of upper baby teeth. Still though, it’s perplexing. I skimmed the doll collector’s database for more information about said doll. I know there’s a TON of reproduction German bisque head dolls on the market. I turned one up from 1987 and never bought it because it was too small (5″ high) and made in Taiwan, not Germany. And there’s a lot of fakes, too.

But the bisque head appears to be new? It just has me so curious. It’s a shade or two off in color from the body. Oh, and she’s not even high strung. She’s extremely loose strung including her head that has the impressive, and creepy ability, to do a complete 360 whenever she is picked up. Therefore, she must be handled with extreme TLC.

I noticed her in the antique store today parked beside a 1930’s big antique composition doll to her left. I naturally assumed the doll beside her looked kind of like child star Shirley Temple. And the Shirley Temple doll’s eyes not only opened and closed, but appeared to be made of plastic or something similar that would date that doll to about the 1930s or thereabouts. And then there was another even bigger bisque head Kestner—err, an outright copyright infringement counterpart sitting beside her blonde head counterpart on the right.

This enormous, almost bulbous head of the other doll just seemed “off” to me. It wasn’t nearly proportionate to the doll’s body and the clothes and its velvet hat weren’t antique. They were well designed clothes, none the less. And the biggest of the two Kestner-look alike dolls had a tag still attached. It was specially designed for somebody and the doll collector paid $225 when new. The doll had a name but I didn’t commit it to memory. And the bigger doll’s mouth was closed (no teeth) just painted on lips. And her body was a copy of a copy and all bisque. She was extremely heavy and I didn’t bother to lift her up to inspect her. The attached tag satisfied my burning curiosity about her.

And the dealer smacked $25 on her. The bigger doll had brown hair, brown eyes, although her hair felt more “mohair” or real than the other bisque head doll I was admiring. For years I’ve always wanted a German bisque head doll and would be happy with an original body and new doll head, or a complete original antique doll be if that’s the case too.

 

$35? I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I scrutinized the price tag very carefully. For that price I thought the dealer must have lost their marbles (I didn’t see any around) if said doll was an antique and completely original, or if it had obviously been poorly re-strung at some point in this doll’s past and it wasn’t a very good job at that that would account for the cheap price. I had to clear another all bisque German Piano baby-looking doll out of the way. Price tag on that doll stated: German bisque $25. But what I didn’t like about it was that it was missing it’s top and hair (so you could see down inside the doll’s head). There was a small piece of dark red felt glued to the open mouth of the doll. The stationary eyes had some sealant or goop poured around them to hold them in place and the doll head mold appeared too new, or so I thought. It could be an authentic antique German bisque doll, but finding an inset top to fit inside the head and then try to attach a doll wig on top of that would be a challenge and something that didn’t appeal to me. That, and it resembled too much of a boy doll, not that there’s anything wrong with that and dressed in a boy’s baby clothes.

There were two doll wigs for sale in the antique store; one dark brown hair, the other black. But it just didn’t ‘fit’ with the blue eyes on that doll, at least the mental image didn’t make me have any second thoughts. No, I tell myself.

First, for $35 something has to be seriously wrong with the doll other than she’s very loose and somebody didn’t re-string her correctly at all, regardless if she’s an authentic antique or not. Secondly, I’m garnering the money to repair the Victrola model “G” which has three mainsprings and just mailed that off today. And getting those fixed is going to set me back quite a bit if I ran my estimates correctly that is.

Third, my doll crib is crammed… and then I ran out of excuses not to buy this Kestner looking blonde-haired doll. She was everything I’ve been looking for in a bisque head doll. And she must be handled with extreme care because her joints and head just flop around. Oh, and she’s heavy which is another thing I didn’t anticipate when I first scooped her up and her composition legs and feet clacked the bench. Yikes! I hold her close to me for a while, then examine her facial features for any signs of hair line cracks. None to be found. I sigh. She can’t be a real antique doll, can she? For $35 (actually the store owner took a discount on her since I’ve done so much business with them on a regular basis and she was now $31). Am I sold, yet?

Let me think on it. And there’s a saying, “Don’t think on it too long.” It was a steal. One of those deals of a lifetime kind of thing. I practically tore myself away and placed the blonde haired doll back on the bench. I stood, my toes and heels not used to the open-toe sandals. I wanted to look beautiful today and wore a sundress. I didn’t feel like wearing Daisy Duke shorts or a thin shirt, either.

Being in those doll’s presence was like re-living a second childhood, if that make any sense? I know it must sound crazy, but place yourself when younger and let’s say you were an avid reader of Doll World magazine (now defunct). As a little girl none of the new dolls on the market could even compare to the likes of an original 1950s Chatty Cathy, Suzy Smart or even Thumbellina. I dreamed of someday finding those dolls and many antique dolls that would make me happy. My mom would tell me stories about all the dolls she had when growing up and it would always antagonize me although mom’s intentions were never about that.

Then, at ten years old, I hit pay dirt in 1987  completely by accident one evening and found my first original 1950’s Mattel Chatty Cathy (I believe it was a Chatty Baby) in a junk store my mom and I found ourselves in. My mom worried quite a bit because she could see the look on my face and how much I wanted that battered old doll so badly. I wanted that Chatty Cathy high on top of the shelf that I couldn’t reach.

My mom worried because money was extremely tight even though the economy hadn’t even began to tank yet thanks to the “Second Great Depression” as I dubbed it back in 2008. But if I would have been more keen of my history, I’d know that there has been a few financial crashes throughout history during the 1860s and again in the 1890s I think that had a ripple effect through the generations and finally leading to the major stock market collapse in October 1929. And that has nothing to do with me and my first Chatty Cathy doll, but money was tight.

Did my mom get the Chatty Cathy doll for me? Yes, and we were very pressed for time. Like always I still have this bad habit of piddling which means I take my time when I browse. I don’t like to hurry and hate being rushed. I’m one of those types that likes to stop and smell the roses and I make sure to go early so I have extra time to browse. As a young girl, I was very selective of the other dolls that were within my reach in that junk store and none of them had that certain ‘pull’. Mom scooped the Chatty Cathy off the shelf and pulled its string… nothing!

But there was a glimmer of hope in my eye and I was about to delve into ‘how does it work’ with my brother’s help of course and we had partial success getting my first Chatty Cathy to spit out a garbled message, but that was all.

The sale’s lady (and I still remember her to this day) was a very cut throat type and stern. My mom haggled over the price of the doll. Chatty Cathy did not talk. My mom wasn’t going to pay $10 for a non-working doll. The lady behind the counter shot me daggers. My puppy dog look implored, and it did little to tug on the heartstrings of this sale’s woman if she took any pity on me at all. And again the lady wouldn’t back down. I don’t know how my mom managed to talk her down and five dollars was the ‘sold’ price. My mom fretted because she wasn’t sure if she’d brought enough money with her. The lady wasn’t about to take checks. And as luck would have it, my mom came through. We got the doll and left.

My first Chatty Cathy never survived into adulthood sad to say. She had completely disintegrated although my efforts to restore and preserve her as much as possible I would hope weren’t all in vain. As a ten year old I didn’t know plastic becomes brittle with age and does break. The doll’s fingers broke off, the eyes fell out of their sockets, Chatty’s teeth went next and her entire body just fell apart like a worn out clunker. I tried with what little knowledge I did possess in regards to ‘do it yourself’ improvised doll restoration and would try to find answers to my questions in the issues of Doll World magazine to no avail.

Years pass by and I’m drawn to another doll that gives me that same ‘pull’ sensation I had when younger and seen my first vintage Chatty Cathy high on a shelf. I try telling myself no can do, or rather forget about it attitude. She’s not coming home with me. I look around some more. I review another homemade cloth doll with horribly bad yarn hair, faded painted-on face, homemade dress, all cloth body. No, that didn’t satisfy me. I wanted that blonde-haired rosy cheek Kestner bisque head look-alike doll. The second largest doll out of the entire lot of three sitting on a child-sized bench.

Why did this particular doll call to me? And I tried to forget about her, pulled myself away and forced myself to look at other things. I didn’t fancy any 78s, surprisingly enough. I bypassed the Edison black wax cylinder records without a second look since I had already jotted down all the songs and artists from them the year before. And I wouldn’t accept an Edison Diamond Disc record if it smacked me upside the noggin’ with an insanely cheap $1 price tag. Well, I take that back. I probably would have bought an Edison diamond disc if it was a song and/or artist that I like. And the doll, too. 🙂

Arrg! No, I repeatedly tell myself. Remember, I still have to wait to hear back on the exact cost will come to for the mainspring repairs on the Victrola. Plus I left the house not knowing when my birthday cards were going to arrive. I was originally intending to browse the antique store and go home. Nope. Kestner bisque head doll is still on my mind.

I try reasoning with myself; “She’s must be a reproduction!”, “You’ll be sorry if you have to make the one-hundred yard dash across the crosswalk in these open toe sandals and accidentally drop your irreplaceable one-of-a-kind birthday present to yourself!”

And, “The doll crib is over-populated as it is. You don’t seriously need another doll no matter how antique she might appear.”

“What if the darn thing is haunted?”

“What if its one of those ‘cursed’ antiques, then what little Miss Money Bags?”

Why else would the price be so reasonable? And why, why, why ask myself twenty questions? Why not treat myself for once since I don’t consume sugar and having an ice cream cake would reek havoc on my system anyway.

I try hard to leave the antique store, but wind up looking over the selection of antique baby clothes instead. Some of these garments are lawn cotton, others hand made, and some in the mix look antique but have tags sewn in to the garments. Nope. My keen eye knows any baby clothes with early tags sewn into the neckline were likely produced sometime during the 1940s or thereabouts. I was hoping to find some antique Christening gowns from the Victorian and/ or Edwardian periods. Not having much luck other than turning up odds and ends in way of baby clothes, I returned to the booth (or room rather) where the display of dolls were. I noticed something amiss. I never leave a vendor’s booth without putting stuff up as I found it. How could I have been so careless? So absent-minded.The German piano baby doll was lying on its side on the floor, the hand made sleeping cat beside it.

I start to berate myself, mentally that is, then quit. I’m not going to say that I’m stupid for simply forgetting about putting stuff away as it was. What has my mind so pre-consumed that I just faze out everything momentarily and walked off? I gingerly crouch down and my feet are shoved forward in my white heel open-toed sandals. I’m thanking myself I cut out all the sugar. I don’t feel sluggish anymore and amazingly the tendon in my knee no longer gives me any trouble. But my feet are straining as I pick up the home made sleeping cat and German bisque doll and place them back on the little bench. I so want to reach out and scoop up that 23” Kestner look-alike doll. I want to inquire about it and finally do. The store owners are always helpful and really couldn’t tell me whether or not it was antique or a reproduction. It appeared like an antique doll.

Willing to give it a try I happily said, “I’ll take it,” in the meantime browsed some more and finally settled on a grab bag of mismatched antique lawn cotton stained baby dresses and undershirts with no means of fastening them. No cute glass buttons, no itty bitty safety pins either. The two under shirts lack button holes. No sewn on snaps either. Well, since the doll’s body is all composition, pressed saw dust and painted, not all bisque (whew!) I wouldn’t have to worry about rust eating away at cloth, except for the under shirt itself. My mind’s made up. I will add some tiny glass antique buttons and button holes on the under shirts when I get home and after they’re laundered and dry.

I finally pay for my doll and she’s gingerly wrapped head to toe in butcher’s block paper and carefully placed in a sturdy box. I also got a free trash bag too. I always re-use whatever materials come home with me whenever I can. I returned home and first carted in my distilled water and my iced tea, then returned for my possible ‘antique doll’.

While on the way home I decided to part with one doll in my collection. It will be a tin head or metal head “Minerva” doll made sometime in the 1900s.

Someday I want to place all of my beautiful dolls in a sturdy cabinet with see through doors. They don’t have to be inset glass doors, just something that keeps out dust, spiders, and my cat and I may build such a cabinet so I can measure the shelves for the doll’s height.  I have been known to find my cat contently napping on top of my Frankenstein repaired Horseman doll in the crib on more than two occasions thus far and she feels snug like a bug in a rug surrounded by the other dolls as well.

german bisque doll in dress and shoes

If anybody has any information about my new, (hopefully antique) bisque head doll, please feel free to comment. Also, thanks as always for liking, sharing, re-blogging, tweeting, commenting, etc. I truly appreciate it! 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Edison C-19 story and how it all began.

Published June 10, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1

It’s a long fascinating journey, and it’s very atypical of a young woman taking up as a serious hobby, but somehow things just ‘fell into place’ and took off from there.

 

It was right before my great grandmother passed away in 2003, I believe and I had been writing back home to her like clockwork about all the new antiques I was slowly, but surely, accumulating, so-to-speak. She was thrilled and wrote back one letter in particular that stated she wanted me to have some coal oil lamps for my antique dresser (at this time it wasn’t Eastlake, but it was from probably the early 1900’s). She went onto say that she wanted me to have her celluloid dresser set with hair brush and comb and corset cover. I have since acquired all those items, plus some cigar boxes that belonged to my great grandfather (her first husband) and his folding metal ruler with worn leather case. Oh, and dad got the Victrola, and in our family that was a big ‘to-do’. Rather it was more of a matter to see that it arrived safely to its new home and it did. In our family you had to help out with chores in order to earn the right to listen to the Victrola. And in 1990 during that one blazing hot summer, I received that same right to listen to the Victrola for the first time after I helped great grandmother wash dishes. At the time I was thirteen and likely had seen the Victrola  before at my great grandparent’s, but never took any fascination to it.

 

In fact, the fascination that surrounded that particular Victrola machine wouldn’t come back to haunt me (pun intended), until I was in my late Twenties. By this time my great grandmother’s health was failing and just how serious it really was was alarming since she’d always had the mind sharp as a tack and at the last we’d became very close pen-pals since I was living in the state over. Most of all she became my biggest ally during a time in my young teenage years when I had none, especially when it came to the topic of old music. She sided with me which I found astonishing when I was thirteen and she naturally shared a lot of my views as well. I later find out that the Flapper era (she was a part of at fifteen and married to her first husband, by the way) centered around pushing the envelope much like every coming up generation did or tried to do after hers. However, a flapper would smoke and drink (when prohibition was enforced and the country was dry), and powder her nose in public which was once considered taboo in my great grandmother’s time. And nowadays we just whip out the powder compacts like its nothing. She told me to wear my makeup because we earned the right and to treat it like gold. And she was right. Makeup is still expensive to this very day, but I found myself weeding out a lot of my old makeup like used mascaras and old eye shadows that wound up in the trash due to potential bacteria concerns. That, and I hardly wear makeup anymore because it irritates my skin.

 

Shortly before she passed away I wrote letters to her constantly not ever receiving a reply. My suspicion that something wasn’t right didn’t go unfounded for very long. At first I was kept in the dark about how she was being terribly abused by her caregiver. I often wondered after the fact if that’s why she never wrote me back. Perhaps her caregiver tossed my letters in the trash. And I also heard that my great grandmother would have her good days, and bad. Her mind was going and she wouldn’t be able to recognize family members at the very last. I had told my dad’s mother about not getting any replies and how odd I found it, and then told my dad’s mother that she must have been mad at me for buying an Edison phonograph instead of a Victrola (like we have in the family). Shocked over hearing my wrong assumption, my dad’s mother flew out of the house and told me that wasn’t the case at all, and then proceeded to explain to me that great grandmother’s mental health had been in decline since the death of her husband a year or so before and then she eventually suffered heart failure at the very last. And there was a lot of elder abuse by her caregiver as well which was frankly, horrible, shocking and inexcusable.

But for many years after great grandmother’s death I began to have nightmares about that Victrola. And in all these nightmares I see myself glancing at the turntable and not seeing a 78 on it. I must add to that at this point in time I hadn’t received a record list of music in great grandmother’s collection. There were two records I distinctly remember hearing when I was thirteen, “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo” and it was on a black bat wing Victor 78, however, the artist escaped my mind. But Carl Fenton’s Orchestra had did a rendition of that song on a Brunswick 78 that matches the artist I heard that day so long ago.

And that same day in the summer of 1990 we also listened to rural comic, Cal Stewart “Uncle Josh in a Chinese Laundry” and “Uncle Josh on a bicycle”. I remember it fondly because great grandmother asked me what I liked to do for a past time, flashing me a wise all-too-knowing smirk, then happily flipped through those old leather bound record books before selecting a 78. I rattled off, “Skateboarding,” since at this time it was still very much a male-dominated sport and there weren’t too many girl skateboarders that were die-hard serious about skateboarding. When I say die-hard, they had the expensive top-of-the-line skateboards and high end ball-bearing wheels like I had on my beloved Mark Gonzales Vision ‘mini’-skateboard. Due to my pint size I couldn’t ride a regular adult skateboard so for a brief while they made mini-versions of the original sizes. Very cute and highly collectable and I’m kicking myself now for not hanging onto said skateboard and keeping it put up. 😮

 

Well, Uncle Josh lived long before the invention of skateboards and he passed away in 1919. I had to try another and I said, “Bicycle”. And great grandmother placed a 78 on the turn table, cranked up the machine and released the brake. The record spun around faster than anything I’d seen and she placed the steel needle on the 78. The sound just filled the room. The comic laughed with a now familiar laugh that will forever resonate in my ears and draw me close to a Victrola and/ or Edison. I have some of this same comic’s rural sketches on the Edison Diamond Disc too. And it will always take me back to that first moment I laid eyes and ears on that particular machine. And in my nightmares about that Victrola, no 78 existed. In my waking hours I couldn’t make sense of it. I mean, why now so many years later and after her death was I beginning to have nightmares about the family-owned Victrola?

My ex-boyfriend summed it up: it could actually be a sign that these 78’s no longer existed in her collection since I kept having the nightmare repeatedly for a year and half after her death. When the day came that my dad’s mother mailed me the record list, I held out a glimmer of hope, but wasn’t too disappointed to discover that neither copy of “Uncle Josh on Bicycle” or that of the song “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’” didn’t make the list. I mean, unless we had a Mandela effect happen back in 1990 that summer, those were the 78s we listened to. I also found out before my dad’s mother passed away that it wasn’t uncommon for great grandmother to throw away broken 78s simply because the sentimental attachment to them wasn’t there. Sure, they may be hard to find 78’s nowadays and eventually I found descent copies from eBay years later and it was well worth the wait. A very eerie twist to this Edison phonograph story is that I have almost duplicated all the copies of all of my great grandmother’s 78s long before I received the record list in hand, minus my collection doesn’t contain any of the Decca 78’s though.

As they say great minds think alike and perhaps there was this certain compulsion that drove me to spend hours in the freezing cold out in a shed of one antique store in particular during the winter of 2004 and in the heat of summer searching and sorting for foxtrots and early jazz with some instrumental and sentimental ballad 78s thrown in as well. I never did get around to itemizing a full list of my own 78s but really should do it sometime soon and then back them up to a jump drive or as like to call a ‘Tom thumb’ drive.

It wasn’t until 2008 amidst another family crisis when I finally did find a sense of closure and the nightmares about the Victrola ended when I visited my great grandmother’s grave for the first time. And on her grave I placed a personally inscribed Edison Diamond Disc that was too worn out to be played, plus I had said song on backup copy.

I didn’t go to great grandma’s funeral which shocked many in my family because we had been close in the beginning and also in the end, and she had been the only grandma with no fear that stepped in and helped my parents care for me when I was a sickly premature baby. I only found out years later I was her favorite out of the fifteen great grandchildren.

After the Edison C-19 came a few more upright antique phonographs and table tops too, but that’s the one that started all and still remains. The Edison C-19 took a major hit when I thought I wanted to ship it off and have it completely and thoroughly cleaned, then had a sudden change of heart. Something just didn’t feel right and I quick as I could made the place where I shipped it to send it back after much back and forth email exchanges where they tried convincing me they’d be more than happy to keep it for as long as needed. Mind you, at this point, there had been no work done on this machine, but boy howdy, did I learn a valuable lesson to never, ever ship off an entire mainboard assembly with the horn attached in a box several states away. Not only did the horn arrive broke from it’s lift rod, but the turntable platter appeared to have been met with a cheese grater and it the green felt was in almost near mint condition before I shipped it off. I did insure the machine for what I paid for it, but never filed a claim with an insurance adjuster because it would have been my word against the place I shipped it to, and it would have been difficult to pin point if it was a simple case of human shipping error on my behalf, or if the damage had been deliberately caused. Either way, I’m sure the place I shipped it too is laughing their butts off, figuring there wouldn’t be a snowball chance in heck that I’d be capable of repairing the whole phonograph to working order, and as luck would have, I did with my ex-boyfriend’s help. We worked hours soldering the horn back onto the lift rod, then spray-painted over the repaired spots with black paint, let it dry and still the biggest test was yet to come…

We’re our efforts all in vain? Or did we just fix the impossible? It wound up okay, and the horn lift knob had a burr in it. The wooden lever was broke and I had to buy a replacement for that plus another screw and believe me, you can’t find either at Ace Hardware. So those had to be special-ordered from an entirely different outfit with much better prices. And the horn still ‘hangs-up’ and won’t set down on the record which is due to the damage the phonograph incurred, that and I never did get around to fixing the lift knob yet.

It wound up alright and by 1: 45 am we heard it play again. At this time I was emailing another repairman who offered to sell me an entire mainboard assembly since trying to solder those old horns back in place were impossible to do. We did it using lead solder and fluxing compound (the old kind that plumber’s used to use) that my ex-boyfriend had lying around. And we also used a hand-held blow torch. So that Edison C-19 oak cabinet had been put through heck and back and I’m now more the wiser since my early days. It still plays and it still gives off that slight haunted vibe from time to time, although it’s faded through the years since I’ve owned it. But in the beginning owning this Edison C-19 was brand new to me. I didn’t always understand the mechanics behind them other than they don’t use electricity to operate. They use a hand crank that winds up the mainsprings, that in turn, play an Edison Diamond Disc.

Some other machines were sold here and there because I either needed the money for some other project or simply ran out of space. Mind you, all nine of these machines stayed in one bedroom along with the cylinder phonographs and table tops. And when I moved, I traded off a few to upgrade to a slightly higher end model of an Edison Amberola 75 and gave away one table top model and one suitcase model Victrola to my friend.

It’s the collecting part that’s half the fun, but its when these antiques are restored to their fullest potential that makes all those searches, all that time and money spent, all that hard, extensive hands-on work truly pay off. And I have the habit of preserving these 78’s on cd and upload them to my MP3 player as well.

And just some slice of wisdom; should you ever turn around and sell these antique phonographs you probably won’t get out of them what you put into getting them fully restored. People will try to price-gouge you as well. So be leery of the ‘want something for nothing’ types that will try to beat you up and walk all over you if the day should ever come you need to part with one of those beautiful wind-ups. I know as a seller of these antique phonographs it’s very much like working in retail. You deal with all sorts of online customers sight unseen, and if they want museum “mint” antique phonographs, why do they buy mine knowing well in advance nothing will be showroom perfect? I clearly state if the phonographs has had any repair work done to it and not to expect factory new results. These machines are very simple and they are what they are. There is no bass boost on a Victrola. If you use a Tungs-tone stylus or a Loud tone needle then you might break the sound barrier when you play John Phillip Sousa. And once the cabinets are refinished, they’ll lose whatever value they had to begin with.

 

So, my best advice to you: leave the cabinet alone, please and don’t attempt to varnish them. You will get more money out of it if it’s left un-restored.  Now rarity and price, I would be more than happy to share at The Victor Victrola page. Note: I don’t own nor operate this website. It is a database reference for makes and models of Victrola only. They do not cover Edison phonographs. There are books (in print) that are collector’s guides, but I’ve noticed nearly all of those are very expensive and don’t contain enough information (specs) about the machines other than showcasing some expensive (out of my attainable reach) museum quality phonographs. Now the best book for restoring these antique phonographs is The Compleat Talking Machine.

 

Thanks for reading, liking, re-blogging, sharing, commenting, tweeting. I truly appreciate it. There’s more to come but it’ll take me time to add to this blog and will as I can find the time to do so. 🙂

Collecting silverplate: The saga continues…

Published April 3, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1
silverplate brushes 4-1-16

Three antique silverplate brushes.

 

Everywhere I look there’s something else that catches my eye. How much silverplate is too much? To a collector that would be hard to define. I have come across (and paid high prices for), a few pieces of early tarnished (almost black), dented, dinged, and cracked silverplate and that was when I was a newbie to collecting and didn’t know any better. We all live and learn along the way. In fact, a few pieces were so bad off, they’d likely do better extracting whatever trace amounts of silver was left in them rather than hide them in some closet out of sight.

 

And during my time collecting silverplate I’ve also come across some mis-matched pieces, forlorn, and almost every piece silently begged to be re-purposed (as in using it for something else other than what it was meant for in some cases). Other times it just required a very good thorough soak in hot water, baking soda and placed in an aluminum roasting pan.

 

On the other hand do keep in mind the more delicate silverplate pieces like combs, brushes, and certain types of footed creamer and sugar pots mustn’t get too hot in a water/ baking soda bath. Why? Because some of the feet, pour spouts and handles were fused with lead back in the day. Lead, when subjected to high heat can melt, thus ruining that once stunning tea pot or water pitcher. Thankfully, I haven’t had any issues when soaking my silverplate to remove the years of tarnish, but just the same, I do keep a constant eye on it from start to finish when I clean it.

 

How to date silverplate:

 

If it is dark (almost black) this doesn’t mean the piece is tarnished, rather it has been oxidized over the years. Depending on how and when a particular piece of silverplate was designed (and what year), can be traced either by a maker’s mark, or by the age of the silverplate and the darkening of the silverplate (or absence thereof). And it doesn’t really mean that the silverplate lost all of its ‘silver plated’ finish. I found out if a piece of silverplate is dark and kind of heavy to the feel, it is an older piece (pre-1900s), for example. If it resembles tarnish and feels light weight, the particular piece might have been produced after the late 1800’s. It appears that some folks nowadays are extracting what silver they can from these precious antiques thus ruining them entirely.

 

Oh, and the issue of potential lead is another concern. However, if the silverplate is in tact and doesn’t have any scoring, gouges, scratches, chips or cracks, then it might be safe to use if it’s a sugar or creamer set, a salt and pepper shaker. Some collectors advise to promptly toss out the salt and pepper when done with a meal, and make sure the salt and pepper shakers are clean and allowed to dry completely after washing them out by hand. I wouldn’t recommend placing any silverplate item in a dishwasher. In fact, it amazes me that so many people don’t do dishes the old-fashioned way anymore: at the sink with some dish soap, a sparingly amount of bleach, and hot water.

 

I see folks commenting all the time when it comes to buying up old porcelain dishes, Transfer ware, antique Ball, Kerr, Quick-Seal, and Mason canning jars that have wire dome glass lids and the zinc porcelain-lined screw cap lids. Some canners still use the antique canning jars and just fit them with new lids and bands. I’ve also found that antique canning jars come in very handy for storing dry foods like beans, pasta, rice, flour, etc. I can’t vouch for the silverplate items as I’ve downsized yet again, only to buy some silverplate brushes likely from the 19th century or a little earlier. They might be hair brushes, or clothing brushes. I have one right now I’m in the process of shaking out some sediment. The celluloid overlay has come slightly detached from the silverplate handle, and thus it sounds like a maraca when shook and loose bits of black dust fall out. I suspect this might be coal dust, or something very similar. So it leads me to believe this brush had collected soot most possibly when homes were once heated by coal and wood as a primary heating source which in turn might date this particular brush back to the early 1900s or earlier.

 

The designs on the brushes are what catch my eye, and you just don’t see beauty like that anymore. When have I ever walked into a store, plucked a package of plastic brushes (or combs) and saw a breath-taking embossed image of a woman’s face, hair free-flowing and every nook, crevasse and cranny filled with a flower motifs? Nowhere in today’s times, and since I’m making great strides to downsize all the plastics out of my life (although I do realize plastics can’t be entirely avoided), I figured silverplate brushes, combs and other antiques will likely survive another 100 years.

 

I love silverplate, and since using a real bristle silverplate hair brush and versus the inferior plastic counterparts, my hair is thanking me for it. When I used plastic brushes (didn’t matter if was cheap or pricy), my hair would never fail to snap and tangles were painful to brush out, creating more frustration, painful tangles. There’s a different sensation to using a real bristled antique hair brush as opposed to using a plastic one. I even discovered that some of the celluloid hair brushes worked better than what’s mass-marketed today, and with a growing trend among health-conscious consumers, you’d think there’d be more choices than just plastic hair brushes and combs. I seen a real bamboo toothbrush made of wood. But the bristles were made by the DuPont company and sounded very much like a synthetic plastic just marketed under a new name. Oh, and the toothbrush was made in China from American parts and cost $6.

 

Well, looks like its plastic toothbrushes for the time being, and no, I would never, ever use an antique celluloid toothbrush. I only saw one surface many years ago in a matching set that had belonged to a family going back generations. The real boar bristles were very dirty, tanned, and the celluloid itself appeared very unclean, yellowed, and stained. Sometimes celluloid attracts stains like magnets. And here again, why brush with an antique that’s comprised of camphor and nitrate? That’s asking for it if you want my opinion and icky. Now I don’t mind sanitizing the celluloid hair brushes or even the combs, but the celluloid combs never worked great for me.

 

Now the silverplate brushes make good dry skin brushes since the bristles are already broken in in some cases, soft, and likely made out of real boar hair, or similar bristles and not plastic since that wasn’t invented until the 1930s.

 

A dry skin brush routine also helps the skin breathe, helps blood circulation and the body release a build up of toxins. When I read about the dry skin brush and it’s advantages in a recent 2015 freebie vitamin magazine, I remembered late natural path Bernarr McFadden promoted doing the same along with friction ‘baths’ as he termed them. A friction bath is taking a dry towel and rubbing it all over your body. It is similar to a dry skin brush which he does recommend as well. And I decided to put my antique silverplate hair brushes to good use. After all I had neglected them for the past two years or so, and found some more recently to add to my collection.

 

The dry skin brush works best with a shower/bath brush. But the advice given in the vitamin magazine urged to avoid plastic bristle brushes because not only are they rough on the skin, but also plastics might contain harmful BPA’s as well. At any rate, I’m sticking with my silverplate brushes. Hope you enjoyed my blog. As always thanks for reading, commenting, sharing, liking, tweeting, re-blogging. I truly appreciate it! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Antiquing during a stroll

Published March 24, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1
mirror found 3-23-16

Mirror in “as found” condition. Before gluing the joints.

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve come across quite often on my walks. I have found money anywhere between $4, $10, and $20. I have even found a full book of postage stamps another time. And I’m always grateful to find anything while on my strolls. So, it pays to look on the ground. Take the time to scour parking lots, alleys, sidewalks, curbs when you take a walk because you never know what you might find.

It was a strong windy day. Hold on to your hat. Well, my beloved straw cowgirl hat was battered in no time. And the gusts would blow sand and dirt. Good thing I wore my shades. But the sand and dirt stung my legs something fierce.

 

How could there be any remote chance of snow later on? I thought as I merrily enjoyed the day getting my natural dose of Vitamin D from the sunlight. I didn’t think very favorable of the cyclone-like day we were having. But I didn’t despair and kept trudging right along getting blown off course (literally) and into a grassy stretch of an empty lot. I was originally going to take the over pass sidewalk just to avoid waiting on non-stop trains that love to just slow down and stop at every intersection. Then the trains will back up, creating a long line of cars backed up for miles. There should be a law against the trains doing that. It’s not only a frustration for motorists, but also to people on foot that have to wait for an incredibly long time.

 

I believe I wasn’t even half way when the gusts decided it for me: my stroll was going to be short-lived. Sure, I’d get to where I intended to go, maybe just not right when I wanted to. Trying to walk into the wind was challenging, and painful when the sand hit my body. Then I look toward the train tracks. They were clear, and instead of me hoofing it clear out of my way, I headed several blocks (hoping there wouldn’t be another train to block the intersections). And as luck would have it, I made it across safely and there were no signs of any trains. Strange, because I kept hearing the blaring noise of the train track signals every few minutes it seemed like today.

 

But my eyes spied a green bean seed packet. Could it be? Aw, drats! Empty. Well, if you’re a serious green thumb, a newbie to gardening/ herb container grower or live on a farm, then the urge to inspect any discarded garden seed packet for potential overlooked beans or seeds is always worth a look. Never know where you might find free food. I say that because green beans are easy to grow. I don’t recall the particular brand of the green bean packet other than it caught my attention on my walk.

 

So I mosey on, keeping a firm hand on my hat or what’s left of it. Ahead of my sights are more shuttered businesses that ceased. It’s not surprising considering the area of town isn’t part of a tourist trap. In fact, it could so use some revitalization if city planners and tax payer money would go to good use to re-hab some of the most forlorn eyesore properties, but I can safely bet, nothing will ever happen. The buildings will continue to decay. The ‘for rent’ and ‘for sale’ signs will remain indefinitely. And it looks straight out of an episode of The Walking Dead. But it’s an area of town that’s for lack of a better word, ‘antique’. I mean the buildings have their roots some dating back to the early 1930s, and maybe a little before the Depression era. But that’s not particularly what drew me to stroll down this area of town. I see a junk yard of cars enclosed by a long span of chain link. Between the links are white broken plastic (think in terms of mini-blinds), and behind that is a mini-salvage yard for vehicles. It really doesn’t impress me, but junk yards, in general, are nearly all gone nowadays. I cross the street and see a business that doesn’t have any customers. It’s a very old antique-looking brick building.

 

Very old by out-ward appearances. Interior-wise, looks like a 1970s slapped together in one day look and vibe about it. I feel as though I’ve transcended into the past. I suppose it was the overcast day and everything was hazy even the sun. And right in front of me was an antique mirror with an attached Art Deco light fixture. The mirror is leaning against the old building. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mercury coated beveled glass staring back at me.

 

Lord knows I’ve been praying to happen across by chance an antique mirror. The light fixture and antique incandescent light bulb were a plus. Instead of giving it much thought, I carry on my way and then… back-track. I do a double take. The mirror is in tact, but the frame has seen better days. In fact, I surmise it was originally yanked out of a bathroom due to its added on light fixture and partial two screws holding two broken pieces of plastic in the lower corner. Could have been a tooth brush holder, maybe a soap dispenser.

 

I try to talk myself out of even inquiring about said mirror. But something about the mirror appearing discarded and forgotten latched onto me. Maybe it was that white chipped paint, weather-beaten wood underneath. Good grief, I think to myself, I’ll never get it home on foot, and definitely not in this cyclone of a day. But wait—the light shade is milk glass. The shade itself practically screams “I am Art Deco!” and so loudly that it would make the nearby resident want to chuck rocks at it. Maybe that’s how the shade got broke in the first place.

broken fixture shade before cleaning

On the ground I discover three fragments of milk glass in the parking lot. I study myself in the large mirror. The mirror I would have to guess was manufactured even before the late Twenties when Art Deco became in vogue. Oh, and the light fixture retains an antique incandescent light bulb.

1458769540467

Perhaps an original Thomas Edison light bulb? In 2016? I crook the brim of my hat to get a better look. Yeah, right. It would have to be a Chinese knock off “Edison” bulb found at Lowe’s. But no. It pre-dates the Chinese knock-offs and its about as authentic as the day it was produced eons ago.

 

The filament and connecting wires are very different than any past or current incandescent light bulb I’ve seen. I know Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and this light bulb looked like a familiar design of his. I also own Edison phonographs, and researched him extensively for my phonograph restoration and that has nothing to do whether the light bulb still works or not.

 

before cleaning of the wall mount light fixture

There’s dirt and grime and I wouldn’t trust testing out that light socket plug. In the old days bare wires were covered with a piece of inset cardboard between the prongs of the plug to prevent two bare wires from crossing. Yikes!

Despite the broken milk glass lamp shade, the porcelain wall mount bolted to the mirror is in excellent shape for its age. It screams 1920’s. I know this because all throughout my years growing up I lived in many Victorian homes split into apartments where the electricity (and the light fixtures) were never updated, replaced, or even new, and most were straight from the Twenties in those homes. They were very antique, all white porcelain, and something clicked in my brain trudging up a memory from long ago.

 

Studying that very light fixture mounted on the antique mirror took me back to a happier and much less different time in my [then] extremely young childhood. It reminded me of a special place in time, one that can never be replaced. It was a feeling I received that I hadn’t felt in many, many long years. Why this antique mirror struck me with that overwhelming emotion of familiarity I have no idea.

 

“Antiquing” has always ran in both sides of my family. It goes way, way back and I’m no different. But I still try to convince myself “This mirror will likely shatter if I inquire about it,” and “It’s not out here for looks.”

 

I must have passed by the building three times debating whether or not I should inquire about the antique mirror. And by the time I made it to the end of the third block, something was practically nagging at me not to pass it up. It might be a good deal and it was something I had in mind rather than buying a new mirror that would be straight from China and an overpriced piece of junk.

 

I had that old Victor 78 song stuck in my head, “Don’t Wait Too Long”. I forget who the artist is that sings this particular fox trot. All I know is that my late great grandma and I have similar tastes in music. Don’t Wait Too Long was one such song in our record collections. We must have been on the same wave length, or perhaps it was a nudge from her in spirit when I began my fascinating antique phonograph hobby when I was 26 years old and wound up with that new old stock song on a Victor 78.

 

After much thinking about the mirror and seeing my stroll was going to be cut short due to the gusts, I turned on one heel and started back for the abandoned-looking business. The lights were on inside but the door was locked. I was smack dab in a crime-ridden area of town, on foot, fighting against the massive strong gusts that pummeled me with dirt, grime and sand.

 

I didn’t see the Keystone cops running after the likes of Charlie Chaplin or that of the great stone face, Buster Keaton, so I figured crime had taken the day off. For some weird reason I could envision meeting up with the like of Charlie Chaplin on this particular day in this area of town (don’t ask me why). I suppose it was the almost sepia overcast sky that made me think of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton (two out of three of my favorite silent film comics along with Harold Lloyd in no particular order).

 

I was almost worried about knocking on this business’s door since you never know who might answer. I could see into the business through a large window. But for what business this was, I have no idea. And I have no idea how an antique mirror wound up leaning against their establishment.  I hesitated at the door thinking of a million excuses not to inquire. Maybe the business was remodeling. Maybe they weren’t intending to toss out this beautiful antique mirror. Maybe it was placed outside just for looks. (I was thinking in terms of tacky lawn decorations). But no, I didn’t get that impression. I swore I distinctly heard my late great grandmother (who lived in a museum, *ahem*, a house), encouraging me “…never know until you try.” It sounded so clear as a bell that I turned and looked to my right, then my left. And if it had been her instead of me coming across this mirror, she would have had no problem knocking, and in her own sweet outgoing way, could charm the pants off the person who answered with just her smile.

 

So, I knocked and didn’t have to wait long. A young man answered. I kept my inquiry brief and pointed to the side of the building where the mirror was. He told me the mirror was free and I could have it. I thanked him, and went to the side of the building and tried to lift the mirror. The frame was rickety and I noticed a silver fish (a small insect) running for its dear life to hide under one wooden shim nailed to the frame. I replaced the mirror just as it was, resting against the brick building. This calls for the vehicle. I was hoping between the time I left and returned, the mirror wouldn’t be the unfortunate victim of the cyclone gust’s fury. And I worried to that someone else might happen upon this mirror and snatch it out from under me. Surprisingly, it was still there when I returned and in one piece. I loaded it myself, then returned to pick up every piece of broken milk glass and plucked one wood shim that had detached from the mirror and headed to town.

 

I was still debating just returning home and tilling more garden space by hand, but on this particular day, I’m sure the wind would have planted my seeds in various places in my backyard instead. I still need to make more seed tape (this is so the crops will grow in evenly spaced rows and made using toilet paper and a mix of flour/water paste to glue the tiny seeds in place. Allow it to dry over night and you’ll be ready to plant them the following day or whenever the danger of frost has passed). But instead of going home and playing farmer Brown, I decided to see what the thrift store had to offer. Not much so I then stopped by the store on my way home and bought a pineapple. They’re on sale, can’t beat that. 🙂

 

I didn’t take the mirror inside. I left it in the vehicle and worked on removing the light fixture in there. I will assume that the gaudy layer of white paint contains lead (as most paints pre-1970’s contained lead) and it was flaking so bad I didn’t want it everywhere in my house. I managed to get the light fixture removed safely including the light bulb, then disassembled it and washed the shade, porcelain wall mount and plan to get the rust off the screws. I assumed after much “Righty tighty, lefty Lucy” elbow grease using nothing more than a pair of Ford Model T pillars and a Chinese brand pair of needle nose pillars and hands like a brain surgeon, the bolt and three little rusty screws released their firm death grip on the porcelain wall mount and milk glass shade.

 

cleaned mirror glass 3-24-16

I scraped away some of the flaking old paint. Underneath the white paint was somewhat of a salmon-pink hue in areas. The paint still flakes off very easily when touched and the mirror requires a lot of TLC when handled which I do with work gloves on. The wood shims holding the glass are the consistency of match sticks and very brittle. It’s still in rough condition.

And I did it all without breaking anything or causing myself seven years of bad luck. I was suspecting at any given moment the mirror would break, but it didn’t although the wood frame was coming undone at all four corners. I’m still not even sure how I managed this feat. I’ve worked on antique phonographs, but never an antique mirror until now. I’ll worry about repairing the glass shade another time. I was more fixated on finding a solution to glue the frame back together with the glass still inset. The logical approach would be to gently remove all the wood shims holding the glass and remove the mirror, but working in cramped confines of the van would make this step impossible.

 

And when in doubt, think like MacGuyver and that’s what I did. I returned inside with each light fixture piece, disassembled the scary outdated chord and light socket, set those aside, and placed the shade and porcelain wall mount inside a dish pan of sudsy/ Clorox bleach warm water. Not too hot, and definitely not too cold. Porcelain should never be subjected to extremely hot water or else it will break and crack. I resumed my task and let that soak in the meantime and brought out the Gorilla glue, some elastic snagged from my sewing box and a stick I found in the yard.

In order to get the joints aligned to the best of what I had at my disposal, I devised a very weird  clamp/ jig method using the elastic and stick and twisted it around the stick and mirror frame until I could see the gaps in the joints of the wood getting smaller. I knew that too much tension could spell disaster. I wound it with enough tension and called it good enough. I placed the stick under a tool kit and jumper cables to hold it taut so the glue could dry in the joints overnight. I then used a bungee chord to create tension to the other end of the mirror and hope and pray that it holds, which it did. I closed the door and put the tools back in the house. It was a cloudy evening. I overheard my neighbor exclaim they wouldn’t be surprised if we got a tornado and earthquake in the same night. The neighbor was talking to somebody else, not me. I gazed at the sky. The temperature was steadily dropping. It wasn’t extremely hot out today, but it was just right for shorts and short-sleeved shirt weather. And by evening it was very cold.

I washed up and ate a late supper of leftover Smoked Herring/ Flax seed meal and Chia seed patties combined with boiled Cactus leaves (a very good source of vitamins), some Cauliflower, and Broccoli mashed potatoes. I also had an apple and some brown bagged micro-waved plain popcorn.

 

Tomorrow I shall see what became of my improvised restoration efforts. Before I even begin to think about taking this antique mirror into my house it will require a new coat of either paint on the wood frame or I may strip it down and go over it with a clear coat varnish and call it good and let the weather beaten look shine through.

 

I detest the ‘shabby chic’ job that ruins antique furniture, dressers, and mirrors even though this mirror wasn’t given that look. The paint suffered from a severe case of weather-element damage and who knows what wall it had been bolted to for so many years.

 

And yes, I inspected mirror prior for any sign of black mold and/ or rotting damage to the wood frame. I didn’t see anything wrong and used my scrub brush to dust off the cobwebs and leaves before loading it up, so that tells me this mirror’s been sitting outside for a week or more. And perhaps this antique mirror was rescued in the nick of time since tonight it’s raining. Thanks for liking, re-blogging, commenting, tweeting and sharing. I always appreciate it. 🙂