Every morning I walk past an antiques store that sells all kinds of stuff, from ancient magazines to old-style crafts to lobster buoys. There’s always a table out front with items selling for a dollar. It’s a savvy bit of marketing by the proprietor. Passers by see the items, think that they’re only a dollar, wander over to take a look, pick the items up to examine them, and wonder whether they could find a use for, say, that tin camping percolator. Then they wander inside to see what additional treasures might be available.
The dollar table items must sell, because the items on the tabletop are ever changing. Eventually, every bit of household detritus seems to find a place on the table. It makes you realize how much stuff is found in an American house: sugar bowls, napkin holders, glassware, random plates, pots and pans, old bottles, ashtrays, and every other piece of bric a brac you can imagine.
But the undisputed lord of the dollar table is the coffee cup. The table always features at least a dozen, ranging in size from dainty to gargantuan. Single cups from what obviously once was a set, cups with branded logos, cups with lids to keep the coffee hot longer—they all testify to the U.S.A.’s love affair with java, and the dollar table allows them to be recycled to new users. It’s a small coffee-flavored undercurrent in the flow of the Stonington economy.
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In our case, that saying is literally true.
On Sunday, when I was digging in the area between the rocks in the down yard to try to loosen the soil to plant our flowers, I came across two totally intact bottles that had been totally buried about six inches deep in the dirt. One looked like a generic, amber liquor bottle, but the other was a clear glass bottle from the “Fairview Wine Company of Maine.” The 4/5 quart bottle features some cool raised script lettering and depictions of grapes and grape leaves. My limited internet research skills found some efforts to sell similar bottles on line that indicate that the bottle dates from the ’30s.
It’s not unusual for us to find broken glass, old cans, and other debris in what we call the “down yard,” which probably was an overgrown area. At some point somebody must have sat on the rocks, enjoyed some wine, and then just left the bottle in the crack between the rocks. The bottle then got buried over time — only to be found 80 years later and viewed not as a commonplace item from a functioning nearby business, but as an antique curiosity from days gone by, produced by a company that apparently no longer exists.
We’ve cleaned up the bottle — the cap crumbled into dust when we tried to remove it — and put it in a place of honor on the shelves in our main room, to connect the present-day cottage to its past.
We inherited a lot of interesting stuff from Kish’s Mom, but my favorites are some wooden kitchen implements we keep in an old wooden bowl on our countertop. They are worn smooth, with a warm patina burnished by hands of the past, and they have that evocative, somewhat mysterious element you often sense with older things.
I’m not sure exactly how old they are, but I’m guessing they date from the 1800s. With all-wooden construction and touches like leather straps, there certainly isn’t a whiff of mass production about them. And their precise use isn’t entirely clear, either. Sure, there’s a cracked cookie press, and a dough roller that would leave leaf designs on pie crust, but the uses for the three items in the middle are less obvious. They’re built to pound . . . but pound what? Bread dough? Meat? Or something unsuspected that we now buy, pre-made and pre-packaged, at the neighborhood supermarket?
The three “pounders” conjure up a long-ago kitchen of hard work, sweat equity, and muscle.
We recently came into possession of some antique items of all shapes and sizes. The purposes of most of them are obvious, but some of them are stumpers.
Consider this item, for example. It’s made of tin, and in the shape of a book with a handle configured like a human ear. When you open the “cover” of the book, you find a hinged metal interior lid with a transparent plastic cover. At each end of the interior lid, also on hinges, is a triangular piece of metals with fittings. The interior of the “book” also includes a single red candle.
I’ve figured out that you are supposed to flip out the triangular hinges on the interior lid, place the candle in the fittings, and light it. But, for what purpose? Is this a kind of votive candle holder that was handed out on some special occasion? Or, is it a precursor to the modern bedroom reading light, intended to give the 19th century book-lover some light by which to read after the sun goes down, without disturbing their bed mate? Is that why the entire contraption is in the shape of a book?
I’d do an internet search to try to solve this puzzle, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. Can one of our intrepid readers provide some guidance?