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Rivah Visitor's Guide



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Everyone loves a bargain

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Fiesta Ware is framed by an unidentified kitchen utensil.

by Tom Chillemi

Yard sales are a great way to get some Saturday morning conversation or reminisce about things of the past.

Not so long ago humans lived by hunting and gathering. And there’s a bit of excitement and as we head out on an adventure in search of . . . whatever we can find, driven by hope of finding things we “need” at a price that’s too good to pass up.
You never know what will surface among abandoned artifacts from another time. 

On a spring Saturday a big yard sale is under way in Mathews. It’s to raise money for a “group mission” that will send 22 kids and 8 adults to Orlando, Florida, to help the needy, elderly and homeless, explained Amy Ashbury a member of Mathews Chapel. “It will be a good experience for the kids who will do some good for others.”

Teresa Liverman started setting up the yard sale and folding clothes at 3:20 a.m. Her daughter Meagan will be going on her first mission trip.

Jessica Hois came from Charles City County to Amy’s sale. “She’s always doing something to give back,” said Jessica.

The people are looking for something. And anything will do . . . as long as it’s a deal. 

Find some bargains

Mathews: The annual Mathews Community Yard Sale will be on June 3, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Free maps listing vendors should be available by May 29 at the Mathews County Visitor Center at 239 Main St., online at visitmathews.com, and at resale and consignment shops. Call 725-4229 or Janice Jones at 815-9044.

Kilmarnock: Mark your calendar for next May for the Grace Episcopal Church yard sale. It’s the Woodstock of yard sales. They collect stuff all year and then sell it on one Saturday in May. It’s too big to put on at the Kilmarnock church, so they hold it at a boys camp outside of town. 

Gloucester: One of the more unusual finds is Stage Coach Market Antique Village Flea Market and Farmers Market. The name says it all. It’s open Saturdays and Sundays at 6053 George Washington Memorial Highway. Call 693-3951.

Make a deal
“Scarves are 25 cents?” asked a woman who felt they were overpriced.

A quarter buys anything on the table, that includes scarves. The woman made an offer to buy five scarves for a dollar—20 cents each—which was accepted after some wrangling. They were negotiating over 20 cents. They made a deal! There was a time in the memories of many, such as this woman, when 25 cents bought a soft drink and a bag of chips. 

“Occupied Japan”
From 70 miles to the west came a family skidding into the driveway. Everyone gasped when they heard the screeching tires. Mothers huddled their children, people scattered out of his way.
Phillip Meade, winner of a Willie Nelson look alike contest, had arrived. He’s looking for something that is getting increasingly harder to find—pottery stamped with “Made in Occupied Japan.” 

Occupied Japan was printed on pottery, porcelain, toys, and other goods made during the American occupation of Japan after World War II, from 1947 to 1952. Collectors now search for these pieces. The items were made for export. Many pieces with the Occupied Japan mark were inexpensive novelties for dime stores, while others were copies of European ceramic favorites.

Meade has 190 pieces and is looking for more. He explained that the Occupied Japan stamp is sometimes glazed over but can be seen if the piece is held at the correct angle.

The process
Some yard sales are a process to get someone to pay to take your stuff away, so you don’t have to. Things like unlit candles, ancient electronic devices, nicknacks and picture frames are among items destined for someone else’s storage room. Somewhere among these forgotten items could be a prize . . . and a story of how little it cost.

Getting something for nothing (or very little) is among the most basic forms of motivation. That’s why 44 states have lotteries, and 39 states have casinos. (Nevada has the most casinos. Which state is second? Read on for the answer.)

Humans may have evolved from hunting and gathering food, but we still enjoy the hunt for something that will give our brains a “ping.”

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Little girls love stuffed animals.

Search with a purpose
Bertie Riggs of Mathews enjoys going to yard sales on most Saturdays in the spring and summer. She’s a discerning buyer. “I have to visualize where something will go in my house,” said Bertie. “If I can’t, I don’t get it.”

It was comedian George Carlin who said, “Stuff expands to fill available space.” His bit goes on to illustrate how you get a house, and then you need stuff to put in it. In time the house will not be big enough for all the stuff, then you need a bigger house.

On this Saturday Bertie’s grandson, Simon, is with her. He had worked that morning weed whacking for his grandfather who paid him $15, which was burning a hole in his pocket. Simon asked his grandmother if he can buy an air hockey table. “You’ll have to clean up your room to make room for it,” she replied. “Better call your mom.” Mom doesn’t answer.

It’s not a full-sized air hockey table and Bertie gives him permission to buy it. As Simon is looking for an extension cord to test it, a woman picks up the air hockey table. She has bought it right out from under him. As she’s carrying it away. She is told Simon’s “story.” With charity in her heart, she offers to sell it to Simon, who pulls $3 from his pocket, and carries it to his car. “I don’t need it,” said Cathy Snowden.  

A mother asks her daughter if she needs a lightweight $2 “carpet sweeper” for upstairs. “I already have one,” said the daughter.

After thinking a few seconds, the mother said, “I think I’m going to get it. I’m going to plug it in first” to test it.

People are getting fewer who value some of this stuff. Dictionaries are among books piled on tables. There’s no need for these compendiums of knowledge any more—just ask Siri.

“Amazing TV facts” lies forgotten in the pile, not worth a quarter. It was once a prized gift. On the cover page is a note thanking a teacher for a great school year in 2006.

Late in the day a man drifts in asking for stamp collections. Not here.

Maybe some day he’ll find those prized postage stamps, which are getting rare in the age of email. Who knows which of today’s indispensable items will be in the yard sales of tomorrow.  

(BTW: With 114 Native American betting parlors, Oklahoma ranks second to Nevada.)

Picking up the leftovers

On a sunny Saturday another sale is under way, and it’s a doozie.

I made it no further than the garage. Looking at the leftovers in a nearly empty garage I thought, “All this stuff meant something to the owners at one time.”

It was afternoon and things were half price. I’d picked up a few items without price tags like a horseshoe and a few screwdrivers. I was “bundling” things and was going to make an offer on the lot.

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Mining ceramics “Made in Occupied Japan.”

Then it happened, the words “Everything in the garage is free” is yelled. Did I hear that right?

In the right place
Men moved toward items slowly at first. It wasn’t long before they reached in front of one another grabbing the ultimate bargains.

I picked through the wrenches, then I grabbed a bucket and scooped up all of them.

I looked around for my wife who was inside. But I was in the right place at the right time and so was some young boy about 10 years old with his mother and father. So it was three to one. Well, I had eyed an electric socket driver with battery power, and I saw him pick it up. With wide eyes he showed it to his parents and they said, “Sure that’s yours.” 

I looked in boxes, took out a few things. He grabbed the whole box and carried it to the  truck. I had been scooped by a 10-year-old.

So, I missed the power driver. Did you ever notice opportunities look bigger after you miss them?

Let it go
If you want to make yourself miserable try to repeat something that was good, because it usually only happens once. If you try to duplicate, most of the time you’ll be disappointed. But, I’ll forever be waiting to hear those words again, “Everything in the garage is free.”

The early bird gets the worm. But scavengers get leftovers for less.

Left behind
There was stuff left behind, including a Kenwood amplifier—things have changed so much no one wanted it. Some stuff saved for years stayed on shelves, unused. Even when things were free no one wanted the sledge hammer, a log splitting wedge or the manually-operated hedge trimmers.

“It goes to show we don’t take anything with us,” said the woman as she closed the garage door.

“No coincidences”
On the other hand, there was brightly-colored sets of “Fiesta Ware,” which was made from 1936-70. Production restarted in the 80s. It’s still produced.

There was a large silver fortune cookie. Inside there was a glass heart that had broken into three pieces, but the message could still be read: “There are no coincidences.” Hm-m-m. What does that mean?

It got my curiosity up. I had to cough up a dollar (it was half price). What a deal!

Where will the next good deal be found? 

posted 05.25.2017

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