By Jeremy Schneider
For as long as I can remember my dad was out there finding or buying up items to resell for a profit — from scrap metal to refurbishing old baby cribs (that was my first flip!). Picking ran in our family; my grandfather always enjoyed a good garage sale, and his uncle Remus actually made a living, supporting his family of 18 in Western Kansas, wheeling and dealing. Some of my fondest childhood
memories were of joining them on our Saturdays buying things that were interesting to us. For my dad it was anything eclectic, nostalgic or just plain interesting, and for me, first it was turtles of all sorts and now vintage cast iron cookware and all sorts of “guy antiques.” Once I got a little older, I moved away to Colorado for school, and since then I only get on rare occasions to join him on the hunt.
A few years ago, my dad heard about a “mega” garage sale, spanning the eastern half of Nebraska called the “Nebraska Junk Jaunt.” Just imagine it: A three-day, 250-mile loop of garage, estate and general junk sales through rural Nebraska in the fall. After hearing about such an exciting opportunity, I couldn’t book my flight fast enough, and before we knew it, my dad was picking me up at the Lincoln airport.
Early the next morning we hit the road – first to Grand Island and then North to Cairo where we hit our first grand slam. The whole city had come out for the sale and welcomed us with their wares and hospitality. In town we found some interesting smalls and collectibles, grabbed a cup of coffee and lunch downtown, and headed to Ord, Neb. While heading toward our next location, we had plenty of window time to catch up and live life together. We reminisced about collecting soda cans on old Wannamaker Road before the mall came and selling them at the Golden Goat, growing up and how so many things have changed since then.
As we pulled in to Ord, we found a very interesting sale, which included several dealers selling their wares, a church featuring baked goods and others surrounding an old red barn. While walking around, I found a few interesting pieces including a late 1800s English pewter pub mug and a very interesting carved figure. No sooner did we wrap up did we notice dark clouds building in the west and we decided to head to our hotel for the night. No sooner did we make it to our room did the rain begin — and rain it did.
All night it stormed. So much so, that by the morning the small pond near our hotel became a lake, expanding beyond its modest banks to overtake the parking lot, stranding more than a couple fellow pickers. As we headed back out into the brisk fall morning of the Sand Hills, we were invigorated to see what we could find.
As we headed toward Brewster, the northern-most point on the loop, we tried to stop in every small town with a sign just to see what might be waiting for us. An old Coke bottle here, an interesting painting there, a couple of interesting pieces of Americana, a Civil War Minié ball and cannon ball; I had to have them. Not every stop had the treasure of a lifetime, but all those we encountered were interesting and had a great story to tell.
Once we made it to the top of the loop, we grabbed a bite for lunch and began heading south where we found the towns to be more spread out. This gave my dad and I much needed time to catch up. In the months prior to the trip, our family was blessed with my first child and my parents’ first grandchild, and as anyone in my position, I was clueless. I had so many questions about parenting and how to raise the perfect child, and my father was gracious to share stories of how it was when my brother Jared and I were growing up. The advice he shared was insightful and welcome on what to do and what not to, how to be firm, consistent and fair and most importantly to forgive yourself when you make mistakes, because there are no perfect parents.
As we pulled into Berwyn, we found the town’s residents displaying their wares in the center of town – tables, crates and tailgates organized like department store windows and us like children on Christmas morning. I found many interesting pieces including various vintage advertising pieces, and my dad almost purchased a motorcycle. The one that got away. We strolled around, grabbed a cup of coffee and visited a few of the local antiques stores where I found a few early music-related ephemera pieces while my dad found an early piece of Duncan Phyfe furniture, which he bought on the spot. We visited a few other spots, and then decided to call it an evening.
Early the next morning we woke to brisk, cold fall weather and hit the road on the final leg of our journey. We stopped at a few sales here and there, with our eyes set on making our rounds one last time in Cairo, where we had begun our journey. As with any third day of a sale, the options become limited, but that didn’t detract us for we knew those that were willing to put in the work could still find a diamond in the rough. As we pulled into town, we found a vendor with a large trailer set up in a
parking lot on the side of the road. The vendor, coincidentally from Colorado as well, had an amazing vintage hand-painted pool hall sign which made us all aware that “Boys under 18 years of age positively not allowed in this pool hall.” I had to have it, and asked for the “Denver Discount,” where I was abruptly told the price would be double. The dealer and I settled on a more than fair price and dad and I headed on our way.
With this final stop in the rearview mirror and the Lincoln airport as our next stop, we reflected on a memorable weekend. With every interesting town we visited and every person we met, we realized that the difference between us and the sellers was the weekend. Because although each town and city was unique, they shared the common thread of fun and camaraderie that can only come when strangers and family enjoy a few moments in life together. Our pockets were lighter and our boxes were full with all of our finds from the weekend. Although treasures were found, the best treasure of them all was the time a son spent with his father.
Editor’s Note: A previous On the Road article submitted by a fellow reader inspired Jeremy Schneider to share this favorite fall antiquing adventure.
If you have a favorite story about hitting the road in search of antiques and collectibles, and joyful adventures, we invite you to share your story. Remember to mention the city and state you were in, and names of shops and malls you visit, if you’d like. You never know when your time “On the Road” will inspire someone to enjoy an adventure of their own.
Email stories and photos to ATNews@fwcommunity, using On the Road as the subject line, or send your letter and photos to Antique Trader, Attn: On the Road, 700 East State St., Iola, WI 54990. Plus, if you enjoy reading about fellow readers’ “favorite finds,” we encourage you to keep an eye out for the annual Favorite Finds issue of Antique Trader; the cover date of this special issue is Nov. 11, 2015.