So, spring has returned, and this geezer’s thoughts turn to… wait for it… flea markets.
That’s right, it’s the time of year that outdoor flea markets return. And as we note in this issue of the Go Local, the Godzilla of all flea markets returns in May, The Brimfield Outdoor Antiques Show.
I don’t hunt animals, but I am a hunter at a flea market. I know what I want and have mastered the art of looking and walking at the same time, without tripping on something.
My favorite flea market is one on Route 47 in Hadley, MA. It’s a pleasant drive from my home in Springfield to a part of Hadley that I’ve known since attending fourth and fifth grades in the town a million years ago.
Located on an open field, the Route 47 market changes a fair amount. Yes, you’ll see some dealers over and over, but you also get people who are cleaning out a relative’s house and are there for just that day.
I’ve found the key to success to this one and other markets is to get there early before the day grows too warm and before dealers start to leave. Have plenty of cash in small bills if possible. Slip a reusable bag in a pocket in anticipation of finding great things. Wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking a bit. The field can get hot so a hat and some sunscreen are suggested.
Generally, I’m looking for items related to movies, so a big box of DVDs always catches my eyes as is any box or pile of old paper items.
One of my best finds was an early 1930s full color promotional booklet from Monogram Pictures. The booklet, which is actually quite large, was sent out to theater owners to promote the movies the studio would be making and releasing in the up-coming year.
The booklet was on a table where the young man explained he was getting rid of some stuff from a relative’s house, someone who was probably in the theater business. There was a pile of newsletters sent to theater owners by MGM and because it was MGM those were pricey.
The Monogram item was too obscure to be seen as having much value and I got it for a song.
I’ve been to the Brimfield show several times in the past and I will readily admit the size of the show is overwhelming. I can understand why people plan multiple trips just to be able to walk through the entire event.
I have a friend who had a custom t-shirt made just for Brimfield that indicated he collected movie posters. It saved him some time as he went from dealer to dealer.
One of my prized objects was found by another buddy of mine at Brimfield. It is a vintage drive-in movie speaker. It’s the cast aluminum speaker that hooked onto your window and was the standard for drive-ins from the 1950s and 60s. My friend found a box of them and grabbed one for him and me. It still has its wiring and I’ve wondered if I could ever fix it so I could listen to a DVD through, preferably some drive-in movie from the period.
It’s astonishing what you can find at Brimfield and part of the joy is simply seeing things that may be one-of-a-kind. I know a guy who found a complete vintage oak phone booth, like the kind that was in restaurants and train stations for decades.
Enjoy the hunt this spring and you may find that object you didn’t realize you couldn’t live without!
- G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor