Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Work Bench

I'm working outside on the driveway right up against the lake shore today.  There is another old workbench with a nice butcher block style top waiting to be shabotaged. I picked this bench out of a garage in Brainerd last week and hope to have it ready for the June sales at Second Hand Rose or Gypsy Lea's.

The top needs a good sanding, staining and sealing before someone will bring it into their home.

One drawer is missing, so I am just going to finish the middle section as a shelf.
Mr. Flannery

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

I went to the National Cemetery at Fort Snelling today. My father and mother and my grandfather and grandmother are buried there. I haven’t been there for years, but somehow decided that a trip today was important.

The cemetery is much larger than it was when my Dad died in 1969. He was buried near the fence on that cold day in March. I remember thinking that he said he wanted to buried near the fence so he could see the cars go by. 40 years of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq have filled the cemetery and moved the fences. But I’m sure that Dad can still see the cars go by and the airplanes from adjacent MSP fly over. Oh my there are a lot of graves. Battalions of white markers all glistening in the sun. I put some flowers from my garden on my parents’ graves and some more on the graves of Henry, a veteran of WWI, on his wife Grace, my maternal grandparents. I miss them all, even Henry who died 17 years before I was born.

I then went to an older part of the cemetery. I found the grave of my Dad’s boyhood best friend Kenny Miller. Kenny was killed when his bomber was shot down over Holland in 1944. He was originally buried in a Dutch cemetery, then moved to the American military cemetery in Holland before his body was repatriated at the request of his mother in 1947.

Kenny was my Dad’s best friend. They grew up together in the rough parts of St. Paul. They dropped out of school together and got in trouble together. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor they enlisted in the Army on December 8, 1941, together. My Dad went to the Far East, serving in China, Burma and India. Kenny went to Europe, serving in the Eighth Air Force’s bombing of Germany. My Dad came home in 1945, Kenny did not.

My Dad seldom talked about Kenny or World War II or growing up during the Depression. Years after he died, my Mother mentioned that my Dad would always go to Fort Snelling around Memorial Day to put some flowers on Kenny’s grave. He would cut some peonies from the plants in our yard and wish God bless to his long gone best friend.

Kenny has become a symbol of the Greatest Generation in my mind. He’s the poor kid, dealt a crappy hand in life, who volunteered to defend his America. He was my father and a million other boys of the Depression who still rose to give their all for their country. Most made it back home, some didn’t. Kenny represents those who didn’t. He doesn’t have any kids to remember him. He doesn’t have anyone to honor him specifically.

Today I became Kenny’s surrogate kid. I am sure that my Dad would be willing to share. I found Kenny’s grave. I put some peonies from my yard next to the tombstone. I said a little prayer of thanks to Kenny and all the rest who gave all to make my America.
Mr. Flannery

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Picking and Yah-dah-ing to Superior

     Ok, so we went picking yesterday. Not this looking at nearby shops or hitting the local flea market picking, but full blown driving a couple of hundred miles away and knocking on interesting looking doors picking. My guide on this adventure was Chris, who has made a living picking and buying and selling for more than 20 years. Our destination was Superior Wisconsin and a place where I had left a galvanized cupboard on my first picking trip last February.

     Chris drives a very nice Dodge pick-up truck with four full doors. The truck has a “short box” needed to accommodate the larger passenger area. The reason that the cupboard was still in Superior was because we filled the box with other good junk on the last trip. Chris says that he never filled the truck before I started picking with him. He specializes in smalls and my attraction to the biggest thing that isn’t a tractor has altered his logistics. (Of course he ignores the fact that the reason the cupboard wasn’t in the truck last February was because he had bought a school work bench, filling the box). On a March trip we even took his small trailer realizing that the truck may not be adequate. Yesterday it was only Chris and I. He decided no trailer was needed. We would slide over to Superior, pickup my cupboard, and shuffle around the area to see what we can find.

     We are heading east on 210, right into the morning sun, and Chris decides to make a u-turn. We have done this many times before. He sees something, often out of the corner of his eye, and we have to check it out. There was a “BIG SALE” sign stuck into the shoulder of the road. So off we go, down a gravel road in search of the sale. Of course it was not even 7 AM and it may be a tad early for a garage sale. We get to the site and there is stuff sitting on tables and piles on the ground. Almost everything is priced. We get out and start to explore the junk. A window opens and a voice is heard: “I’m getting dressed, I’ll be out in a few minutes”. We find a few things.  I got a metal sign and two 1950's 8mm film projectors. Chris got a couple of pieces of paper and a steel wheel with a handle. Back on the road to Superior.

     We get to Carlton and instead of getting on the freeway to Superior we take the fabulous road through Jay Cooke State Park. Chris says, “you don’t find anything at 70 mph”. The road through Jay Cooke is wonderful. It follows the St. Louis River on its pass through the cataracts over the billion year old Canadian shield into Lake Superior. There are pockets of private housing that predate the park’s establishment. We, of course had to cruise the streets of a couple of these pockets and suddenly we stop. Chris backs up. He saw a old guy working in his backyard and the place has a huge garage. We pull into the driveway. We get out and the yad-dah-ing starts. (Turns out that the old guy is less that a year older than me, but that’s a different blog someday). The guy is retired railroad and sure he has some junk here and there. He has a cracked crock jug marked with the name of a Moorhead Minnesota liquor store that he dug out of a pit on an old farm. Chris collects Red Wing advertising pieces. We were into the garage to look at the jug right away. It was cracked, but from an advertiser that Chris had never seen. The guy wanted $10, Chris offered him $25. Before I could even look at the jug, Chris had a porcelain enamel LaBatts Beer ashtray into his pile. I headed for the far side of the garage. There was a nice arts and crafts style oak file cabinet. The veneer on the top was a little rippled, but I bought it anyway. It was from the Duluth and Missabe Railroad offices when they remodeled about 1970. Chris did the yah-dah-ing to a tee and we even explored the guy’s house and basement. About $200 later we had a good start at filling the truck and it was only 9 AM.

      Harry, the guy, referred us to his neighbor Clyde, who had a lot of junk around. We found Clyde fixing his riding lawn mower on the driveway. We get out of the truck, yah-dah for a while and then Chris buys a damn boat. It’s a small boat, handmade and painted green in the late 1940's. Clyde has a bunch of stuff in his attic and basement, but he was not letting us in to look. He wanted to get the stuff out himself and would call us next week when it was ready. Its still before 10 AM, we were still west of Duluth and the truck was full. There would be no room for my Superior cupboard on this trip.

     We cruised the little pockets of neighborhoods stuffed between the steep bluffs and the shore of Lake Superior. Many had been built as workers’ housing by the big steel, mining and railroad companies in the boom before World War I. We’d see something interesting and Chris or I would grab a flyer to see if we could yah-dah our way into some good junk. Pickings became a little slim. A couple of rejections sandwiched between miles of neighborhood streets with no likely suspects. Then Chris stops and slowly backs up. He tells me that there is an old guy sitting in a lawn chair in the backyard of a house we just passed. I could not even see him and Chris caught him out of the corner of his eye while driving. Damn!

     I grabbed the “Wanted” flyer and head into the backyard. The guy is sitting in his chair while a woman is picking up sticks etc. so she can mow the grass. I show them the flyer, talk about the weather, comment on the huge size of the yard (more than 2 acres behind the house that you can’t really see from the street) and ask about the junk. The woman says the magic words “fishing tackle” and we are off. I convince her that she needs to show the stuff to Chris. She heads for the garage, I pull Chris from the truck and we are off to picking. They were reluctant in letting Chris or I get into their stuff. Chris yah-dah-ed and cajoled and charmed them. He bought a 1920's multi-drawered workbench from the garage. I didn’t see it before he was all over it. Money flowed, banter flowed and access increased. We were there for more than an hour when the couple decided that they needed to empty the bench and Chris and I went to lunch. When we got back the bench was mostly empty and they wanted us to look at stuff in the house. Its amazing, from nothing to sell, to maybe some junky fishing tackle, to look at all of the stuff in the basement in less than an hour. And the guy was a friend and had his own house nearby. He invited us to look at his junk too.

     So we got more junk. We disassembled the workbench, unloaded the truck and repacked. The truck was now really full. So we kept on picking. Rather than heading for Superior, we gave up on recovering the cupboard and headed west picking all the way. Chris spotted another old guy sitting in a chair outside smoking a cigarette. This was on my side of the truck and I never saw him. In we went. Yah-dah-ing commenced and we were in his basement and garages. We got some great railroad lights including two from a railroad work car. (The guy wanted $10, Chris gave him $40). I got some great cast iron railroad lights. So we are in the garage and Chris finds a skeeter motor that was used on a two man railroad cart. He bought a huge water pump complete with the attachments to a hit and miss motor and a few other pieces. Then he understood. We were full. He made arrangements to pick up these heavy pieces next Monday.

     We are headed west on a small St. Louis County road, well beyond nowhere. Chris stops and backs up. He had picked this farm 5 years ago. Rodney had a Case farm equipment sign and Chris couldn’t get him to move on it back then. In we went. Rodney meets us on the drive where he was working on his large John Deere tractor. Chris told him that he was here for the Case sign and Rodney asked him what had taken him so long. They yah-dah-ed. We looked at the sign, which was right were Chris last saw it 5 years ago. We bought some cast iron pieces. Chris scheduled a Monday pickup of his sign.

     It was a great day. Chris, who bought a boat, was commenting on all the big stuff that I bought. We agreed that my presence must infect him with the bug of buying big. We also agreed that from now on we would be taking a trailer when I was picking.
Mr. Flannery

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

V-E Day and the Greatest Generation

     May 8, 1945 was V-E Day. The streets of London and New York and all the other cities of the allied world were filled with delirious citizens. "We Win!!" screamed a headline, and it was true we had won. The greatest generation had defeated the greatest threat to liberty and civilization that the world had ever known. Nazi Germany was in ashes and under the control of the allied powers. Hitler was dead, well on his way to eternal damnation and hellfire. Sure there were other issues to be faced; Japan fought on, the Soviets shackled Eastern Europe, but the great big threat, the object of Eisenhower's "Great Crusade", was beaten. The world was a much better place because We Won.

Rue Ste-Catherine in Montreal.
(CBC Photo/Montreal Herald)

    Sixty seven years later we must remember the great sacrifices and the great accomplishments of the generation raised during the great depression to be the Greatest Generation.

Mr. Flannery

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dancin' with Furniture on a Sunday Afternoon

If you made it to the May sale you probably saw one of the largest pieces ever offered at Second Hand Rose Buffalo. There was a beautiful, but huge, old hardware store counter and nail bin outside the shop under the tent. One of the reasons it was outside was that we were not sure it would fit in the inside space. Just before closing on Sunday, a couple came in to discuss the counter further. They are SHR regulars from the Cokato area. The giant is now going to have a second life as a center island in their home. They were happy, we were happy, but then the reality of loading the beast hit all of us.

They went home to hook up their covered trailer. They got back to SHR just about the time Brad and Amy, SHR owners, came to the shop to help with closing. The buyer backed his trailer to a place near the counter and dropped the ramp for loading. We moved the beast about two feet to get a better angle of attack. The counter was tipped back and a small cart was placed under a cross member. The nail bins were still in place adding about 350 lbs. to the piece. Brad put a two wheel cart under the leading edge and we were off. Brad pulled on the cart, the buyer and I pushed on the counter. Slam, bam, thank-you ma'am, the counter was in the trailer in less than five minutes from tip up to closing the ramp. It was really slick. As a regular participant in dancing with furniture cotillions, I can say that it was, pound for pound, one of the easiest dances I've ever polka'd.

The customers were happy, we were happy and the beast was loaded with grace and ease. Sometimes we actually like to dance with furniture.

Mr. Flannery