Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
This past Thanksgiving holiday weekend The Husband and I decided to go to a gigantic flea market – the oldest in Texas – about an hour from our home. Neither of us had been there for a decade or more. This is neither a small nor a quick expedition; the market site covers many acres and has everything from permanent buildings with interior stalls to miles of winding sort-of-paved paths (just exactly the width of a large pickup) with individual open air sites marked off with paint. 

We were there about seven hours and, as we are dedicated lookers who walk rather slowly, saw only about half of it. The weather was cool and perfect, and a slight breeze kept us comfortable. A thin layer of clouds filtered the sun’s glare. Every few yards there was a food hutch of some variety or other and you could find all kinds of flea-market delicacies. I could write an entire post on the corny dogs alone, and the funnel cakes are to die for!

The day was one of the most distressing I have ever had.

Why, you ask?

One of the main draws of this particular flea market is the antiques. You can find everything from a rusted kitchen ricer to an early 19th century crystal chandelier. My shock came from what is now acceptable to call an antique!

Apparently the pundits of the antique trade have now decided that things from the 50s (that’s the 1950s) can legitimately be called antiques. They even have their own official classification – MidCentury Modern. It’s distressing to see things that I grew up with – some of which I still own and use – marked as ‘antique.’ 

A hammered aluminum (which I love) casserole in a much more battered state than mine was marked almost $40. A blue flowered Corning Ware water kettle – identical to one I was given when I went off to school – ran between $15-20.  (Mine was obtained for two and a half books of Green Stamps, a viable currency in those days.) A rather undistinguished pressed glass bowl my parents received when I was a child for some anniversary or other was well over $50.

And these were all marked as ‘antiques’ – not collectables, not used-but-still-useful objects, but antiques. Arrgh!

Half of me was tempted to go home and clean out the house, bring the stuff back, get a booth and start selling.

The other half of me wanted to cry.

After all, if these things are regarded as legitimate ‘antiques,’ what does that say about me?

Pardon me – I think I’ll go drown my sorrows in a nice, icy Diet Dr. Pepper (the National Drink of Texas!). In an antique, MidCentury Modern aluminum glass, of course.


  1. One of my favorites on TV is Antiques Roadshow. But I agree with you, too many people are calling trash antiques.

  2. I hear ya. I am feeling a bit MidCentury Modern myself. (sigh)

  3. A topic near-and-dear to my heart. We just had one of the folks from the "Pickers" show in our antique shop. (Apparently, we didn't have much worth pickin'.) The flea market sounds fun!

  4. I like a mixture of antique and modern. My husband loves the old stuff. We manage

  5. This one hit home, Susan. It's best not to even think of the "antiques" I've shuttled off to Good Will. BTW, I'd love to read that post about flea market food.

  6. I remember one of our Avalon editors telling a roomful of writers at a conference that WWII-era romances were not considered "historical" because many people who lived through WWII were still alive--and no one wanted to be considered "historical." Same goes for "antique."

  7. I feel your pain. Last night at my critique group we had a discussion about aging - the group has been going since 1992 and we are all definitely in the antique category at this point.

  8. When we were getting out my mother's china for Thanksgiving dinner, my grandson and I figured out it's 64 or 65 years old. I remarked that it would be an antique soon, and my son in law said it already was.

  9. Officially, an "antique" has to be 100 years old. At least that is what I was told back when we made the circuit of Forney, Texas, and Gruene/Boerne, Texas. On our honeymoon. I was looking for authentic German/Texan antiques because I for some reason wanted a big wardrobe sort of thing. The ones brought over from Germany to Texas when Prince Solms got the plot of Hill Country Land were then 100+ years old. They were too big and heavy and expensive for us, and we ended up getting a nice cabinet at Harrington Furniture in downtown Plano (now a café of some kind). But maybe they have redefined "antique." I love midcentury modern design and love the stuff that makes me think of my mom and grandmother and aunt and their houses/kitchens back when I was a child. I don't mind reproductions, though. I have a George Nelson repro clock that is just like the one my dad had in his home office when I was little. I want an Eames chair and an amoeba glass coffee table. But first I need a big ol' Eichler or Cliff May house with walls of glass, courtyard entry/atrium, etc. to put it all in!

  10. Susan--
    Aw... I think those sellers/television hosts are calling their wares "antiques" to make them sound more interesting :-) And if I know what "Green Stamps" are, does that make me MidCentury Modern, too?