Friday, July 31, 2009

Lisbeth In Her Rented Costume

Old photos fascinate me and I love this one. Lisbeth came to me in a group of real photo postcards. Real photo postcards became popular in the U.S. after 1906, when Kodak invented an affordable camera with negatives the size of a postcard. It allowed folks to have their photos printed right onto postcard paper and mail them off to the relatives. Studio photographers also offered real photo postcards, often with elaborate backdrops and props.
This photo was taken by photographer Herm R Miller of Milwaukee. Noted on the back is "Jan 1916, Lisbeth Noske, rented costume, (married 3-23-1916)". Every detail on her cowgirl costume is just right. She holds a braided whip with a smile that suggests that she'd have no idea how to use it.

Lisbeth is a bit of a mystery. I have several other photos of her in costume with notations "worn on stage at Pabst Theater" suggesting that she was an actress. When time permits, I'll research her a bit; in the meantime, I'll just enjoy the photo.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Road Trip! Baraboo Part II - Oak Street Antiques

Part II of Road Trip! Baraboo

While waiting in line for the estate sale to open, we met Jennifer Blau. Jennifer is the proprietor of Oak Street Antiques and invited us to stop by her shop, on the square in Baraboo. After leaving the sale we had lunch at the charming Garden Party Cafe, which Jennifer had recommended. Pumpkin ravioli anyone? Delicious!

Walking up to Oak Street Antiques we knew we were in for a treat. Located on a corner of the square, the historic building is graced with huge windows. The displays were show-stopping; a feast for the eyes. On one side, the Baraboo Button Club was showcased. An old machine for making shell buttons was the centerpiece of the display.

The corner window was a mix of furniture, architectural pieces and smalls, skillfully arranged so that they looked like they'd just fallen into place. Inside, the staging was impeccable as well. The large store has high ceilings and abundant light and Jennifer has taken full advantage of the setting. Each piece of furniture formed the basis for a vignette that incorporated smalls of every description. Hats, advertising, lamps, toys, glassware... it was all there.

When we walked in Jennifer told us of another estate sale in town that we should check out right away. With a promise to return, we left for the sale. If the first sale of the day was a '10', this one was a '1'. Items were strewn about the garage and in the house. Nothing was priced and the floors were covered with boxes of stuff. Kathy & I are not easily deterred, however, and dug in to find a few items to purchase.

We returned to Oak Street Antiques for a leisurely exploration of the shop and left with some small purchases, as well as more info from Jennifer on places to shop on the way home. By the time we had shopped the Antiques Mall of Portage and the Pardeeville Antiques Mall, my van was full and we had no choice but to go home...our 'golden' day had come to an end.

If you ever have a chance to visit Baraboo, Wisconsin, you'll find great food, historical attractions and Oak Street Antiques...don't miss it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Saw Her From Across the Room

She had a dirty face and looked as if she'd had a rough life. Her hair was disheveled and she was wearing a bizarre-looking helmet that did nothing for her fine features. Her nose was scarred. I knew I had to bring her home. She would be the perfect girl to model some of my vintage hats.

The auction lasted about four hours. It was a strange mix of traditional, bizarre and just plain junky items. A few things were worth bringing home, but truthfully, if it wasn't for her I'd have just left. Finally she came up, and I was victorious.

She's now had her initial clean-up and I think she looks pretty good in a hat. Getting the gunk off her face without damaging her further proved more challenging than I would have imagined. Finally, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser did the trick. I touched up her nose with a little makeup and will work on a better fix one day.

Her name still eludes me. She's not whispered it to me and I haven't come up with anything that feels right for her. If you have any suggestions please let me know!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Road Trip! Baraboo - Part I

Last week my friend Kathy and I headed up to Baraboo, Wisconsin. The original winter quarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus was on the Baraboo River and the largest surviving group of original circus structures is here. Circus World Museum brings that rich history to life. The quaint town of Baraboo is loaded with well-preserved buildings and homes.

But we were in search of history of a different kind. Providentially, we'd met a lady at an auction a couple of weeks earlier, who told us about an estate sale that she was helping with in Baraboo. Her nieces were selling their Grandmother's estate. We were intrigued by the tidbits we heard and decided that we needed to be first in line for this sale.

After scouting out the location of the sale we checked into our hotel. We were up at 4:40 the next morning and made the short drive to the farm. As it turns out, we could have slept until 6:30 and still been first. Oh well! (We're used to attending sales in the Milwaukee area, where the first arrivals often sleep overnight in their cars.) It was a beautiful morning and we sat on the steps of the old house and enjoyed the early sun.

The barns were opened at 8:00 and we came out with egg crates, stools, chairs, old signs and more. Kathy snagged a shabby green "potty" chair. After cleaning ourselves up with Wet Wipes, (a must-have in the vehicle of an antiquer!), we were ready to shop inside when the house was opened. Everything had been moved to the main floor and fifteen people were allowed inside initially.

Arriving first paid off. We came out with loads of wonderful vintage hats, tins, Cracker Jack prizes, paper dolls, toys and so much more.

This fun & friendly family ran the sale perfectly. They wore name tags and were stationed throughout the property and in each room of the house. Parking areas were marked off and cars were directed safely in and out. Purchases were carried out to vehicles for loading. It was without a doubt the best-organized sale I've attended in quite some time.

One granddaughter told me that while they felt a little bad about letting everything go, there wasn't any sentimental attachment to the items in the sale; they had never seen most of the stuff prior to the death of their Grandmother. She had kept the living room curtained off and they were never allowed in. Upstairs was also off limits. She kept a slate and chalk in one drawer of the buffet and that's what the five girls were allowed to play with when they visited.

The big old farmhouse that seemed like it should have echoed with laughter, did not have quite the history that we had imagined. Perhaps because little hands never played with Grandma's "old things", they were preserved to be passed on to others that will cherish them. It was a sale we'll remember for years to come.

Every now and then you have a 'golden' day and ours had just begun when we left this sale...check back for Part II coming soon!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wacky Wednesday - Cosmos, America & Rooms for Tourists

Wednesday seems like a good landing pad for random thoughts. Here they come:

Cosmos -
Cosmos are the perfect species for a cottage garden. They are happy outside, without too much attention. Happy inside, plunked in a simple vase. Even though my 'cottage' happens to be a side-by-side condo, I have plenty of room for flowers. This year there are Cosmos and Black-eyed Susans. Cosmos and Coneflowers. Cosmos and Russian Sage... they go with everything in my purple-pink-white-yellow color scheme. They have just reached the height where I can see them out of my sunroom window. And they make me happy.

America - I love America! If there is a flag at an estate sale, chances are it's coming home with me. Red white & blue is a perfect color combo and there is always a patriotic collection on display here somewhere. When I see the flag I'm reminded of those who have sacrificed in order for us to have freedom. Freedom to be ourselves. Freedom to try and achieve the impossible. Freedom. I have never been so concerned about the loss of our freedoms as I am right now. The government that was formed to allow us to work toward our dreams has become the government of 'sit back and let us take care of you'.

I don't believe that the government owning our manufacturers is a good thing. I don't know of anyone that got a job due to the 'stimulus' that we are paying for. And I certainly don't want the government dictating my healthcare. Think of the service you've received from any government agency. That's what we're in for, in every area that is taken over by our government. I'm letting my voice be heard by those who represent me.

Rooms for Tourists That phrase just threw me right back to my childhood. Riding up Highway 99 in the 60's in the back of a Ford, (with no seat belts mind you!), we passed countless little motels or 'motor courts'. When I found this sign at a sale last week I had to have it. The business cards that came with it added an extra dimension: 'Rooms for Tourists with Bath'. Tomorrow you can read a bit about this fun sale.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Estate Sale on the Farm

A couple of years ago we moved to the small rural community of Waterford Wisconsin. One of the unexpected pleasures of living here has been our proximity to the "country". Although we are in a subdivision, within a five minute drive are rustic roads, creeks and acres of farm land. After thirty years of suburban living, I'd forgotten how the country feeds my soul.

In the summertime this area is loaded with great country auctions and estate sales. With my trusty GPS to guide me, I love heading out early to see what I can find. Along the way the curvy roads reveal treasures of their own - quaint farms, woodlands, creeks and wildlife. I've seen hawks, deer, foxes, and mama geese taking their babies for a swim.

Recently I headed out for a sale in Genoa City, a small town near our border with Illinois. The farm was several miles outside of town. Arriving early, I was number seven on the list to get into the house. The sale started at 9:00 but they opened the barn & outbuildings early. Some old furniture items had been pulled out into the center of the barn but other nooks had been left untouched.

Our old farm families didn't get rid of much. Broken or unwanted items were often just tossed into a pile in a corner of the barn. This was the case here. Decades of "junk" were piled in a heap. I managed to unearth an egg basket, some iron shelf brackets and a few other small primitives. Out front were milk cans and garden implements. I purchased an old school bell, violating my own rule that I don't buy what I can't lift, and one of the staff loaded it up for me.

A shed revealed my favorite find of the day. A weathered wood sign that said "changing area" was securely nailed to the wall. One of the young men working the sale managed to remove it for me. (I'm working on a little project that involves this sign and will post a photo later.)

When we were admitted to the house, it was a little disappointing. It seemed that many of the things you'd expect in an old farmhouse were gone. I did manage to come home with some feed sacks, a Hagen Renaker pig family, and some great dress-up clothes for my granddaughters. While it wasn't my most successful hunt ever, it was an enjoyable day in the country.

Have you been to a country sale lately? Please share - we'd love to hear about it!

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Blame It On Mom

Sometime in the 1960's, Mom came home with a pile of wood that she had purchased at Halsey's Junk Shop for a few dollars. She said it was a chair. Dad was less than thrilled. Mom was certain that she could put it back together. She did. And that's when the seeds of my love for old things were planted.

Mom started frequenting rummage sales, finding more old things and fixing them up. She loved the humble, honest old survivors, not uppity pedigreed "fine antiques".

A few years later, I was working as a car hop at the A&W and saving my tip money for special things. My first purchase was a pitcher; the glass had turned purple. Next came a small caned sewing rocker and after that, a drop-front desk.

Fast forward to the early 1980's. I was a young Mom with two small children living 2000 miles from my family. There was an ad in the paper for an estate sale at an old attorney's office. Off I went. "Don't spend more than $20", my husband cautioned. I spent exactly $20 and came out with a mirror and an oak bench, (which is still one of my favorite possessions.) While loading them up, I found a $10 parking ticket on my car. Oops!

There was no turning back after that. Eventually I began to find things that I could sell, to pay for the things I wanted for myself. The only thing that brings more joy than finding great things, is helping them find their way "home" to just the right collector.

Mom is now 84 years old, living in her own home and still enjoying the hundreds of special things she found over the years. Proclaiming that she "doesn't need anything else", she still loves to go look and see what may turn up at a shop or a sale. And so, I blame my love of unpretentious, charming old things on her. And I thank her for a hobby that turned into a business that brings great joy every day!

Here's Mom this summer, skipping with her great-granddaughter.

How did you get started? We'd love to hear what inspired you to begin collecting or selling antiques & collectibles.