Picky like the American Pickers

Posted 2/14/24

Like a lot of other people, Hubby and I spend time on our recliner couch watching television. One of his favorite shows is American Pickers, which highlights antique hunter Mike Wolf and colleagues …

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Picky like the American Pickers


Like a lot of other people, Hubby and I spend time on our recliner couch watching television. One of his favorite shows is American Pickers, which highlights antique hunter Mike Wolf and colleagues as they search old barns, basements, garages, backyards, and attics to find forgotten pieces of junk that might actually be treasures. The show is so nostalgic that it brings me back to my younger years and makes me smile.

While searching among the dusty rooms, tin lunch boxes floated on the shelves, depicting all icons of the times. I get reminiscent every time they find the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and Peanuts, which were my favorites. My brother’s favorite was Lost in Space, foreboding the life he would develop in his late teens when schizophrenia invaded his fragile mind.  Every year in August, at the beginning of the school year, mom would take us to Zayres or Ann & Hope to pick out the transportation for our lunches.  The thermos was my favorite part of the lunch box, always filled to the brim with milk, which was healthy for our growing bodies. Although my parents were very frugal with their money, this one tradition contradicted that, as we could have taken our lunches in less expensive brown paper bags. Sadly, we did not keep our lunch boxes, worth between $500 and $2,900 these days. There is nothing for Mike Wolf to find in our basement.

Often, Mike would find kitchen items, such as a meat grinder. My mother used to use one, affixed to the kitchen counter, and she regularly made bologna salad using a big chunk of solid bologna. Because this was a favorite sandwich filling of my dad’s, this grinder got a lot of use and remained a permanent fixture. He would find vintage bundt tins hid amongst the bountiful, dusty collections, reminding me of the Jello molds that used to grace our dining room table.  My favorite was lime Jello with little pieces of pineapple inside. Drip-o-laters, stove top coffee makers, could be found in many dingy basements. One graced our stove prior to Mr. Coffee, infusing the house with the comfortable scent of brewing coffee. My dad never liked coffee from the Mr. Coffee, saying it did not percolate and the flavor was bland.

The American Pickers frequently come across vintage clothing during their searches which focuses on leather and denim jackets. On one occasion, tucked away in a dusty corner, they uncovered a poodle skirt, a vibrant, colorful skirt that sways and swings gracefully, adorned with appliqued white poodles along the hem. These skirts epitomized the carefree spirit of the post-war era, perfect for dancing and celebrating. Despite my mother’s reluctance to buy such a frivolous item, she sewed one for herself and another for me, who paired it with my white bobby socks and white and brown saddle shoes. The outfit was not only fun to wear, but the flared design camouflaged my wider than normal hips. It was fun to swish it from side to side.

The antique collectors also specialize in old toys, many of which can be found among the dusty ruins in the garages and attics of the hoarder’s homes which they are searching. Most of them were toys I admired and wished I had. Pedal cars in a variety of configurations are favorites of theirs, especially those with brightly colored steel bodies and a real steering wheel. I pictured myself sitting tall, pedaling with my long legs and both hands on the steering wheel at the 10:00 and 2:00 positions recommended for driving a car. Driving down the street in front of my childhood home would have been dangerous, however, with the cars whizzing down our side street to get to the high school. Much smaller cars, made by Matchbox or Hot Wheels, were my brother’s favorite. Because of his visual difficulties, he would not roll them away from him on the floor as many children did, but he would turn them upside down and spin the wheels with his fingers. If he had saved these cars, they could be worth a lot of money.  A 1968 Volkswagen Bug recently sold for $1,500, and a Ford Fairlane Police Car sold for $1,200. However, most old Match Box and Hot Wheels cars sell for around $30. 

The American Pickers are picky, but whatever they find usually brings up happy, old memories!


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