We’ve been spotting retro Girl Scout items camped out everywhere, from flea markets to our own CL Fairs. Now it’s your turn! Post your finds on Instagram, and we’ll share them throughout March. Don’t forget to tag photos #CLSCOUTSIGHTING
I happen to have my mother’s Girl Scout handbook from 1947. When she and my father downsized from a large house to an apartment after my dad got sick with prostate cancer there was a lot of stuff that was slated for a junk pile. It happens when you go from house to apartment. I saw this book in such a pile and took it home with me. I thought it was sweet. I have had it ever since.
Over the years I have contemplated getting rid of it because I was never a Girl Scout and what am I going to do with a 1940s edition of a Girl Scout handbook? It almost bit the dust a few years ago when I moved from the Main Line to Chester County, but seeing my mother’s signature in her little girl handwriting with her address on inside flyleaf of the book make me just put it into yet another packing box and now it is back in a bookcase. My mother was 12 when she inscribed her handbook.
Anyway I just thought it was cool that they were talking about vintage and retro Girl Scout items. I guess they must be collectible now or something, or gaining in popularity. It doesn’t matter to me either way as this to me is just a cool little piece of family history.
One of the things I have always loved about Chester County are the traditions. Things like the horse shows and horses, the farms, the carriaging, the crafters and artists, barn sales, flea markets and church sales, ballooning, and the independent spirits.
But today I mourn the loss of those things. They haven’t all disappeared over night, but if we as residents don’t start standing up in our communities and telling municipal governments to pay attention to us and not just the developers, we will lose what helps make Chester County so special.
I am going to re-visit the case of Upper Uwchlan and the Smithfield Barn. I will note in case Upper Uwchlan’s manager is feeling vindictive after this post that I have NOT spoken to the Smith family about this situation in a while, it is merely that people are TALKING.
I have been told that the manager (who came from Coatesville and why do I point that out? Well Coatesville always ends up in the news for not so nice things, don’t they?), met with the Smith family finally after the media picked up on the story at the start of the new year? I had heard that and was hopeful, and well what did I hear recently? That the manager had not seemed to follow through on what they had discussed? What do kids still call someone like that? A welcher? Do I have that right? Or is this just a rumor and he really likes the Smithfiled Barn and acknowledges how much his township folks go there and to places like that Carmine’s , right? Maybe they will have a new rule against pizza and wings down the road too?
So what does this manager named Cary Vargos, get out of this? Is he doing this doing this for the developer coming back to his township which shall remain nameless? The developer who will share borders with the Smithfield Barn Farm? How are those bog turtles and percing stuff going?
Of course then there are the rumors bandying about concerning municipalities that want to tell people how, when, and what time they can hold the humble garage sale and isn’t that just crazy here in the land of the free?
So I have to ask who would be hurt by allowing Smithfield Barn to have a set number of barn sales a year? Is it possible that this township manager doesn’t know barn sales are rural America’s garage sale and a deep rooted tradition? Is Upper Uwchlan going to morph into one of those individual freedoms stomping municipalities that next puts a million rules on garage sales? Auctions?
I mean obviously Upper Uwchlan government has some sort of identity crisis because they allowed the crossroads village of Eagle to grow up to be Barbie’s Lego dream village didn’t they? This is their jurisdiction right? I mean it is good to know CVS can do other architecture, but still.
When you go through there you are also reminded of the development when you look at Upper Uwchlan’s shiny newish township building. It is not as grandiose as some I have seen, but it is a testament to the present and all that developments have built isn’t it?
I hate to pick on this township manager, but I just don’t get why he wants to be the squasher of local traditions do you?
The reality is Smithfield Barn is beloved by locals and those farther afield. Barn sales are a real part of country history and tradition. That makes them a positive ambassador for their municipality. Townships can’t buy the good publicity and PR generated by happy people and goodwill towards neighbors, can they?
But the country isn’t so country any longer is it? The country has been taken over by developers who don’t plant crops in the beautiful farm fields of Chester County, just plastic mushroom houses that give off the smell of hot plastic in the summer.
Take for example another sad thing: has anyone been by what was that huge empty former working farm on White Horse Road in Charlestown Township I guess it is?
I was a passenger in a car going past that last Saturday and it made me want to cry. It is slated to be a new development and it looked like a battlefield. Demolition equipment on site and they had just basically raped the landscape and all you saw were felled trees lined up like dead soldiers from a Civil War battlefield reenactment. It was shocking and sad.
The pace of development in Chester County is somewhat terrifying at times. Nothing ever seems to be a restrained size or scope. These projects are huge and homes squished so city close together that you know residents will live crammed in like lemmings. And the crime of it is, these people don’t seem to know any better.
Then there are the things that amuse me. Like for example when people in developments in Upper Uwchlan refer to themselves as living “on the Main Line” or being from the Main Line. Uhhh no, I actually grew up on the Main Line and these people are actually living in Downingtown. And it is o.k. to say you live in Downingtown. These are like the people who say they live in Chester Springs because that is how the developer marketed certain developments, only are they Chester Springs? Not so much.
Developments change the landscape and the attitudes. Do any of these people really know the satisfaction and joy of planting their own gardens? Or do they in fact live in Stepford where all geraniums must match and grass must be “just so”? Do these people know the joy of standing outside and watching the hawks circle and cry out to one and other? And they all say they love horses, but then they don’t want to live near barns, stables, and local horse show grounds do they? And don’t get me started on traditions like skeet shooting, trap shooting, and sporting clays shooting. And hunting and fox hunting is best kept to those countrified wallpapers, right?
I love what makes Chester County just what she is. I am sad that traditions seem as if they are disappearing one by one.
I really hope people wake up before it is too late. Once the woods and fields and farms are gone, they aren’t coming back. Same with barn sales, country auctions, and honor stands at the edge of your local farm.
As good weather seems to finally be here, I encourage all of you to let people know about fun things happening in Chester County. Traditional things.
One thing I will not be encouraging people to be part of or attend is Upper Uwchlan’s “block party” on June 14th. Why support their efforts when all they do is kowtow to developers and sanitize communities against country traditions like barn picking and barn sales? Sounds mean to some, but I think they are being mean spirited to tradition.
But please if you have something fun you want to tell people about, let this blog know. Things I love are farm events, art shows, flea markets, First Fridays, barn sales, even swap meets and garage sales. Other things like strawberry and similar festivals, farmers markets, small businesses celebrating something.
Enjoy the day. It is simply beautiful out. Find your magic in everyday life.
I am not one for those milky pastel chalk paints and I think chalkboard paint should be banned as a decorating idea. Sorry but I am sick of seeing every piece of vintage and antique furniture looking like it was attacked by kissing cousins of Pepto-Bismol. not everything needs to be in pastel or a chalkboard.
And while I do think that white milk paint look has it’s place in beach houses, I just think it has been too done. And done again. As a matter of fact my sole criticism of dealers who go to Clover Market in Ardmore, PA is not only their pricing at times leaves a lot to be desired (I mean let us get real a lot of those people pick at places I haunt so I really know some of the mark-ups) but there is soooo much of the same stuff and it is all candy coated for lack of a better description. Show me the wood once in a while! Don’t make it all look like a French meringue cookie and think that will hide the fact the piece wobbles.
Mind you I was a long time fan of Rachel Ashwell shabby chic and loved it when she had her TV show. She used to go to flea markets and show you how to repurpose vintage finds. kind of like what Cari Cucksey does on her HGTV show Cash & Cari. But not everything was coated in paint. Moderation.
Do I like some painted furniture? Very much so. My mother for example has a piece I have loved since it came to be. She found an antique country armoire easily 25 years ago and had an artist faux paint it and a carpenter convert the inside so she could store china, crystal and serving pieces. It definitely makes a statement and is useful storage. And the painting is beautiful – and not milk paint or pastel chalk paint. You can appreciate the artistic side of it and the lines of the piece aren’t whited out and it is sturdy enough to survive the apocalypse.
My personal approach to painted furniture is if it didn’t start out life as a piece of painted furniture chances are I will not paint it. It’s just not me in the long run. Maybe my tastes will change on this, but I do not think so.
As far as furniture goes I am definitely of the school that believes older is better. But I want pieces that can be used. I don’t want to live in a mini Winterthur or the Modern Museum of Art.
I make no secret of the fact that I haunt picking barns, resale shops, consignment galleries, flea markets and garage and church sales. I will barter, swap, and hondle. It never hurts to ask if a better price is available. One reason I like places like the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown and Resellers Consignment in Frazer is the prices are not only unbeatable but OMG there is a constant turnover of variety and really cool pieces…and I can see the wood.
Yesterday when I went hunting for my garden bench, I saw this crazy slipper chair with a matching foot stool. The piece was probably late Victorian but a prior owner had reimagined it in yellow leather. The chair was usable as is and under a $100 if memory serves and the foot stool was around $50. The pair was so fun and quirky that if I had the room they would have been a total impulse buy. Oh and the chair wasn’t painted in pastels, an added bonus.
The thing about buying from Resellers that is fun is the listed price of an item will automatically decrease based upon number of days on the sales floor. But the prices are already old school estate sale prices so if you like it when you see it, buy it because chances are it won’t be there when you go back. And I have seen many furniture and antique dealers cruising the aisles of Reseller’s giant warehouse too. IF items last there more than 60 days they go to 50% off.
Some people can’t believe people will go to secondhand stores and picking barns for items for their home, yet amusingly enough if the same items show up at fine furniture dealers and antiques dealers they are “darling” and “must haves”.
When you buy a piece of gently used wood furniture, treat it right. Don’t rush to cover up its natural patina with paint, try cleaning it and polishing it. I am a big fan of Williamsville Wax – it is a blend of beeswax, lemon oil, and other natural oils and supposedly the company uses a recipe for this that has been used since Colonial times.
And don’t be afraid to have fun with your furniture. It can still be fun and comfortable and not look like you picked it all out from Ikea and Raymour & Flanigan. And believe it or not, you can have nice things around kids. You do not have to live with plastic. That is an added bonus of some of these furniture finds- the prices are so good that say an accident occurs you can actually afford to have the piece recovered or repaired and it is actually worth it to do so.
The other thing is this – educate your own eye- go to antiques shows, check out design magazines and Pinterest boards and create your own inspiration. Face it, while many would love to say they had an interior decorator or whatever, the reality is most can’t afford that and when you connect to your own rooms in your own home it is far more satisfying. And it really is home.
I am learning not to take in what I can’t use. Mind you, saying that, I like a lot more around me than my sweet man. He is definitely guy minimalist, and well I like layers. (He will tell you I like lots of things on the walls which is entirely true.)
So yesterday we went out to my favorite barn, the Smithfield Barn on Little Conestoga. He found a couple of tools and I found a couple of little things too. Now I am also guessing the lore of the barn is spreading, because they were doing a brisk business. (saw the name of a high school friend in the guest book for the barn too!)
I was sick of my spoon rest in the kitchen – a plastic souvenir plate was the latest one and it was beat up and ready for recycle day- and looking for a replacement. No, I don’t use traditional spoon-shaped rests I like using funky dishes I find. Orphans from garage sales mostly.
Yesterday at the barn for literally a couple of bucks I got a funky old pressed (molded) milk glass plate shaped like a big strawberry but is actually a bunch of grapes embossed on the bottom. Circa 1950s to 1960s I believe. (Ironically I saw them way too much expensive on EBay and Etsy too )
I also found another pretty glass dish (Depression era I think) that probably had a life once holding pickles or relish or something, a funky vintage locket that I think is from somewhere around the depression (some sort of mystery base metal and a fabulously long chain), and a really super cool wooden box that looked like a book.
Made in Germany for I *think* a shipping line whose name I am trying to decipher, when I got it home and cleaned off a couple of layers of dirt gently, I could see what was faded on the lid of the box: one of the Yardley Cries of London ads, which were based on the Wheatley’s Cries of London Series. “Fresh Gathered Peas, Young Hastings” to be precise. I will note there are a LOT of reproductions of these “Cries of London” series, so although I think the series is fun, I would never pay much for any of them unless I knew for sure what I was getting.
The box is pretty beat up, not sure if it could be restored, but wow is it fun.
Plus I got a hostess gift for where we were going to dinner last night. Wish I had taken a photo – very cool leather box that was lacquered on the inside.
I was also checking out the depression glass Kris had at the barn yesterday. There was some really pretty pink and green pieces, but they were more than I wanted to spend. Kris said she has had a hard time finding it reasonably priced lately. Wonder if it is the Miller effect? You know that ridiculous blonde who always pays too much on that new show Market Warriors? She is the worst treasure hunter ever and can’t dicker worth a damn and she is obsessed by glass.
I am not sure I like the show Market Warriors because they don’t make much sense. And the auction houses they chose after they went to Renningers and Brimfield made less sense. They should be going to auction in regions closer to where they are buying. BBC’s Bargain Hunt is a much better show. American Pickers is a fun show BUT since they started those guys seem to be a little big for their britches and well I am beginning to wonder what kind of advance team goes out and scouts ahead of time?
I am a firm believer that price in some of these collectibles is driven by what people see on TV. However, one of my favorite shows of that genre is Cash and Cari. Host Cari Cucksey has an estate sale and repurpose/antiques/collectibles business in Michigan and it is so nice to see her show because the sales are what you used to see around this area, but not truly any longer. You know the ones with reasonable pricing as in things are priced to move?
Some of the “estate sale” people around the Main Line and Chester County are not so true. And some who shall remain nameless actually bring things into the sales – they are not in the houses at all and that is not ethical. They aren’t all or even close to Garage Sale Chic Chester County or Susan Vitale whose sales are well worth it. (Well Susan Vitale used to have one of the best known antiques stores on the Main Line so you know she knows what she is doing!)
If you are doing a garage sale or estate sale, price to sell – not like you are in a store front setting. Sales by Helen is one of those. Don’t quite know how she got so big and why most are willing to pay her prices, but I am not. I find Helen’s sales overpriced at best.
There aren’t too many Smithfield Barn weekends left, so I encourage you to go have a pick. But don’t fear, when you move into the fall there are great opportunities to be found at places like St. David’s Fair or the white elephant tables at Historic Harriton House’s Annual Plantation Fair. And a whole new season of Clover Market in Ardmore.
When you go treasure hunting, buy what makes you happy. Unless it is a velvet Elvis painting, you probably won’t go wrong. Happy hunting!