When I was a child my father would bring me to many a rural auction where we would sit for hours on hard wooden benches in some old barn while he bought a lot furniture he didn’t need. During that period of time I learned a lot and took that knowledge with me every single time I ventured into a thrift shop or an estate sale. I might not be a mathematician, but I can tell you when things were made and how much they’re worth pretty quickly.
My home is filled with Lanark County finds from estate sales and acutions. Most of my clothing is vintage, and yes, to put it bluntly, comes from dead people. Sometimes I argued with the customer once in awhile when I volunteered for the Oakland Children’s Hospital Thrift Shops in California,
“Where do you think all this stuff in thrift stores comes from?”
In California the auction is a lost commodity, and every Friday estate sales leap out at you from Craigslist by the hundreds. Every single Friday was once dedicated to seeking the cheap, the unknown, and meeting really interesting people. One of these sales found me sitting on a curb with two twins in their 70’s discussing sales and life for a few hours until the sale opened up.
I told them of a strange estate sale I attended last year where handcuffs were hanging from the ceiling and hundreds of naked pictures were glued to the wall of the garage. One has to wonder what the surviving family thought when entering Grandpa’s home and seeing he enjoyed more than reruns of“The Waltons.”
All Photos by Linda Seccaspina
The elderly twins had lived in the hills for almost 40 years and told me of a strange neighbour they felt was out of the Twilight Zone that had been named Hillside Johnny. John was a recluse and seemed to talk to just a chosen few, and they weren’t one of the few. The more they spoke about him and his house that was not “a home of culture” as they said, the more curious I became.
It didn’t take long before Hillside Johnny walked up and down the street sporting a “shirt”, soiled pants, well worn work gloves and highwater pinkish underwear that seemed to explode above his pants. Every 15 minutes his hat seemed to change like magic, and the holes in his socks got bigger.
The long-haired man spoke here and there to some, and I found out that his brother lived with him, but they had not spoken in 5 years. He no longer used his kitchen after they converted it into an extra bedroom and cooked on a hot plate in a very over-crowded garage. This in a home in a highly sought neighbourhood in the Berkeley Hills with a view that costs millions of dollars.
I watched as he seemed to take us all in with some sort of amusement, and told whoever would listen that he had not driven a car in years, but instead rode his bike the 3.5 to 5.5 miles up and down the hills that would give a younger man a heck of a workout.
As he stood behind me in the final moments before the sale opened, the organizer handed him something in a pink paper shopping bag that matched his underwear. What was in that bag? No one found out and John disappeared from the line wandering down the road clutching the bag with a significant aroma trailing him. Would he add whatever was in that bag to his collection in the garage I silently wondered?
After that final thought we all marched into the house and mayhem and bedlam ensued. I opted not to get the vintage 70’s Levi Strauss pants and instead purchased a teapot purse and more sunglasses. My sons still shake their head when they see my attire and collections, just like how we viewed Johnny I guess– and their late father always asked them what they were expecting from me and said,
“You know your Mother has always been a little different!”
Just like Hillside Johnny I guess…. oh well–all- Johnny B Goode:)
Howard McNeely- I Aim to Please
H B Montgomery Auctioneer
50 cents I ’m bid–Auctioneer Clayton Hands
Antique Furniture? The End of an Era?
In the Year 1923 —- “BHM”– (Before Howard McNeely)