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News Article
Overheard conversations
By Connie Swaim


I enjoy listening to other shoppers’ conversations when I am visiting an antique mall or shop. I find it fascinating what people say about various items.

For example; I was in a mall when a young boy picked up the hand set of a rotary-dial telephone and asked his dad what the object was. His Dad explained that prior to cell phones, people used these types of phones to make and receive calls. The boy was incredulous, “you mean you had to just stand here with the phone?” he asked. His dad just laughed.

I used a rotary phone growing up. I kind of miss the sound the dial made as it spun around. I remember how excited I was when we got a Princess type phone with a long cord for the handset so I could go into my bedroom and shut my door and still be talking on the phone. With the rotary phone any phone conversation I had was in the hallway where our phone was located (we just had one phone). Everyone knows teenagers need to speak to their friends in private, even about the most mundane of topics.

When we got the phone with the long cord, I could go into our bathroom, stand in the tub and look out the window just right and see the upstairs window of the home of my best friend Linda. If we were talking on the phone we could turn our respective lights on and off and see them twinkling in and out over the few miles that separated us. Country kids learn to make their own fun, let me tell you.

I was also lucky, as the only girl in the family I got my own bedroom. My two younger brothers had to share a large room upstairs. Unfortunately; to make me a bedroom; my dad basically just cut the room that connected our kitchen to our living room in half. That way part of it was now a hallway and part was my bedroom. My bedroom was just kind of in the middle of the house; but it was uniquely placed right beside the phone jack so I could take the phone and go into my bedroom and close the door for privacy.

I have no idea what important matters I discussed; but I do know I loved that longer cord. Then when cordless phones came along; dear Heavens, it was like a miracle. You could actually walk around the house (providing you had some idea where you last left the headset when you heard the phone ringing).

I can see why the young man was confused by the phone. My 15 year-old niece just messaged me on Facebook on Monday during the day. I asked her why she was on her phone during the school day and learned she can use her phone during certain periods and this was one of them. If I wanted to talk to someone during the school day I would have had to go to the principal’s office and have a very good reason for calling home.

Two other conversations I recently overheard underscored how the antiques and collectibles industry is changing. In the past many people in a shop or mall would be serious collectors or dealers looking for items to add to a collection or resell. Now, I see many people shopping who may only go to an antique establishment a few times a year and they are looking for something to fit a space or idea.

In one shop a woman was looking at storage boxes and trunks. She finally settled on a steamer trunk with a $130 price tag. It was “perfect” she told the sales associate because it was just the right size “to store all of my sons’ Legos.” Wow, that is a lot of Legos. Turned out she had triplets, but still, how many Legos would fit in that giant trunk? Obviously, the woman could find a much cheaper tote to store those Legos in; but she wanted something that would also make a statement in her home. Cost was not an issue; the only thing that mattered was that she liked how it looked and that it was the right size to store Legos.

A woman wielding a tape measure was shopping in another antique mall and she was looking for a sign that had to be a very specific width to fit a spot above her stove in her newly remodeled kitchen. She looked at a vintage Pepsi sign priced $75 and made-in-China faux barn wood signs with “homey” sayings on them priced at $10. She didn’t care whether what she was buying was old or new. She just needed something the right width with an “antique look” to fit that specific space. Sadly, none of the signs in this shop were just right and she moved on, tape measure in hand.

The good news is, people are shopping for things in antique shops. Those of us who grew up in the trade in the 1980s and 90s might not understand this type of buying. But, that’s OK. What is important is that either one of these women could have purchased the item they needed in any big box store. Instead, they chose to shop vintage.

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