Last Saturday, I stopped by my favorite antique store in Pigspittle. Incidentally, I had to cross the street to get to the store and as I did a Christmas parade (featuring, among other decidedly non-Christmasy vehicles, a red, white and blue festooned cement truck) was stopped at the stoplight. When does a parade stop at a stoplight? Only in Pigspittle, but I digress…
Like most small-town antique shops, this one is filled from floor to ceiling with the detritus of the 20th century: books, hats, china, toys, jewelry, LPs, kitchenalia, prints, vintage furniture, more, more, more. None of it is particularly valuable, and most of it is probably overpriced. But I love this place. I could stand in one spot for a half-hour and still not see everything in front of me. Books on agriculture from the 1950s, novelty wind-up and electric clocks, sewing baskets with the satin inside slightly torn from all those needles and pins, fluorescent desk lamps, a metal doll house, aprons remarkably preserved (a wedding gift that couldn’t be thrown away?), paint-by-numbers paintings, tea cups and saucers, decorated tiles. The shop smells of decaying books and old linens. I love that smell—not because it reminds me of someone’s house or anything quaint like that, but because it tells me I’m among very old things. Things other people held, made, used, like rolling pins and picnic baskets and wooden picture frames.
Each section of the shop falls under a theme: women’s clothing and sewing notions; books and albums; farming tools and hunting knickknacks; militaria; toys; 1950s decor; kitchenalia; things made of silver; pottery and china; jewelry. The downstairs has a lighting section and scraps of wood from old furniture, as well as the paint-by-numbers paintings and lots of kitschy art. The front window features a new display every month or so, as well as the owner’s beagle, usually napping on the couch-of-the-month.
As I entered the kitchenalia section on Saturday, I gasped—audibly, I’m sure. At eye level on the opposing shelf were canisters I instantly recognized from childhood. It actually made my heart ache a little seeing them perched on this shelf, alone and for sale. The canisters were made by Ransburg, an Indianapolis manufacturer, and were handpainted by the company’s artists sometime between 1930-1950 (according to their web site). In my house, the largest held flour, the second largest sugar, the next held tea bags (I think…but maybe just if we had company), and the smallest probably contained little things that didn’t ordinarily have a place, like plastic bag twisties or rubber bands. I might have even taken them to college with me, I can’t be sure. That little heartache—a palpable pang of homesickness—made me buy them.
I probably would have stopped there but then I saw this print. It was advertised as “Victorian,” which may or may not be true, and how the hell would I know? I bought it for the subject matter: that creepy style of still life that glorifies dead game (or, as my husband would prefer to say, “sleeping bunnies”) on kitchen tables, aside grapes and flowers. If anyone knows whether or not this is a style or school of Victorian painting, please let me know. I’ve seen contemporary paintings in the same style by an artist in Chicago (back in my art magazine editing days). I’d love to know more about the style. (And is that a pig on the right side, wearing a frilly blue collar?)
I was looking for some maps and asked the store owner if she had any. She came out from the back carrying two of those gigantic pull-down wall maps you’d find in a classroom. Maybe that’ll make it to my Christmas list this year and I can use them to wallpaper the office.