Sunday, September 4, 2011

Memories of an Antique Dealer

I have often written in this blog about what I have been doing for the past 4 decades. When I get a call from an old client who mentions their name, I am often at a loss to put a face to the name. I usually ask what was the project or what was the piece I worked on, and then it often comes back to me. Sad to say that I remember the piece better than the person, but it's true.

Recently, I received an email:

Dear Pat:
I hope I have the right person, the Pat Edwards that used to operate an antique furniture refinishing business in the Adams Avenue area. If so, I want to thank you for my purchase of a Hoosier type kitchen cabinet from you in 1971-1972. My husband and I had just moved into a 1906 Craftsman home in old downtown La Mesa and we broke our bank to buy a Hoosier you had just refinished. We spent $125 and it seemed like so much to us (well, it was!!)
Over the years I bought, scrounged, refinished and often sold antique furniture, but never did I come across a better one than the one I bought from you, and thus I still have it and enjoy it every day.
We moved from La Mesa to an 1896 Victorian in Lemon Grove and the Hoosier was in the old kitchen there for 34 years. In 2007 we built a log home and moved to Hayfork (yes, Hayfork) in Northern CA and put the Hoosier front and center in our log home. Recently I bought an older pie safe and had to squeeze the Hoosier a little, but it remains my star piece.
I have often wanted to thank you again, so here it is! By the way, what was the name of your shop? And, do you have a similar business today?

Attached to this email were several nice photos of an old oak Hoosier kitchen cabinet. When I saw them, I was transported to a barn in Kansas in 1971. It was cold and there was snow on the ground. I had a few hundred dollars in cash and a pick up truck with a lumber rack and a tarp. The barn was full of oak furniture. Square and round tables, sets of press back chairs, treadle sewing machines, and kitchen tables and hoosier cabinets.

The "dealer" was the farmer, who invited me to dinner and fed me fresh corn and a steak. I bought several items, loaded them on the truck and moved on down the road. One of these items was a Hoosier which was nearly complete. Often these old kitchen cabinets lost their "guts" which included a wide variety of attachments to make the cook happy. Owning a good Hoosier meant that the person working in the kitchen had a central location for almost all the tools of the trade. Using a Hoosier along with a kitchen work table was essential for all small farm homes to efficiently prepare the meals.

This Hoosier had everything, including stained glass windows. It only needed refinishing...I can't remember if it was painted white, as most of them were, but I do remember refinishing it. See the next blog entry for me using methylene chloride at that time, since it was the only way I knew to do things.

I also remember repairing the tambour roll, which ended up working nicely. I was also pleased that the pull out enamel surface was not badly chipped.

In any event, I transported it 1500 miles home, refinished it and put in in my little shop with a price tag of $125. I assume that included a profit, but for the life of me I find that hard to believe.

I do remember at that time another client walking into the shop and asking about a nice oak roll top desk I had for sale. When she asked about the price I said "Three fifty." She pulled out a five dollar bill and expected change!

In any event, I am pleased to hear that some of the things I have worked on have been important to the people who supported me. Gosh, when I think of all the antiques I have taken apart, restored, conserved, upholstered, finished, or sold over the years...each of them is important to the owner and represents an important possession in their life.

I am happy to have been of service.

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