For almost a decade, my old neighborhood in western Lakewood held a very popular, well-attended, three-street garage sale every June. I have fond memories (and lingering nightmares) about the days spent rummaging through my basement, kitchen cupboards, garage and closets selecting stuff to sell. That was followed by scrubbing/washing the items for the big day, and at least four or five hours the night before setting up tables and pricing.

My husband and I never had dreams of buying a new car with the proceeds. We were happy with enough profit to go out to dinner that night. Our goal was to get rid of clutter or unused items. As such, we were very practical in our pricing.

As dawn broke the morning of the big day, my husband would be outside, pulling the tarps off the tables and moving them into a nice spot on our long driveway. At the same time, he would be gently discouraging the “early birds” who, over the years, became increasingly pushy and annoying.

One year in particular sticks out in my mind. A carload of bargain hunters parked directly in front of our house, spilling out of the SUV like Huns scaling the Great Wall of China. Luckily, both Brian and I were manning our table (we usually took turns). They stomped up the driveway, eyeballing our stuff and immediately homing in on an old German stein my father and mother had owned. For some reason, it didn’t have the flip-lid anymore and had a chip on its base. I priced it at 25 cents. Yes. One quarter.

“Will you take a dime?” one pushy woman barked at me.

I remember hoping that I had the proper level of disdain in my voice as I slowly drawled out,

“Noooooo. It’s a quarter.”

She grudgingly bought it, only to return about two hours later to loudly demand her money back because of the before-unnoticed-by-her chip.

It had been a long day and I was beat. “No!” I growled. “IT COST YOU A QUARTER.”

Over the years, fewer and fewer houses participated in our group garage sale. The annual event finally just whimpered into oblivion.

That said, I still love attending garage sales. I recently bought a vintage wooden chest for $25 and a large, brand-new dog crate for $20 at a sale I found through the classifieds of this newspaper. Bargains!

I wrote a story this week about a 30-vendor flea market being held Saturday in Rocky River. (See Page XX.) It is the first time the organizers, both veterans from the vintage market circuit, have organized anything like this. They hope for it to become a twice-a-year event (summer and Christmas). The idea for the west side show came after both joined a chorus of voices airing discontent over vintage markets becoming less vintage and more crafts, as well as the dwindling appeal of the once popular Cleveland Flea held on St. Clair Avenue near East 26th Street.

Frankly, I understand the complaints because I had the same thoughts. After a yearlong break, my husband and I recently went to the spring Cleveland Flea and were very disappointed. With the exception of two booths in the back, it was almost all crafty, homemade items. When I go to a flea market, I expect vintage. You know … the stuff you see in garage sales, but up a couple of notches. I don’t need new jewelry, T-shirts, soap or very expensive artwork. I want to see unique, not homemade. We both left feeling cheated of an experience.

This past weekend, I traveled to Geauga County for the mother-of-all markets: the Burton Antiques Market. Now in its 59th year, the Burton Antiques Market attracts dealers and shoppers from all over the country. More than 400 dealers displayed everything from furniture to architectural salvage to wooden “butter presses” costing nearly $200. It was exhausting and thrilling at the same time. Big sigh of relief: It wasn’t taken over by crafts.

I left with a the frame of an old church window that is now hanging over my mantel, and a 1975, slightly rusted metal TV tray commemorating the Auburn Univeristy/University of Alabama rivalry for my AU hubby.

I also left with the mother of all sunburns, but that’s another story.

I hope the new venture this coming weekend, being called The Standard Market (19940 Ingersoll Drive, Rocky River), is just as thrilling. From the sound of it, it’s all about a flea market returning to its roots. Hope to see you there!

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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