Posts Tagged ‘antiques’

shop talk

When we moved here about eight years ago, I asked Albert to build me a little egg shop and he did it. He’s a sport, that Albert, because he knew I was much more interested in embellishing it than in keeping it stocked with eggs.  It’s as much a canvas I use to display and enjoy a few relics I’ve acquired from fifteen years of yard sale snooping, auction picking and thrift store rummaging than it is a business.  They range from semi-valuable to endearingly kitschy but each one is a treasure to me.

egg shop storefront

Still, I keep my end of the bargain by keeping a coop full of hens that turn out a basket full of eggs by noon every day for me to sell to the neighboring folk.  I count on them to do it.  Without them, my reason for keeping a sweet little egg shop would cease to exist.

egg shop eggs & goats

egg shop sink

In the farthest reaches of my memory stands a double-sink cement laundry tub in my mother’s laundry room against the north wall next to her wringer washing machine.  Before I was old enough to remember much more they were replaced by a white plastic tub and an automatic washer so when I found this one complete with raised cement ridges forming a built-in scrubbing board at a Shackleton’s auction, it was like a lost piece of my childhood dropped out of the sky and landed upright with a k-chunk before my very eyes.  I paid $10 for it, hauled it home and now it stands on the egg shop porch as a haven for garden gnomes, petunias and other trailing things.

egg shop gas pump

Albert and I went to see a man about a motorcycle last summer. We ended up buying it along with an old gas pump I found rusting in the weeds beside the garage that housed the more fortunate motorcycle.  I sandblasted as much of the rust as I could, covered the pump with the most joyful shade of red I could find and fitted it with a few choice accessories from a website called Gas Pump Heaven.

I’m not sure why it’s called that – is it where old gas pumps go when they die? Or does it describe the euphoria felt when vintage gas pump enthusiasts discover that not only are we not alone but that there areegg shop bell enough of us to merit a whole website dedicated to uniting lovers of these rusty shells of yesterjunk and supplying us with everything we need to restore them to their former glory?  Both are apt.  I haven’t spent as much time and money into my gas pump as some have but it stands a bright and cheery greeter to folks round about who buy eggs from my little store.  Albert never did take to that motorcycle.  He likens it to a Chevy Cavalier – it’ll get you where you need to go but the trip is pretty boring.  I like my gas pump very much.

This old bell hung from the exterior wall of the workshop at our first farm until just before we sold the place. I made Albert scramble up a ladder, remove the screws that held it fast and yank it from the wall hours before signing a contract that stated everything bolted, nailed or screwed down was to remain as property of the new owners.  It’s clanging can easily be heard from the barn and clear to the next farm.

Let’s go inside.

egg shop arborite table

It’s odd that my most precious childhood memories formed in my mother’s laundry room. Or maybe it’s mostly those that come back to me in the form of vintage treasures like this arborite table in classic chipped ice pattern.  My mom’s was grey and littered with homemade lye and beef tallow laundry soap and a bottle of Fleecy to cover the smell of the soap on Dad’s work clothes.  Mine provides a spot for customers to set their eggs and make change in the tin that collects their money.

The heavy slate chalkboard above the table comes from the farmhouse where I grew up. It’s only through providence (and a bit of shameless begging on my part) that it remains in the family today.  You can read that story here.  Now it’s a shop sign and medium for my best friend Suzy’s artistry.

egg shop fan  The fan and heater come from an old camper we bought years ago but I only ever use the heater. The fan comes from the time when a safe environment was forged less through built-in safety features than common sense: anyone who stuck their fingers in the fan blades whether accidentally or otherwise would almost certainly never do it again.  I can’t be sure all of my customers would agree with this reasoning though, so the fan serves only as an ornament.

From the north-facing wall, Heintje looks past us to an unseen plane of perpetual childhood joy and incorruptible innocence. There’s something wholesome and reassuring about vintage boys so I surround myself with them like a safety blanket.  Contemporary choirboys have the same effect.

egg shop heintje & candy machine

Next to him, Felix the kit-cat clock keeps near-perfect time with his rolling eyes and pendulum tail. I can’t tell whether those eyes convey lunacy or the most knowing smirk I’ve ever seen but they’re definitely benevolent.

A surprising number of children and teenagers accompany their parents into the shop. Anxious lest they be deprived of an equally satisfactory purchase as their elders, I brought in a new but classically appealing Beaver candy machine.  Parents leave the store with the best-tasting free-range brown eggs in the county, youngsters leave with handfuls of sugary sustenance and we’re all of us gladsome.

egg shop cartons

In another corner, customers drop off their empty cartons for me to reuse. Sometimes, it looks as though I’ve filled one carton with larger eggs than the next but I really haven’t.  It’s just that some cartons are designed like a Wonderbra – tiny compartments force their contents upward making them look bigger than they really are.

The old radio on top of the fridge is set to AM 980 news talk London, the only station it’s able to receive. Depending on the hour and the day, my customers can hear the news, learn to take a proactive approach to their health, weigh in on current affairs or take in a rousing gospel message.

egg shop radio

The Essex County milk bottle is a present from Bob, who lived next door to our first farm. Bob was a retired nurse from Hamilton with a yen to farm in his golden years.  His farm consisted of two goats, three pigs, a few hens and a dog on one acre of land.  It provided plenty of physical work for a man his age but little excitement for someone used to the diversions of urban life.  He became my laid-back, witty travel companion anywhere I decided to go on a whim, whether exploring flea markets or tramping through St. Patrick’s cemetery in two feet of snow the day I wanted to see the Donnelly gravestone.  Bob was also an invaluable fashion guru who was never afraid to proffer an opinion about my clothing, including a pretty pair of heels I could not make up my mind to buy in the shoe department one day.  “My dear”, he sighed, his impatience barely contained, “you cannot spend your entire life in rubber boots.”  My decision was egg shop curtainssuddenly simple.  Whether or not those heels see the light of day more than twice a year is another matter.  Some years later we moved away and Bob returned to the city.

I stitched my seventies-inspired curtains from a piece of fabric left over from a skirt. If I’d known my waistline would expand six sizes in as many years I might not have spared material for curtains but that’s another story.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely finished outfitting the egg shop.  There’s too much wall space begging to be filled, too many yard sale and flea market treasures still pining for a second chance at life in dim and dusty corners of the barn and garage.

I’ll show them to you sometime.

egg shop ivy


A Chalkboard, a Lighthouse and Other Cherished Articles

Three days ago, I pulled a well-loved and much-used treasure out of the garage and into the house for a good dusting: a very old chalkboard that I inherited from the farmhouse where I grew up near Port Rowan.  It’s not made from a thin piece of painted steel the way chalkboards are today.  This board was fashioned from a single piece of natural slate rock, carved two feet high by three feet wide, a good inch and a half thick and framed with wood.  It was in the house when my family moved there, before I was born.  Our parents forbade us to watch television (my brothers smuggled a prehistoric, tiny black and white up to their bedroom but it only stood on the bureau when hockey was on and was stashed under a pile of quilts when it was not) so the chalkboard, which hung from the dining room wall downstairs, served as a game board,


Chalkboard hangmanand self-promoting billboard.  At the age of nine, my brother Frank already knew the value of a fierce stage moniker on his path to the World Wrestling Federation.


Inevitably, it even served as a medium with which little imps pull hijinks on their sisters.  My brother John wrote the tag on the chalkboard in the following picture (minus the fragrant verb beneath), then told my sister Helen to stand next to it for a photo.  While she was busy arranging herself so that the camera would capture the arrow that pointed the eulogy to herself, John scrawled the word “stinks” below it and snapped the picture.  By the look on her face, she was about one second away from catching on to the prank when the shutter came down.


About seven years ago, my parents sold the farm and moved out of the house.  When I drove past it two years later, this is what I saw.

old version

The new owners, a semi-retired couple, had begun to tear it down.

It’s a shock to see your first home this way.  I knew it was an old house; it was old before I was born.  But it used to be clean, bright and filled with the smell of bread baking in the kitchen and the clamor of ten bratty Mennonite kids fighting, playing, living.  Now it stood desolate and wounded.  Dying, literally, from a lack of love.

I pulled over, turned the car around and went back to the house.  I stopped a short way up the lane and got out.  I wondered at the curious way in which the house was being taken apart, like an onion stripped away one layer at a time.  Why not simply demolish it all at once?

There was no one else about so I stole into the house.  That is, if stepping through a gaping hole where the front door once stood can be called stealing in.  Inside, I noticed a similar pattern.  I hadn’t expected the house to be neat and clean, but neither did I expect it to be gutted, exposing paint and wallpaper I hadn’t seen since I was four.  There were also other, strange colours, reminding me that the house had witnessed the happiness and tragedy of other family sagas long before I was born.  It was as if her new owners were dismantling her piece by piece.

When I’d picked my way through piles of rubble to the kitchen, I saw the chalkboard.  Standing against what was left of the kitchen counter, it was wrenched from its age-old station on the dining room wall and looked for all the world like one more piece of debris destined for the construction heap.


Grief replaced shock.  I seized a pen and scrap of paper and covered it with shameless, impassioned pleas to the persons in whose hands the fate of my childhood memories now hung.  I begged them not to throw the precious chalkboard out with the trash or sell it, but to return it to me, the true possessor of the cherished article in all but name.

Okay, so the real letter wasn’t quite as pathetic as that, (it contained no mention of “cherished articles”) but no reader could have doubted my wish to claim the chalkboard again.  I scribbled my phone number at the bottom, placed the page on the counter top, weighted it with a chunk of splintered wood and drove away.

Two weeks later, the owners called.  They hadn’t intended to throw the chalkboard out or to sell it at all.  In fact, they had meant to install it in a new house which was to be built almost on the very spot where the old one stood.  But (bless their dear hearts) after reading my letter, they could do naught but return the chalkboard to me.

Furthermore, every salvageable bit of the old house was being carefully removed so that it could be used in the construction of the one to come, from the ornate woodwork in the living room to the gathering of Styrofoam bead insulation into sacks as it poured from torn away walls.  The old house wasn’t dying at all.  She was merely breaking from her shell, tired and careworn from a century of Lake Erie winds beating at her walls and roof into a new one – bigger, stronger and more glorious than she had ever been before.

the new house

This photo doesn’t do justice to the sheer size of the new house, but if you focus on the doors on the first story, the rest falls into perspective.  The attached lighthouse towers forty-seven feet in the air.  It was built so that the lady of the house could enjoy the view of the lake where we spent every free moment of our childhood summers.

lake view_edited-1


I gave the chalkboard’s frame and ledge a fresh coat of paint when I brought it home but since then, it’s gathered cobwebs Chalkboard (chalk)in the garage, waiting for another chance to shine.  But I’ve finally found a project worthy of it – a place to use it where voices chime and sun shining through polished window panes floods the room with light and life once again.

More to come…

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