Last Sunday found us in Williamsport, PA, and the hotel we were staying at (the downtown Hampton Inn) always has the local paper on hand for free. Noted in the classifieds that two estate sales were on their second day. Sure, that meant that a lot of good stuff might have already been sold, but these sales were near each other and not far from the hotel either. So it wouldn't take much time to check both out.
I have to admit, my heart sank a little when I pulled up near estate sale #1, for the exterior of the house was decidedly run down. Unfortunately this isn't unusual for the part of town I was in, but since I was on the scene I decided to see what was still left.
There were a couple of tables set up on the front lawn with knick-knacks, and the people running the sale said there was more stuff inside. Alas, the interior of the house wasn't in any better shape, so I didn't spend much time in it. It was really pretty sad to see.
One fun thing - to me, anyway - about an estate sale is wandering around in the rooms in the house open for the event. The folks outside told me there was furniture in one of the upstairs rooms for sale, but I declined to go up and look, explaining that I was a visitor and thus had no way to take bigger items back with me. This was true, but if the interior had been nicer, I would have gladly gone up the stairs to take a look around.
The people running the sale were as nice as could be, though. I learned that an elderly friend of one of them had recently been placed in a nursing home, and these folks had offered to run the estate sale for the family.
As I hastily beat a retreat from inside the house, I happened to glance at a box of postcards sitting among a pile of odds and ends on the front porch. I poked around enough to see they were vintage, so I asked how much for them. When I was told five dollars for the whole box, I bought it.
At the time I didn't realize just how many postcards I had purchased. They were in a box that had once housed an avocado-colored GE, made-in-the-USA two-slice toaster. Avocado color? A small appliance made in this country? The box itself was vintage too!
Began sorting the postcards when we got back home, state by state. This took awhile, as there were far more postcards than what I had anticipated. The couple hundred I'd thought had been stuck in that box turned out to be around 900!
Here's a portion of what I sorted:
Not surprisingly, most of the postcards are from Pennsylvania, although Texas, New York and Illinois are well represented too. Trips to Niagara Falls and Yellowstone yielded several postcards apiece.
This collection revealed a well-traveled bunch: a total of 41 states and three foreign countries (Canada, France and England). Not all had been mailed, but of those postcards with postmarks, the oldest one was from 1908, and the newest from 1984. Most are from the 1930's-1960's.
I'll show off a few now.
From "Sept. 1 & 2 1956", a multi-postcard set of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Don't know what the rest of the world thought of its claim as "The World's Greatest Highway", but it was the first long distance limited access highway in the US when its earliest section opened in 1940. The rest of the construction was completed in 1956, so perhaps the original buyer bought the postcard set to commemorate a trip on the newly-completed stretch.
One of the postcards in the set shows a laughably empty turnpike, with just a few cars and one truck in the distance. After moving to Pennsylvania in 1991, we quickly learned to seek other routes rather than taking the turnpike all the way across the state when traveling back and forth from the Midwest and Philadelphia. It wasn't just to save money - we would always use the Ohio Turnpike - but a congested road with narrow lanes wasn't our cup of tea.
One category of postcards I was hoping to find in the box was the motel scene type. Back then, these postcards trumpeted up-to-date amenities and decor, which of course makes them fun to look at now.
There were only a few vintage motel scenes among the postcards, including this one from the Clock Inn Motel in Oklahoma City:
No postmark, but the interior looks 1950's-ish. Love the small TV on a wheeled stand.
On to a classic scene:
The Cyclone roller coaster at New York's Coney Island. "FASTER THAN EVER" it says underneath the horizontal Cyclone sign. Gee, wonder what they did to make it faster?
This postcard had been mailed out, so I know it dates from 1953. The message reads "Dear folks. This isn't Texas having a nice time and trip. Can talk better than write". Given that brevity, looks like the sender was correct.
From Watseka, IL:
The "New Watseka Theatre". The marquis sign reads: CONSTANCE BENNET "BORN TO LOVE".
Looked up that movie and learned it had come out in 1931. So of course the Watseka Theatre is no longer new. But that date explains the Art Deco styling:
They don't make them like that anymore! I happily learned that the theatre is still around; it now hosts (fittingly) old-time movies, concerts and various special events. It looks to be appreciated like the treasure that it is.
This now looks like a classic car show, but back then it was a beach scene from Jacksonville, FL, circa 1958.
Also from Florida, this time 1959:
Just as movie theater designs have changed, so have gas pumps!
While sorting out the postcards, I was surprised to see the towns of Terre Haute, IN and Stevens Point, WI represented. Neither town is considered much of a destination on its own, but since I'd once lived in both cities, I got a kick out of their inclusion among the collection.
This is labeled "One of the "wiener roasters" in Deming Park, Terre Haute, Ind." When we lived in Terre Haute (1998-2002), the area was struggling financially, but the parks system was very nice. Since the early 1990's, Deming Park has been home to one of only 21 holly arboretums worldwide. That's even nicer than having a wiener roaster! (Postcard is undated.)
From Stevens Point, WI:
A scene from Martins Island; postcard is from 1912. I lived in Point (as the locals call it) from 1988-1991 and while I don't recall any mention of Martin's Island, I'm guessing the waterway shown is the Wisconsin River.
I've enjoyed showing off a small fraction of the postcards here and will continue to enjoy studying the rest of them in further detail as well.
And for the second estate sale? It was in a house in better shape, but didn't see anything I had to have, so I walked away empty-handed. Buying hundreds of postcards at once was enough of a haul for me!