Monday, May 28, 2012

Shining Light on the Mid Century

I've made mention numerous times on this blog about my quest for Mid Century Modern furniture.  And I've also been asked to explain what "Mid Century" means.  By definition, Mid Century refers to the middle of the Twentienth century, ie: 1950 (or 1951 if you want to argue about when a century begins). When it comes to Mid Century stylings, whether in architecture, furniture, design, etc., it typically refers to the span of years just post World War II to about 1965, although officially the design concepts date back to the 1930's.  I'm no expert by any means and you can read more here, but it's a style I've come to embrace in the past 10 years or so.  Unfortunately, so has a large portion of the public thanks to shows like Mad Men.  I watch and enjoy Mad Men myself, but I was a fan of the era before it made it chique and tuned in because of my interest in the 1960's.  To be honest, when I was younger, I hated Mid Century design.  I thought blonde wood was hideous, maybe because our house was full of it and I considered it outdated by the time I was living with it in the 1970's.  And I was baffled, not unlike Charlie Brown, why anyone would want an aluminum Christmas tree when a real tree could be had.  But after a fascination with the 1880's, a brief stop in Victorian times, and a layover in the 40's, I've currently settled in the early 1960's.  How long the stay will be is anyone's guess.

But back to my quest.  There have been a number of misses at estate sales the past couple of years, some of which I've detailed in this blog.  But this past Friday, I finally made a score at a home in Lemay on Buckley Meadows Drive.  I initially saw this lamp on

I headed over with my second oldest son around 9:30 a.m. when the auction had been already been open for a half an hour.  I wasn't hopeful the lamp would still be there, but it was.  It looked a little rough, the brass finish was fairly tarnished.  It also had a table that didn't quite look right attached about 1/4 of the way up on the lamp.  You can see it in this photo a little better to the left of the couch.

But I saw definite potential and I loved the shades and their Tiki stylings, so I took at chance at $45.

Normally, I'm a procrastinator when it comes refurbishing things I buy at sales (Remington cash register, I'm looking at you...), but I launched right into the lamp when I got home.  The first thing I noticed was the table definitely did not appear to be original to the lamp.  The finish was wrong (made out of formica with a non-matching color) and the lamp had been cut down to fit in a low ceiling basment.

Removing the table was easy.  It looked to have been added on when the lamp was customized for the basement.

The disassembled lamp

The table removed

I sanded off the brass finish with the intent of spray painting it silver, but found the metal underneath polished up nicely, so I decided to leave it.

One of the light fixtures before sanding:

And after:

I sanded the wood (which is actually a very thin veneer wrapped around another metal pole) and restained and varnished it using 1 coat of Minwax Early American stain (yes, just 1 coat.  It took fine and was as dark as I wanted it) and 2 coats of Minwax Clear Satin polyurethane (using 0000 steel wool in between coats). 

I was able to extend the height of the lamp using a dowel insert to push the top adjusting spring higher, but it still wasn't quite enough.  I've temporarily added some wood blocks.  I need to come up with something better.  I'm thinking of adding another section of wood dowel at the bottom and staining it to match.

It has a 3-way switch which allows 1, 2 or 3 lights to be lit.

I'm very happy with the way it turned out.  Now to find that Mid Century credenza...

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Prodigal Tom-boy Returns Home

At the sale I went to a couple weeks back where I bought the Amana Radarange Popcorn Popper, I saw a sight that while common to estate sales has always puzzled me -- grocery items for sale.  I'm not sure who buys perishable and typically outdated items at estate sales, but they must sell.  This time, however, something caught my eye.

Prior to about 1980, Tom-boy Market was one of only a couple local grocery stores available to homeowners in Oakville, Missouri where I grew up.  My first understanding of the term "Tom-boy" was due to this store and in fact, I associated it first with the store and was confused when a rowdy girl in my school was called one.

The nostalgia being too much, I bought the bottle, not really knowing what I would do with it.  Suprisingly (or maybe not), the imitation Vanilla inside still smelled good, however, my wife wanted nothing to do with it.

I then remembered visiting a small neighborhood market in St. Louis Hills on Chippewa called LeGrand's.  I'd discovered this store accidentally several years earlier while on a trip to my favorite donut stop, Donut Drive-in.  I normally stop at the donut shop early mornings before the sun is up and the glow of neon and the name caught my eye.

LeGrand's still operates a grocery store there as well as a deli. 

 What fascinated me inside was that they maintain a Tom-Boy museum of old store-branded products, displaying them above the fruits and vegetables.

They even continue to use and maintain the original Tom-Boy shopping carts.

I couldn't think of a better place for my bottle of vanilla to call home.  So on Friday, I went to LeGrand's on my lunch hour.  I considered adding the bottle covertly wondering if anyone would ever notice the addition, but as I was standing, looking for the ideal location, the manager approached me and asked if she could help me find something.  So I told her my intention to donate the bottle to the store.  She was very happy and appreciative and found it a place of honor on the shelf:

She then offered a free lunch in exchange for my donation, which I gratefully accepted.  Looking at the menu, I realized there wasn't a more appropriate sandwich to order than "The Tom-boy".  That and bag of Uncle Ray's Hot Potato chips made for a tasty lunchtime surprise.

I'm glad my Tom-boy found her way home to join the LeGrand's Tom-boy Sisterhood.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Why did I buy the topic of today's post?  I don't have to explain myself to you or anybody else!  I don't know what makes me buy empty vintage grocery cans.  Maybe their throwback design.  Maybe their reminder of the days of my youth.  Maybe their 25 cent price tag?

At any rate, when I saw these sitting in the basement of an estate sale home, I grabbed them.

When I saw this can, I thought the same thing a friend shouted when I showed it to him: "Don't open that can!"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Popcorn of the Future

As mentioned in this post, I consider myself a popcorn connoisseur.  I find it hard to pass up popcorn poppers in whatever form they may take.  I bought this Amana Radarange MWP-1 microwave popcorn popper at an estate sale in Lemay, Missouri last Saturday for $1.  It reminds me of an inverted Gemini space capsule.

As it turns out, this was the first microwave popcorn popper available and I believe it dates from the late '60's to early '70's.  This was, of course, prior to all of the bagged variety you can buy now.  You simply load 1/2 cup of popcorn into the cone shaped receiver which rests in a cup, no oil required (or allowed for that matter).  Set the microwave on high for 3 1/2 minutes.  According to the manual, the cup concentrates all of the microwaves into the bottom of the receiver where the kernels are sitting, allowing the popped kernels to rise above and not get burned.  The cup stays hot after popping, so it's possible there's some type of metal in there that attracts the waves and heats just the cup.

Like air-popped popcorn, it's pretty dry when done.  There were good number of unpopped kernels.  I might have extended the popping time better results.  Add plenty of butter and salt and it's pretty tasty.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bugs Bunny Sticker Fun

A couple months back I went to an estate sale in Webster Groves.  I didn't find much there, but as I was leaving, I saw this on top of a wardrobe, only visible as I was coming down the steps to the basement. 

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