Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween 2012

Halloween snuck up on me again this year.  I did manage to get my annual outside display up and even a few decorations in the house.  Traditionally, Halloween usual spells the end of garage sale season.  Estate sales will continue of course.

Today's post features some Halloween-themed items I picked up throughout the past year at sales.

A few vintage Beistle die cut decorations

Monday, October 29, 2012

Uncanny Finds -- Oh Ohhh It's Magik!

Friday morning, after having hit the sale where I found the previously-blogged clock and can opener, and after having stopped at the Southwest Diner for a little breakfast (actually, it was a huge breakfast), my friend and I headed over to another estate sale in Webster Groves on Catalpa.  We parked about a block away (as it turned out, unneccessarily since there was an open spot across the street).  As I was approaching the house, still on the sidewalk, I stepped on its edge not realizing how high above the ground it was.  I twisted my ankle, attempted futilely to catch myself, and then took what we like to call in our family "a dirty fall".  I hit the sidewalk and rolled.  Surpisingly, I only hurt my pride, as they say.

The sale was for the estate of a dentist who actually operated (no pun intended) out of his basement.  My friend managed to score a $20 box lot of artificial teeth which as it turns out also held a jar of....ACTUAL HUMAN TEETH!!! (Queue Psycho music).   A little too much on the creepy side for me, I focused on some old cans on a shelf.  I had to have this one for $2.

I'm not sure they choose the right stereotype when they picked their mascot.  His turban and robe don't really strike me as Japanese.   In fact, he kind of reminds me of the Marvel villain The Mandarin, particularly with the rings and electric bolts eminating from his hands.  They couldn't spell "Magic" either, so I'll give them a little slack.  Perhaps too many paint fumes.  St. Louis Paint Manufacturing is still in business today.

Houston, The Can Opener has Landed

At the same sale I picked up the starburst clock from my previous post, I found another Mid-century piece.  Though this one was a little more utilitarian, you can't deny those space-age stylings.  It looks for all the world (or is that moon?) like a lunar lander.

I was familiar with both the literal Swing-a-way can opener that mounts on the wall and swings, well, out of the way as well as the hand-held variety, two of which I have in my kitchen drawer right now -- all bought from garage sales, mind you.  But I wasn't aware of this electric version.  In addition to a can opener, it boasts a knife sharpener.  For a can opener, it's a pretty good knife sharpener.  Cans on the other hand, it seems to have an issue with.  While all the parts appear to be working in harmony with one another, it just wants to drop the can and give up.  Oh well.  When you get this kind of styling, who's going to argue about function?

Swing-a-way Corporation is a St. Louis-based company that was founded in the 1930's and is still in business today.   They are one of the few remaining companies that still manufactures their product here in the United States.  Coincidentally enough, they were in fact the first can opener in space, selected by NASA for use on Skylab.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Midcentury Star

I went to an estate sale in Maplewood, Missouri early Friday morning with a friend.  The sale started at 7:00 a.m. and there was a fairly good-sized crowd, but fortunately my friend had gone to the house the night before and grabbed us line tickets, numbers 1 & 2.

If you've ever been to the first day of an estate sale when it opened, you are familiar with the crowding, pushing and rush to be the first to the bounty that lies within.  It's what I like least about estate sales.

From the pictures of the sale on, I wasn't sure where the item I was looking for was located.  It was either the basement or the large garage in back.  I had bet on the garage and that was my intended target, however after gaining access to the house, we found we couldn't exit the house from the back door and would actually have to go back out the front to get to the garage.  My friend found what he was looking for, records, but I hadn't found my item.  By the way, this post isn't about finding what I was looking for, it was something I saw after going back in the house.  As I was descending the stairs to the basement, I saw hanging on the other side of the handrail a Mid-century starburst clock.  I've been looking for one for quite a while (having given a couple away years ago before I was interested in Mid-century).  Now, I could have stopped on the steps, grabbed the clock and attempted to feed it through the narrow opening  between the ceiling and the handrail, but I thought that would be rude.  Apparently, the person immediately behind me had no such qualms.  She grabbed the clock and without letting go, lifted it off it's hook and carried on the outside of the rail the remainder of the way down the steps.  I was kicking myself.  I followed her for a few minutes around the basement as she examined the clock with the hope she would change her mind, but she wasn't letting go.  Resolved, I continued on looking through other items and trying to find the one I had actually come for.  After not finding anything in the basement, I headed back upstairs to get another look.  Finishing up there, I did my usual second pass and headed back down into the basement.  There in closet, I discovered the young lady who had the clock earlier had set it down.  I snatched it up and took a look at it.  It was pretty rough looking and certainly the reason she had put it back.  But I saw some potential in it and bought it for $12.

At home, I began the cleaning.

As you can see, the face was pretty dirty including some mold.  There is also a spot where the brass finish had worn off.  But with some baking soda, Mr. Clean scrubbing pads, and some brass polish, I plodded on.

The rays detach, so it made for easy cleaning.

The end result

This thing is *huge*.  It measures 38 inches from spire tip to spire tip.  The other nice thing about the clock is it's spring driven, so no wire hanging down the wall detracting from the look.  The clock is made by Forestville in Connecticut, but the movement is marked France.  Inside, I found the manufacture date of October 21st, 1962.

The gears were suprisingly clean considering the exterior's shape.  The clock didn't come with a key, but fortunately, my mantle clock key fit it perfectly.  After winding it, it began ticking away like it hadn't missed a beat.

Oh, and what about the item I had actually come to the sale for?  Well, that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Learning to Draw

When I was young, I wanted to be an artist. More specifically, I wanted to be an artist for Marvel Comics. My older brother was an artist, and I found inspiration from the pictures he would draw. My earliest attempts at heroic anatomy where typified by swipes from comic book covers drawn by legendary greats such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and John Romita. Outside of copying the styles of others, I really had no guidance in developing my skills.

Around the age of 13, I discovered a show in the Saturday morning television lineup called "Drawing Power".  All-but-forgotten, it featured an imaginery staff of cartoonists including the never-quite-made-it comedian Lenny Schultz. Each week brought the further adventures of Dewey Decimal, The Golden Turkey awards, and other animated antics. Presented to you, always of course, with a very important lesson. I followed along with my drawing pad, developing my own cartoon characters, but the show never really did spend time teaching artistic concepts.

Several years later, I came across the great Bob Ross on PBS. I spent a half hour every Saturday afternoon marvelling at his broad strokes from which mountains, streams and forests sprang. I even bought the official Bob Ross art kit, but could never match the scenes brought to life through his phthalo blues and burnt umbers. Alas, my paints dried up along with my dreams of becoming an artist.

Long before Bob Ross' "Happy Tree" was even a content acorn hanging from its mother's branch, there was Jon Gnagy.

I'd never heard of Jon Gnagy until this past Friday when at an estate sale in Mehlville I came across an interesting box which begged exploring.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I found this "Snoopy" bank at a garage sale a couple weekends ago for a quarter.  He was a little dirty, but cleaned up nicely.  I'm fairly certain it's a knockoff and not a licensed Peanuts product, especially since it doesn't say "Snoopy" anywhere, nor are there any copyrights given to United Features.  Based on his look, I believe he's from the early to mid 1960's.  A good friend told me a friend of his collects knockoff Snoopys and calls them "Snoppies" because of the misspelling on one she has.  This is definitely a "Snoppy".

Either the bank was never used, or the kid had mastered the old butter knife penny removal trick.

This may have been a carnival prize like the other "Snoppies" I have.

I ended up selling this Snoopy on eBay last week for $10.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

And Other Times One Man's Trash...

Recently, I wrote about my curbside finds in Webster Groves.  A couple days later, I drove by the same house to see if any additional "treasures" had been thrown out.  I found this Silvertone portable record player and brought it home.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I've written on Beistle decorations in the past.  Those were Halloween cut-outs and typically what most people think of when they hear the Beistle name. 

I found these German Octoberfest cut-outs at an estate sale last winter.  Most Beistle cut-outs were used to decorate homes and schools.  I'm not sure what walls these would have adorned.

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