I love shopping at antique stores. I rarely ever buy anything, but I can spend hours in them. Every object has some sort of story, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the person selling the item has written a little bit of that story down, a tantalizing clue into it’s past. And you can find entertaining lies and embellishments in antique stores. To-day I found a recently built “antique” armoire and some heavily refurbished other articles of furniture (including the unfortunate choice of putting a tacky marble top on top of a pretty nice looking 1920’s dresser). I found an old-timey print that bore a tag claiming it to be from 1896, when it was pretty obviously from the late 1960’s or 1970’s. And maybe a personal favorite in the “oh no you di’n’t” category was someone trying to sell some cheap “collectible antiques” in the original packaging that said “collectible antiques” on them.
Anyway, all that aside, the real appeal of antique shops for me is collections of old personal photos and postcards. Good collections of personal photos are rare, since ideally, they would be passed down through the family, but they are an excellent resource for getting ideas of how people lived, or what certain areas of towns looked like when the photo was taken. I’m always on the look out for old photos of Portland that have never been published before, but I haven’t found any good ones yet. Another fun thing to do with old photos is to look for photos that are embossed with a Portland photography studio mark (so you know it came from town), and then to find one with the person’s name written on the back of it. After that, you can go look up information on the person’s life. It’s like making a new friend, except your friend died fifty years before you were born. Postcards are good for the same reasons, but the obvious advantage of a postcard is that your new friend actually wrote something to a friend of theirs, giving you insight into the inner workings of the mind of the postcard author. Of course, Portland is full of people that have an interest in Portland history, so coming across Portland postcards can be a rare and expensive hobby.
Good for me then that I’m in Richland, Washington, right now (more on why I’m here later), where they don’t give a care about Portland or long dead visitors sending postcards out of the City of Roses. I hit a few antique shops to-day, and found a few treasure troves. Most of the postcards cost a dollar a piece, and I could easily see myself spending fifty dollars on the ones that I want. There are some real jewels I found here: “It rains lots out here but don’t get [something] like it does out in Dakotas. Mr. [forgot his name] died 1/2 hour after arriving here. Lots of Dakotans here.” or “I thought Mr. [so-and-so] told you that I was coming out here. I wish you’d stayed to see me. It was the first of April that I was coming here.” or “Don’t you remember me?” All of those are from between 1906 and 1912 if I remember correctly. I’ll go back to the shops tomorrow and pick out my favorites and share them with you.
I did find one that compelled me to purchase it to-day, just on the off-chance that it wasn’t there when I went back tomorrow. It doesn’t contain any of the implied drama of the other ones, but stood out to me for some reason. I’d like to post it now, but since I don’t have access to a scanner here, I’ll share it next week when it turns ninety-five years old. That’ll also give me some time to look up a little background on my newest dead friend, Leo Lange.