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Urban Archeologist: Sometimes You Find People

'Digs' aren't always about the items for sale.

I have mentioned in past articles and blog posts that one of the benefits of Urban Archeology is the social aspect. Like in everyday life, we sometimes are thrown into unplanned social situations. Sometimes they are just a glance or a nod of acknowledgment, and sometimes they result in genuine conversation.

I don’t go to tag sales looking to create relationships — I am there to hunt and dig. Some sales, however, result in the best tips or leads just by striking up a conversation that began when someone is thinking out loud such as, “Whew! There’s a lot of stuff here!” or “I wonder what this is?”

This past weekend at a garage sale in Ridgefield, I answered back to someone who was doing just that.

Despite the lingering remnants of Storm Alfred, there were still sales to be dug through and it was in Ridgefield where I found myself exploring a wide assortment of collectibles, books and furniture.

Dave, the host of the garage sale, was affable and quick to offer me a set of Mark Twain books when he couldn’t find any old paper to sell me. I continued to look and immediately fell into a conversation initiated by another Ridgefield resident, Ed Byron, who was inspecting a curious belt buckle made from coins soldered together. As we looked for markings on the piece, I shared with him what draws me to these sales. He admitted to having just purchased a very old book, a Bible, which he couldn’t date because the first few pages had been torn from it. (Picture: book in hand)

Ed is an interesting soul. A retired engineer and owner of a local upholstery business, he had been to this sale the day before and returned to buy the Bible and some other things. Appreciating my interest in old paper he was nice enough to let me look through it. Together we discovered a few items that had been tucked within the pages: a pressed fern, a blotter with some faint writing on it, and the section of the book I was looking for, “family records.”

This was full of interesting detail including births, deaths and, most importantly, the dates of each. Several records show dates in the 18th Century. If they weren’t written in at a later date then this is a very old Bible. (Records CU)

I thanked Ed for allowing me to dig through his 'find' as though it were mine and to snap a few pictures. He is another Urban Archeologist, who was able to find the one item in the sale that contained the most interesting story. Thanks also to the original owners of the Bible as there is now the possibility of some interesting genealogical research.

This was the only sale I visited that day. I purchase nothing but I felt as though I left with much more than what I walked in with. Breaking the 'ice' with the homeowner and other diggers only leads to a better experience and I hope to meet others like Ed and David.

These are the kinds of things that make 'digs' so much more worthwhile.

Two Questions for this week:

  1. Do you recognize the name of the original owners of this Bible?
  2. Have you ever met anyone interesting while searching for your treasure?

Please leave your story in the comments below the tag sale listings.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good 'dig' or a good story. You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

Area Tag Sales

Brookfield 116 Obtuse Road S.  Fri, Sat. & Sun. 9-4  Danbury 15 Grove St.  Fri., Sat. & Sun. 9-2  Middlebury  135 North St.  Fri., Sat. & Sun. 9-4  Monroe 63 Birchwood Road  Sat. 9-3 Naugatuck  98 Valley Drive  Sat. 9-3   New Milford  122 Second Hill Road  Sat. & Sun. 10-4  Newtown 90 Hattertown Road  Sat. & Sun. 9-2  Oxford 98 Hawley Road Sat. 9-4 Silano Drive Sat. 8-2  Southbury 312 Laurelwood  Fri., Sat. & Sun. 9-3  Waterbury  56 Essex Avenue  Sat. & Sun. 9-4    429 Frost Road, Apt. 2 Fri., Sat. & Sun. 9-5  Watertown  8 Fairview Circle Sat. & Sun. 9-3    114 Vail Road  Fri. & Sat. 8-4 
ts November 17, 2011 at 10:57 AM
Urban Archeology seems to be the process but the science is much more like Urban Anthropology in this case. I find myself drawn in fascination to the old photos and memorabilia that I see at flea markets although it feels invasive and almost sacrilegious. Not so if that fascination is to understand the subject with a respectful curiosity. Thank you for my new found terminology that will eliminate the "creep" factor the next time I go on a "social science" mission.

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