THE SLEEPER HAS AWAKENED!
People all have different markers for the first true sign of spring-for many here in the Northeast it's the first sight of a robin. For others it's baseball. Still others mark the opening of their favorite seasonal ice cream or hot dog stand.
For me, it's the opening of the Saylorsburg Flea Market. Usually Easter weekend, a few stragglers begin to set up, but it's really this weekend where it starts in earnest. So as usual, I fired up my truck and headed out-you need the truck, you see, in case you find the deal of a lifetime, that happens to be four-by-eight feet or smaller. Like the massive Pizza Hut sign I scored for 40 bucks(soon to grace my basement bar!) Or the industrial sewing machine. Or the vintage Manco go-cart with original metal-flake paint. It is here where some of the best of my childhood memories are stored, and for sale.
Best part about Saylorsburg is it is literally built on memories-it is the former site of the Blue Ridge Drive-In Theater. Many a high school night was spent pawing at some poor honor student as she fought my horny advances, while a not-so-good second run movie played on the huge outdoor screen. It is for that reason, I think, that the flea market holds a special, revered place in my heart, and probably no other market or swap meet could ever come close.
The first few weeks are not the best-it takes a good month of people going "oh shit, the flea market is open" to become both vendor and shopper/browser. An absolutely fantastic time to go is Memorial Day Weekend-the place is chock full of the usual vendors plus weekenders cleaning out their basements or just taking advantage of the holiday hysteria to make a few bucks. It will take you a good two hours on a day like that to cover everything, and most likely, you will have to hit everthing twice, as I do, to make sure you did not miss something.
Where else are you going to find antiques (I equate "antiques" mostly with furniture and day to day items prior to 1950, but that's me), vintage toys, produce, new and used tools of all kinds, candy, clothing, powersports items of all kinds, surplus, fireworks (lame ones, it's PA after all), pocketknives, nunchucks, cheap chinese imports that would make WalMart blush, along with some of the best fudge I've ever tasted? Nowhere. The flea market is like your grandmother's cool attic on a bigger, outdoor scale, and everyone's invited.
Generally I buy used tools here-a few vendors are very adept at cleaning out basements and attending estate sales. I can score great deals on name-brand tools (mostly Craftsman, the do-it-yourselfers standby of the last fifty years or more, but a smattering of Snap-On, Proto and the like). There is little damage the average home handyman can do to a hand tool in forty-some years, unless he was a complete primate or using it for something beyond it's design. Over the years I have also learned what constitutes good or bad power tools as well-as companies merge and brands are bought by others, you know the difference between a "Good Black and Decker" and a "Junk Black and Decker", and can buy accordingly.
Probably my best score at Saylorsburg was a "good" Kitchenaid mixer-from a time period when construction and materials choice was top-notch (though they are still pretty well made today). Works like a charm, just had to buy the bowls and attachments. My price? $25. I have to tell you, I got offers of up to $100 as I lugged that thing to the car-it's one of those "once in a lifetime" deals you hope for.
Since this week was light on vendors, I did not get much-just a set of four casters I need for the rolling cabinet I'm building for my coffee maker. I could not find these anywhere for less than four or five bucks apiece, and the cheaper ones were not worth having. I got some heavier, industrial-grade casters out of a large box a vendor had for a buck a piece! "These have been going fast" the guy said. I agreed, and told him why. He seemed happy to be able to sell them at a profit for way below retail. I for one was damned happy to buy.