Did you know there was a time when a man might carry a pair of opera glasses disguised as a cigarette carrier in his pocket? Did you even know there was such a thing as a cigarette carrying case outside of the packaging in which you can purchase them?
The beauty to the right was a Christmas gift from my grandparents several years ago, but it most definitely speaks testament to the kind of person I am. The binoculars were relatively inexpensive and found in an antique shop near my home. They weren’t something purchased for practical use; they were something I enjoyed the discovery of and the speculation of the story behind them.
I don’t know who owned these binoculars or when. But I do know they have a story all their own. That’s the beauty of antiques. It’s also the reason that you should find your way into an antique shore or two or twelve. When you go inside, you are presented with a variety of stories that you may never have had contact with otherwise.
I started my personal journey with skeleton keys. Currently, I own over 30 keys and am still looking for more to love. Keys were an obvious starting point for me because they are used as a symbol of hope and new opportunities in literature and art. Basically I fell in love with the idea and starting picking them up (generally at a dollar a pop). I don’t know the stories of all my keys, what doors they open, who owned them or anything like that. I do know, however, that they have a story and carry meaning for somebody. Though it may not sound very fulfilling to have no definitive answers to the history of these items, I see it as a mystery I get to take possession of and pick up on at my leisure.
Keys are powerful. Books are powerful, too. I have found original Nancy Drew books with personal notes written inside of them, books of poetry from 1821 and the book you see pictured here. “Brave Men” was written by Ernie Pyle during the 1940s. Pyle was a war correspondent during World War II who eventually died in a hail of machine gun fire. But here, in my possession, is a book he wrote. Now, it isn’t the only copy, and it isn’t signed by him, but it is most definitely his story. Seeing books from days gone by is fascinating. From they way they are bound to their contents, they act as a sort of time capsule, and trust me when I say antique stores are full of them. Even if all you mused over in an antique store was their bookshelves, I can promise you you would not be disappointed.
Outside of the keys and the books that generally catch my attention, there are personal items galore. From records to clothes to dishes to posters to just about anything else that you can think of, antique stores are full of history. You can roam through the shelves for hours and learn more than you ever expected about fashion, ideals and more. I know it sounds like I am glorifying people’s junk, and maybe I am. Regardless of that, if you look at an antique store through the lens of wanting to learn, you really can take in quite a bit.
I’m sure you’ve seen them in the middle of nowhere or in small vacation towns. If you’re lucky, there are some near you. So go. Get up and go to them and look around. See if you learn anything. See if you find things you like. See if you look weird in classes that were in vogue in 1952. Just go see something you have never seen before. Antique stores are two parts adventure for one part history lesson. So, what are you waiting for now?