Saturday, May 15, 2010

Signs of Old Times: Advertising Antiques

What is it about advertising, or ‘country store’, collectibles that make them so cool to me? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, show up at the estate sale of a guy who used to own a store back in the 50’s and who put away some of the old fixtures and stock in his attic. Every old coot in over-alls will show up at 5am for a crack at some dusty old signs or faded boxes of corset wax or whatever strange stuff they sold back then.
I’ve got to admit that I have the bug too. A good tin advertising sign can double as wall art and will hold its value a heck of lot better than a print from Crate N Barrel. And there’s something about old country store antiques that can remind you of your roots. Just a couple of generations ago, the majority of Americans lived in the country on farms. Our ancestors only traveled out of state a few times in their lives. The country store down the road was a hub – not just for food and gas but for social activity too. Boring, but true.
I remember when I was a kid playing little league football in my home town. Back then, coaches thought that depriving kids of water ‘made them game tough.’ –I guess the same concept applied to the turf because it was a hot, dry dust bowl during practice. On the drive home, we passed by Hill’s Store. It was a classic country store with one of those old water cooled chest coolers with the ice water circulating around the glistening, ice-cold bottles of soda. Grape Nehi. Orange Crush. Royal Crown Cola. Mountain Dew. Popping that cap on the side opener and chugging the contents was, without a doubt, the most lascivious experience that an eleven year old boy could ever hope to have.
Occasionally, my brothers and I would bike miles down country roads to Hills Store. Our mission? Those bottles of soda at the end of the journey. Think about the sensory experience of chugging a Squirt soda in the spring sunshine while careening down a country road, all the while inhaling Honeysuckle perfume welling up from the roadside. –Yearning for that old Coke sign yet?

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