Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yard Sale

Yard sales are popular in Pasadena. At a good one you'll find all kinds of deals: furniture, clothing, dishes, books. You name it, people sell it. At a bad one you'll find mostly junk, or the prices are too high and the seller's not willing to bargain.

Weekends around here it seems there's a yard sale on every block. This kind of selling is typically American, and I imagine it goes on around the world as well. In the Midwest we used to have garage sales in summertime. In England I believe they're called "boot sales." We have good weather, so we get to pawn off our junk on each other year 'round.

After I took this photo I met the man in the picture. He said he thought yard sales might have originated in southern California. Maybe so. If not, I'd be willing to bet we're at least the capital.

26 comments:

Bernie K. said...

Those dark socks recall fine memories of a hot, hot summer in St. Louis, ca. 1979, trolling the Hill—the Italian hood—for yard sales. Girlfriend of the era wanted a particular kind of grater. Pooting up and down those rutted backstreets in her red '73 Toyota Punchline, meeting old blind immigrants and barenaked babies.

We fetched up in some guy's back yard, skinny guy, a dad, beside his rickety swingset. No grater for sale, but he had the grill going and was breading green tomatoes. "Where are your kids?"/"At the pool." His wife waddled from the lopsided house with a cooler of Little Kings ales …

We sat in his lawn chairs and talked and ate ourselves stupid as the sun went down. Never got their names; beer makes eveyone a capital fellow. Those were the days when a friend was someone who invited you in without asking for something. And he had on those same dark socks. … memories …

Vanda said...

I used to live in St. Louis too, though a decade and a half later. Yard sales in the summer, looking at Christmas lights in the winter...

I don't think even the concept yard sale is known in most of Europe.

Webradio said...

Hello !

Une jolie photo, qui sent la fin de l'été !

Kahunna said...

Yard sales actually began 400 years ago in Norway. Living in higher latitudes, Nordic house owners would celebrate the melting of the snow with a Yårdenbörgen, proudly laying out their well-used and unwanted wares for sale on their exposed yards. This was a celebrated time of year in Northern Norway since snowfall would stretch late into Spring and begin again early into Autumn, allowing sometimes just a couple weeks of yards without snow cover.

Many times, every house in a Nordic village would have a yard sale on the same day (usually by happenstance). These hûrdenblØcken, or "block sales," would be the Nordic equivalent of the pagan May Day, which celebrates the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring, however in Norway, this celebration usually occurs near the end of July, beginning of August.

Those intrepid shoppers looking for a good deal would arrive early at their neighbors house long before the sun had risen, holding a caged singing bird. The bird's song would signal to the house owner that someone wanted to buy their used goods, prompting them to rise and begin setting up. It is unsure how these shopper acquired the bird (or how they knew their neighbor was going to have a Yårdenbörgen, but historians all agree that they were the first "early bird" shoppers.

altadenahiker said...

Oh no, don't do this to my people. and least say they're Swedish.

Katie said...

Oh I love a good garage sale! But you're right that a lot of these sales are missing the "b" in garage. My last yard sale steal was a beautiful wooden hand-caned high back chair. It was a sale that some teenage soccer girls were running and nothing was priced, and when I asked how much, one said "I don't know. Six dollars?" Of course I said, "Um, OK."

In Minneapolis I loved going to estate sales, where everything in the house was for sale. The first estate sale I ever went to was in an apartment in my building. I thought it was a moving sale and asked the woman (who I thought lived there, but I'd never met) if she was moving, and she said no, the woman had died. I felt horrible! But I bought lots of good stuff for cheap.

USelaine said...

I covet the white VW pop-up camper. I've never been to St. Louis or Norway. But a tree-lined street in Pasadena, eating myself stupid, sounds like the balm. I'll be right over.

Virginia said...

Americana at its best. I just love this little street and the "junk/treasures" all laid out so nicely on the neatly trimmed yard. The gent with the socks is an added plus!

Laurie said...

My husband loves yard sales but I must be missing the gene because I avoid them like ant hills.

I did have a yard sale once. It made me feel sad because no matter what price I said, someone would ask for a lower price so I finally just started saying, "How much do you want to give me for it?" instead of quoting a price. I couldn't figure out if people were always bargaining down because they were so poor or because they were just looking to be confrontational but either possibility left me feeling depressed.

I love this picture, though!

Ted Thompson said...

I was shocked when I came PA from MD. In MD a yard sale was not unusual, but I didn't see a Ton of them. In PA (or at least around York) there seems to be an ordinance that all Yard sales must be within sight distance of at least 2 others...

Petrea said...

Bernie. Sweet.

Vanda, good to see you here again. What do Europeans do with their used junk?

Bienvenue, Webradio. La fin de l'été, c'est vrai. Mais il fait encore chaud ici.

Wonderful historical background, Kahunna. You're giving Bernie K. what we call here in the lower 48 "a run for his money."

Altadena, has Kahunna got his facts wrong? Tell us more about your people.

Katie, I haven't stopped by many of them lately. I went to what was billed as an "estate sale" a couple of weeks ago, but it was all junk. Semantics.

That pop-up camper had to have been a toasty sleeper last night, Elaine.

Virginia, I think it wouldn't be much of a photo without him. He was pleasant to chat with, too.

Ant hills! Laurie, you're funny. I wouldn't buy clothes, speaking of ant hills. Furniture, maybe. Depends on the quality. I have a nice table I got for seven bucks a while back. But as John says, you have to shop a lot of garage sales to come up with a bargain, so if you don't love the hunt, it may not be worth the time.

Petrea said...

Just missed you, Ted! That sounds about like it is here.

Kahunna said...

Altadenahiker, I was thinking to use the Swedes, but they're too easy to include in jokes. I went the Garrison Keillor route and decided to make up a story on Norway. ;-)

Christie said...

I usually don't go to garage sales, but have stopped at a few in my time. My favorite sale deal -- in a great neighborhood -- I got 2 chairs, a glass top table, 2 dressers, 2 lamps, and a "6-drawered family credenza" for $75! I bought them when I was still single, and here we are 13 years later, still using 1/2 of these items.

Hope your sale-ing is smooth!

Bernie K. said...

Just looked at this photo again, and I can decipher the fellow's gesture as one of incipient disappointment. He was on his way to the liquor store for some Indian cigs, stopped to check out the yard-goods.

"Hmmm, maybe these crescent wrenches are Craftsman …"

But no. And they'll be out of Indians at the store. But at least he's not wearing Support-Hose™ …

angie said...

nice photo - it captures weekend, americana, and summer quite well

Tash said...

Hi Petrea,
you did great with this shot. It's so classically american. Our friends from Switzerland were always amazed to see a yard sale & thought it a great idea. I guess the closest they have is a flea market. Just about 14-yrs-ago, I got a lots of great baby things at garage sales.

Dina said...

One of the things I miss from America. A garage sale just doesn't happen in Israel. With two notable exceptions in Jerusalem: the yearly AACI Americans and Canadians in Israel yard sale and the infrequent yard sale run by diplomats' wives, Anglos all.

Vanda said...

In Hungary, where I grew up people just didn't have enough junk I guess. I lived in Austria for 2 years, and see no yard sales, but Austrians are so well organized, I'm sure they have a way to deal with junk.

By the way, I went to the flea market at the Pasadena City College today. It was overwhelming.

Sara N said...

A yard Sale!
We do not have such thing here in Iran! My mom sais it is an intersting job,for those who want to sale and want to bye and I Agree!

JM said...

I thing yard sales must be great and funny too, but that is something we don't do around here...

CB3Dot said...

Funny thing 'bout yard sales. Nevah seen one in the ol' south. Nevah seen one da 8 years in Tucson in da Air Force 'n in undergrad school. I tripped up ta Berkeley in da early 60s fuh Grad School 'n still didn't r'membah seein' none. 'N then I wuz in St. Louis in a swealterin' heat wave. I was walkin 'bout 'n seen this ol' house wit' ol' funiture, ol' paintins layin' 'round 'n then tha' one dat caught m' eye. Ole carpenter tools, plainers 'n 2 han' saws I usta watch mah daddy use w'en I wuz li'l. I walked over to a man fangerin' some thing. I axked 'm, "What's dis?" "It's uh yard sale man. Wheah you frum?" I wisht I hadda' truck!

Also thanks for the kind review of The Violin!

Rambling Round said...

Years ago, we called them Rummage Sales. Now, they are yard or garage sales. Lots of fun!

Petrea said...

Christie, that was a haul!

I have a theory: the reason these junk sales are quintessentially American is because in other cultures people don't buy stuff they don't need.

America is the one culture where extraneous junk is common. We constantly buy the latest toy or gadget, thinking we have to have it. But sooner or later we realize we've got a house full of stuff we don't need and don't want.

So we put it out in the yard and sell it for pennies on the dollar to someone else who thinks "I've got to have it!" And we think that's fun.

What a strange cultural phenomenon. We think we've made a buck when we actually lose money on the deal, and our buyer thinks they've gotten a bargain when what they get is our cast-offs.

There are good things about this: one is that you really can find bargains, like Christie did. The other: recycling!

D.C. Confidential said...

If California isn't the capital of yard sales, I'd place my money on Virginia. I have a friend who goes to yard sales every single weekend in the Commonwealth.

I guess one person's trash really is another one's treasure!

Zuleika said...

Thanks for writing this.