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Warren Dixon: Anyone have an ashtray they want to donate?

I never thought you had to be antique to appreciate antiques. But antiques are getting younger. If you know what I mean.


It’s like watching sports. The players keep getting younger every year. I don’t age a whole lot, but basketball players start college a lot younger than they used to.


Antiques are getting like that, too. Just the other day someone bought an unused 1964 Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies box for $795. Granted, it had a full-color photo of Snagglepuss on it, but $795? And 1964 was just yesterday. The Cocoa Krispies were still crisp.


My younger buddy Terry Crouse set me straight on this antique business the other day. Terry is the exceptionally talented Project Manager remodeling the old Liberty Hardware building, turning it into the Liberty Heritage Museum. Did I mention that Terry is younger?   


Terry gets excited when he finds something from the 1970s. I keep trying to convince him that these items are not old but he, probably failing math in school, insists they are 50 years old.


Terry and I were visiting the Ramseur Museum the other day, a visit I recommend that you take, when Terry mentioned something quite unsettling. 


“Remember,” he said, “we need to include items in our museum that the younger generation won’t even recognize. Like ashtrays and rotary dial phones.”


Antiques have always intrigued me, but they were old antiques. I would visit my grandparents and great aunts and admire their corner cupboards and pie safes and cedar chests and their thick pink glassware and their water dippers and buckets and fireplaces. It was always a dream world for me to be around so many antiques. 


One day, grandma set me straight.


“I grew up with old stuff,” she said. “Everyday of my life, I’ve had this old stuff. I want new stuff.”


And to punctuate her remarks, she later sold some of her household furnishings to an antique dealer whose ad she’d seen in the paper.


An antique dealer is someone who sells the same stuff you grew up with, for prices that, if you could have sold it for, you could have afforded something better.


I was shocked. She’d sold some quilts, an old table and who knows what else. But she explained it to me with perfect logic.


The quilts, she said, were shot. They were handmade and the antique dealer was quite foolish to offer her $5 for the whole bunch. She knew a deal when she saw one.


And the table. The old table had sat on the back porch. Years ago someone had painted it purple and when storms came up from the south, the rain blew in on it. The dealer had offered grandma $15 for it and she had jumped right straddle of the deal.


I told grandma that if she wanted to sell her stuff, sell it to someone in the family. She didn’t have to go to an antique dealer. 


She let me know that no one would have wanted the table. Her grandfather had made it and the old thing was probably over a hundred years old. Didn’t even have a nail in it, just pegs.


I sulked all the way home. Every time I see an old table in an antique store, I wonder if it was grandma’s. 


For awhile, Sandra and I roamed around antiques stores looking at, and occasionally buying, depression glass. Depression glass is so named because it sends you into a deep depression to see the prices on the same glass that service stations once gave away. 


Nowadays, Terry and I are perusing antique stores looking for items related to the history of Liberty. Once people found that we were creating the Liberty Heritage Museum, they have begun to donate many items.


Ann Brower has been very generous, donating Chatham Bank memorabilia. Nancy Faust Carter shipped a chest of drawers handmade by her grandfather near Liberty around 1870, all the way from Longmont, Colorado. One person has offered part of a moonshine still, complete with the axe mark courtesy of the revenuers who busted it up. Another has offered a wooden leg from a Civil War soldier. 


People have come forward with Liberty Chair and Gregson’s furniture made in Liberty. Lynn Routh donated a Johnson’s Chevrolet calendar. Earl Johnson, from Randleman, operated the business in Liberty for awhile during the Depression. So far, no one’s donated an ashtray.


But Terry and I keep looking for treasures. After we left the Ramseur Museum, as we looked through a local antique store, something in the very back caught my eye. There across from an oak filing cabinet was the very kitchen cabinet I had grown up with, complete with the built-in flour sifter and pull-out shelf.


And beside it was the very scooter I had scooted down College Street in my youth, which I might add, wasn’t so long ago.


I had to laugh. Someone had really goofed when they put this stuff in an antique store. 


“Are you going to buy it?” Terry asked.


“Are you kidding?” I said. “I grew up with this stuff. I want new stuff.”


 I don’t understand why they don’t make antiques old, like they used to.