Hearing ghost stories

by White on Rice Couple on May 30, 2009

antique-store

I often find myself lost in time and losing track of time when I’m wandering through vintage, antique and thrift stores. If I’m not careful, I’ll easily pass hours in the quiet corners of my favorite vintage shops, and having quiet conversations with the merchandise for sale. Before I know it, half my day has passed and I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing but question the history, story and past ownership of old items that are sitting on the shelves and racks.

antique-store

I’ll spend minutes, sometimes hours, pondering the existence of an old bowl, who had owned it, what their life was like, and the amazing foods that was served from that humble vessel. I’ll pass by an antique chair and imagine the lives of who sat in it, what they were reading while resting in it, where and  how it ended up in the store and why it’s forgotten in the corner of the shop.

My quiet obsession is with anything old, faded, used, forgotten and left for sale. All of these relics have a history, a grand story to tell. My ears are ringing and I love to listen.

I love old rotted, paint-chipped wood, rusted metal, old architectural salvage hardware, dishes, bowls, plates, furniture, clothes and everything that has lived through history in someone else’s possession. Anything that was treasured by someone from a past era and that is now sitting in a vintage, antique store has a story to tell. When I pass by old paint cans, I ask what walls their colors had graced. A stack of plates from the 1940′s, flawless of chips or cracks, tells me that their original owner cared for them with caution, keeping them in perfect condition after all these years. I wonder how many dinner parties these heirloom plates have seen and how many generations of families it’s been passed down to.

antique-store

The price tag isn’t always a reflection of the items value. One time, I found some old cast iron pans, slightly rusted, but in still in perfect form. It was given a value of $5, which I found to be a steal. This was a heavy iron pan that must have seen the days of the Oregon trail, provided many warm meals during the California gold rush, or even accompanied a cowboy along his travels in the great plains. Maybe the sagas I’m envisioning are over exaggerated and only drawing from the romance of American history that I learned in the 5th grade or saw on “Little House on The Prairie”.  Regardless, I found that cast iron pan to be priceless. The $5 price tag seems so unappreciative of it’s history.

antique-store

Silly as it may sound, being surrounded by old, vintage and antique items makes my imagination go on a wild historical ride.

Are there any old items that you cherish? Is there a story behind it? I’d like to hear.

Maybe I’m not the only one hearing ghost stories.

-Diane

antique-store

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Manggy May 30, 2009 at 2:33 am

I love these antique food-related items too, but especially in the States I found them to be considerably expensive (except at flea markets, probably, where people just want to get rid of things without knowing the proper value). I do love these pictures that you’ve taken of the shot, I can appreciate the beauty of the individual items :)
I don’t have any particularly old things, except for some items my grandfather owned: a set of blunt knives used for wood carving, and a book of letters he wrote my grandmother. I never knew him but having these around, I do feel connected somehow :)

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2 Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary May 30, 2009 at 4:38 am

See those teacups on the bottom shelf?? That is my grandmothers china set. I believe it’s called Desert Rose. They sat in her hutch for more than 30 years. When we moved her into assisted living, my Mom took them and I’m sure that when it’s time, they will be mine. I love that set.

One of my most prized possessions is my great-grandmothers wooden rolling pin. It has bright red handles that are nicked and chipped, but other than that, it is in perfect condition. Mom and I guess that it has to be at least 90 yrs old. Everytime I’m rolling out dough, images of her flash into my head. She’s been gone for more than 20 yrs now, but that rolling pin that probably didn’t cost more than a dollar all those years ago, brings her closer to me everytime I use it.

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3 Phoo-D May 30, 2009 at 5:46 am

What a beautiful post!

We have a set of large rusty antique keys which come from my great, great grandfather’s farm. They homesteaded in the West, and developed a large orchard pioneering the development of new varieties of fruit through grafting. The colorful stories my grandfather tells of visiting his grandparents on the farm as a boy always come to mind when I look at the keys.

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4 Carolyn May 30, 2009 at 6:49 am

I have my grandmother’s cutting board. She was a phenomenal cook who could always produce at least 5 things from her refrigerator at any one time. I’ve been trying to channel her with my own cooking. She could re-create meals just by tasting them once. I can’t help wondering how many incredible meals were made on that cutting board. It is old and a little termite-bitten, with rough edges, but it is beautiful.

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5 Jean May 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

When I saw the Desert Rose teacups in the second to last picture I almost wept. That was my mom’s china, too. She died when I was a little girl. Her face is kind of hazy in my memory, but I still can see her hands holding that china teacup. Thank you for bringing that memory back to me today.

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6 Whitney May 30, 2009 at 10:23 am

Wonderful post. It is so amazing to find forgotten treasures.

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7 Ibby Jenkins May 30, 2009 at 11:32 am

I love all things old, starting with old houses, and then everything that goes in them. For years I used to collect worn out stuffed animals, torn and patched and obviously loved by some kid (or adult). I couldn’t bear for them to be discarded. I am currently writing/making a genealogy book about my ancestors 10 generations back and am loving finding out how they lived, what they owned…”fethered bed with bolster and pillow, brass kettel, and yron pot”. I treasure every old thing I’ve ever collected (and there’s lots!) and my connection to the people who owned/loved/used/treasured it before me.

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8 Chez US May 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Beautiful story … we found ourselves wandering through a similar store last night searching for the perfect round dining room table. So many stories to be told in a shop such as this.

The tea cups with the rose on them … my mother had a set of dishes like this when I was growing up – I use to hate them, but now every time I see that pattern I stop and realize how much I actually loved them! Thanks for the great memory, Diane!

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9 White on Rice Couple May 30, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Manggy- Wow, a book of letters sounds just wonderful. What a wonderful peak into their lives and past.

Lisa, Jean, Chez Us- I never knew the history behind those Desert Rose tea cups! I knew they were special when I saw them on that shelf, but really hearing your stories puts tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Lisa- You’re a wonderful baker as well and I can see the love and talent that was passed onto you via your Grandmother’s rolling pin.

Phoo-D – I love old rusted keys, they always stop me in my tracks when I see them in the stores. Thanks for sharing your great great Grandfathers pioneering story, what an amazing man.

Carolyn- Now that’s a cutting board with so much history. Rough edges around the board is proof of all the amazing cooking that she nurtured your family with. Thank you.

Whitney- Thank you too!

Ibby- What a wonderful project!! I’ve always wanted to do work on a genealogy project for my family but never got around to doing it. Thanks for the inspiration.

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10 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 30, 2009 at 5:38 pm

I’ve never been one for sets of dishes, but I love going to stores like this and buying the one plate, one cup, one bowl that seems to have gotten separated from its set. I always wonder about that — how is it that the one thing is in the world on its own? I like to think that I’m adopting all of the plate and cup and bowl orphans and giving them a nice new home.

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11 Rachael May 31, 2009 at 2:01 am

My husband and I work at a private Catholic International School in Tokyo- crazy combination, I know- and recently we built a new school as well as a new building for the Brothers to live in. Before the Brothers moved, they emptied out their library. I found so many old antique books that I absolutely fell in love with. My favorite book is called “The World’s Greatest Letters” and it is filled with letter from the likes of Napolean, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln…there are love letters, political letters…. It is so much fun to look through the letters, imagining the person who wrote them, how they made it to the sender, etc. I also love the smell of old books- another perk. Beautiful post!

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12 White On Rice Couple May 31, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Lydia- What a wonderful perspective by adopting the orphan plates and bowls! I love having an eclectic collection as well. Thank you for the warm idea!

Rachael- Oh, yes, old books, another of my absolute favorites! I’m thrilled that you’re doing great things over there in Tokyo and finding some priceless treasures too.

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13 Heather May 31, 2009 at 3:08 pm

i love these pictures! wandering antique stores is a favorite hobby of mine – so relaxing to just lose yourself there.

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14 pam May 31, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I’m like Lydia, I collect orphan things. I love old mixmatched things and pretty much surround myself with them.

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15 White on Rice Couple June 1, 2009 at 1:27 am

Heather- Yes, thanks for the reminder that it’s relaxing! I always feel so calm while wandering the stores.
Pam – We should start a club: Adopt oprphan dishes! I’ll be the first to have a HUGE collection.

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16 Allen June 1, 2009 at 7:44 am

I love this post and agree, there is something magical and special about the hidden stories behind antiques. My mother has all of our family heirlooms and I went through them when I visited recently. The only one in my possession is my great great grandmother’s ‘spider’ (cast iron skillet). Forget about fancy cookware, this skillet just gets better with age.

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17 Jen June 1, 2009 at 10:37 am

I share in your wonderment. My mom and I used to spend hours upon hours in antique markets. I treasure the jewelry I found during those excursions. This past Mother’s Day, we revived the tradition by scouting out a new shop and found many trinkets. One of my favorites is an old Max Factor Hollywood makeup tin that must have a very dramatic story attached! My other tokens are a croissant roller and a handmade table with legs of birch tree branches and a worn green top.

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18 foodwoolf June 2, 2009 at 11:19 am

First off, Holy CRAP! I love the new design! The site looks gorgeous!

I’m so glad you’re a ghost storyteller whenever you go into an antique store. I’m that person too. I obsess over old dishes but mostly I stand by the box of faded photos. I’ll spend an hour with antique photos–I scour the images for odd faces, strange moments in time, funny black and whites–all the while I make up stories for them. I’ve taken a number of interesting faces and “lost ancestors” home with me and made them part of my family. When I finally have you over for dinner I’ll show you my collection. I’m sure you’ll have your own stories for them…

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19 Mrs. L June 2, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Loved that first photo. Made me want to go find the shop and explore.
I have a wonderful tea set that my Grandma gave me that was painted by her Grandma. I’ve never used it but I love looking at it and knowing the history. I wish I could have been there when my Great Great Grandma was serving my Grandma tea in them.

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20 White on Rice Couple June 2, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Allen, Jen, Foodwoolf, Mrs. L- I read your great comments at least twice! Thank you for sharing with me. Now you’ve all inspired me to spend my next day off at a vintage store! For sure I’ll look for antique photo’s, more cast iron skillets, jewelry and tea sets!

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21 Murasaki Shikibu June 7, 2009 at 4:31 am

I have collected antiques too (in the past) and I still have quite a collection of them. My current lifestyle doesn’t allow me to spend money on such luxuries anymore though. :)

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22 Jeanette EA August 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I’m new to your site but I’ve been enjoying your posts, recipes and photos. The “ghost stories” series most of all. Like you I love things from the past, those that were once part of history, of lives of people generations before ours. I enjoy visiting thrift stores, goodwill stores and consignment stores. I get excited when I see something really old and yet in very good shape. True, the former owners took great care of them. They were precious relics from the past. Sometimes, I couldn’t stop myself from bringing them home… too precious to be left out there. Before my Mom died, she passed on some items she’d been taking care of for years… some were early gifts from my Dad. Beautiful linens from the Far East. Jewelry from when she was young. My Mom was a very good “saver”. She would save anything… you wouldn’t even see any trace of old age in some of them. When she died, I brought home with me some of their old wedding gifts… Using them everyday, makes me embrace their value even more. Remembering too that I, as a child, would use them, living with my parents and siblings back home in the Philippines, decades ago. I find pleasure in sharing these treasures and the love for them to my own daughter at present. Thank you for sharing your passions to us…

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23 Stephanie November 23, 2012 at 7:44 am

I have finally discovered why I love Antiques and the stories they seem to bring to your mind. Thank you for putting into words my feelings for anything old. I have always felt that the older the item the more character it has. Maybe it is the stories behind the item. Absolutely fabulous posts. Thank you all!!

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