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- By Sandy Neilly
- During a very late stint in the office a few nights back,
I took a moment to step outside the back door into the crisp
air to look at the moon. The intense stillness of the night was
overwhelming. The stars were brilliant in the cold February sky
and the frigid temperatures seemed to lend them more clarity.
It made me think of another place where stars shine almost as
brightly, but I am usually looking at them from a heated pool
in St. Pete's, Florida, not from an ice-covered deck.
- I thought I was resigned to the fact there would be no trip
south this year, but skipping the annual trek has left a definite
void - a very cold void - in the way we pass the winter. Those
few warm weeks work small miracles mentally and physically.
- A trip south is, truly, something to be appreciated. For
us it is a multi-purpose event. Many very dear family members
and friends live in the Sunshine State or call it their winter
home. We look forward to spending time with them and catching
up on the events in our lives. Although a phone call is a great
way to keep in touch (as is email), there is nothing like dinner
with your family or a glass of wine with friends while chatting
about life in general and and, inevitably, antiques.
- There is no shortage of antique establishments in the 65,758
square miles of Florida and while many visitors plan to enjoy
Disney World, casinos or race tracks - you won't find us at any
of those places when we head south. Instead, our alarms are set
for 4:30 a.m. on Monday mornings and we head out with high hopes
to Webster, a tiny little town not close to anything and only
known because of its gigantic flea market. Depending on where
we are staying, the same holds true for Wednesday mornings at
DeLand, Saturdays at the Wagonwheel in St. Pete's and many others
we find in between. Renningers, in the Mt. Dora area, is a great
location, especially when they have their extravaganza events.
(And yes, Mt. Dora is a whopping 184 feet above sea level ...
a rarity in Florida.)
- At one time, "picking" in the U.S. was quite restricted;
purchase price was dictated by the exchange rate and it had to
be a sure thing if we were considering buying something for re-sale.
Now, however, with the stronger Canuck Buck, bargaining is a
little less desperate than it used to be, but it is still an
absolute necessity. Limitations now are more dependent on how
much you can squeeze into the vehicle you are driving.
- Although we love hunting through the many excellent antique
malls and shops, the outdoor markets are what really excite us.
Not only are you in the fresh air and sunshine, but that is where
you will often find treasures hiding in boxes or buried inside
trailers, or mini vans that haven't been unpacked. So what if
you have chilly naked kneecaps and need a flash light in the
wee early hours? As the sun comes up and the leftovers are exposed
to the latecomers, you will have your buggy filled to the brim
for the third time and will have also accomplished about three
miles of walking - your exercise for the day.
- One of our favourite flea market stories happened a few years
back. We were heading home from St. Petes and decided to
stop at the St. John's Flea Market in St. Augustine (one of our
favourite towns in Florida). We are always optimistic about squeezing
in a few more items on our trip north and this proved to be a
productive stop. We found some nice primitives, including a large
dough bowl. The vendor was eager to sell and we were thrilled
with the price negotiated. A few months later, when our shop
re-opened for the summer, our very first customers came by in
a large recreational vehicle with Florida plates.After spending
some time in the shop, they came to the register to pay for the
item they wished to purchase. What was the item? You guessed
it - it was the dough bowl. We asked the couple what area of
Florida they were from and they replied "St. Augustine."
That dough bowl made a round trip.
- We have only been to a fraction of the flea markets in Florida
and some are much better than others, especially when you are
looking strictly for antiques. The great thing about markets
is the merchandise changes on a weekly basis, along with the
outdoor vendors, so it's fresh pickin's with each
visit. You probably have a few of your own favourites depending
on what part of the state you visit and the areas you are familiar
with. Be adventurous! Try a new location. Get there early. Some
of these folks are set up and selling before 5 a.m.
- The downside to Florida antiquing? There are a couple. One
previously mentioned is the space restriction because of your
vehicle.We have had to pass on many large items over the years
that were excellent bargains but just wouldn't fit into the van.
Another drawback is packing those things you did manage to purchase.This
"ordeal" usually takes up the entire day prior to the
trip home, (which I resent if the weather is beautiful). Our
fellow condo residents look terribly suspicious when we make
trip after trip down the elevator with cartloads of oddly shaped
bags and boxes to be loaded into the van. Packing the vehicle
is comparable to putting together a complex puzzle and once it
is done, you know it has to stay that way until the time you
unpack or someone else unpacks it for you.
- (This "someone" could be Canada Customs, so make
certain you have everything itemized and accounted for when you
cross the border back into Canada. This has happened to us only
once in 20-odd years. We were informed by the staff, who quickly
dismantled our packing, that although they were very good at
unpacking vehicles, they were not nearly as good at re-packing.
They were right.)
- One positive aspect to staying home this winter is it has
given me a real appreciation for all things southern ... possibly
with the exclusion of grits. Not only do I miss my family and
our good friends, I also miss the hunt, which is
often a group activity involving the aforementioned people, making
it even more fun. The ocean and sunshine are on that "miss"
list, as is knocking sand off my shoes - rather than snow off
- Although we cant do anything about the ocean or weather,
at least we can phone and email family and friends. And to satisfy
the need to hunt, we can head out to some of the
great flea markets right here in Ontario to track down some "new"
- If you are fortunate enough to be going to Florida, consider
taking a copy of the Wayback Times with you to read on the trip
down. On page 16, we have listed a few of the markets we are
familiar with and you might like to visit yourself. Or, if you
are staying home as we are, we have provided a list of some Ontario
markets to visit. They might not be as warm outside, but judging
from the vendors we have met, they sure make up for it on the
inside. Drop by and find out for yourselves.
- I hope you will enjoy all the other articles and columns
inside this issue. We have some incredible writers and wonderful
guests, for which I am truly grateful. And of course we have
great readers, too!
- For all you snowbirds - have a safe and enjoyable trip. Happy
hunting, but remember to set aside at least a little time for
- Have a piece of key lime pie for me, would you? (Just a small