Saturday, April 1, 2017

Yard Sale Season and My $5. Vacuum Cleaner

It’s Yard Sale Season again! This time of year gets me nostalgic for those Saturday morning cruises for bargains that we took for so many years. Pacifica and the Coastside had a lot of treasures in those garages. We especially enjoyed the pack rats, those hoarders who finally had to let go of part of their stash, for cash. 

Think of it: all over the country, there are treasures hidden in garages and storage lockers that even the "Pickers" crew haven't yet unearthed! This is an ongoing American dream. 

Some sales are neatly set up, and organized.  This one in Pacifica made it easy to peruse the merchandise.

Yard Sale in Pacifica
This one was slightly less organized.  

A few sales reeked of bitterness or urgency.  
We didn't care, as long as there were DEALS. You can't get too emotionally involved.

I have always loved thrift stores, garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales and flea markets. Years ago, I worked for a large thrift store in Redwood City, which is now called "Savers". That was sort of a dream job for awhile. 
The huge variety of items which came in each day, in addition to the interesting people who shopped there, is worthy of a book in itself.

As manager of Thrift Village, in my green smock

In the Production room, where new arrivals would be sorted and tagged.
With that experience, embarking upon my eBay business in 2001 seemed like a natural occupation for me. My eBay name is “Not_New_But_Cool”. I always included  my card, with each item that I sold. 

My husband Mike and I would get out early every Saturday morning, so that we could beat the “early birds” in finding the best deals on what we thought might sell.  There would be signs on every corner, and then some. Some signs could be quite colorful, or clever. This one wasn't around when we were in business, but you get the idea! 



Note that the quality and selection of items at these sales had little to do with the signs.  Generic signs like these often led to the coolest stuff. 
While signs like these led to some of the coolest people: 


Tip for buyers: Always bring small bills. The sellers will appreciate it!  Be courteous.  If the seller says: "No Early Birds" respect that (though Mike will often point out that a few who ignored that rule were the first to get to the good stuff).  

Well over 4,000 positive eBay feedback ratings later, I can say that our success stories stand out, while our failures are swept under the second-hand throw-rug of “experience” and “lessons learned”.   In reality, if you count all of the hours I put into it – just after returning home with the goods – I was making about $1.00 an hour. On a good week. Here is just a minute sampling of items that I sold:

A very small sampling of some of the items that I sold on eBay.

What I learned about the things I was selling was a real education, and it was also great practice for product photography. 

Our living room is like a huge light box, windows on 2 sides, filtered light, and great for time exposures. Our camera was hooked up to our television set, which was a useful monitor. This experience has proved invaluable for when we do product photography for clients these days.  Using a large mirror for highlight & shape, we could make the items stand out over so many of the other images on eBay.

Some of the things that we found were slightly bizarre. 
Ranging from a petrified crocodile head to JFK doll, to campy logo "Closet Boy" hangers, with appropriate image.

  When money was scarce, I even sold a few of my own collectibles.  This included a hand-written letter from May Pang, who was Beatle John Lennon's gal-pal for a few months. That went for a couple of hundred dollars. 

Learning how to package items safely, and creatively was part of the job.  Mike & I would go “dumpster diving” for cardboard boxes, to save money. We learned that bubble wrap is like gold. At one yard sale, I found a lot of it lying around, which the person who was having the sale was happy to give to me. Packing with newspaper is not ideal – too heavy, and things would break.
A few packages for eBay customers,ready to be shipped out.
Dealing with bidders /buyers on a daily basis, I learned how to write up honest but provocative and factual listings. I always provided positive feedback when paid. Of the few times I gave negative feedback, it was earned, and served mostly as a warning to other sellers about certain bidders. That was in the minority, though. Now sellers can’t leave negative feedback, which takes away some of the seller’s options. That is one of many reasons that I don't sell as often on Bay anymore.


 
Pet peeves of garage sale customers: People who leave last week’s yard sale signs taped up, thus faking us out, and wasting our time. There are only so many sales you can go to within the golden hours of 7-10 AM. Luckily, most of the time, a practiced eye can detect a weathered sign from a block away. 


Other gripes: Folks who hold yard sales, and wind up not wanting to part with their stuff, after all. Or those who price their items higher than the market would bear. Irritable persons who would snap at you if you tried to bargain. We figure that bargaining is a part of it (certainly part of the fun of it).   We have seen a few fights break out, at these sales. 

There are things that you learn after awhile – that “Estate Sales” are basically held after someone has died.  These often do not offer "bargain" items, but you can never be too sure.  The "Estate" could be anything from a mansion to a trailer.  

Estate sales usually mean higher prices, and are often not worth it. That being said, some of our best selling items came from estate sales. You just have to know how to shop, and have at least a rough idea of what was trending. The variety of items we sold surprised even us, as we never know what we would find each week at those yard sales. That was the most fun of all...the surprises!
My daughter and I, checking out one yard sale. 

Kelly found a friend at one sale
Every week, we would see many of the same people at the sales (and they would see us). Some earned nicknames. There was the schoolteacher we called “The Book Man”, for obvious reasons....always gravitated towards the book pile. There was the “Stuffed Animal Lady”, whose car was filled with plush toys. There was also “The Junk Man”, who bought machine parts and repaired them. You could tell the folks who were buying to resell, and the ones who were in it just for the fun of it, just by the intensity of their demeanor.



I really enjoyed the citywide yard sale days.  Pacifica’s day for that is different than Half Moon Bay’s, so that we had two such days in the year to look forward to. Since everyone is having sales those weekends, prices are generally lower on stuff, as there is so much to choose from, and sellers know it.  Bargaining is an art. Part of it is like playing poker - if you see a great find, you don't let on.



We learned to pay more, however, for “Benefit” yard sales, those which donate the proceeds to a charity or cause. We don’t even attempt to bargain on those ones. There are certain ones we never went to, as we knew that they would be overpriced, and not for the resale-resale market. 

People often asked me what I sold. “Anything and everything”.  If that is too vague, I’ll specify some of the more memorable items: 


* Vintage books & magazines 
* All sorts of housewares, including vintage appliances; 
* An original Macintosh Computer, with case & accessories, that I got for $5. at a garage sale in Pacifica, and sold for $850.; 
* An antique wooden Madonna that I bought at a yard sale in El Granada for $2., and sold for $325.;
*Film CAMERAS  - lots of cameras! We even sold Mike’s old Hasselblad, when he switched to full digital photography; 
*A vintage model race car that Mike picked up for $1., and sold for over $200.; 
* Handbags:  Dooney & Bourke handbags that I bought for under $5., and sold for between $50. – $200.; 
*Vintage electric Farberware grills, which used to bring in good money. 
* Collectibles of all sorts, too large a variety to even list. 


But everything has a trend, and when we purchased a dozen Farberware grills during one of our last yard-sale runs, we couldn’t get rid of them. Timing is everything in the buying and selling on eBay business. That timing includes which day of the week you start an auction, as well as the time of the auction. Holidays are a mixed bag. 


Once we tried selling items twice and failed, we donated those items to our two favorite local thrift stores.  One is the Alternative Thrift Shop, located at 522 Plaza Alhambra, Ste D, El Granada, CA, run by Cindy Judkins.  


Another source is the Senior Coastsiders Thrift Store, which supports nonprofit programs for seniors and adults with disabilities on the Coastside.

My most lasting garage sale purchase was something that I kept: a Hoover Vacuum cleaner, fully-equipped, for just $5, from an over-packed garage. The seller just wanted to get rid of stuff!  That vacuum cleaner has worked beautifully for 12 years, now.  It truly sucks - and sucks hard....which is what you want in a vacuum cleaner.




In 2009, when our gallery moved to Main Street, I quit the eBay business, and went to work full-time at Spring Mountain Gallery, where I am now co-owner. We are too busy these days to take that time out for yard sales. But I do miss the fun of the find, and the art of the deal.  

Olfactory Memories

I cleaned my coffeemaker this morning with vinegar, and it brought back memories.

The odor of the vinegar.......I will say “fragrance”, as I LIKE the smell.  
O.k., it is close to Easter right now – the obvious correlation is egg coloring. That does register, of course.
Then, there are the canning pickles references.  My first husband’s relatives did a lot of canning & pickling.  They made something called "Chow chow", a relish to put on hot dogs and other foods.  That had a vinegary flavor. 

But the memory that came up, as clear as if it were yesterday, was Westview School.
Me in front of Westview School, 5 years before it was torn down.
When I was a child, as soon as I entered the school's hallway, I knew when our janitor, Pat Harriman, was washing the floors.  He used vinegar to wash the floors, as I do now.  Yes, it is a great, old-fashioned, tried-and-true cleaner.
Pat Harriman, Westview School Janitor
That memory brought back another olfactory reminiscence.   Mimeograph machines and the paper, after it was printed on.
 My friend Leda and I were office assistants at Westview School,  in Pacifica, California. We answered phones (via old-fashioned switchboards), and greeted people at the front desk.
We did a great job. In fact, I got an award for my service as office worker one year.

But we also were artists – we liked to draw.  The mimeograph machine was too much of a temptation for us.
It was right there in the office, and Mrs. Heumphreus, Westview school's official secretary,  was not there, most of the time.

We were in charge.

So, we drew our pages at home, and made booklets of our work to bring to school, to be multiplied. 


You have to understand that there was no such thing as a photocopier back in 1966; mimeograph was the closest thing to it. The pages printed out in a very distinctive purple color – and odor.
It must have been a pleasant smell, overall, because the teachers used the machine to print out our test papers, and immediately after receiving those papers, the students would lift them to their nostrils, and SNIFF. 

We sold our booklets, for 10 cents apiece.  We sold many of our booklets. I also sold a few of my fruit character drawings to Anthony Jeanjaques, a discriminating fellow student art-aficionado.

Mr. Harriman figured into our artistic enterprise, as he let us take paper and artist materials from Westview's supply closet (pencils, paper, crayons) to use for our books.

He was a real softy. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Challenges of Charting a Chinese Family Genealogy

After I had worked on my own family tree for a few years, I began charting my husband Mike's Family Tree, when someone was asked how certain family members were related to others. 

What that led to, in addition to the usual surprises, was an education about the affects of the Chinese Exclusion Act on his family. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act was a United States federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. 


This law was not repealed until 1943 - that is 61 - sixty-one years of what was, in the words of Republican Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts "...nothing less than the legalization of racial discrimination." 
  
In addition, interracial marriages of Whites and Chinese was not made legal in the United States until 1948, which affected other members of the family. 



I found that Mike's grandfather Sam entered the US from China through Seattle, Washington, on September 10, 1920, in the midst of this restriction.  He jumped through some hoops, for sure. He didn't want his children to have to go through this experience, so once he was established, brought his wife Law Moy to the United States, and they had their children in Utah and Wyoming.  

Ways around the Chinese Exclusion Act necessitated smuggling, false documentation, and what were referred to as "paper sons" - Chinese sons of American citizens, at least on paper.  Since Mike's grandfather Sam was not an American citizen at the time, this did not include him, but it may have affected some of the documents that were found for other family members.

Sam and his wife Rose set up a restaurant in Rock Springs, and later in San Francisco, building their own rich family history as American citizens. Sam petitioned to be a citizen in 1948, and became a naturalized citizen in 1950.

Sam Chan, in front of his On Rock Lo restaurant, Rock Springs, 1940s.
The challenges of determining the real ages and names of some of Mike's family members is ongoing. As Michael's cousin told me:  "The Chinese, sign Last Name, Generational Name, Name.  This is the order for caricatures in a name.  All of the girls in the same generation have the same Generational Name and all of the boys have the same Generational Name, but it's different from the girls.  So, for instance, all of the girls, who are my first cousins have the same generational name,"Sook" as me.  All the boys have the same generational name as my brother, "Hing".  It's the duty of the male grandparent, from the husband's side to do this, so Paul Tung named all of us."   She added: : "It's tricky trying to define names that are phonetically written in English, because if you use a mandarin dictionary for a Cantonese pronunciation, it won't be correct, and visa versa. The paternal grandfather gives the names."

Thus explains why "Chin" is also "Chan" in the charts.   

Another great challenge for me is that there is very little about Mike's ancestors on the net.  In essence, I am creating the database for his family, in Ancestry, Wikipedia, and other sites, so that others in his family - or future generations - can access that information. This includes data and photos. 

When I added Mike and his American-born family members, my job became much easier.  Documentation is more available.   Though the Wong-Chan chart does not go back further than 5 generations, I am content to leave it at that.  It is a good start for future generations, considering the affects of our country's discriminatory practices had on Mike's ancestors.  My Irish family members faced their own discrimination two centuries ago, so it does seem to be par for the course. Once we are here...we are HERE.     

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two Trees, Many Branches

History is the recorded story of our species - it has always been an interest of mine.  Family history is personalized, and even more interesting.  Native Americans passed their stories down through the generations, written & verbal.  That is a tradition which we all could benefit from.

I believe that each of us is writing the story of our lives.  Every day, we write a new page, until our last chapter. If we are not famous enough to make the history books, one way to achieve immortality is through our genealogical records and stories.
 My parents never talked about their ancestors.  Living for today, which is what most of us have to do, consumed their lives.  There were very few stories about their origins, save for when my grandfather got drunk, and spilled all about our Cherokee great-grandmother (later found this not to be true), or his friendship with Ima Hogg, Texas royalty (possible).  


For several years, I have worked on my family tree, reaching back in some places to the 1100s. There have been fascinating discoveries.  One branch leads to another...to another...etc. 
When doing my tree, there were (and are) challenges, but I was helped by so many others related to me who were also keeping records.  Our family, for the most part, has been in the USA for centuries, so it was relatively easy to find information. There is a book about my paternal ancestors called: "Trail of the Haglers", by Travis Jackson Hagler (my maiden name is Hagler), and piles of documentation on Ancestry.com, and other sites.  WikiTree.com is a great free site to keep your tree.   

It also helps that I have had four DNA tests taken, which are cross-referenced with others who match, and their family connections. This is part of our "DNA Circle".  Right now, I have 29 matches for specific ancestors, through my DNA circle. Example: There is one goes back to Samuel Harrison Bowen, who fought in the Revolutionary War:


 I am even part of a study about genetics and inherited characteristics.  After finding so many farmers in my background - on both sides - I figured that my early-to-bed-early-to-rise temperament was inherited.  This is my great-great grandfather James Samuel Bowen (1861-1923), on his farm in Mt Vernon, Texas:


 I think I inherited his sense of style, too. 


You get the idea. I have a riches of documentation, connections, DNA evidence, and photos.  I guess I got spoiled by that, because when I began Mike's genealogy, I was presented with many challenges, some specific to the Chinese culture that I hadn't anticipated. I decided to work on Mike's family tree, when we weren't sure how some family members were related to the others.  

Even though both of Mike's parents were born in the USA, Chinese traditions still hold.  For instance, both of Mike's grandmothers had the name "Shee" in them, which went back to Chinese tradition. I found out that "Shee" just means: "Family of" for women who are married in China and immigrate here. Others whose surnames were Moy (Mei, Moi), went back to the Shang Dynasty, etc.   It is also Chinese tradition to call elders "Aunt" and "Uncle", whether they were blood-related or not. Sign of respect. Since we didn't do that in my European-background family, it took some getting used to.  I had to also separate out the blood-related uncles and aunts, which is necessary for a family tree which traces back to ones' origins, etc.

I also learned a lot about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. In the spring of 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur. This act provided an absolute 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration.   The effects of that Act on my research is worthy of a blog in itself: 
http://haglerstories.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-challenges-of-charting-chinese.html



This made it difficult to emigrate to the USA if you were Chinese, but did not stop many - including Mike's ancestors.

Mike's family are some of the most hard-working American citizens I've ever met (or learned about), and many had to fight for the right to stay in this country, one way or another.  They have been resourceful, successful and productive citizens. 

Several of Mike's family served in the military,fighting for the USA., including Uncle Pongee, Uncle Warren, and Uncle Richard Tung. Uncle Richard was honored for his service in the 491st bomb group in WWII; here is a link to an article about one of his experiences during that war: http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2014-11-07/world-war-ii-vet-recalls-dramatic-dogfight

Some of the veterans in our families
Another challenge in Mike's tree is that Chinese had to be self-protective when entering our borders, which included many name changes, and discrepancies in the ages and other details of those entering the US. Where I could go back many centuries in my own family tree, I am content to trace back 5 generations in Mike's.  That his parents and many other relations were born here made it easier to find records on them, but the clues vanish as soon as I "cross" the border into China-records territory.

However, I was able to contribute photos and stories to Mike's tree on Ancestry, which were provided by Mike's mom, uncle, and other family members. Mike's Uncle Richard wrote his life story, which was a great resource for filling in a lot of the blanks. These are gifts for future generations. 

Mike's maternal grandmother Rose was an actress in Hong Kong, and also a beloved citizen in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where Mike's mom and siblings were born & grew up. Rose liked to celebrate International Day by shooting fireworks off of the roof of the family restaurant. 
Rose Chan
There are many fascinating stories in our families, ones which would make great films!  But some family members might not wish certain stories to be made public.  I don't think that anyone in my family cares anymore that my great-grandfather Edward Wayne was shot and killed as he was coming out of a bar on Mission Street in S.F., by gang members in 1923, when he was 39.  He was with another man's wife at the time (married to my long-suffering great-grandmother), so it is suspected that the hit was arranged by the woman's husband.  

There are also San Quentin prison records for my two great-uncles in the archives, mostly for armed robbery, 1940s.  Although they were recidivists, eventually both became solid citizens, and the family just didn't talk about "those things".  

Mike's family has surprises in that regard, as well.  One example is a news story about an explosion which happened in 1939, which in a way was connected to one of his family members, that might be told, now.  That accident made all of the newspapers at the time.

Types of records used in genealogy include birth, marriage, baptism, death, immigration, pension, draft registration and military, school, news stories, census, voter, Social Security (numbers only provided for the deceased), city directories, and records provided by other relations.  My father's family kept very good records. I was able to scan and archive/upload my Civil War Union soldier 2nd-great- grandfather William J. Bartell's records, photos, and documents, such as this roster of his unit: 

There were also a few Confederates among my ancestors - this from my 3nd great-grandfather Thomas Cox Bowen:

Cemeteries are also a great resource, including photos of headstones of ancestors to add to the tree.  My Bowen grandparents and great-grandparents had the open book theme on their headstones, befitting the "story of life" concept. 
 
I realize how much the past generations tie into the future.  It is this continuum of life, which flowed through our ancestors' veins, and continues in the succeeding generations, which keeps me going at this crazy "hobby". Until I am gone, I'll keep building on. At least, making a good start........to be continued........

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From Dance Contest Winner to Dated Freestyler

I used to win prizes in dance contests in school, and at the American Legion Hall, Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA.  I knew all of the latest styles - the Jerk, Mashed Potato, Twist, Swim, Pony, the Shake, Watusi, the Hully-Gully, and the Funky Chicken...for starters.  I had energy and commitment, while looking like an escapee from an insane asylum, in my performances. 

There was also a group participation dance called: "The Continental", which involved numerous people dancing in step with each other, in a long line. That was fun, as there was a team of us dancing in a cool, way, not like the "Bunny Hop" of our parent's era.

In the 1960s, dancing partners were optional, which was a good thing for our pre-high school crowd, because the boys rarely participated.  They either sat in chairs that lined the wall, hung around the iced barrel of soft drinks, or played Ping-Pong, while the rest of us tore up the floor. 

The rest of us - girls, that is -  and one or two brave males - usually the best dancers in the school -  rocked the scene with movement.  In our school, the boys were Bill Keach and Alford Patrick.  Here is a picture of me with Alford (he's the dude in the center of the shot), and yes, we were dancing together -  but you can't tell that from the photo.  Truly, we were all really in our own worlds, grooving to the tunes. I'm the girl on the right, with my head turned around.  Who needed to look at our dancing partners, anyway?


Slow dances were an exception for some of the boys, who either liked a girl, or liked to feel up a girl, or both.  We didn't follow any specific rules. However, I was accused by several male partners that I was "leading", which was a no-no.  I'm still unclear on that concept.

Some of the dance contests were based upon style.  There were others which had nothing to do with dancing technique.  For instance, there was the "freeze" contest, where, when the music played, you froze instantly when the music was stopped.  A pre-pubescent teenage boy who wouldn't be on the dance floor in a million years enjoyed holding the phonograph arm, pulling it up to stop the music at various times, as we dancers became his puppets.
Prizes ranged from school supplies to games or candy, etc.  Once, I won a box of Raisinettes - my favorite candy - and I was THRILLED with the prize......


.................until I remembered that I had given up candy for Lent, so gave the box to a friend. 

Dancing for me was always informal - I could never get into square dancing or "Dancing with the Stars" kind of stuff.  It was just a way to express myself when hearing music.  Outdoor or indoor, every dance move I do screams my age.

At my step-daughter's wedding (see below), the moves are familiar.  That is my husband behind me...we didn't have to look at each other.  Same M.O. as in my teens.  I have not progressed in style, just years.


These days, more often than not, I am carrying a camera while dancing. Here I am with another lively soul, at a 4th-of-July event a few years ago(American Legion again - this one in HMB).


Of course, it helps to dance with someone who enjoys the art of the free-form dance, like Tom here. The ladies love this guy, and why not? He DANCES!


I guess the point is that, even though I lack style, referring back to ancient moves, I'm having fun re-living my youth and also my oldth, shaking more than I ever could have when young. Well........there's a lot more to shake these days!