Garbage collection is such a twentieth-century thing.

Rural Maine’s nineteenth-century dumps were not safe from our depredations. Every weekend, we scouted old house sites and looked for where the families had dumped their trash. Cobalt blue jars, glasses, cups, and plates were the goal of our scavenger hunt. Cleaned up and offered for sale, they added to the meager income we received at the Poland Springs Hotel. During work hours, we were waiters, but we were entrepreneurs of the vintage in our spare time. We even had a clientele list of antique shops eager to scout our most recent finds.
Some of the antiquers thought we’d exclusively hunt for them and launch a tirade if they found out that we’d offered a select piece, like a Moses jug, to someone else. But being highly independent business types, we’d merely cut them off from our finds until they redeemed their manners. After all, how dare they treat us in such a pedestrian manner? The Raiders of the Lost Ark was decades away, but we were intrepid explorers of the lost in Maine.

It was sometimes dangerous too. Things could collapse under you; salvageable items lurked amid sharp trash and vermin. And the competition was fierce. But the rewards were beautiful. Hand and mold-blown glass in various shapes and forms – from tiny medicine vials to tureen-sized finds – you wondered how some of the pieces survived intact. I often wondered why they had been deposited there at all. They seemed too lovely to be abandoned.

I never retained any pieces for myself; I was much too much of a vagabond to weigh myself down with mere “stuff” in those days. And the money that came in from their sale was too good to miss.
Once again, one person’s trash became another’s treasure.

7 Replies to “Treasure”

  1. I remember going to antique shops to marvel at those blue ‘medicinal’ bottles. Nowadays they are relegated to ‘junque’ shops and, even then, they don’t sell. All the cool stuff people don’t collect any more…

    1. tastes in ‘junque’ change. What’s hot in one decade is tepid in the next. The only thing that works is to collect what you really like. I had a friend who just loved Royal Dalton, I could have cared less about it, but it was his passion. Of course, if you really like something that’s out of favor, the cost is low.

  2. Sounds like a cool job. I remember reading years ago about a high demand for weathered barn wood and that people would salvage that for repurposing.

    1. About ten miles up the road from me is a lumber company with an entire building dedicated to salvaged plank and timbers. It’s still popular, but maybe not as much as ten years ago. lots of the old barns have been torn done now.

    1. This brings us to sea glass, which has been such a craze here in the North East of the USA that it’s in short supply, with some people deliberately breaking glass and throwing it into the ocean to “replenish” the supply. They now sell artificially created sea glass – broken glass tumbled in stone tumblers to age it and smooth the contours.

      1. I’ve never heard of sea glass until I heard references to it on other blogs. I googled it and in Oz, it seems people are artificially creating it in the stone tumblers you mentioned.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: