The Pleasanton Antique & Collectable Fair: A Day Well-Spent

Yesterday was a gorgeous weather day, so we hit the road early and drove to the town of Pleasanton, California – some forty-five minutes away. We wanted to arrive there early for two reasons: First, to get a good parking space, and second, to get an early look at the goodies available from the many sellers at the bi-annual, one-day Pleasanton Antique & Collectable Fair.

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Pleasanton has a wonderful Main Street that conveys the small-town ambience typical of smaller, mid-west towns. The line-up of sellers stretches for several long blocks – making the Pleasanton Fair one of the largest and finest in the whole central region of California. We went two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, indulging in early-morning coffee, a nice lunch, and hours of leisurely browsing under a bright blue sky and warm sun. Did we spend lots of money yesterday? No, but we did find some inexpensive little treasures just as we did two years ago. Although the thought of finding some blockbuster item at a bargain price may linger in the innermost recesses of our minds, it is the little surprises which inevitably provide the most pleasure. That kind of browsing experience meshes perfectly with one of my favorite personal mantras:

Think big thoughts, but relish small pleasures!

The last and perhaps my only truly great find in antique stores and at fairs was the excellent 1934 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse wristwatch which I purchased from a small antique shop in Fillmore, California, several years ago. Although it was not a steal, the price was very good, especially since the completely original, working watch was consigned by the local granddaughter of the man who originally purchased it at the Chicago World Fair of 1933. For more on that, see my post of September 8, 2013, A Rare Antique Shop Find: A 1934 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch, available in my blog archive.

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Yesterday, Linda found the “twin sister” to the little flower-vase figurine she purchased at Pleasanton two years ago. She hesitated to buy that first one until I told her to “go ahead and make an offer.” As I recall, she paid the same reasonable price for it as she did for her new twin yesterday. Linda was, once again, a happy camper yesterday as the seller carefully wrapped her treasure.

My eye is attracted to anything that is important, interesting, or artistically pleasing. That encompasses a wide range! Price/affordability and my wife’s usual injunction, “Where are you going to keep it?” are two factors which weigh heavily on anything under consideration! Accordingly, paper items are great because they are inexpensive and require little space. I bought this, yesterday, for a few dollars not even knowing what it actually was until I paid the seller. It is an antique blotter from the days when fountain pens ruled and ink dried slowly. I thought the artwork was fabulous.

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I found the following image two years ago, a wonderful reminder of early commercial aviation when the Douglas DC-3 ruled supreme in the late thirties and early forties.

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One “Small” Purchase Evoking “Big Thoughts”

The only other purchase I made yesterday caught my eye standing on the sales table all by its lonesome. It speaks for itself;  note the printing date of 1950 – one year after Russia surprised the world by detonating its first atomic bomb.

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Those of us well over sixty years of age can recall the cold war and the school drills in case of nuclear attack which required us to get under our desks and keep our heads down! That had always seemed such a simplistic measure in the face of such destructive power, but what else was there to do? I found it fascinating that the booklet asked, “What about super bombs?” While not denying their possibility, it cautioned, “Don’t be mislead by wild talk of super-super bombs.” The text went on to state, “Do not be mislead by loose talk of imaginary weapons a hundred or a thousand times as powerful [ as the 20,000 tons of TNT explosive equivalent yielded by the first atomic bombs].” Seemingly to discourage public despair, the thirty-one page booklet argues that the destructive power of such “imaginary” bombs would not necessarily be a hundred or a thousand times greater than that of the first atomic bombs. The aforementioned  “imaginary weapons” of immense power were not long in becoming stark realities.

By 1950, when this U.S. Government booklet was reprinted by the State of California, Russia had just entered the atomic age and the first “super” or thermonuclear weapons were under development by the United States. The first such bomb, popularly known as the hydrogen bomb, was detonated in 1952 by the U.S. The Russians detonated theirs a mere one year later, to the horror of many.

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When Linda and I vacationed in New Mexico a number of years ago, we visited Santa Fe and Los Alamos where the first atomic bomb was developed from 1941-1945. I recall standing amid displays of nuclear weapons showing their evolution  through the decades since 1945. The exhibit which sticks in my mind to this day displayed the casing for a modern one megaton (one million tons of TNT equivalent) thermonuclear bomb, a weapon capable of vaporizing the heart of a large city like New York. What impressed me so: The (dummy) device, slightly raised from the floor and lying right next to my feet was missle-shaped – roughly, a mere 13 feet long and two-and-a-half feet in diameter – truly sobering.

When I am thinking “big thoughts,” I often ponder what the future has in store for an increasingly nuclear world, one in which the deterrent effect of such weapons, which served to keep the peace during the cold war, may no longer be so effective. The pure atomic science which underlies nuclear energy along with the history of America’s Manhattan Project which birthed the bomb in 1945, and the geo-political ramifications of the nuclear age – these all combine to make fascinating reading and food for thought.

Despite the reminder imposed by that little booklet titled, “Survival Under Atomic Attack,” the day spent at Pleasanton presented the perfect opportunity to retreat from “big thoughts” and enjoy “small pleasures.”

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 Some new sheet music!

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The End

 

 

 

A Rare Antique Shop Find: A 1934 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch!

Are you an antique shop browser? Do you gladly subject yourself to hours of scanning shelves and peering into a motley assortment of old, glass display cabinets in the hope of finding that certain “thing” that can be reasonably purchased and which has the potential to “make your day?” 

I cannot resist perusing antique shops, those repositories of our cultural past, for any “thing” that piques my interest. That “thing” could be any item that I consider attractive, well-made, unique, historically interesting ….and not very expensive. Mostly, I come up empty-handed for my efforts, tired of seeing the same genre of knick-knacks from the 1950’s time after time (seems like all the shops have those in abundance!).

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A few years ago, my luck changed in the little town of Fillmore. We were traveling along California route 126 on our way back to the San Francisco Bay Area from Southern Calif. and stopped briefly for a rest-stop. I told Linda I wanted to take a quick look around the little antique shop on the town’s main drag, one we had not visited for some time. After making my usual luckless rounds through the store, I was almost out the front door when I noticed a display of several wristwatches on mannequin hands. This display included a typical array of watches from the 1950’s and later, some with Disney themes such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. One watch caught my eye because I recognized it as an early version of Disney’s ubiquitous Mickey Mouse Watch. I asked to see it and promptly noticed the $250 price tag when the sales-lady handed it to me – considerably more than the other watch prices!

I gingerly wound the watch-stem once or twice around, but the little rotating minute dial at the bottom of the watch-face did not seem to be rotating – not good! In the process of handing it back, I fortunately noticed it was now moving, apparently needing just a slight jar to get going on such little spring tension. The watch clearly was in working order! I got pretty excited at that point.

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I could see that the watch seemed completely original and without the tell-tale signs of being disassembled for repair or parts replacement. I left without buying it because of the non-trivial price. On the way home, with my wife driving, I did some research on my iPhone. I determined that $250 was half the value of a similarly nice, all-original 1933/34 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch. I called the shop and asked the sales-lady more about it. She told me it was consigned by a local woman whose grandfather had bought it at the 1933 Chicago Exposition. My quickie internet research had verified that the first-ever Mickey Mouse Watch made its debut at that fair in 1933, marketed by Disney and Ingersoll. This particular early 1934 version is akin to the second printing of a first edition book – and quite scarce in nice, original condition. Furthermore, the owner confirmed my suspicions via telephone call that the watch had never needed repair and was completely original in all respects – including the cute and unique leather band.

I called back to the shop and bought it over the phone while still driving home and have enjoyed it ever since. I am a big fan of Disney, and the Mickey Mouse Watch is truly a cultural icon.

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I still recall the thrill of receiving a brand-new Mickey Mouse Watch at Christmas, 1948. An old photograph shows me proudly showing off my new watch. I still have it, it works, and it seems altogether fitting that I should stumble across that related treasure on my lucky afternoon of antique sleuthing.

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