Original Written August 20, 2015Modified December 18, 2018
I did not grow up going to flea markets or yard sales (not sure yard sales even existed then) because going to flea markets mandates you have a car. And, Mi Mama didn’t own a car, till we were much older. The other reason was that Mi Mama was a compulsive cleaner and did not want anyone else’s (possibly dirty) stuff in her sparkly clean OCD home.My girlfriend Shirley once told me, “Raquel, I grew up poor, why would I want that old used stuff?”I did not start going to yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops till I left home to attend college in 1970, out of necessity! Another favorite of mine was the “army surplus store” in downtown Sacramento. The history of the flea market originates in the outskirts of Paris in the late 19th century. Chiffoniers were the riff raff of the time – they stole through the night, exploring the discards of chic Parisians, and collected the most interesting and valuable things they could find. Setting up makeshift shops in their shantytown homes, the ‘Moon Fisherman’ created what has become Paris’ most known flea market.Chic Parisians soon took notice of the intriguing makeshift market and trips to look at the eclectic wares soon became a weekend pastime. The one drawback to the endless sea of fascinating curiousities – the fact that these discarded finds were frequently infested with fleas. The pastime and the market itself developed a nickname ‘Fleamarket’ or ‘Les Puces des Paris’.The fleas are gone, (possibly) but the finds remain, from interesting trinkets to gorgeous examples of classic French design. Accessories for the home, vintage books and oddities that are one of a kind, the thrill of the hunt is still our favorite way to shop. Making the pilgrimage several times yearly, Shane continues to hone his keen ability to spot a diamond in the rough, visit us in our showroom and discover our latest flea market finds…From Big Daddy Antique
Many years after graduating college and upon returning home to visit Mi Mama she would occasionally wish to go to the “pulga” (pulga translates to flea in Spanish) to buy chilies and eat pozole on Mondays. It was a very memorable experience with Mi Mama as we walked the aisles of the pulga laughing and eating kicking up dirt! Mexican pulgas have a totally different sabor. Held on open fields, you are walking on dirt! They mainly focus on selling vegetables and ready made food that envelopes you with the flavors of home and love. You can also find someone selling furniture, tools, lawnmowers and inevitably you find native wares from Mexico like molcajetes, huaraches or San Marcos blankets. I’ve even seen live chickens being sold at the pulga. And was totally surprised to learn I could get my drivers license or ID for a price between the tamale stand and lawnmowers for sale.
I have had the pleasure of “hunting” flea markets, yard/garage sales and antique shops throughout California, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, Maine, etc. including Mexico and Europe. You get the idea, near and far. But, none has been as exhilarating as the flea markets and antique shops of Italy, France and Spain and I have acquired some life-long gems. There is an unforgettable penetrable musty smell and feel to pages of old books. Then I ponder do antique books smell differently in Europe than here? As crazy as this may sound, I think they do. Or my favorite of soft linens and faded lace of bygone days with all their hues; I wonder of where it lived and the fingers that assembled this intricate ornate delicate patterned art. I can stand and feel it for hours as if savoring a glass of fine wine. The old adage is most apropos here; “one mans junk is another mans treasure.” A life long lesson has also been that you think if you shop at the wealthiest neighborhoods you find the best treasures is also erroneous. Some of my favorite treasures have been found in old ramshackle barns or the poorest “hoods.”
I have been a collector for over 45 years and just recently stopped collecting. My styles and tastes have been through many metamorphosis. Believe me it is as difficult as breaking any addiction, the signs in the neighborhood trigger those irrepressible hunter-gatherer instincts and my car still wants to break for yard sales on occasion (as if it had a mind of its own)! But, I resist!