Holding History in Your Hands

Antiquing RV Style

History is an absolutely incredible occurrence, it happens every single day. What you bought and used yesterday, or even an hour ago… is now, in the purest sense, a historical artifact. Antique malls are free museums to the past, that take us back in time to how we used to live, what we made, what we enjoyed, and how an item or piece has evolved or improved over time.

One of my very favorite things to do on RV trips is antique shopping. I am a junk junkie. That might be a little harsh and overstated but I have some items that I absolutely love to hunt for and collect. RV trips are great for antiquing. You get to visit shops all over the country that you might not ever get to visit otherwise. I have come home from trips with an RV full of stuff, and other times come home with nada. Finding a treasure is cool, but the fun is in the hunt.

GPSCan you believe that these two items were used for exactlysextant 2 the same thing?… to determine a position at sea by using celestial bodies. One uses stars, the other satellites. Both determine latitude and longitude. Funny too, both cost about $1,200 today. One at the antique store, the other at your marine hardware supplier.

There are hundreds of thousands of different items to be found in antique stores. Think about the hundreds of toy companies around the world in the last century, each putting out hundreds of different toys, plus new toys year after year. G.I. Joe was my toy of choice. I had them all. All the different soldiers, uniforms, jeeps, equipment and that cool little foot locker that they were stored in. My Dad owned a Rexall Pharmacy. Rexall SignRexall made and branded a lot of their own products with their distinctive orange oval with blue Rexall lettering. We sold baseball and football cards by the thousands. Gee, I wish I had kept my enormous collection of baseball cards. Tobacco products, beer products, liquor products, magazines, books, Sealtest ice cream and milk and on and on. Those staples of everyday Sealtest Milklife 50 years ago are today’s collectibles. My Grandfather was a barber and owned his shop in the little town of Brockton, MA. The stuff he had and used every day is worth hundreds of dollars today. Beautiful colored glass barber bottles for all the different hair tonics, the porcelain, brass and leather barber chairs, brass railings, spittoons, razors, clippers and all the tools of his trade for that period of time. Speaking of history, the great, and only undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano, was from Brockton, as was Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champion of the world from 1980-87. Do you think those guys memorabilia is collectible? Rocky marcianoAnything to do with gasoline and oil from the old days is prized in today’s world. Porcelain signs, glass oil bottles, old pumps, and gas globes. It is all amazing stuff in high demand.

Esso Elephant keroseneJust about anything and everything are collectible and there is a collector for just about everything. I have been going to antique malls and shops, flea markets, swap meets and yard sales for 30 years. It is pretty amazing the stuff that people collect. The wonderful saying that “Everyone has a story” also applies well to antiques. Every piece has a story and the folks who collect things love to tell the stories, I love to hear them.

Not too long ago, I was at a swap meet and stopped at a stall to look at stuff… and met a very interesting man. We chatted for awhile and he pulled out a very unusual tool, I had never seen one like it. It was brass and fit in the palm of his hand. He slid a thumb switch and a series of razor blades protruded. He went on to explain that up until the 19th century, barbers performed all types of bloodletting for a wide range of ailments in the belief that bloodletting could cure many maladies. It was a practice dating back to the middle ages. As the centuries barber pole 2progressed, modern medicine frowned on the practice yet the public still demanded the service that barbers had always practiced. He also explained as well that the red stripes on a barber pole symbolize the blood, the blue stripes the veins and the white stripes the bandages. Who knew?

A large, clean, well run, antique mall with lots of dealers is a magical place. It can take anyone, young or old, back into time by seeing something from their past. There is untold history in pieces that may never be known. It is a place of imagination where instead of envisioning the future, we envision the past, yet unlike the future, we can hold it in our hands… and wonder what this was.

Take a break on the road occasionally and visit an antique mall, you will enjoy your past.

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.

America’s Maritime Heritage

300 Years of Nautical History Right in Your Backyard

      When the colonists first settled in America, as you might imagine, it was a very difficult life. It would be another hundred years or so before any exploration westward would or could occur. Settlements up and down the northeast coast proved hostile when it came to survival and sustenance. Farming the land was difficult as the coastal geography proved rocky with poor soil and harsh winters. Thus, in the spirit of American ingenuity, the brave settlers turned to the sea for survival. There is a reason why the New England states of Maine and Massachusetts are known for their lobster, clams, and cod; while New York, New Jersey, and Maryland are known for their delicious blue crab and oysters.

Moby Dicks_opt 240x180      Here’s an interesting tidbit: Lobster was so plentiful in colonial days and was not considered the delicacy it is today… in fact, quite the opposite was true. Lobster was the main food fed to prisoners in colonial times.

      The fishing industry in New England is a fascinating story of great seamanship and bravery and told well in the 2000 movie The Perfect Storm.

      Boston and New York became the largest ports in the Americas for trade and commerce,Cunard Wharf 300x189dpi_opt vital to the survival of the new settlement and ultimately the survival of the colonies. Britain’s great steamship company Cunard Lines (Samuel Cunard was from Halifax) made the New York waterfront fashionable with the arrival and departures of some of the grandest ocean liners ever to sail the seas such as the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth. The earlier Cunard fleet of ships actually called on the port of Boston before their move to New York in the early 1900’s. Many of Americas greatest fortunes were built from the shipping industry of the 18th and 19th centuries.

      Long before the invention of electricity and the electric light bulb that lit the world, the light was provided by kerosene lanterns for a period of time. Prior to the discovery of oil and kerosene, our world was lit by whale oil in those same lanterns. The hundreds of years of whaling in America is told in countless communities like New Bedford and Fall River, Massachusetts. Any RV’ers bucket list of trips should certainly include a trip up the coast MobyDick_0_opt (1)240x180of New England in the late summer and early fall. The coast from Rhode Island to Maine has thousands of beautiful old homes of sea captain’s and seafarers. Of particular note on many of these old homes are the beautiful lookouts high on the peak of roofs. These “widows walk” as they are known tell amazing stories. It was very common for a whaling ship to put to sea for many years before returning with a cargo hold of whale oil vital to lighting the country. At the sight of a sail on the horizon, the wives and ladies of seafarers who had not seen their spouses in years would rush to the rooftop in the hopes that the arriving sailing ship was their loved ones returning from sea. Imagine the heartbreak, disappointment, and suffering of families for those who never returned from sea.

      America has always been a maritime nation. The United States Navy was formed in 1775 by the threat to merchant ships from Barbary pirates. Merchant ships were armed to defend themselves and thus America’s Navy was born.

      There are hundreds of tiny maritime museums all across this country. Some tell the stories above, others tell of the great tuna fleets, the shrimping industry, ship construction, boat building, whaling, and the many great stories of bravery at sea. Visit these museums in your travels and you will come away with a newfound appreciation of America’s maritime culture.


      In later blogs, we will talk about the maritime history of the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. By 1940, nearly 40% of America’s population lived around the Great Lakes as that was where the fresh water was and that is where America’s industrial heartland was. Imagine what wonderful nautical history and stories are to be told there?

Until next time, be happy and safe in your travels and please feel free to comment below.