COVID-19 has caused so many problems – illness and death, of course, plus shortages of toilet paper, masks, and sanitizer; ruined businesses, crippled industries, job losses, the cancellation of classes, cultural and sporting events … the list goes on and on.

Did I forget to mention that incurable bargain-hunters, like me, have gone a whole spring, a whole summer, and part of October without our usual flood of yard sales and flea markets?

Last summer, it wasn’t unusual to see 50 rummage sales advertised on a given Friday. And where I live, there were three flea markets each month from April to October.

This year, with everybody afraid to breathe and/or be breathed upon, the supply has dwindled to near-crisis levels.

If you’ve ever been to a big flea market on a sunny Saturday morning, you know what I mean. It’s fun to walk from table to table, talking to vendors, never knowing what you might stumble into. Bargaining is expected and encouraged. It’s part history lesson, part treasure hunt, part social outing and part endurance test. Intoxicating.

Although opportunities have been scant this season, I did make a few decent scores. Here are the highlights:

- My greatest find was a seven-quart iron tea kettle, circa 1890. Cast into the lid are the words: “LITHGOW MFG. CO. LOUISVILLE, KY. It was made in the foundry where my great-great-grandfather, worked as an iron molder. His son, James Lithgow Clifford, was my great-grandfather. He served his apprenticeship there.

- Newspaper collection, 1865-1963. I bought a cardboard box that included copies of the New York Illustrated News and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News from the Civil War, the Chicago Tribune from the day President Lincoln died, a Chicago paper featuring the Leopold and Loeb murder trial, and several Dallas papers with news of the JFK assassination. The most chilling was The Dallas Morning News of Nov. 22, 1963. It included a map of the proposed presidential motorcade route through downtown. The Nov. 23 edition featured this headline: “KENNEDY SLAIN ON DALLAS STREET.”

- A sale hosted by a retiring concrete contractor was a gold mine. I got a chainsaw (for $15, and it runs just fine), buckets full of nuts and bolts, a truckload of lumber, and a wheelbarrow.

- Digging through a pile of grimy, dirty old leather horse harness paid off. I found a WWI Army cavalry bridle, with four large brass “US” rosettes. Now all I need is a horse, a pasture, a barn and some oats.

- Coleman camp stove, circa 1965. I paid $3. After greasing the pump leather, cleaning the burners and adding fresh fuel, it worked like new.

- Our 4-year-old grandson hit the jackpot when I bought a German Kettcar pedal car for $15. They retail for $200.

- Finally, my case of never-used sledge hammer handles. Every home needs 24 sledge hammers, right?

Please say yes. Please?

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at

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