Sunday, September 05, 2004

Antiques. The last of my archived Sadgoat letters

Back in the late seventies I was fresh out of school. Jobs were abundant then and I was greedier than most. I had three.
One of my favorite jobs, perhaps due to the whopping four dollars an hour, but more for my fascination of old things, was working with an antique auction company.
Once a month the company would wheel into Victoria with a few semi containers packed to the rafters with antiques from England.
We would spend the first night unloading the trucks, and unpacking boxes of not so antique products, and setting them up for people to view on Saturday. The main auction took place Saturday night.
Over the years my friend and I developed a rapport with the auctioneer. He would wink at us as we lifted “tiffany” style lamps into the air for the bidders to view. We would be sure to get rid of the cardboard boxes that said made in California.
He would announce. “We are not too sure of the ages of these pieces but they are indeed beautiful works of art”.
The same would go for the horse brasses that word made in the far east from melted down artillery casings. They would put the horse brasses into piles of manure to speed up the aging process, dust them off and ship them to North America for decorative sales.
The rapport with the auctioneer didn’t stop there. We would have to lift items into the air for the public to see from the back of the auction hall.
He would grin widely as we hoisted up marble top washstands into the air. Old wooden cabinets with slabs of marble on the top, heavy marble, an inch thick rock over two feet wide. The auctioneer would slow down the bidding at this point, Making people realize the value of these wash stands.
The bids would slow down too. And there we were holding the heavy slabs in the air, sweating, muscles twitching, sinews ready to snap like brittle twigs under the immense strain.
He would finally shout “SOLD”. Our signal to lower the merchandise and move on to the next wash stand, with him grinning at the podium like a Cheshire cat.
One night when we had finished the sales we were helping customers load items into their vehicles.
A lady had just spent a hundred dollars on a Barrister Bookcase, the type of bookcase with glass doors. Each bookcase module stacked on the next and was locked in place.
Did I say locked in place. I should have said “Should be locked in place”.
You know how antique glass has ripples in it. Who would have thought that was the feature this lady wanted most out of the bookcases. Who wouldn’t have accepted an apology and a new piece of glass from two meek humble lackies that hoist heavy objects into the air.
Oh well, I didn’t make quite as much money that night. I did learn lots about antiques, reproductions and scams. Buyer beware!
It was a great job, I got an education, strong muscles and $4.00 an hour. I was the envy of all the people my age!
Carl Hird-Rutter Chilliwack BC


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