Editorial – January/February/March 2019

Hands up, please, for those of you who thought you blinked (or posed for a selfie)  and missed 2018.   In reflection, it was an incredibly significant year for us on a personal level.  Our one and only son (and one and only child, for that matter) married his lovely fiancée, Zoe, who fits right in with our crazy family, cats and all.  Our first grandchild was born right in the very middle of the year on a day so  hot that it’s hard to believe this is the same country right now. Peter and I didn’t know a baby could bring so much love, although all of our fellow grandparent friends have been telling us about this phenomenon for years.  We have been so blessed. I am tempted to add dozens of photos of little Sarah, enough to fill the pages of this issue, but I will refrain.  I’m not usually grateful for social media and the world of technology, but I do confess it has been very useful in allowing me to “see” our little grand-baby almost every day when her mom and dad send video clips and photos via Facebook or email.  The contrast between the number of images in this day and age and the relatively few photos of the 20th century is mind-boggling.  I’m guessing a lot of relatives who hadn’t seen family  for a while, back in the day, had to be told who everyone was if the visits were few and far between.  (Do you remember seeing Aunt Mable about every five years and she would say…”and this must be..?” Well, that doesn’t happen so much anymore thanks to technology. Aunt Mable now has an iPad!) It makes you realize how precious those early family photographs were in the 19th century.

2018 was also the first full year that the Wayback Times was printed quarterly, instead of bi-monthly.  There were many determining factors that brought me to go this route and among them was the thought that there would be a little more time between issues to accomplish some of the other important things in life.  I certainly succeeded.  I am now a mother-in-law, and a grandma! I can’t really take credit for either accomplishment, but both of them are going to be a tough act to follow in 2019.  The timing was just right… and I’ve  been able to see our wee Sarah more often than I might have.

For many of us, 2018 was a year of loss.  We lost a good friend and neighbour quite suddenly… somewhat unexpectedly, and I still can’t get over how quickly the years went by since he and his wife moved here from Toronto, excited at the prospect of living in the country and enjoying all it had to offer.  Like us, they probably envisioned a long and happy life up here – and some of it was – but their lives were altered and shortened by events beyond their control.  I wanted to mention this because of something that happened after our friend’s funeral. It was a hot summer day and our small group of vehicles was heading from the service to the gravesite a number of miles away in another town.  As is typical of summer, there was a great deal of construction going on.  When we had to slow down for the road work, I was deeply touched to see that nearly every person on the construction site, which went quite a distance, had stood and removed their hard-hats in respect as our little procession headed south along the road. Further along, oncoming cars and tractors pulled over to the side of the road, again showing such kindness and respect at a time of great sadness. It was truly amazing.  I am sharing this because it overwhelmed me and restored in me a knowledge that there are many, many decent, wonderful people out there despite the constant barrage to the contrary.  (And I am even prouder to call Trent Hills home.)

On the business side of things, 2018 was a bit crazy. Part of it was the weather. Spring in February, winter in April, summer in October … and two weeks later – snow. And at this point, we have had enough snow here to do us for the whole winter season, which hasn’t even officially arrived as I write this.  The weather affects us on so many levels and it was disappointing to see it take its toll on a number of shows and other antique-related businesses.  I do have to remind myself that in comparison to other parts of the world, we got off easy. (With the exception of the terrible tornados near Ottawa.) No hurricanes, no storm surge, no flooding, tsunamis, massive fires or earthquakes – it could have been a lot worse for us all when you see and hear what’s going on around the world.

Antiques and collectible-related businesses are going through a huge transition now, which is not news to anyone.   A lot of it is a natural progression of one generation taking over the market from the previous generation.  They have different values, a different culture  – given their collective upbringing in a world that is radically divergent from that of the baby boomer – and their preferences in collecting reflect that. For every antique shop and market that has closed recently, it seems that there is a new shop that specializes in nostalgia, retro and re-purpposing  to take their place.  That’s great news for the younger  collector and dealer, but it’s hard for older people to make the transition from, say, antique glass to GI Joes and PacMan games.  I think of a shop we visited in Florida last winter.  The owner was a very elderly lady who was eager to make a sale.  The only trouble was that there was absolutely nothing in her sparse inventory that held any interest for us especially at the inflated prices she was asking.  She was knowledgeable and insisted (without any prompting by us) that everything was well priced considering its value… according to her.  And perhaps if it was 1999, we would have agreed – to a certain extent.  We left, offering apologies for not buying anything, trying (in vain) not to offend her, but she was hugely disappointed and didn’t try to hide it.  Her dismissal of us was not overly friendly.  I felt badly, and  I do “get” it.  It’s tough to pay rent and utilities  when you don’t have sales to back you up. And if you don’t have sales you don’t have fresh inventory… and that can be the “death knell” in retail.  It can be a vicious circle,  particularly  if you keep buying the same stuff that didn’t sell before because that’s your “go to”  product, the thing you know inside out. Sadly many things are no longer on collectors’ lists.  It’s a tough call and can be a rough business at times.  I think the pleasure of the hunt is what keeps a lot of folks involved in it.  It really does open the door to such a wide spectrum of collecting and if you’re drawn into research and history, it can be a very rewarding business… just not always monetarily.

There is an upside to all the changes in the industry and we have noticed that many antique business people are really adapting well to this transitional period.  “Vintage” has become as familiar as “antique” and is often more desirable.  Shops and markets, especially malls, are bringing in vendors who specialize in such a wide variety of things that it’s almost impossible not find something that you like, and you might even find your own personal tastes changing as you observe how those intrepid collectors and artist types are incorporating the most unusual  (and often mundane) things  into their collections or decor.  I’m becoming accustomed to seeing booths that look like our son’s bedroom 20- 30 odd years ago (minus the chaos!) and appreciating that the Millennials like having the stuff they grew up with, the same way I like to buy things that remind me of my childhood.  It’s not just fun, it can be kind of comforting, too. (Anyone else have a ‘60s plastic electric owl clock whose eyes slide from side to side? I found one in bright red, all glued back together, poor thing  – I think ours was yellow, so I’ll keep hunting for it.)

There will always be a place for genuine antiques and the people who love and appreciate them, but their definition and functionality is changing constantly.  It’s a personal thing, really.  The word “antique”used to carry with it a lofty presumption that whatever it was  had significant value and the person who owned it was likely a bit of a snob.  That perception dissolved when the word was used to describe just about anything that was over 50 years old by someone who just wanted to make a sale under that heading.   I think the internet had a part in burying the whole concept that if it was old it had to be worth something. We were flooded with “antiques” for decades and a lot of people became very disenchanted with the word. Something good has come of that.  The people who have persisted in the  business through thick and thin have emerged as masters in their field.  You know that they have a passion for what they do that isn’t just for profits.  Their proficiency has come from an authentic desire to connect with history and they have learned to discern beauty in items that perhaps had humble beginnings but are relics of history – our collective past.  These people have become skilled through research, through a desire to learn and through their ability to discriminate between important items and those that are perhaps best to move on from. Most of these people enjoy sharing their hard-earned wisdom and have the inventory to show it.  Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to going through the portal from nostalgia to antiques and finding the bridges built that might  link one to another… they can often be one and the same, and if not, they can still live happily ever after under the same roof.

Life should be adventurous – it’s too short to fritter it away complaining about how we wish things were.  Why not just GO for it in 2019, set out to learn and see and enjoy.  Try some new shows – keep an open mind. Ask questions, say nice things to people, be kind…and listen.  Ponder the things of our past and who might have used them and why.  Enjoy as many of the aspects of the world of collecting as you possibly can. To hunt is to discover and to discover often leads to learning… and that is always a good thing for anyone.

Before I say goodbye until the spring issue I would like to comment on the front page image of the Grandma Moses piece.  Although I would prefer to feature Canadian items on the front page, this is something we have had in our home for quite a while that was purchased here in Northumberland County. I like to have seasonal images on page one, always in the hope that it will entice readers to pick up a copy of the WT and have a good look inside.  So, while Grandma Moses was not Canadian, she had this innate ability to create art that exudes a simple joy in life – as  many folk artists do.  The art shown on the front page  (a vintage fabric in a homemade vintage frame) makes me happy when I look at it, and it reminds me of where we live, here in farm country. After some research I have learned that it is actually not a winter scene (which sort of messed up my plans to use it) but a picture of early spring… hence the title “Early Spring on the Farm.” However, I’m guessing that if I hadn’t told you that, you might have assumed it was winter… and so I have  decided that it is more suitable for this issue than the spring issue – after all, there is snow!(Thanks to Shaun Markey for his help.)

We wish you a very happy, healthy new year with great beginnings that lead to wonderful accomplishments and discoveries. Try not to watch the news too much.  I think it is seriously unhealthy for  both mind and body.  We forget how many beautiful things we’re surrounded by, and how many incredible people are just a “hello” away.

Thank you for reading. Enjoy the many shows and shops that you’ll find here in the WT. Safe travels, take your time on the winter roads. See you in a few months when spring is in the air.  God bless.


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