A LOVE STORY KIND OF STORY
For the very first time this summer, I (alongside a mini battalion of trainer-clad BHLDN buyers) happily thrust myself into the throngs of fellow treasure-seekers at central Mass.'s Brimfield Flea Market. Though most came armed with radio flyers, wheelbarrows, and granny carts ready to fill to the brim, I came looking for the nearly invisible: objects with a great love story. Here are a few I found.
WITH LOVE, FROM DEUTSCHLAND
When asked by sellers if I was looking for anything specific I usually started with engraved jewelry – rather than the somewhat vague, somewhat questionable: yes actually! love stories. So pretty much any jewels or watches that featured a great inscription, and with any luck, the story behind the giver and the receiver. Unfortunately, most of the best inscriptions I found tended to be anonymous, as in the seller never seemed to know much about the owner. That was until I met Nora from Pittsfield Mass. After she showed me a bunch of pretty albeit anonymous pieces I told her that I was, in fact, looking for the love story. She perked up. Her mind immediately went to Valentine's Day cards and she walked me over to a table covered with wobbly stacks of all sorts of written mementos. She gushed about the notes that she'd read in them. People don't write the way they used to, she said. She told me (as one hand moved up and kind of rested near her collar bone – so cute!) that she herself had never received notes like the notes she'd read in these cards. She'd sold all the Valentine's but picked up a spiral bound birthday card. She told me about the man behind the card. How he'd worked for G.E. his whole life and so traveled often and internationally and would always send his wife a card from wherever he was. Dated July 1965, before his signature reads Sweetie Pie, Mit Every Year You Grow More Wunderbar Und Dear! I couldn't help but imagine his sweetie pie's overflowing shoebox of polyglot cards. She then showed me two paintings near the front of her stall, one of a young boy, the other a young girl: their kids.
MARTIN WADLER & HARRISON FISCHER
Martin, all spiffed in his pageboy hat, is a very chatty antique post card dealer of 15 years/ex-finance teacher. (Probably the chattiest seller I came across, but a nice kind of chatty.) We got to talking about an artist named Harrison Fischer, post cards as text messages, and well, butterflies. Apparently (I had no idea) around the turn of the 20th century, post cards weren't used the way they are today: hello's while traveling mostly, I'd say. They were used more as a go-between. Letters obviously took more time to compose, and so what people did is send a post card to tell their friend or loved one that they'd received their letter and that its response was on the way. In a sense they were a bit like yesterday's text messages – little "oh heys, this and that, and OK goodbye." They were also designed into categories depending on what kind of 'oh hey' you were looking to send. For example, there were special romantically-themed cards for sweethearts. Like there was a whole box filled with cards labeled "LOVE". Harrison Fischer was an American illustrator well known at the time for his color drawings featuring rosy-cheeked couples courting – made especially for this category of cards. Those I found were mostly from men to women. The note on this one is so sweet; it feels like they're just starting out. I like how he lined the bottom with x's, or, I prefer to think, hugs.
While looking through infinite stalls, I quickly caught onto a genre of jewelry I'd never heard of, or I guess, never had a reason to give much thought to. But there were little bits of it everywhere: wartime sweethearts jewelry. From as early as 1880 through to the Second World War, certain styles of bracelets and lockets, often with military insignia used in the design, became a popular way of keeping loved ones top of mind while they were far away. Forget-Me-Not bracelets were a type of charm bracelet where you could have names engraved onto tiny silver plaquets rimmed with forget-me-nots and then strung together. I found a seller from Texas with a whole tray these little guys. Roxie, Lee, Fossler, Beejie — names so cute they sound like a bunch of precocious characters from a midcentury-era movie script. Often with these pieces, the closer you looked, the more magical each became. A pretty mother of pearl-faced locket with US Navy stamp produced not one but two tiny heart-shaped pictures of what must have been this lady's sweetheart; her picture rested on the left side. I thought about her cutting tiny hearts around the face of her boyfriend, fiancé, husband (?) and then carefully lining the back of the locket with red paint to rest his photos on.