YARD SALES OF LONG AGO! 

By Norris Chambers

             When modern folks get a notion to find something useful a lot cheaper than buying it at a store they instantly think of going to a garage sale or yard sale.  This is a wise decision because you can find just about anything at a decent price if you look long enough and if you are persistent enough. It isnít hard to find a sale on a week-end if you look on the Internet, in the newspaper classifieds or just drive up and down the streets looking for a sign that points you in the right direction.

            It hasnít always been that easy to shop for yard sale bargains.  Out in the country where many of we old timers originated we never head of a garage sale. Many farm families didnít have a garage. A shed roof on the side of the barn often served as a home for the Model T. If the Tin Lizzy, as the family auto was often called, was fortunate to have a house of its own it could be located between the house and the barn or in an old buggy shed. It was rightfully called a garage but it was not part of the house as most garages are now. We never head of such thing as a garage sale. If we had heard of one we would have thought that someone wanted to sell the garage.

            Most houses did have yards. The yard was not intended as a place of beauty with grass that had to be mowed constantly and hedges that had to be trimmed. The yard was a fenced area around the house that kept the cows and other farm animals at a respectable distance from the front door. The yard fences also tended to keep the small kids from wandering into the surrounding fields or wildernesses where they might be fair game for a belligerent country beast!

Of course we never heard of a yard sale. Who would even dream of putting a lot of junk in the front yard and calling it a yard sale?

            Occasionally someone did decide to get rid of some good belongings and didnít care to load it up and carry it to a junk store in town. They would not get much for the merchandise there and it would hardly be worth the trouble. Also, they would probably buy more goodies there than they took to sell! The solution was to let folks know that you had some good things that you would sell cheap.

            There were two general methods of letting folks know about the sale. The elite method was to place a classified ad in the closest newspaper. That method is still in general use and still works well. The primary fault with this method was the cost of the ad. Country folks with selling on their minds didnít like to run up expenses by advertising. The second method and the one most commonly used was the posted bill, as crude home-brewed signs were called. This was nothing more than a sheet of paper, telling about the sale and listing a few of the items. This bill was listed on the billboard at the general store. Most little towns had a general store that sold a little bit of everything.  Larger towns might also have a hardware store, barber shop and even a restaurant!

            Most general stores offered the bill posting area on the outside wall, usually near the entrance. This was an ideal place to dispose of items that were no longer needed. Such sales could also help with the meager living expenses incurred by country folks. The hand written sign might name a few things that were being disposed of and could say and much more. The date and time for the sale was important. Then, if the store was not nearby, there was a brief explanation of the location, such as ďon the Holder road, look for signĒ.  This was enough information for the bargain hunter. Just get on the Holder road and look for a sign that indicated a sale in progress.

            This system worked very well for the old timers of the thirties. Things might have been different in the cities. When we occasionally went to the city on Saturday I donít remember seeing any garage sales or signs, but we could have been on the wrong street and just missed the bargain bins. Garage sales and yard sales did begin to appear in the forties and we have been blessed with them since then. Actually such sales have become more plentiful and seem to be growing in popularity.

            Were the garage sales of the past a lot of fun, even if they were not called garage sales? Garage sales are a lot of fun regardless of what they are called. They say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!

            If you would like to have a lot of fun and raise a little cold cash, why not have a hot garage sale next week? The fun is a free side benefit!