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The yard sale tradition

I have spent a lot of time boasting about all of the American habits, traditions, and customs that I have lived to experience.

One that stands out is the great American yard sale tradition.

I tried to get some history of yard sales with a Google search, but wasn’t very successful. Somewhere or other there must be a book that gives the history of this thing that has become so much a part of the life of everyone in the nation.

I have observed with great interest the growth of yard sales, garage sales, neighborhood yard sales, estate sales, moving sales, sidewalk sales, and maybe others that I have failed to recognize.

I wonder how many thousands of these sales are held in our county of Pulaski in a yard sale season.

From early spring until almost winter, one can drive up and down almost any street in our town’s subdivisions and county’s country roads, and see posts, trees, or anything that will hold a nail or staple, sporting a yard sale sign.

Some are advertised on brown paper bags, some on cardboard, and some “keepers,” that are picked up after the sale and kept until the next.

Sometimes they are two-family sales, some several families combining to make it a multi-family sale. The inventory of some of these sales is almost unbelievable.

It is amazing to me how many hundreds of items there are that families feel they no longer need. And at the same time these items draw great crowds of people who seem to need them so badly that they almost fight over them.

A large number of people rise early on Fridays and Saturdays and grab the latest edition of The Southwest Times, jump into their cars or trucks, and start a day long pilgrimage of yard sale hopping.

These people are just as dedicated as golfers, people who fish, or lottery players – and probably spend less money.

On one of these narrow country roads on a Saturday morning, one has to be a pretty good driver to maneuver one’s car between parked vehicles that line each side of the road near the site of a big yard sale. All come early in order to get the best buys.

I find it interesting to read the classified ads in The Southwest Times. On a certain day the paper had a total of 30 yard, garage, and carport sales listed for the next day. One was listed as a multi-family sale, one as an eight-family sale, and a third as one that would cover an entire block.

Have you learned that you can’t judge a yard sale by its sign?

The ugly sign might lead to the greatest treasures. Some are of almost professional quality, while others are almost impossible to decipher.

Some are on fluorescent cardboard, while others are on notebook paper.

But all tell the same story of bargains waiting somewhere up ahead.

I believe some people attend yard sales weekly because they are retailers. They go every week, and buy bargains.

Sometime when you’re trying to think of something to do on a Saturday morning, try some yard sale hopping. You meet many interesting people, and pick up some juicy gossip.

And who knows, you may find the bargain of a lifetime to take back home. To rephrase an old saying, “Another person’s trash, might very well become your treasure.”

I was born before the yard sale tradition started, but unless government agencies figure out a way to tax them out of business, I predict that yard sales will still be around after I have gone.

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian, who lives in Pulaski.

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