|mannequin in sombrero and serape, Eastmoreland 29th Annual Garage Sale|
Last weekend was the 29th Annual Eastmoreland Neighborhood Garage Sale, with 144 official participants, bigger even than the previous year. The Eastmoreland Sale is generally held the third weekend of June, running Saturday from 8-5 and Sunday from 10-4, though most of the sales are "S/O" (Saturday only). Most years, one or both days get rained out, but this year both days just happened to be clear and warm—a Portland-in-June weekend weather jackpot. So on Saturday, the big day, I met up with my thrifting buddy, Jeff, who happens to be living temporarily in Eastmoreland, which made this year's sale awfully convenient.
I got to Jeff's place around 8:30 AM by bus. We then set out on foot into the neighborhood, heading downhill, meaning southwest. At one of the first garages we stepped into, I discovered a huge handwoven fur-strip-and-wool pillow, which is so ugly it's beautiful, plush and textural. (I do feel bad for the little animals, but they're already long dead, and presumably the pillow was made from leftover fur-coat scraps, which makes me feel less bad about eating dinner now at the coffee table on top of a pile of woven skins.) There's just something about Eastmoreland and secondhand animal hides, I guess—my own call of the wild. My apartment's starting to look like I've been dating a fur trapper. Anyway, the older man said the pillow was handmade by a friend of his mother's, which begs all kinds of questions. That's all I know about it (though that's a lot more backstory than I ever get at Goodwill). Jeff's mother, herself an eBay seller, met up with us soon after, around 9 AM, so then there were three.
|Family Circle magazine cover, July 1949|
More couples and families attend these events than individuals because garage-saleing is a social outing, fun for the whole family. One thing I noticed this fourth year of Eastmoreland attendance is that the more people per group, the slower the group. Group members want to stop and look at different things. Jeff and his mom are both much more social than I am and strike up and hold longer conversations with strangers. Plus, people walk at different paces. So while, on the one hand, it was fun having a little group this year for chatting while strolling between houses, we did cover a lot less ground in a group of three than I did on my own last year or in the two previous years walking around with just Jeff. At times I found myself antsy to get moving along already, which is all part of the inevitable negotiation of wants and needs with others. As a result, I would guess we covered only half the sellers, though Jeff claims it was more like three-quarters. (I forgot to bring a highlighter to mark our route as proof.) But that's all something to keep in mind, too—quantity, quality, and striking some kind of balance.
|yard sale at artist's studio, Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2014|
I'd brought my old-lady shopping cart but left it back at Jeff's place since it's a pain to push around on bumpy sidewalks, noisy and awkward going over curbs, and hard to turn and negotiate in tight spaces or on stairs. Having a drop-off point back at the house over near Reed College for the fur pillow, for example, helped save a ton of time, compared to my solo venture last year, when I lost a few hours of the sale by having to tote purchases home on the bus halfway through. Most people, though, can just use their parked cars as a moveable drop-off point.
|Reed College Place, Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2014|
This, however, was the first year organizers put up a PDF map on the Neighborhood Association Web site—go Eastmoreland!—an improvement over previous years, only I'm not sure when the map was actually made available for download. It appears from their public Facebook posts that it didn't go up till early Saturday morning. Having access to the map ahead of the sale allows you to read descriptions of sale items per house and plan accordingly. Viewing the map the morning of the sale doesn't leave much time for planning. I suspect sale organizers want to try to fit in as many participants as possible on the map, and maybe this also makes things more democratic, so professional resellers can't scoop up all the best items. I didn't see a cut-off application date on the site for sellers, but presumably there would be one because the paper maps need to be printed and made available at certain houses ahead of time. I snatched a map off a table right away and started taking notes with my new pen.
|children's clothes on lawn, Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2014|
One big tip I've forgotten to mention in previous garage sale posts is that unless you're in the market for kid stuff, you can usually skip the houses with children's clothes and plastic toys sitting out front, easily spotted by masses of pink and primary colors. Parents of young kids don't usually have money or time for anything else (even in Eastmoreland). So typically a yard selling kid stuff is only selling kid-related stuff. So unless you want children's items—and upscale garage sales are great places for barely used children's clothes, books, and toys—avoid the houses with kid stuff. (This is basically a natural yard-sale law.)
|toy sale, Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2014|
I was tempted by a forest-green-with-orange-diamonds Pendleton Beaver State wool blanket at one house, but the sellers were asking a firm $65. I overheard them tell a potential customer the blanket was new, when it actually looked a bit pilly around the edges. Moving on. . . .
Around midday we ran into a friendly sales guy dressed in a white milkman costume—with a retro hat and printed hoodie, shouldering a sample insulated bag—taking orders for a new delivery company, Local Farmers Delivery, which delivers locally produced Alpenrose dairy, Franz bread, Pacific Almond milk, fresh eggs, Portland Roasting coffee, and more. The fact that Western-staple perishables like milk, eggs, and bread once arrived magically on one's doorstep is a convenience that explains the contemporary success of Amazon. Since the milkman business was killed off by mass car ownership, it's fascinating that grocery delivery has lately reincarnated itself via the Internet as a modern convenience for busy American middle-class professionals. (There's actually an old delivery box between my apartment entryway and the exterior hallway that once presumably held polished shoes, fresh milk bottles, postal packages, and whatnot in the tiny unfinished room now all locked up tight on the hallway side for safety, made deliberately defunct by the landlord.)
|oldest house in Eastmoreland, 3814 SE Martins Street|
But the highlight of the sale for me was following a big sign on SE 39th Avenue in mid-afternoon and then walking around a tall hedge and into the enclosed yard of the oldest house in Eastmoreland, a large multi-story white house with a curved front porch on top of the hill, which presumably used to overlook farmland—a local fiefdom. The house is now owned by a pleasant woman who used to operate the Eastmoreland Market, which all came out in conversation with Jeff, since he noticed she was selling restaurant equipment alongside a slew of antiques and old costumes. He spotted a vintage rimmed Heath bowl on one of her tables and offered to let me have it, but since I have plenty of bowls and not enough plates, I let him take it, though I did the bargaining. Why she didn't sell the bowl on eBay or Etsy instead for a lot more money, I don't know (other than avoiding more hassle), but Jeff was grateful, and the bowl's in good hands.
|atypical Eastmoreland home|
For the record, sellers tend to start packing things up around three, well ahead of the five o'clock wrap-up, most buyers having already begun to trickle away at lunchtime. The sale is definitely an early-bird sort of event, although afternoon is usually when the sun comes out in Portland (if it does), making things all rosy and warm. Carrying one's shopping over to Sunday is also an option, except that only about a quarter of the houses set up again on Sunday, which means Saturday is really it for the sale (and a bummer on years like 2012 when Saturday gets rained out).
|vintage turquoise Lincoln Continental|
Here was this year's haul on my end:
$40.00 large handwoven fur-strip-and-wool pillow
2.00 large framed, signed black-and-white food photograph (of patterned squash)
1.00 two like-new Italian canning jars (.5- & 1.5-liter)
1.00 pair of small wooden salt cellars (gift)
.25 weak lemonade (passed off on Jeff)
.50 vintage Hall Mack Hide A Line indoor retractable clothes line
.10 five vintage wire screw-in hat-and-coat hooks
.10 large 3" loose-leaf book ring
Eastmoreland, I suspect, is still the biggest and best yard sale in Portland, though I have started branching out this year to test that hypothesis. The Eastmoreland Sale is well organized, and the map, as always, is actually a map, with participating houses numbered and described. There are Porta Potties readily available down at Duniway School and lots of little food and drink stands manned by adorable children, like the two young girls who admitted that no, they didn't make the cookies themselves but, wait!, they did stir up the (packaged) lemonade. The only real issue I had with this sale is that it's just so big, with so many participants, that it's virtually impossible to see all the houses in one day—by car, maybe, on foot, no.
We took only a short lunch break in the two-o'clock hour back at the friend's house, but then used up most of the hours from three to five picking up and loading into his trailer all the mid-century furniture and other vintage items Jeff had bought. And he bought a lot: a vintage glass-topped metal dining set from a former architect who walked with a cane and offered free career advice on the benefits of self-employment; a teak dining table with three non-matching vintage 1970's dining chairs; a rolling Coleman Igloo cooler; a red vintage jerry can; a vintage turntable; a cheese wheel; a small aluminum café table; a vintage Sony radio; a large rectangular vintage beveled mirror; a vintage Irish mohair plaid blanket; a woven basket; and a vintage Heath Ceramics bowl. A few of those things he's keeping for himself, but most will be resold. The teak dining table, for example, has already been refinished and sold over at his shop space at Hawthorne Vintage, delivered to a customer this afternoon, in fact.
|tub of free 1940's magazines, Eastmoreland Garage Sale|
The concept of a neighborhood yard sale is simple and brilliant. Instead of individuals wasting gas and time driving around town every summer weekend to a bunch of isolated garage sales all across town, about 30 years ago Portlanders realized that banding together per neighborhood could provide bigger rewards for both sellers and buyers by offering more goods for more buyers all at once. Sellers pay a fee to their neighborhood association on sign-up and in return get free marketing and a yard sign. (Similarly, many antique or vintage shops lease along the same street or even the same block, sending each other customers looking for something specific and giving niche buyers more to choose from.) As a result, I almost never do garage or estate sales the old way, where you mark off a route on a map by way of ads in the newspaper or on Craigslist. That takes up too much precious weekend time. Far superior is the neighborhood yard/garage/rummage sale, especially when it all happens over a single month of Saturdays. It's one more way Americans are realizing that some things are just more efficient and fun when done in community.
How many neighborhood association-hosted annual garage sales does Portland, Oregon, have? Know of others? Let me know, and I'll add them to the list!
Hollywood Annual Neighborhood Clean-up (5/17/14, Sa 9-3, Archbishop Howard School parking lot)
Sumner (5th annual: 6/7/14, Sa 9-dusk, 7 homes)
Laurelhurst (29th annual: 6/14/14, Sa 9-3, 130 homes)
Maywood Park (27th annual: 6/13-15/14, Fri-Sa 9-4/Su 9-2, 40 homes)
Eastmoreland (29th annual: 6/21-22/14, Sa 8-5/Su 10-4, 144 homes)
Irvington (11th annual: 6/28/14, Sa 9-4, 30 homes)
Sabin (6/28/14, Sa)
Overlook (4th annual: 7/19/14, Sa, 50 homes, free share at curb on Su 7/20)
Roseway (7/19/14, Sa)
Sullivan's Gulch (7/19/14, Sa)
Concordia (16th annual: 7/25-27/14, Fri-Su, 75 homes?)
Kenton (2nd annual: 9/6/14, Sa)