Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lindy Ballpoint Pens

Last time I talked about the vintage fountain pens I’ve found at estate sales.  I love the way they write; each one seems to have its own personality.  However, during college I discovered that they’re not without their drawbacks.  Fountain pens tended to explode in my purse or backpack, or drip blobs of ink on my compositions, so I got through my classes with a quiver full of Lindy stick ballpoint pens in every length and color they made.  I saved the fountain pens for letter-writing at home.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found a shoe box full of Lindy pens in lots of shapes, sizes and colors at a recent estate sale.   I happily bought the lot, only to get the box home and discover that, of course, most of those old ballpoint pens didn't write anymore.  I figured I could buy refills for some of them, but what to do with the others?

Remembering my friend Peggy’s conviction, “No matter what it is, someone collects it!”  I went online to search for “Lindy Pens” and discovered a wonderful blog by a man named George, who is a pen collector.  http://mysupplyroom.blogspot.com/  (And I thought I had a lot of pens!...)  George’s blog says that Lindy pens were popular in the 1950s-1970s but a lot of them were not refillable and thus didn’t make it to the 21st century.   The company went out of business in the 1990s.  George helped me find homes for many of the Lindys in the box, and most of the remaining pens (except the few I’m keeping) ended up in his massive collection.  (One of my convictions is that collectible items belong with people who can appreciate them.)  I still have a few for sale on eBay.

Based on the number and variety of Lindy pens that I found at the estate sale – including factory samples and seconds – our guess is that the previous owner must have either worked at the Lindy factory or had a good friend who did.  The previous owner must have had a good sense of humor, too – because in the box of pens I also found this creature, made from removable metal clips on the Lindy pens.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Confessions of a Penaholic

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when the young woman at the estate sale pointed to the object I was buying and asked me, "How does that work?" 

"It's a fountain pen..." I began.

"We thought it was a pen," she said, "but my mom and I couldn't figure out how to get it to write.  I think it belonged to Great-Grandpa."

I pulled off the cap and unscrewed the body of the pen to show her the place where the ink is stored.  "This one holds a little ink cartridge.  Other fountain pens have a built-in ink storage device that you squeeze or pull after you put the tip of the pen into a bottle of ink. Then you reassemble the pen and start writing."   I put the pen back together, licked my thumb, ran the nib across my thumb, and produced a faint blue line when I pulled the pen point across a scrap of paper.

"Cool!" she said.  And she charged me a dollar.

It is cool.

I've been in love with pens since I was a little kid, and started using fountain pens during high school -- even though by that time everyone else was using ballpoints.  The picture shows three of my recent finds:  a basic Sheaffer cartridge pen with a fine point, an older Sheaffer with a 14k nib, and a Parker 51 Special.  Oddly enough, I prefer the way the less-valuable Sheaffer cartridge pen writes, to the harder-to-find Sheaffer gold nib and the iconic Parker 51.

I only have one inkwell in my collection so far.

It's a small solid rectangle of clear glass with two wells for ink, stamped MADE IN ENGLAND.  I won it in an eBay auction from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, UK.  It was found in the building that houses the Centre.  My inkwell was made many years after Miss Austen died, but I like having the connection with her nonetheless. 

Next time, I'll tell you about the box of ballpoint pens I found at an estate sale, and the interesting history of an American business I uncovered when I started researching them online.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pastry Cloth

"What IS it?" someone asked, as I lifted this piece of cloth from a pile of linens at an estate sale last winter.

I knew exactly what it was:  my grandmother would have called it a pastry cloth (or pastry frame).  Whatever its proper name is, it has concentric circles in the middle and a ruler printed on the bottom edge.  You use it to roll out pie crusts or homemade noodles, and you don't have to guess if you're making the right size to fit in a given container.  This was one I had to bring home with me -- not only is it a retro classic, but it's functional (given how much I like to bake).

Of course when I spread it out to take some pictures, someone else discovered its other purpose:

If you leave it lying around, it functions as a Cat Magnet.

Fortunately, the pastry cloth is washable.  This morning I used it to measure the dough for scones:

(No cats were present during the creation of this breakfast item.)  I used my own variation on a recipe from a cookbook my friend Vickie sent me, many years ago, from the good folks at King Arthur Flour.  You can see their basic recipe here:


And if you prefer a gluten-free scone, the recipe is here:


Bon appetit, y'all.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

First Post: The Vintage Paper Dolls

I love to go to estate sales and yard sales.  I usually find interesting things; sometimes I buy them.  I usually meet nice people, although some folks at these sales are...well, I can't quite put my finger on it, but they're Different.

For my first post, I want to share some pictures of vintage paper dolls that I found at an estate sale....

These paper dolls were in a large flat cardboard box.  Most of them appear to date from the 1930s and '40s.  Whoever the previous owner was, she must have cherished them because she had saved the dolls and their outfits very carefully.   This girl had Shirley Temple paper dolls in two sizes, a set of three Deanna Durbins (each with an extensive wardrobe), a very large Jane Withers doll, and a number of little paper dolls that she must have cut from children's magazines. 

Not content with regular paper dolls, the previous owner had also cut pictures from fashion magazines or catalogs and played with them too. Each one had a name written on the back in pencil. I can just imagine a little girl, maybe 75 years ago, making up stories to go with the characters' names. For example, the pink-dressed doll at the bottom of the above photo is "Emily Watson." The one in the black dress is "Lena Shade." (I wonder if Lena was the villainess?) 

Come to think of it, the outfits on these dolls appear to be from a time earlier than the 1930s.  I wonder if the previous owner had inherited someone older's paper doll collection, or if she was given a stack of old magazines to cut up? 

(Do little girls play with paper dolls anymore?)

Garrison Keillor famously said, "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted."  Whoever gave this little girl the gift of imagination, gave her many hours of inexpensive, creative entertainment.  I was pleased to have the chance to peek into her childhood and see what she valued enough to keep for more than half a century.

What happened to the paper dolls?  Well, I can't keep everything I find at estate sales; if I did, I'd either need a 15,000 square foot house to store stuff in, or someone would nominate me to be featured in a "reality" TV show about people with the inability to Let Things Go.  I sold most of the paper dolls on eBay, but I kept the smaller of the two Shirley Temple dolls and her outfits.  I may need something to play with, on a rainy day.  :)