Monday, March 29, 2010

The Whiskey Jug

Sometimes the most significant moments in your life occur without your ever knowing it. This old whiskey jug was one of those moments for me. As silly as it may sound this old piece of pottery may have been the beginning of a lifelong passion. The whiskey jug purchased long ago was really the first exposure that I had to the antiques business. So here is the story.

Aunt Gladys

Aunt Gladys (my mothers sister) in a crazy way, is the reason that I'm in this business. My father passed away in a professional drag racing accident when I was 6 years old. When this happened in the 1960's women's liberation hadn't quite taken hold yet. My mother had to retrain and reinvent herself from housewife to worker. Since daycare was still a future luxury my mothers family stepped in to help fill the gaps of raising me. Grandparents, Aunts and Uncle's all helped in raising a somewhat independent young child.
Aunt Gladys was quite an interesting person. She believed in aliens, ghosts and Ouija boards. She smoked like a chimney, could swear with the best of them and had a family with 5 children. When the time came to help out with a young nephew she was always there. School days and summertime's were spent under her care. Crazy philosophies aside, she also had during the 1960's a passion for collecting mason jars and stoneware pottery. I was often taken along on the jaunts out to a local flea market called Theron's. At the time it seemed as though we were going on trips to the end of the world. The drive to Theron's seemed to take hours ( it was really about 20 minutes ) as an adult I would complete that same trip hundreds of times.
At Theron's we would peruse the booths for the rare and unusual. I can recall seeing my first nickelodeon there. I can still remember a clear as day the endless display cases filled to the top with some of the greatest treasures that a young kid could imagine. We would spend hour after hour viewing all of the great items and after careful inspection the days purchases would be made. On one of those trips the a stoneware whiskey jug was obtained.

Being only 8 years old at the time of the purchase I was not allowed to ever touch the coveted jar. Although it was only worth a few dollars we were taught to treat it with the respect that it deserved for surviving to such a ripe old age. From the day that it was purchased I was enamoured by that piece of pottery. I would watch the whiskey jug as it was moved from place to place in the house. In summertime it would find itself on the front porch, fall would find it decoration the kitchen, winter usually meant storage in the basement and spring would bring about its annual rebirth towards its summertime vestige. That old stoneware jug just always seemed to be there.
When I was eleven years old when one of those fateful announcements of change was set upon me. Aunt Gladys, Uncle Bill and Skip my cousin would be moving. Times were hard in the construction business that Uncle Bill worked in. The rumors of employment in the construction industry in the state of Florida prompted the move. They first visited to confirm the rumors. Once confirmed the plan to move was put into action. A date was set for the final move and it was dicided that a garage sale would be held to get rid of everything that could not be taken.

And there it sat. That coveted antique that had been so carefully purchased 4 years before. I was now a 12 year old future entrepreneur with a dream of owning my very own whiskey jug. I eyed it wistfully hoping that somehow it would be mine. The price, a whopping $2.00 was well beyond my meager means. I paced, made countless inquiries and had the saddest looks that I could muster on my face. Finally my Aunt to took notice. She wouldn't just give it to me but she did reduce the price to the now affordable .25. The journey to my stash of cash was immediate. I produced a dime and three nickles for payment and that great treasure was now mine. I ran home and immediately and put it into my room, ecstatic over finally having it all to myself.

The whiskey jug has been with me ever since. A few years ago the handle was broken. It has been used as a bank and as a home decoration. It has spent time in the limelight, and it has been housed in the garage. It is one of the few items that I have never considered selling or giving away. Its current value on a good day would still be only a few dollars, but to me it is priceless.
It has been over 40 years since the purchase and I can still remember it as if it had occurred today. I am writing this because Aunt Gladys passed away this morning. I wish that I could step back in time and relive those trips to the flea market, but even though I can't the memories created from looking at an old jug are golden. I can't help but wonder how much different my life would be without the trips to the flea market, without the purchase of an old jug and without having her around to influence my life. Today, what seemed to be such an insignificant event at the time ultimately put me on the path to being in a business that I love so much. That old jug today is full, of memories. I have never been completely sure about the definition of a family heirloom before today, but now I am. Is that jug worth a million dollars, I don't think so, but it is priceless, absolutely. Aunt Gladys will be greatly missed.


  1. Wow. I had no idea! I can remember this jug pretty well from my own childhood... often on the fireplace collecting change. And I have to ask... did I have anything to do with the broken handle? A part of me says yes.

    And as for Aunt Gladys's passing, yes. She will be very missed by all of us. This is a great little tribute to her though. I wish I had gotten to know her better, but reading this story certainly brought me closer to her.

    Thanks for this, dad.

  2. Dear Captain Dangerfield:

    I'm so very sorry for the loss of your Aunt Gladys. She sounds like a truly wonderful person.

    I found your blog through your oh-so-talented daughter's site, which I found through an online comment your wife made somewhere about Rachel's card being visible in Katherine Center's Mom 2.0 video. (How's that for provenance?) And now I'm a besotted fan -- of your junk commentary, of your talented daughter, and even of your wife, who won't tolerate her yard looking like the city dump. =D

    Last Friday, I pulled my 2nd grader out of school, and took him with me to Round Top, Texas to browse through acres of junk in muddy fields. But we didn't just shop: we stopped and talked. With a man who was retired from 38 years with the railroad who told us stories of steam engines and what fire fighting looked like before 9-1-1. With a gentleman who spent his childhood in wade pools, and now specializes in selling anything that floats. We saw (and talked about) old Schwinn bicycles and rotary telephones -- things my little boy never imagined existed before the digital age into which he was born. We learned about geodes. And rusty things. And seashells. And art. And handmade pottery. But the whole time, I felt just a little guilty that my kiddo was missing out on a regular 8-hour school day.

    Your beautiful post today make me think that maybe I didn't do such a bad thing in letting him go with me to Round Top. And I'm hoping that the rattlesnake rattle, and seashells and rusty lock that he spent his hard-earned allowance on will be, like your jug, symbols of love and family and a shared history.

  3. Cousin Dave, thank you for the wonderful tribute to Mom. She was absolutely a rare find and like Aunt Ginny ( your Mom ) they were way ahead of their time. We had an unusual growing up which I think gave us all something unique to add to our personalities.
    Today Mom is dancing around heaven, breathing in deeply for the first time in 8 years and showing off her pretty painted toes in a pair of great sandals. Love....Debbie