Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part III From Albert Lea: Antiques & memories October 29, 2015

A Halloween mask for sale at Antiques of the Midwest.

One of several Halloween masks I spotted at Antiques of the Midwest in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

DO YOU REMEMBER your favorite Halloween costume? I do. I dressed like a gypsy, pulling a black cotton skirt striped with vivid hues from my mom’s closet and safety pinning it around my waist. I topped whatever blouse I wore with a winter coat. A thin elastic band on a molded plastic gypsy face mask gripped my head as I peered through cut-out eye holes. Strands of plastic beads swayed from my neck. Bangles danced on my wrists. I felt every part the care-free gypsy.

Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

Memories of my brief gypsy life flitted through my thoughts as I perused Antiques of the Midwest in historic downtown Albert Lea. Among all of the merchandise in this sprawling shop, I spotted several Halloween masks. And that sparked the playback of childhood memories.

Three stacks of JC Penney catalogs dating back to the 1940s are available for purchase at Antiques of the Midwest.

Three stacks of JC Penney catalogs dating back to the 1940s are available for purchase at Antiques of the Midwest.

An Archie mask for sale.

An Archie mask for sale.

Vintage clothing proved fun to peruse.

Vintage clothing proved fun to peruse.

And isn’t that what antique stores play into—cherished memories? Nostalgia sells. Otherwise why would I care about outdated merchandise like uncomfortable plastic Halloween masks that curbed clear vision and psychedelic clothing and stacks of old JC Penney catalogs?

Although I didn't want this vintage 1960s make-up mirror, I never-the-less was drawn to it.

Although I didn’t want this vintage 1960s make-up mirror, I never-the-less was drawn to it.

When you shop at an antique store, what do you find yourself drawn to?

I hold a fondness for old glass pitchers. They are works of art.

I hold a fondness for old glass pitchers. They are works of art.

For me it’s vintage drinking glasses and tablecloths (yes, I already own too many), clocks and art. Oh, how I love a vintage print or an original. Most often, though, I buy these at garage sales or thrift stores. I have enough art that I can switch it out in my home. Often.

If only I still had that toy buggy in which I pushed dolls and cats dressed in doll clothes.

If only I still had that toy buggy in which I pushed dolls and cats dressed in doll clothes.

Filing through a rack of children’s clothing at Antiques of the Midwest, I discovered a red plaid wool skirt just like one I wore as a child. How many of you have clothes from your childhood or teenage years? While cleaning my mom’s basement several years ago, I found a pair of cuffed lime green pants worn when I was a stick thin teen. They are hanging now in the closet of a spare bedroom in my home. Someday, my children will ask, “Why did Mom keep these?” Perhaps the pants will end up in an antique store, but more likely will be trashed.

Antiques of the Midwest holds thousands of antiques and collectibles.

Antiques of the Midwest holds thousands of antiques and collectibles.

Opening the door into an antique shop compares to opening a book about life. Therein, in the collections of items from yesteryear, our stories unfold. Imagine the stories I could write if I sat in an antique store, unobserved, eavesdropping.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Just inside the front door, the canary yellow molded chairs caught my eye.

Just inside the front door, the canary yellow molded chairs caught my eye.

Mannequins always make merchandise seem more usable and personal.

Mannequins always make merchandise seem more usable and personal. I also consider them artsy.

This creative display helps shoppers to visualize this merchandise in their homes.

This creative display helps shoppers visualize merchandise in their homes.

If you're already thinking Christmas, at least one vendor has a sizable Christmas display.

If you’re already thinking Christmas, at least one Antiques of the Midwest vendor has a sizable Christmas display.

Merchandise snugged into a cabinet.

Merchandise snugged into a cabinet makes for a museum like display.

This is the first puppet I can remember finding in an antique store.

This is the first puppet I can remember finding in an antique store.

FYI: Antiques of the Midwest is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays from December – March. The shop is located at 218 S. Washington Avenue in downtown Albert Lea.

This is the third in my “From Albert Lea” series. Check back for one final post. Click here to read my first and then my second story.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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23 Responses to “Part III From Albert Lea: Antiques & memories”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    We had those molded chairs in orange. 🙂 Stores like these are a walk back into time for me as well and it always amazes me what ends up in the nooks and crannies of these stores.

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    I’m drooling again… another antique store. Honestly, Audrey, I’m just about to fuel up the truck and make my way up north! I just LOVE antique shopping!

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    In my neighborhood, no one could afford to buy a Halloween costume. So we made them. One year my brother found a large cardboard tube. In a burst of creativity, he painted it white then painted a large box white with red lettering and went as a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. I wish we took pictures. To no one’s surprise, he became an artist.

  4. I am a freak for glassware, so have to restrain myself from going into places like this – ha! Love the photo of the Santas – Great Captures 🙂 Happy Day – Happy Exploring – Enjoy 🙂

  5. Thread crazy Says:

    Aww, yes Halloween costumes. I can remember a few, mainly a ghost or two. Plus as a pre-teen, I made a robot costume with boxes for head n body, cut up brown paper sacks for arms n legs n added 2 shoe boxes for feet. Painted it all silver. Had a lot of fun that year!. I too gave.my first doll house and wicker baby doll carriage. Wouldn’t part with them.

  6. I remember getting JCPenney’s and Sears catalogs in the mail especially around Christmas. I always look for knitting needles and crochet hooks. I’d love to find some old drop spindles and spinning wheels.

  7. hotlyspiced Says:

    I’d love the santas and the old pram. So many gorgeous treasures. I love these shops as there’s always so many things of interest and delight. You have done well to survive all these years without a dishwasher! xx

  8. Jackie Says:

    I remember those plastic masks. Mostly how hot my face was while trick or treating, I remember it being wet inside the mask, I think mostly from my hot breath from running house to house. I very seldom buy from antiques stores, but I enjoy the reminders of my childhood, the older I get the more antique things seem to be 🙂

    • Your assessment of wearing those masks is spot on correct. Still, they held that appeal of changing you into someone you were not in a magical sort of way. I don’t often buy from antique stores either. But occasionally. And, yes, the older I grow, the more I also see items from my youth in these shops.

  9. […] “DO YOU REMEMBER your favorite Halloween costume? I do. I dressed like a gypsy, pulling a black cotton skirt striped with vivid hues from my mom’s closet and safety pinning it around my waist. I topped whatever blouse I wore with a winter coat. A thin elastic band on a molded plastic gypsy face mask gripped my head as I peered through cut-out eye holes. Strands of plastic beads swayed from my neck. Bangles danced on my wrists. I felt every part the care-free gypsy.” For more of the story click here. […]


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