Flea markets or swap meets as they are now tagged have been around for generations. There are conflicting stories about their origin. Flea market comes from the French marché aux puces, a name given to a market in Paris.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flea_market.
From the late ’60s thru sometime in the mid 70’s, I spent every Saturday at the Englishtown NJ flea market. https://www.nytimes.com/1973/06/24/archives/englishtowns-flea-market-a-glorious-junkheap-with-infinite.html
In my time Englishtown was acres of dust, dirt, and dry heat. There were no trees in that field. No shade, and buildings with no air conditioning. The most memorable building was the hot chicken building. The chicken got dropped in that hot grease and came out like no other fried chicken I have ever eaten to date. Sometimes the chicken got dropped on the floor. The floor was dusty and muddy too. Mary would say the chicken would not taste good if it did not have a little dirt on it. When it rained it was muddy, but that did not stop Mary Jeter from having someone make that 22-mile trip. She didn’t drive but always had a ride. If there were cressey greens or dandelions on the way, you had to stop so she could pick them along the way. The greens and dandelions were for those jugs of wine she made.
If you touched an item, Mary had her hands on first she would say “I’ll kick your ass!” she was serious about her flea marketing. That was her joy. Englishtown was only one source of getting goods. She scanned the Courier News for garage sales, and anything cheap, she would grab it. Mary bought cheap but she knew the value. Her work as a domestic showed her what others thought to be valuable. She bought anything she thought she could sell, and she was some saleslady. One day a week people sat large items out for pickup. Those items did not get picked up before Mary, Ralph, and at times I scanned and picked them up. Ralph, Mary’s son had a blue and white panel, pick-up truck. We cruised through the “right” neighborhoods looking for furniture and antiques.
The backyard sale on Wiley Ave was a big event. A big backyard surrounded with tall hedges. Mary’s flea market. Mary had everyone involved setting up and bringing things out of the basement. I seem to have inherited that flea market energy that I loved so much. It is in my blood. She loved the hustle of it all, and so do I. Mary opened a thrift shop when she no could no longer make it to Englishtown. She collected items and ran a thrift shop for the church. She gave back to the community and gave to children while giving the proceeds to the church.
Today I find myself with that same flea market excitement and energy. I pick up antique pieces that I may or may not be able to use. I cruise through thrift shops, antique stores, and flea markets and then I set up at a flea market every Sunday. Now I set up at a flea market on Sundays. I eat cold fried chicken and remember that hot, dirty, fried chicken. I smile about the spirit of flea marketing that my grandmother and father passed on. I am thankful for the great times I spent with Mary, my grandmother, Ralph, my father, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins.