Despite two or three short but dramatic downpours, and a sky that turned from milky white to slate gray to tornado blue and back again, hundreds of true bargain hunters crossing Poultney Street and Route 4 slowed traffic to a crawl at Whitehall’s Labor Day Weekend Garage Sale.
Prior to the sale, one of its organizers, Marge Mohn had predicted, “It’s going to be a big one. There should be something for everyone.”
Both of Mohn’s statements proved to be understatements. Saturday morning traffic was as thick as syrup on Poultney Street. The driver of a black, Kia Rondo waited one full minute to pull out into traffic after checking out the merchandise at Susan Neddo’s home.
Like all garage sales everywhere, professional vendors and private homeowners offered eager buyers a cornucopia of pleasant surprises. On Route 4 headed toward Fair Haven, seller Charles McKinney scratched his head, as he tried to recall why a circular table for sale was decorated with the main symbols of the Masonic Order.
“I got it at an auction in Granville,” McKinney said. “It’s new and handmade. But I’ve no idea why it has all those Masonic symbols.”
Julian McNamara of New York City, a buyer, was only a bit less puzzled by what he called his “best buy” at a house on Broadway. “It’s an Islamic-inspired brass bowl,” he said. “Or is it Hindu? Chinese?”
A customer snatched up a pair of gold painted, Egyptian bookends at the Flea Market on Route 4 past Buckley Road. Operator Nicholas Deutsch, speaking for himself and fellow vendor, Stephanie Safka, reported that “six vendors have set up for free” at the Flea Market.
The Flea Market, which has operated all summer, was doing especially brisk business due to “lots of traffic” along Route 4, Deutsch said. A sandstone Buddha and a two-foot, sandstone chicken — familiar to any motorist that has passed by the now-closed Fort Ann Antiques — help pride of place in their new location, the flea market. Deutsch added that his and Safka’s unsold merchandise would soon be housed down the road in Memory Lane Antiques.
Amateur sellers far outnumbered the professionals, however. And quite a bit more than “brisk” was the business that Rachel Roberts reported seeing along Poultney Street, scene of the main traffic slow-down.
Stewart’s Ice Cream workers announced that they had run out of garage sale maps due to heavy demand.
A total of 41 streets were listed as having private sales, seven were benefit sales, and six were sidewalk sales in the North Williams Street and Broadway areas.
Roberts recalled that the Whitehall Garage Sale usually draws a heavy turn out:
“Last year,” she said, “I purposely did not come out Friday night,” the unofficial first day of the sale. “The next day, at 8:15 a.m., there was a sign on the item, a baker’s rack, that said, ‘Sold. I’ll be back later to pick it up.”
“The Big One,” as Mohn has described it, was not just about exotic stone sculptures, Aladdin bowls or mystery Masonic tableware. Most buyers were hard-headed shoppers looking for solid furniture or clothing.
Back at Susan Neddo’s house on Poultney Street, the driver of a wine-colored Silverado pick-up truck, seized advantage of a break in traffic, and sped off down the street. In its truck bed, the Silverado carried that Rondo driver’s table, an elaborately carved, six-foot long dining table with four matching chairs — a $75 purchase. Mrs. Neddo, displaying a commercial candor not generally found at furniture stores, disparaged her own table, saying it wasn’t solid wood but only veneer.
“The chairs are solid,” she added, “and I padded them myself.”
Next to furniture, clothing was most sought after. Parents and grandparents zeroed in on school clothes for children or grandchildren victimized by that summer growth spurt that always comes just before the start of school.
“I bought a dress and a couple of Capri’s for school,” Granville’s Susan Moffatt said, as she stood next to her car on Queen Street. “None of her clothes fit her.”
Grandfather Butch Hurlburt held an armful of children’s’ clothes against his chest and smiled. Hurlburt nodded his head toward his wife, who was busy checking out more merchandise.
“My wife bought clothes for the grand kids,” Hurlburt said, shrugging his shoulders.
Naturally, there were professional or not-for-profit food vendors, but that did not discourage younger entrepreneurs — Sophia Harris, Brittany Lyons and Chloe Harris — from selling soda and cookies and popcorn from a “professional popcorn machine” at their business site at 73 Poultney Street, the home of Bob Putorti.
Asked where the wheeled popcorn machine came from, Putorti explained that it was sort of a “descendent,” in a vague way, of Putorti’s Market.
The three-day sale also attracted plenty of children buyers. An ingenious young man beat the traffic slow down by dragging his young friend across lawns in a snow sled. Over on Broadway, Granville’s Victoria Wilson and her cousin, Kate Drumm of Schuylerville, proudly spoke but could not seem to locate either the “little beaded key chains” that they had both bought or the “old cell phones” that Victoria had purchased.
Meanwhile, Grandmother Ruth Drumm unintentionally summed up the atmosphere of the village’s traditional labor day sale”
“I garage sale every other weekend with my granddaughters,” she said. “They carry their own purses and have their own budgets. And that’s the way it is.”
And, that’s the way it was for the hundreds who came to Whitehall’s Townwide Yard Sale, many of whom left happy.