Follow me on TwitterMy Tweets
A collection of photography and exploration focusing on Upstate South Carolina and beyond.
Many years ago, when I was still in school, my father took me to the Pickens Flea Market. I don’t remember much about that trip, but I do remember the location in a prime piece of bottom land next to the Twelve Mile River. At the time it seemed like just a lot of junk to me.
As an adult, my flea market aficionado friend, Paul W., has been saying that we need to get over to the Pickens Flea Market. Unfortunately, it’s only open on Wednesdays, which is very inconvenient for those of us that have to work during the week. Since this is my spring break, my sister Glynda and I decided to head up that way and see what it was like.
There was dense fog in Greenville as we headed out. However, the sun broke through and the fog began to lift just as we pulled into the market parking lot. The place opens at 7:00 and we were arriving at 8:30. Crowds were already gathering.
As with most flea markets in the area, there are covered areas where the more permanent vendors set up and there are rows and rows of open air tables. Unlike the Anderson Jockey Lot, none of the covered areas are enclosed. Typical flea market ware can be found as soon as you enter the vendor areas.
The market has a completely different vibe than the Jockey Lot. Even though it’s still a cool place to visit, the Jockey Lot seems to have a layer of tourist trap country junk polish. Strip away that polish and you get the Pickens Flea Market. The place seems more authentic. Mountain folk come down from the hills to buy, sell and trade their wares. For some, the mountain persona is an affectation. For some, it is truly the way they are. Either way, it’s a fascinating venue for seeing all sorts of people.
As we walked through the stalls I thought about all of the “acquisition” shows we watch – Auction Kings, American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Storage Wars. The items on these tables looks very much like the same sort of stuff that turns up on those shows. I wondered what effect those shows have on this business. These are the real pickers, though. No glitz, no camera crews, no staging. This is where most of this type of material ends up – not in high end antique shops or pawn stores. I think Brandi and Jarrod from Storage Wars most closely approximate this style of buying and reselling. However, I’m sure celebrity has changed them, as it would any of these good folk.
At both the Anderson Jockey Lot and the Pickens Flea Market we preferred the open air tables to the covered spaces. It just seems that you could find more interesting things out there.
Of course, just about anything could be had. There was NASCAR memorabilia, of course. You could be rifles, shotguns, and ammo. There was produce, plants, and a few animals (but not nearly as many as the Jockey Lot.) You could get just about any type of ware memorabilia, including Nazi items, which was a bit spooky.
Early on in our visit we were wander through the outside tables when the sounds of gospel music wafted through the market. We meandered in that general direction, and found the Pickens Flea Market Musician’s Circle. An informal group gathers every Wednesday to play bluegrass, gospel, and old time country songs. The make-up varies from week to week, and even over the course of a day, as we found out.
I happened to have my field recorder with me, and got several good recordings of some of the songs. Here are three samples…
As the morning wore on the crowds got worse. I guess more people were taking advantage of spring break to visit. Even so, I was able to add to my collection of antique hymnals. I purchased one oblong collection of male quartet music from 1883 and an Episcopal Hymnal from 1892. I picked up a 1923 copy of “Kingdom Songs” at one table, and the vendor said that if I could sing a song from the hymnal, I could have it for free. I started to do just that, explaining ahead of time that I was a choir director and collected hymnals. The vendor told me to go ahead and take it – he was cleaning out his mother’s house and just wanted to get rid of it. I offered him some money anyway, but he refused. I thanked him, and parted ways.
Glynda was also successful. She found several old milk bottles to use for vases for her daughter, Katie’s upcoming wedding. However, she hit the jackpot with a crate of old bottles from the Shivar Bottling Company. The crate even had the stenciling from the company.
What makes this even more special is that Glynda and I had found the old Shivar Springs cisterns on a trek through Fairfield County. This was in the Shelton community at Clayton Depot, and the cisterns are on the National Register of Historic Places.
By 11:00, though, the crowds and heat started to get to both of us. It was time to leave. Most of the vendors were starting to pack up, as well. One of them told Glynda that by noon everyone pretty much closed up shop. He also said that while the crowds were high because of spring break, there weren’t as many vendors as usual. He said we should come back in May when things are really swinging. I guess we’ll just have to do that.
As an added bonus, we decided to drive along Twelve Mile River behind the market. The road twisted through some beautiful rolling farmland before ended at Wolf Creek School Road. Just to the left was the old school itself. It was a fitting end to a great outing.