It was going to be a beautiful Wednesday, a perfect day to head over to the Pickens Flea Market. This wouldn’t be just a random photography outing, though. I had a plan. There were things I wanted to buy, and stuff I wanted to see.
I arrived just as light was starting to break over the market. I wondered how the darker mornings due to the time change would affect vendors and patrons. Things were already hopping, but it wasn’t as busy as I’d seen it. I armed myself with cameras recorders and set off.
My main goal this morning was to spend some time at the musician’s corner. Last time I was here there was an older gentleman playing a pretty mean banjo. I hoped that he would show up again, and I’d get to watch his style and maybe pick up some pointers. I also had a couple of small things I wanted for around the house.
I headed pretty much directly toward the musician’s corner. I didn’t know if they would be playing that early or not. I was sidetracked once. One regular vendor always has an amazing array of vintage stringed instruments and old guns. This time he had some very interesting examples of both. He had an old .22 caliber revolver rifle. What really caught my eye, though, was a 1930s vintage tenor banjo. I could actually strum a few cords on it this time. The lack of a fifth string threw me off a bit, but it had a beautiful tone. Too bad I didn’t have a spare $500 for it.
I made my way over to the musician’s corner and found several playing. The banjo picker wasn’t there, though. For whatever reason, though, people there were treating me as if I were someone else – someone they knew very well. One large gentleman came over to me and offered a fist bump. Robert Perry and his girlfriend Sharon came over and chatted as if I were a long-time friend, even though I’ve only met them briefly. It was actually a nice feeling. I told them I had a few things to find in the market, but that I’d be back.
The Pickens Flea Market is divided into two parts. The older part with covered structures is on the left of the dividing fence, and the newer section with open air tables is to the right. A narrow gate is the only opening in the fence, and it can be a choke point. I think that at one time these were two different properties managed by different owners, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case. Each side has its own feel, though.
In some ways I like the open air table side better. There seem to be more antiques and curiosities. Both sides have their regular vendors, but there seem to be more random folks at the open air tables. I didn’t linger very long on the left side, but headed pretty much straight for the open air tables upon leaving the musician’s corner. Of course, I took lots of photos along the way.
When I’m at a flea market I always keep an eye out for old post cards and photo albums. Not that I want to purchase any of these, but ever since Jacob K’s story about the photo album of Pauline Smeltzer, I’ve wondered what other abandoned photos lurk in flea markets which might be a treasure trove to family members. It saddens me a bit to think that these memories are lost. I also find that the inscriptions and messages on old post cards often contain clues to past lives. Those two items are almost like time machines.
I came across one stash of old photos, but that collection seemed to be very popular. Every time I passed the booth there was someone standing there going through the bins. I didn’t get a chance to take a good look. I did find what I thought to be a collection of old post cards, and that’s where I made my true discovery and learning experience of the day.
A QSL card is a written confirmation of either a two-way radiocommunication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, television or shortwave broadcasting station. Wikipedia
What I thought were post cards turned out to be QSL Cards. These cards were meant to acknowledge communications between ham operators. So, in a sense they were post cards, but not of the vacation type I had imagined.
The QSL cards in this collection were vintage, from the 1930s. It looked like most of them had been sent to the same collector. I’m guessing that a ham operator’s estate had been cleared out, and that these had been part of the collection.
The cards came from all over the world. The more interesting ones had hand drawn images. All cards contained the same basic information – sending call sign, receiving call sign, duration of contact, time, date, frequency, and other specific technical information about the radio contact.
With the help of the vendor, Crystal, I picked out five particularly interesting cards to purchase.
Here are the scans of the QSL cards I collected, staring with front, then back…
I’ve never worked with ham radio, but my brother, Houston, has. In a world of instant Internet, this old style of communication is fascinating – post combined with radio.
NOTE: For more information on these cards, please see Brent Crawford’s excellent comment below.
I wandered back toward the musician’s corner to see if any more players had shown up. Several had, but not my elusive banjo player. The group started a rotation, with each player selecting, then singing a song. The woman who had been singing earlier picked up a banjo and began playing in a simple plucking style. She also used a capo to tune to the various keys. I guess I could try that, but I never know what to do with that fifth string while using a capo.
All in all it had been a great day at the flea market. I had bought some things I needed, bought some vegetables, and bought some stuff I didn’t need. To me, the $5 I spend on the QSL cards was worth it to learn something new, even if I never do anything else with the cards. I considered it the least I could do as a “thank you” to Crystal for her information. You never know what you’re going to learn at the Pickens Flea Market.