Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Cash Register

     When thinking about my work as a period folk artist and my avid collecting of antiques, I sometimes  wonder how I would have gotten here if this appreciation had not been fostered as a child. The connection I feel to the early periods of American history are so strong that I believe it was given to me when I was formed, but it certainly didn't hurt that my parents dealt in antiques. 

The other day I was trying to come up with some memories of my early childhood. Antiques played a huge part of my young life, and some distinct images come to mind. We were often allowed to “play” with certain items as long as we were careful. It seems we knew not to be rough with these “old things” instinctively, but I never felt like we lived in a museum. My favorite recollection is of an old country store cash register that showed up at our house one day. With all of those buttons and a drawer that shot out, what kid wouldn't find that fascinating? It was eventually set up in our basement where my sister and I proceeded to set up “The Store”. We collected every cereal, oats, cracker, & cookie box we could get our hands on. Along with a myriad of other items, we opened for business. Our currency could have been any number of things, including the ever useful Monopoly money. We spent hours running our shop with each of us taking turns being the proprietor. Our friends also spent many an hour with us in our “dry-goods” establishment. 

As with most things we eventually moved on to something new, or the cash register was sold (that is the name of the antiques game). Our little excursion into the retail world seems like such an insignificant moment in time, but I am still impacted by it to this day. I sojourned for a time into the world of Museum Store management where the retail space had the look and feel of the early general store. I am also the curator of the Old General Store for our local historical society, not to mention my own retail business. These stores were central to life in communities. I have been privileged to hear first-hand stories of how important these places were for necessities, as well as, information, postal service, and in some cases they were the location of the first phone in the area. With the changing of rural communities into urban settings, we are losing quickly these last remnants of a time in our history that we will most likely not see again.

So, if there is a moral to this little epic, it is that if a child or grandchild shows an interest in “old things” let them spin that spinning wheel or turn that coffee grinder. Of course, I must add, most museums frown on such things. “Playing” in an antique shop is also not a good idea. But if you have something in your possession that can inspire the next generation, be sure to share it.