Flea Markets

Good day and hope these words find your brain without a headache entrenched there.

Recently I was traveling along highway 44 and I passed the Union, Missouri exit. Every time I see this exit, either going out of town or returning from somewhere I am reminded of a time long, long ago. Back in the mists of time my friend Matt and I (and way, way, way back farther his mom and dad) used to hit up the Union flea market along with the bigger Wentzville flea market.

For those of you not really familiar with a flea market, the concept is like a centralized yard sale. The sellers have tables or booths set up with their wares to sell. Some sellers sell products such as candles, makeup, art, food, belts or home-made crafts and there is a plethora of examples of other manufactured items for sale. But for the true flea market feel, you find the sellers that are trying to rid themselves of household items or ‘junk’ that they no longer need/want.

When Matt and I were kids (10-16 years of age), we scoured the flea market for video games/systems (Atari, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Intellivision, PlayStation), music (tapes, records, CD’s, bongos), general electronics (stereos, music keyboards, a stoplight, cassette/CD Walkman), athletic equipment (baseballs, gloves, bats, hockey pucks, hockey sticks) and whatever else we were into that year.

As we got older, some of the more interesting memories of flea marketing revolved around my friend Matt and I being sellers ourselves. A lot of the stuff Matt sold over the years was from his time spent working for the global beer conglomerate Anheuser Busch (before they because a heart-less corporate sellout). Promotional and marketing items from some of the more famous campaigns and some lesser know products or lines that didn’t pan out long term put quite a few dollars in his pocket as the Anheuser Busch brands were very much in demand. Over the years we sold video games, books, old computers, toys, tapes, CD’s, VHS tapes, sporting equipment, electronics previously purchased at the flea market and a mish-mash of all kinds of crap.

Buying or selling, it was grand time. Being in those situations with Matt was an early education on supply and demand. Matt’s mom ran and continues to run an antique store in Eureka, Missouri. He watched her dicker with people and learned how to push for the most money for his selling items and to try to reason them down to a lower price on their items when buying. The dude was a shark and almost always talked someone into a pretty sweet deal (for him) when he really wanted something. Me, I just liked checking out the cornucopia of things on display and for sale. Besides being enamored with musical instruments (none of which I could actually play), I really liked all things ninja and mid evil. Fancy knives, swords, throwing stars, shields, helmets, maces, nunchuks, special gloves, and all the associated art. It was all so cool…expensive for my meager budget…but still so cool.
When we were sellers, our goal was to move as much ‘merchandise’ and return home with as little as possible. When we were buyers, our goal was to get the most for the amount of money we spent. No matter what, it was an excuse for me and my friend to hang out and be goofballs. Just like many things when you get older, you miss those simpler times and all the freedom you enjoyed.

As a little tangent, let me tell you about a byproduct of the flea marketing experience. During the fall I would usually spend the night at Matt’s home in Grubville on Saturday night. We (me, Matt, his mom and dad) would get up early on Sunday and head out to a McDonald’s for breakfast. Matt and I would be in the covered bed of their old GMC truck (no seat belts or anything!!! Mon Dieu!!!) along with his old Sanyo cassette deck. On these sleepovers and subsequent road trips, Matt and I would try out our impersonations of wrestlers, radio personalities, school teachers or whomever we felt like and record the results on cassettes. This was our version of a podcast before there was pod-casting (1986-1987). We borrowed the concept from a Cheech and Chong record (self titled) from 1971. Their version was set in a fictitious radio station with the call letters KRUD and they were in-studio radio DJs doing interviews and such. We adapted our own faux radio station after a local radio station in St Louis called KHTR (103.3 FM). Our version of the radio program was called Music Free in jest because at the time, most the of the pop and rock stations tended to play more commercials and have DJs talk extensively talk (more so than actually play music). For the time period, we were both heavily into watching wrestling on channel 11 – the WWF (now known as WWE). We impersonated wrestling greats such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, and many others. We would do on the fly skits ‘in-studio’ which was typically in his room or in the back of the truck while his parents drove. Over the years we amassed 103 editions and developed our own story-lines. The majority of these were recorded on cassette tapes, one was captured on a reel-to-real tape recorder (very old school), one or two on 8-track, a couple on micro-cassette recorder and finally we graduated to recording full digital format directly on the computer. In the course of all of these recording sessions, we only had a few mishaps where we lost some material. The very first edition was probably the third or fourth ‘take’ as we didn’t like how we sounded or what we were talking about or whatever. Other than that we have had a few of those oops moments where we thought we were recording only to find out we didn’t push the record button (pushed play instead) or the tape jammed or the tape ran out. The only time we lost an entire session was edition 79. We recorded a digital session on the computer of about 70-80 minutes in segments including a test track or two. Somehow before we could ‘rip’ the files to a CD, they disappeared. We tried in vain with all those miracle programs that allegedly can restore erased files but to no avail. Only a test track managed to survive from edition 79.  But I digress.
This is the time of year when the temperatures start to get a bit more reasonable and I find myself thinking about yardsaling and flea marketing because that was typically the season when we would go. The memories of those two activities will forever be pleasantly linked in my mind. Perhaps one day soon Matt and I will return to the Wentzville flea market (if it is still there) and bust out a new podcast (Music Free) on my Podbean site and then scour the other people’s trash in search of our own personal, nostalgic treasure. Until then, try not to get sucked into your screens too much unless reading my blog!

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