A few weeks ago I was thinking about what I wanted to write for my monthly blog. Nothing was front and center for me at the time so I decided to try to dredge up as many memories of my childhood in as quick a time as possible. I wrote my stream of memories as they emerged from the recesses of my mind. And so here is a slightly edited version of that project that produced thoughts about flea markets plus seemingly random yet related memories.
I only recently put together that my love for flea markets started at a young age. Englishtown Flea Market has a particularly strong and positive spot in my heart. I remember not really liking the old stuff at the flea market—some would call it junk—but I loved others aspects, like the food and new items. And I didn’t like flea markets for a number of years after childhood but I love them now. The main thing I remember about Englishtown was the excitement of visiting the Danskin man. Nathalie and Peri and I loved to get leotards and tights in so many varieties there. My favorite was the gymnastic style that had a V-neck and a zipper down the front.
This was the era of Olga Korbut at the Olympics so we were in love with gymnastics. I have vivid memories of running around and doing fake gymnastics—and then some real gymnastics after we got lessons—on the lawn between Peri’s grandparents and her house. Fake gymnastics was were we would take a running start and call out round-off, back-somy, back-layout, or some sort of floor routine while we spun around but didn’t actually tumble. Peri and I went to the YWCA in Princeton when they first offered real gymnastics classes. It was all so new then. I remember vividly how Peri and I watched this beautiful girl with long flowy hair do a backward walkover. Her name was Yvette. In about a year or so she and her family actually moved to Roosevelt. She and her whole family was just so cool to Peri and me and everyone. I think we all had crushes on someone in that family.
As the gymnastics craze grew, a school called Alts then opened in Princeton at the University and we took gymnastic classes there. I stuck with Alts up through high school when they moved to their new location on Bear Brook Road in Princeton Junction (just down the road from Erehwon as it turned out—see The Moment My Taste Buds Came Alive for more about Erehwon). I gave gymnastics up perhaps in my junior or senior year when I really had too many after-school activities.
I loved all my high school activities. There was Field Hockey, Winter Track, Spring Track, Musicals, Choir, Schola Cantorum—the a cappella choir, and my most favorite and nerdy activity—Math League! Math League was such an interesting and satisfying activity even if I didn’t always get the math problem correct. They were really difficult word problems for the most part and even if I made a dent in them I felt good. We did OK as a school though nothing quite like the prep schools in and around Princeton.
All of these memories stem from my memory of Englishtown as a kid. Besides the Danskin man, my other important memory was getting a baby goat—a kid—there. I don’t really remember buying Geto, but I remember how my great aunt Ellie held him like a baby in her arms as Mom drove us home, Erik and me in the back. What an amazing item to get at a flea market.
Geto was a wonderful pet. Our cat, Minu would sometimes stand on Geto’s back and we loved to play with Geto while he tried to butt us with his small horns. Geto liked to eat any and everything he could find. In general goats are known for being an automatic lawn mower. Unfortunately he also ate half of our dogwood though I loved how he left the tree so that it draped gracefully over our steps to no-where—concrete steps in the middle of our lawn. Sometimes we would get a call from a neighbor down the street to come and get our goat who had wandered down the road. I loved him—what a flea market find!
These days we go to Stormville Flea Market which is open one weekend a month from Labor Day to Memorial Day and a couple of special days in October and November. I can’t say that we have found anything as unusual as a goat there, but just like Englishtown, there is food, old items and new items, organized into separate areas so that you know what you are getting. And leotards are nowhere to be found at Stormville—I have no idea where you can get such specialty items even though little girls are most certainly doing gymnastics now that it has become more mainstream.
Most times when we visit any flea market, we don’t buy much but we have such a good time looking at the various, and sometimes quirky, items for sale. Each time we visit we identify the item of the day—something that seems to be sold at more than a handful of stalls. And I am not saying there was just two or three of them—it is more like five or more times that we see the same item in a particular day. Like last time we found old wooden tool boxes many times. And we saw architectural items over and over. Or there was the time we saw the same 60s penguin ice bucket at probably six different spots! Or the time we saw garden gnomes aplenty—that is a common sighting in summer. Another time it was typewriters. It’s a fun activity that emerged naturally for us after years of scouring flea markets! And I owe this all to Englishtown. Thank you Englishtown for starting a life-long love of visits to flea markets.