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David Stoneberg

The whole point of the yard sale wasn’t about making money … it was about clearing out our garage attic, our closets and the crawl space under the house.

Like most people, we have too much stuff … good items that we’ve accumulated in the 34 years we’ve lived in our home. Anything we hadn’t used in a year … many items we hadn’t used in years … was eligible to be put into the garage sale.

In the past, when Norm and Linda Manzer held one of the area’s largest furniture and rummage sales at Grace Episcopal Church, it was easy to clean out the spaces in our house. We’d gather a carload or two full of stuff and take our unused and unwanted items to the church.

During three days in May, Manzer would run a crew of more than 100 people, who would take over the church social hall and the Native Sons Hall and sell people’s unwanted goods and in turn, raise money for orphans in Russia.

But, Manzer couldn’t find anyone to take over the rummage sale, in part because it turned out to be a full-time job, so the stuff accumulated at our house.

Our neighbors, Tom and Nancy Wilson, first thought of having a garage sale in May and we thought we’d join them. We’d done this with them before and it was fun, as my grandmother used to say “in a horrible sort of way.”

Little did we know how much work it was going to be. Or that it was going to take up two weekends, from nearly dawn to dusk … and as I write this, the job is not yet complete … because we have to take what didn’t sell to a church thrift store in Middletown.

For some of the things, the sorting process was fairly easy. Over the past two years, we bought two lovely recliners … so comfortable that both Joni and I can easily fall asleep just sitting in the living room, watching TV. (Sometimes Joni gets so warm, even on a chilly evening, because both the dog and cat like to curl up on her lap.)

So the two chairs that we had used in the living room, which were stored in the garage attic, came downstairs to be sold. One was free, because it was in such bad shape, and, although the price was right, there weren’t any takers. So, I’ll have to get rid of it this weekend.

The same logic applied to a beautiful coffee table … it was from Joni’s parents and it was too small … and to the piano stool. We had used them, but there was no longer any room for them in the house. Out they went, into the garage. And, by now, I’m sure you can tell, I was parking my car outside for the duration.

We sorted through two boxes of Christmas ornaments, angels, lights, decorations and wreaths, and put them to sell at $15 per box. We still have a couple of boxes of Christmas decorations under the house, along with a small, fake tree, which will be used later this year. (I found and was able to save a Christmas bell that has my name on it from 1961, when I was 7 years old. I wonder if my brothers have their Christmas bells? Maybe, I’ll ask them.)

One woman was thrilled to find our Christmas goods … she said she loves Christmas and although her daughter told her not to buy any more … she did and we were glad.

From under the house came a set of four very heavy iron folding chairs, designed to be left on an outdoors porch. I always hated to get them out, because they were so heavy, so I was glad that two people came by and each bought a pair.

Some of the items up for sale were things we’d had for a long time. I had five heavy glass beer mugs, two of which I bought in an antique store in 1974 when I was going to school in Wisconsin. I still drink an occasional beer, but haven’t needed an iced mug for it since my friend, Tom, moved away to Washington state. Boy, did he enjoy an iced mug of cold beer! Somehow, the beer mugs didn’t sell …not even for $3 each … so they will be taken to the thrift shop. Little will the new owners know of their history.

Another item I’d had for a long time was a large poster of Triumph motorcars. In the mid-1970s, my father, brothers and I owned four Triumph TR-3s when they weren’t worth much, ran them and rebuilt them, sold them and one we parted out and sold the bits and pieces. I bought the poster in 1972 and had it hanging on my bedroom wall for years. Today, there is other art on the wall. The framed poster was sold for $2 to a young woman who said her father and grandfather both liked cars … and she thought they might like the poster.

A collection of seashells were sold to one of the first men who came to the sale on Saturday morning, and a woven Navajo rug that used to hang on the wall was one of the last items we sold on Sunday afternoon. The man who bought it collects and displays Native American items and said he grew up in Calistoga, where he would find arrowheads on the banks of the Napa River.

In between those two sales, we talked to a lot of nice people, found out some of them knew Joni, and heard stories from the couples who came to look at the bits and pieces that were on tables in the driveway.

One couple said they were moving to Arizona and they were dreading boxing up and moving all their goods to their new home. Both of them said they couldn’t buy anything, but they did anyway, a plant stand, a tiny perfume bottle – I collect these, the woman said – and a wooden, three-legged piano stool, because, she added, it won’t take up much room in the moving van.

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st