Wolff’s Flea Market: Ventriloquism, Marriage Kits, and the Best Kid’s Toy I’ve Ever Seen

Lately, waking up crazy early on a Sunday morning has lost its lustre for me. Liz and I have a habit of heading out to Wolff’s Flea Market (Rosemont), but while she goes out to look for sewing-related stuff… I’m just kind of along for the ride.

I’m on the lookout for old photos and autograph books, but mostly I’m killing time and taking photos of things that catch my eye. Most weekends, I’m hesitant about going… but once I get there, I do end up enjoying myself.

Liz is doing a guest post on someone else’s blog this week, and the topic she chose was going to a flea market. So we pretty much had to go yesterday, so she could get some photos, etc.

While I was a little less than enthusiastic, I have to say… given some of the finds I came across, my energy for the flea is back up. I saw one thing that literally had me smiling, ear to ear, for most of the morning.

We showed up around 6:45 or so. Thankfully, it’s already bright by this time and we weren’t stumbling around in the dark.

We parked in the small lot across from the main entrance, and happened to notice a ton of WWE trucks, lined up next to one another.

Designing the graphics for these trucks must have been fun.

You can’t tell so much from this photo, but had I taken my shirt off… you’d think we were twins. I’ve got the same tattoos.

More trucks, more artwork.

One booth, chock full of large color portraits of movie stars. It’s hard to really do justice to how many photos were on display (to say nothing of what was in the binders).

The full booth. When I asked the guy where he gets all his photographs from, he responded with If I told you, I’d have to kill you. Of course, of course. My fault for asking.

An old coke cooler that caught my eye.

Last year, I noticed how sometimes certain items would repeat themselves (like remote controls). I found a few instances of that today.

I also think I should be looking the prices of things up more, using my phone. I overheard a few vendors refer to their items and the prices being charged online… but I also heard a few claims on prices that were way, way off. If I were a really savvy shopper, I’d have my phone out at all times.

A really neat looking oxygen ventilator. No idea what this would be used for, but I imagine a small town doctor having this in tow, stored in the trunk of his car next to the spare tire.

Here’s one of the few purchases I’ve made: an old anti-war button from the 1960’s. It caught my eye, and for some reason I felt like shelling out some money for it. I didn’t do a good job of haggling, as the guy noticed my interest. I asked how much all his buttons were in general, and then fixated on this one. He asked $3, and I agreed without trying to see if he’d take $2 for it. Should have tried.

On the side of the button is this text: Hip Prod. 153 W. North Ave. Chicago

Doing a quick bit of research, I’m seeing the button go for around $8.99 online.

A few minutes later, another Coca-Cola cooler.

A really old school coin-operated telephone, sitting on top of an equally old radio.

A sweet looking Philco Stereophonic record player. Check out those folding speaker panels!

A view of the turntable.

An old Teltone recorder. At least, that’s what I think it says. Tried doing a search to see if I could find older Teltone recorders, and found little.

All the stuff above (starting with the Coca-Cola cooler) is from the same booth. I didn’t get the guy’s name, but all of his stuff looked pretty great. He doesn’t have a website, but gave me an outdated business card with a phone number: 1.888.550.1869.

At the end of one row, I spotted a this exchange. I found out later that the sale was most likely for the disco ball (below).

A little dustry, but I bet it lights up real good.

You know, just in case your current video sign isn’t working for you and you need another one.

Sitting in the midst of some furniture, I spotted this amazing Dictaphone. Once I spotted it, it was like the thing had this aura to it. As I was admiring it, another guy had the same reaction and was calling his wife to come take a closer look.

How old must this thing be?

One of my favorite details: a series of note/strips, where one would record timestamps, the dictator and transcriber. Amazing.

Amidst some old clothes and knick-knacks, I spotted this awesome looking painting. At first, I thought it was some variation on Saint George and the Dragon, and I guess it sort of was. On closer inspection, it was more like St. George and that thing from Dreamscape.

//Edit: Found out what this is. It’s Return of the Banished, by Keith Parkinson.

I found some old film cannisters, mostly empty. There was one that felt like it still had film in it.

I’m bad enough around old photos, but I worry about getting hooked on old, found videos. There’s something about found media that I love – how it’s this small and incomplete window into someone else’s life.

I was staring at this thing, not sure what it was… and the owner came over and was really nice about explaining what it was. Seeing the headphones nearby, I thought it was a radio of some kind. Turns out, it’s an old amplifier. He was asking $300 for it, but says he’s seen these things go as high as $1200 online.

Throughout the day, I’m amazed at how open people are to talking about their wares (and letting me photograph their stuff). Maybe one in 20 folks refuse my request for photos, but nearly everyone is happy to let me snap away.

And here! Here is my favorite find of the day – an old toy called a “Kookie Kombo,” which allows you to have your own dance Party!

I LOVE the image on this box, and it’s just all sorts of awesome. The main message seems to be that you hoist this crazy contraption onto your person, and with the music you’ll make… your friends will be compelled to dance.

Here’s the other side of the box. I love that the tagline is “Crazy Man Crazy.”

The box itself is awesome.

Funny thing – when I first asked the vendor if I could photograph the toy, he immediately took it out of the box. I was just looking to get a photo of the box itself, but he was all too happy to show me the toy.

I guess this type of thing was bigger back in the day, when kids aspired to be one-man bands. My first thought on seeing this toy was Bert (Dick Van Dyke) from the movie Mary Poppins:

Related: Professor Gizmo.

Lots of tomato jars. On seeing this, I wondered how difficult it must be to remember which jar you stored something in. These jars struck me as very pretty, but not very practical.

Some might describe me the same way.

The Happy Marriage Kit. I briefly debated leaving this box closed, and walking away.

But I couldn’t. Here’s what was inside.

A part of me couldn’t help but think of the short story “Ballad of the Ball and Chain,” by Brady Udall. I don’t know how I first learned of his work, but I am a fierce admirer of his short story collection Letting Loose the Hounds.

I can’t say enough good things about that book. So many great, great stories. Check out this excerpt from Udall’s short story, Midnight Raid.

Nearby, I saw a booth that only had one book on the table. Turns out it was run by Jeannie Brown, who was selling copies of her book Time Release.

An old ventriloquist doll, on sale for $40.

On closer inspection, this guy has an odd resemblance to Reverend Kane from Poltergeist II.

The plus side with this purchase is that the doll also comes with a booklet entitled “The Secrets of Ventriloquism.”

The doll is actually a replica of Charlie, a character made famous by Edgar Bergen (who it turns out, was also the father of actress Candice Bergen).

Here’s a clip of Charlie and Edgar, hosting the Muppet Show (Season 2 Episode 7):

Although… being a fan of the Twilight Zone, it’s hard for me not to think of The Dummy.

Spotted several early issues of Thor. I was curious how much the vendor was asking, but the prices were marked on the back (they were going for about $5 or $10 each).

An old telephone mismarked as “Radio.” I wonder of this was done on purpose, as it made me want to peruse all the other items… hoping that the seller might not know what he had.

Another ventriloquist dummy. This time it’s Jimmy Nelson’s Danny O’Day doll.

Next to Danny was a Marilyn Monroe doll (who apparently went out on the town, the night before).

Full length view. Which, looking at it now, is kind of creepy.

A random vendor selling nothing but large wheels of bubble wrap.

A large package of Salsagheti, which I was really, really tempted to purchase for Ben.

Looking at this box, you can almost taste the tamarind goodness.

Two small suitcases, chock full of old photographs. Despite the photos being divided into smaller ziplock bags, I found out the vendor was only selling these individually.

Which I guess is good. If I could get away with pulling up a chair and going through these photos one by one, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m totally drawn to old/found photographs, and have this weird urge to piece together a narrative from them. It’s like each group of these photos has a story to tell, if only someone would stop and put all the puzzle pieces together.

Sometimes at the flea, you find things you wish you would have purchased. And other times, you find things you’re glad you’re not able to purchase.

Meeting Joan And Bob At Wolff’s Flea Market
Book Review: The Twilight Zone Companion, By Marc Scott Zicree
Vintage Bazaar, Pilsen

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Wow, Felix… way to combine two of the scariest things on the planet: Charlie McCarthy dolls and Reverend Kane. BRAVO.

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