We’re in Phoenix, my beloved is playing golf and I’ve amused myself with some friends from my Betsy –Tacy list who enjoy garage sales and thrift stores as much as do.
Thursday we set out for Sun City, which was worth the trip, even without all the goodies we found. What an eerie, Stepford Family quality the place has. There are no children no young people at all, they aren’t allowed. No schools, no playgrounds, no swing sets or tricycles on the lawns. Everyone we saw was white, tanned and elderly.
Men are men, regardless of their age and when it comes to toys they must have the latest and greatest. In this case, the toys are golf carts. We saw one particularly dapper gentleman tooling along in a brushed chrome number with shiny chrome hubcaps. Took “Pimp My Ride” to a new level.
The houses are the epitome of “Little Boxes on the Hillside (or since we’re in Phoenix the sand). All looking just like and frozen in a time wrap dating back to when they were first built. The first wave, built in the 1960s are all flat roofed with shag carpet and harvest gold and avocado green appliances. The second wave, done in the 1980s are just a bit bigger and had lots of fake wood paneling. I understand there is now a third wave of Sun City McMansions, but we didn’t make it that far. It’s to new to have many estate sales.
We encountered flocked wallpaper, gold gilt upholstery, pink and turquoise tile and shiny Formica flecked counters. The furniture had a similar frozen in time look. Sun City residents mostly hail from the Mid West, and acquired their furniture before the South West desert look was chic. Overstuffed chairs, ornate pseudo Victorian chairs, “Early American” sofas– complete with hideous plaid or floral upholstery. Large TV consoles and I lost count of the number of entertainment centers containing record players.
Phoenix is in the midst of the drought and new houses don’t have lawns - they have heat tolerant desert plants. Not so in the first Sun City dwellings. The residents seem to have done their best to replicate their former homes complete with lawns. Only the lawns have long since died and have been replaced by artificial putting green cloth. And a very bright green it is too. It’s Saint Patrick’s Day every day in Sun City. The 1980s home tend to be of the cactus and clay pot school of decorating – much more environmentally friendly.
The estate sales were the most fascinating. It was an exercise in sociology to see what people choose to bring with them. I was amazed at the number of furs. Not new furs, but old 1950s mink stoles and those gruesome fur pieces where the minks are all biting each other on the butt. Hanging in the closet at one house was a WW II era mink coat – padded shoulders and all. Just the sort of the thing the Andrews Sisters would wear on a USO tour. It had a monogram and came from a furrier in New York City. It was also very, very tiny and judging from the polyester double knit pant suits for sale it’s owner outgrew it years and years ago. Oh what stories that coat would tell and why did its owner bring it with her to the desert?
We were looking for books and they provide the best snapshot of who once lived in the house. Just about every sale had a local cookbook or two from the owners’ hometown.
One home had a shelf full of “how to write” books, another had shelves of theology titles.
Just about every book every issued by a book club was to be had as well as many, many Readers Digest condensed books and National Geographic’s. Some folks knitted, some did needlework and many, many, many were golfers. Our favorite house had art books – not coffee table art books, but technical how to draw books, all dating from the 1940s and 1950s. Tossed in with those were children’s books, mostly from the 1960s – nice, hardbacked with the dust jacket children’s books from a time when the only kiddie lit people owned were Little Golden Books.
The saddest houses were the houses with no books at all.
“A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them.”