On the Road – Anaconda to Helena, Montana

This week, Alex and I did as the song says, and headed west, young man. She’s been working on a photo series in Anaconda, Montana, and I came along to do what I thought would be a bit of casual vintage hunting on the way there and back. I had made a similar loop about two months ago with good results and didn’t expect to find more than beautiful scenery and a good time.   photo blog us.jpg

What a treat to have a blue, big sky country type of day for an outing. Last week was in the 90s, the week before was pouring rain, and the one before that there was smoke from forest fires so thick you could barely see a block in front of you. It’s just starting to be fall here, with shocks of yellow mixed into the pine forests and fresh show on the mountain peaks. Perfect weather for tweed jackets and windows down driving through the mountains.
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As always, there were a lot of interesting things along the way that I didn’t buy.  Every trip and every shop always seems to have a particular thing that shows up in unusual numbers.  This time it was pile lined tweed coats from the 1970s. It killed me to pass on the bow ties in the bottom right corner, probably a hundred of them, mostly from the 1970s, but with a couple 1940s and 1950s ones mixed in.  But as low as the asking price of ten bucks a pop is, with the amount of work that goes into photographing and listing them, and with their era, it’s just too much for someone in my position.
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On the hunt- photos by Alex DeLong. Montana is a goldmine for vintage ties.  Usually I’m finding them in thrift shops in small clusters, but every now and again I find a big cache tucked away somewhere. Well, to be more accurate, Alex found this cache, a big crate of ties, high up on a shelf in a back room I’ve never seen open before. It took a lot of sorting through, weeding out the ones that were too damaged, too new, too thin and too plain.  I ended up with about half of the ones in that pile, and found quite a few more in various thrift and secondhand stores.
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Photos by Alex DeLong.  Anaconda and Basin Montana. Basin’s been in decline since the mid 1920s. Where there were once thousands of residents, there are now 255. Bits and pieces from its mining glory days of the early 1900s still remain, mixed in with abandoned cars from the 1940s-1970s. In short, our kind of town.
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The Haul: Two 1940s fedoras, a Biltmore fedora, a MA-1 flight jacket, sheepskin ranch vest, two work jackets, a B-9 Parka, nearly 70 vintage neckties, a 1930s suit jacket, an early 1950s suit jacket, a 1960s tweed jacket, a 1940s overcoat, an early 1960s suit and a handfull of odds and ends.  Keep an eye out over the next couple of days as I get it photographed and listed.  Yet another good couple of days out on the road!

Until next trip,
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On the Road – Billings, Montana

Regarding my vintage clothing business, Vintage-Haberdashers, one of the most common questions I get, right after, “how did you get into all this?”, is “where do you find all your stuff?”. It’s one of those questions that can be hard to answer. “Oh, you know, here and there” usually suffices and avoids the long story.  But the truth is, I drive a lot.

This weekend was a casual overnight excursion to Billings, Montana. For those of you not familiar with the area, the drive from Bozeman to Billings is just under 150 miles, and usually I make it as a day trip. So that’s a 300 mile round trip, hours on the road and a tank of gas, for the hope that maybe, just maybe, there will be some old ties or a couple of vintage hats waiting to be found. There are no guarantees in this business.

But I’ve had good luck in Billings in the past. There are a number of antique shops, thrift stores, secondhand stores and the like, and I usually get lucky at at least one or two.  This past weekend, one of the larger antique malls was having an outdoor antique fair, with its craigslist ad touting 70 vendors.  It was enough to hopefully tip the odds in my favor.

My girlfriend, Alex, and I drove out Friday night so that we could get an early start so we could be back in Bozeman before the sun started to set. We stayed at a charming 1950s motor court, the Dude Rancher Lodge. Neon, knotty pine and exposed beam ceilings combined with recent western themed carpets and brand wall hangings courtesy an appearance on “Hotel Impossible” several years ago, made for a charming place to stay. Full of character, it was way more fun than a chain motel, and just the right kind of place for vintage people like us.

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We made it to the fair a little later than we had hoped, it turned out that in Billings on a Saturday morning, everyone goes out for breakfast, and lined stretched out the door of everyplace good or interesting. I went against every fiber of my being and went to the practically deserted Denny’s for a generic breakfast. I think that might have cancelled out the “shop local” cred the Dude Rancher got me. Oh well.  There was a lot of re-purposed, re-painted, hand-made, shabby chic type of antiques at the fair, but also a few gems to be had. Afterward, we hit up the aforementioned antique shops in downtown Billings and a few of the thrifts. Here are a few of the neat things I spotted, but didn’t buy.  It seemed like I was tripping over vintage hats and vintage neckties at every step, but I have to be selective.  The market is really down on the more mundane patterns of 1940s ties, so even at the reasonable $6 a piece that one vendor was asking, there’s no way for me to make any money from that, so I let probably 30-some of them sit. Same with hats- below a certain size or a certain brim length, there’s such limited demand.
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Things survive in Billings. It’s a good town for lovers of vintage. Neon signs, ghost signs, architecture.
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After a long day of hunting, I managed to find a good sized cache of vintage hats, most of which were originally sold within a few miles of where I found them. But for me, the real treat was that leather jacket.  They’re all over the internet, but it’s getting harder and harder to find “out in the wild”. And this one’s a real beauty. Great patina and a rare model.  I’d love to know who wore it some 60 odd years ago, but I can say that it’s pretty likely they rode a Harley in Billings.
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Here’s the full haul all cleaned up and photographed. For those of you who are interested, you can check out the whole batch HERE
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Trolley Diner – Independence, Ohio

More photos from my collection, taken 1952 by Roy W. Bruce
Caption reads, “Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company, 1500 series car used as home, Independence Ohio – Good looking chick lived here ‘stacked’ ”

While it was a home when Mr. Bruce photographed it in 1952, it still bears the signage on the side from having been converted at some earlier point to a diner, as well as the neon clock in the front window. It definitely had seen better days at the point the photos were taken.

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Trolley Conversion – Cleveland, Ohio – Rose Robbins & Co Coal

Photos from my collection taken in 1952 by Roy W. Bruce. Caption reads, “Ex Northern Ohio Traction and Light Co used as coal office, Cleveland, Ohio” “Note: Markers on car has Bedford Ohio Signs”

Period directories give the address of Rose Robbins and Company Coal and Coke as 2471 W. 41st Street, Cleveland, Ohio. While it is still an industrial area, the bridges are all newer and there is no longer anything recognizable from the photos.

It looks like there may be another converted trolley or rail car to the left of the pillar underneath the bridge in both of the angles of this conversion. From its location under the tracks, normally I would say it was a parked or passing train, but it appears that the windows have been boarded up. Possibly used as storage?

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“#1501 Used as Coal office W. 41st Street, Cleveland, Ohio”
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Another angle on the coal office hanging out over the bridge.
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Diner- Cleveland, Ohio

Here’s a photo from my collection, taken in 1952 by Roy W. Bruce
Chester Avenue and E 36th Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

The caption on the back of the photo reads:
“Northern Ohio Traction and Light Co ex 1500 Series car used as restaurant”.

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Another shot showing slightly more context, but of worse quality
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