Past calling on ‘princess’ phone

Judith Liebaert You know you're getting old when vintage shops start carrying all the furnishings and bric-a-brac you grew up with as a kid, and the price tags have elevated it all from rummage sale rejects to vintage collectibles. I recently vis...

Judith Liebaert

You know you’re getting old when vintage shops start carrying all the furnishings and bric-a-brac you grew up with as a kid, and the price tags have elevated it all from rummage sale rejects to vintage collectibles.

I recently visited my sister, five hours south of here near the Wisconsin-Illinois border. We love to vintage shop together, and whenever she and I have the chance, we devote at least one full day to scouring the antique malls, thrift and resale stores, and vintage shops.

Any day of the year, we can make Black Friday look like child’s play. If there is a previously owned bargain to be found, we’ll hunt it down and bag it before the day is out.

I’ve learned that it’s best to have a list of the specific items I’m looking for and to stick to it. Once she and I are together, we feed on each other’s excitement; we become totally wrapped up in the quest to find every essential piece for styling the perfect room of our vision. The day often ends with serious pocketbook dents and sometimes (not often) a case of buyer’s remorse.


The last time we were on the junk trail, I was looking for a large vintage suitcase to serve as the bottom tier for a stack of three - I already had the middle and smallest size. They would stand in as a coffee table in front of my leather love seat. Hidden storage is always a bonus item on my list.

In the first shop, I noted a single-drawer green metal file. I mentioned to my sister what a great find that could be for the right person - so many possibilities. Most of the fun in our junk journeys is imagining out-of-the-box uses for good pieces, even if the item isn’t what either of us is currently in the market for. We’re both positive that if we’d lived closer together for our adult lives, and if HGTV existed 25 years ago, we’d have had our own show.

Our second stop was at a vintage mall celebrating its grand opening that very day. The individual dealers’ stalls were chock-full of finds not yet picked over. Three stalls in, down on the floor, under an old adding machine, was another single drawer file identical to the first one I’d seen, but one size smaller - perfect for stacking.

And that’s when I decided to chuck the list and go rogue. I found my sister admiring a wicker cabin chair and dragged her back to see my treasure, and my vision for a mid-century office, ala Mad Men, complete with a fully stocked bar cart and starburst clock.

From one booth to another, we flew in a frenzy snapping up desk items like a metal Bates telephone index and black ceramic penholder. I scored a modern pop-art cigarette lighter and abstract ashtray, a brass high-intensity desk lamp and a black metal wastebasket with heavy-gauge, gold tone wire wrapped around it. It looks like something straight out of "The Jetsons."

About half-way through the buying frenzy, it dawned on me that I was essentially buying back the things my parents owned, that not so long ago I thought were dated and old-fashioned, and my sister and I packed off to Goodwill when the estate sale was done.

It didn’t matter. I kept buying the relics of my childhood, telling shop owners each time I handed over a wad of bills, "My father had one just like this in his office."

I managed to find almost everything I was looking for to style my iconic mid-century home office.


Closer to home at a favorite haunt in Spooner, I found a gold-rimmed crystal martini pitcher and glasses (stirred not shaken), and a gold tone ice bucket to match. At a local salvage yard I found the exact desk chair I’d posted to my Pinterest account - gray steel with green leather seat and back.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when, one day on a whim, I popped into a church basement sale. Right there, in all its glorious mint condition, an iconic two-tiered end table with the original light putty-tan, highly lacquered paint was waiting just for me.

I finally completed my look with the last treasure on my hunting list, the princess phone I’d always dreamed of owning as a young girl. It’s a jewel - a turquoise, slim-line phone that I nabbed for the "princessly" sum of $5. I think I hear the past calling on line one.


Judith Liebaert was raised in Superior and now lives in rural Douglas County. She blogs online as the Mad Goddess™. Send your comments or story ideas to judith_ann@

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