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Picking up on history.

Byline: Jan Gottesman

COLUMN: Reflections

Driving to work the other day, a person on my street had an interesting-looking telephone table and chair by the curb. It was a single piece, with really graceful lines.

I felt my car move toward the curb and I had to grasp the wheel to make myself drive by.

My husband and I spent over 10 years scouring the countryside looking for items to resell in a variety of antique stores. While we would sell anything we thought we could make money on, including antique furniture, our specialty was collectibles, particularly cookie jars and salt-and-pepper shakers.

I remember one particular ride, on our way to New Hampshire. We stopped at an unmanned yard sale on the side of Route 13. A woman came running out of her house when she saw us. Then, she stopped, yelled, "You're the cookie jar lady," then ran back in the house to retrieve a cookie jar to sell me (yes, I bought it).

I still watch "Antiques Roadshow," watching for appraisers who Clinton resident Larry Canale, editor of the Antique Roadshow Insider newsletter, has brought to Olde Home Days over the years. And I have an affinity for "American Pickers," a show on the History Channel about two men named Mike and Frank, who travel the country looking for treasures that many others would call trash.

While I have to emphasize that my husband and I were amateurs, and Mike and Frank are definitely full-time professional "pickers," the show has a familiar feeling to me.

So I was very excited when I got an email several months ago from the Wachusett Chamber's Jenny Delorey, saying she was approached by the producer of "American Pickers" to find some place in Clinton to visit.

I admit, I was no help. I went blank. I wanted to have them "pick" my mother-in-law's barn, but I knew she wouldn't agree.

Everyone in the country got to see that there really is a "honey hole" for pickers in Clinton. The show, featuring a stop to visit Kevin LeCompte's garage, was broadcast Monday. Many people in town gathered to watch the show at the Strand Theatre. With a few other obligations, my husband and I watched at home.

How strong was the interest in this show? Our preview story in the Feb. 24 Item had one of the highest per-page hit numbers in the history of our website. Our Facebook page had over 20 "likes," five shares and a lot of comments. Most people were excited to watch one of their neighbors on TV. I was green with envy. I really wish I could have tagged along to see how the two work.

I know that what you see on TV is not what the reality of Mike and Frank's picks are. The two don't roll up alone in their van, without prior arrangements, crawl through piles of "stuff," then drive off looking for the next pick. That might be where things started before they became stars, but this is TV-world, and everything is more scripted, more structured and full of production vans, lighting, sound and illusion.

And yes, just last week, I poked fun at the crap that is disguising itself as entertainment and history on so-called reality networks.

But, as I was watching, I couldn't help wanting to have a piece of that illusion, the thrill of the hunt and the comraderie of brothers in junk.

Jan Gottesman is managing editor of The Item. She can be reached at clintonitem@yahoo.com.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 2, 2012
Words:590
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