Flea Marketing in South Arkansas and Hitting Paydirt

Fresh Ribbon

Just back from a week-long jaunt down where the pines grow tall and it’s already 100 degrees in the shade. A couple of us with the Great Bear Writing Project were down in Harmony Grove, AR giving writing workshops for local public school teachers. If you discount the scorching heat, the weather was gorgeous. If you discount the scorching heat, however, you’re not in Southern Arkansas. I swear you could feel the pine trees respirating.

Thankfully, my traveling workshop friend is just as crazy about junk shops and flea markets as I am, because we had to be crazy to scramble around old dusty shops in that heat. Air conditioning? Well, you need to visit a bank or a restaurant or – God forbid – Wal-Mart to amble around in someone else’s frosty air. The old downtown area in Camden had several junker storefronts. Like many little towns around here, though, most of the old downtown was empty. I suspect the frosty air and cheap prices at Wal-Mart for the death of our small town downtowns, but that’s a soapbox for another day. We braved the heat and learned to position ourselves in front of ancient floor fans. I couldn’t have cared less, really, because it was typewriter heaven.

That unused, baby blue Remington Quiet-Riter 11 pictured above set me back $10 and I didn’t haggle a bit. It came with a pristine roller and two unopened boxes of ribbon. It was like the typewriter had been in a time capsule until I walked in and opened the case. It’s a tad big and a bit heavy, but Lord that snappy key action. Yes indeed.

There was a superb shop going out of business and filled to the ceiling joists with more than I could investigate in a lifetime. I had a nice chat with the retired high school principal who runs the place in that way we do here in Arkansas. It’s all about family and connections and it didn’t take long for us to find people in common. He had, I believe, the best and most abundant floor and table fans of any place we visited.

His downtown shop was littered with typewriters, although a good number of them were early-model electrics – not my cup of tea. After digging under a few boxes, however, I found a few portables worth considering, and I considered this stunning aqua Remington Streamliner all the way to the cash register. The case lid’s a little wanky and won’t latch easily on one side, but this gal is in type-ready shape. Not a sticky key anywhere, and the same snap of the Quiet-Riter 11. I stole this one for $2.50.

On the way back home Steph and I made a side trip through Fordyce – a sad little town that used to be something else when lumber and oil were more plentiful. The entire downtown was one shop after the other full of old things. I found a big, hulking tan typewriter there called a Visograph that was in questionable condition. My camera batteries were dead by then, though, and I couldn’t take a picture. I wish I had, because I can’t find anything like it online. The gentlemen who ran that particular store were sweet enough to load themselves up in a pick-up to check their storage places for other typewriters. They even offered me a chair on the front porch while I waited. Right there where the man is standing on the street, on the right. It doesn’t look much different there, except the road is paved now.

You know, Bear Bryant was from Fordyce, AR. All the plaques said so.

Chivalry is not dead down near the Arkansas-Louisiana border, and typewriter hunting is still a lucrative sport. You can bet I’ll be back, although I might wait until October or so just to make sure the heat wave is over.

12 thoughts on “Flea Marketing in South Arkansas and Hitting Paydirt

  1. I am jealous of the ones you picked up, somebody just took the Royal Precision Portable (red! omg!) I was bidding on ENTIRELY out of my \”acceptable price range\” and I had to give up. I'm itching for a snappy new typewriter…those are great, and I wish there were more junk shops around here. This part of Michigan is absolutely dismal like that, our only decent junk shop went out months ago because they went bankrupt. Nobody wants knickknacks or 1950s housedresses in this economy, apparently.I love teal typewriters. Brb, staring more at your pictures.

  2. Monda, I had no idea. I am living, if but for the moment, in the selfsame state as you, and I've yet to find one typewriter worth consideration at one of the junk (let's call them antique) stores, much less have had anyone digging storage for me. Perhaps, just perhaps, I lack the charm you have.Congrats on your finds.

  3. Julia, you know I love the pretty machines. I left quite a few in the shops that weren't exactly lovely in their bones. When the junk shops go out of business, things are BAD.Faust – I don't know what part of the state you're in, but let me tell you the shopping is much better far away from Little Rock. The brands seem to be regional, for some reason. In northern Arkansas every typewriter is a Royal, in the central part of the state it's Smith Corona, and down south there are nothing but Remingtons everywhere you look. Anyone want to venture a guess on this one?

  4. Monda, I imagine (though I doubt it) that different regions of Arkansas had contracts with each of the companies, similar to my having to type this on a Dell because my college has no choice but to supply its instructors with them (not my first choice, by the way). It's fanciful, but I can sit back and imagine that somewhere some region had a contract with . . . dare I dream it . . . Voss. Boy, if I could only find that part of this state.BTW . . . I'm here toward Hot Springs.

  5. Good Lord, Faust. You may have to go all the way to Memphis to find anything close to Voss-land. Hot Springs is delightful! I've heard a rumor that there's a typewriter repair man still working down there. I'm beginning to suspect that the closer I travel to a college or university, the more likely I am to find old typewriters. One of us needs to set sail for Fayetteville.

  6. You can bet I will go a'huntin next time I am back in Arkansas. I found several typers when I was there just in the Goodwill, which is pretty much guaranteed not to happen here in Seattle. I can picture the little shops. Sigh!

  7. Strikethru and Mike, we're on our second week of 100+ temperatures, so I suggest Arkansas shopping trips in the Fall instead.Just so you know, Fall happens around Christmas and lasts through the first half of February. Then it ices for two weeks. After that is tornado season, so mark your calendars now.

  8. When I was there last, it was the *perfect* week. I mean, in some ways more perfect than anything on the West coast. Everything was green, and the temperature was just so, kind of cool, kind of warm. And it seemed like paradise. I told my parents to stop bitchin' about the Arkansas weather and they blew a gasket! Which was fun to watch.

  9. Monda, what wonderful finds! I'm heading up to the fleamarket strip in Niles, Michigan before long, can you toss some of your ju-ju my way? I never seem to find anything.

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