Rural Missouri - May 2017 - 46
A LITTLE BIT OF
One of Harlan's many unique ﬁnds: a raisin seeder. Prior to 1900
and as late as 1920, you could only get raisins with seeds in
them. This device removed the seeds, similar to a cherry pitter.
by Heather Berry | firstname.lastname@example.org
HARLAN SMOTHERS AMASSES ANTIQUES AND MORE
smiles, shaking her head, knowing it'll most likely never totally happen.
Last year Harlan hired Mennonites to build a new barn where he could perspinster neighbor who raised dogs in Bloomﬁeld started it all, accord- manently display favorite pieces he's gathered through the years.
If the adage "surround yourself with the things you love" holds any water,
ing to Harlan Smothers. The 10-year-old boy loved dogs and she had
a dog kennel, so that's what drew curious Harlan over one summer then it's pretty obvious Harlan cherishes a little bit about most everything old.
Harlan's new barn door has a sign stating, "Fat Chance General Store: Most
day. As time went by, the woman invited Harlan to
accompany her and her elderly mother to area auctions. Of
things are obsolete, nothing's for sale, and only open on special occasions."
course, the curious lad said "yes" and tagged along.
Walking into the building is like stepping into a general store 100 years ago.
Glass cases host precious items such as oil lanterns and antique Christ"We would head out in her '47 Chevy to sales where the
German auctioneers still took nickel bids and sold by the
mas collectibles and dolls. Tall candy jars hold old buttons and marbles,
box," recalls Harlan, now 66. "She'd buy box lots and I'd carry
while shelves lining the walls display everything from tonic bottles and
them to the car for her mother to sort. That's how I got started."
colorful glass pitchers to sample miniature iron cook stoves and salesman samples of tiny leather shoes.
A year or two later, Harlan was mowing yards for $1 to $2
One of Harlan's vast groupings includes a wonderful pieces of
each to earn pocket money. "If my neighbor wasn't going to a
colorful graniteware coffee pots, cups, plates, skillets, pans and
nearby auction, I'd ride my bicycle and carry home whatever I
more. Most often seen in blue and white, his 300-piece collection
bought," Harlan recalls. "Of course, I couldn't afford much, but
includes extremely rare bittersweet orange and white color pieces,
I sure enjoyed looking at it all."
The ﬁrst thing he ever bought was an oil lamp with a hurricane glass chimas well as emerald green and turquoise items.
Everywhere you look, something new catches the eye - cast-iron banks, old
ney. Harlan still has the lamp - and 56 years of other goodies he's purchased
toys, hat pins, teddy bears, antique sewing notions, wagons, tin signs, cameos
from other collections and while running estate tag sales and auctions.
After high school, Harlan married his sweetheart, Doris, and worked for an and combs, daguerreotype photos and much more. He even has a small collecoptical company for 10 years. He hated the job, but loved the fact that he had tion of items from the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis in a case all its own.
Harlan says young collectors don't usually want the same things more seatalked his boss into allowing him to work four-day weeks so he could go to Memsoned collectors are looking for these days. But one thing he says sells like hotphis and Nashville ﬂea markets to sell ﬁnds he didn't want to keep.
"Boy, I was making my living at those ﬂea markets," says the Citizens Electric cakes with nearly any buyer are items with regional advertising or town names.
Another popular item is locally made stoneware stamped with a maker's mark.
Corp. member. "Making $1,500 a weekend was big money back then."
"The mark tells buyers a lot about where a piece was made and even how rare
But to have great ﬁnds to sell, the inventory needs to be constantly restocked.
Harlan quit his job and became a professional estate liquidator and auction it may be," says Harlan, who owns a great deal of antique, regional pottery.
Truly only open by chance, Harlan says by fall he hopes to have set days the
organizer. This allowed him to do what he loved - buy and sell. He's handled
public can pay to view what has turned into a time capsule of yesteryear.
more than 600 estate sales in his more than 40-year career.
"I think people are missing the boat by not investing in good, old-quality
While handling other people's sales, Harlan and Doris also ran two antique
stores in Cape Girardeau for several years. Eventually they closed those and workmanship of long ago," says Harlan. "So much of today's stuff is mass proopened a big antique barn behind their Cape Girardeau County home which duced junk. It won't last. These items will still be here after we're long gone."
they ran for 16 more years, until Harlan began trying to slow down to retire.
You may contact Harlan Smothers at 573-837-0181.
"Well, I'm still trying to retire," Harlan says with a laugh. Doris looks over and
RURAL MISSOURI | MAY 2017