Made In Occupied Japan


In our quest to suppress midlife crisis and overcome empty nest syndrome, we find ourselves constantly out searching for ageless treasures.  You know, the things that your parents and grandparents were tasked with protecting by previous generations, handed down to you and intended for you to pass on to your children and grandchildren.  Many times we come across handmade items - the products of many hours of blood sweat and tears.  To see them wind up in garage sales, estate sales, thrift shops, flea markets and malls just breaks my heart.  Somebody poured a lot of love and time into those items and it’s a shame they have fallen out of their family trees, no longer to be cherished by the hands that were meant to hold them.

Last weekend, our GPS decided to take the Great One and his faithful sidekick to Conover, North Carolina or “Kinaver” as she calls it.  Obviously she was never taught a,e,i,o,u and ah,eh,ih,oh,uh by the good nuns.  However, she said, “Remember it you will, when we get there” and she was right.  We first found Ageless Treasures Antique Center back in March on our way home after striking out in Hickory.  It was the highlight of our day then and it ranked up at the top again this time.  

There was so much to see, we found it necessary to divide and conquer.  We were barely in the door when the cutest little pair of southern bell salt and pepper shakers sashayed up to us in their hoopskirts and poured on the southern charm.  Now, who could resist that?  But having only just arrived we weren’t ready to commit until they just happened to mention that they were Made In Occupied Japan.  Well, I don’t have to tell you that they came home with us.

If I was in the market for a Hoosier cabinet, I wouldn’t have come away empty-handed.  They have quite a collection from which to choose.  But our kitchen’s borders are not porous and I can’t figure out a way to fit anything else in there.  Of course, maybe I could get rid of the stove and microwave and put a Hoosier in their place.  Maybe I’ll give some serious thought to that.   

And when was the last time you saw a rocking duck?  It was a first for me.  But the best find of the day was a Philco console radio/phono.  Yes, another one.  But this time, I was the one who insisted on bringing this one home. 


When we came home from our recent trip to Pennsylvania, our Galaxy Space Rangers must have been peeking out the window.  Before we could get everything inside, they had already spied their ”space ship.”  We had promised the guys if ever we came across one, we’d bring it home.  Little did we know that we’d actually find one.  However, in a locked case on the upper level at Burning Bridge Antiques Market, there it sat; giving us the opportunity to try out their call system.  It works quite well, by the way.

When asking local folks where to start our Columbia picking experience, Burning Bridge was at the top of the list.  We happily spent the better part of a day with Cindie Coleman and her staff.  The store is located in a building that housed a hardware store and a sewing factory in the late 1800s.  The hardwood floors were so much easier on the back and legs than the typical concrete mall floors.  With large bright windows and inviting, easy to navigate booths and display cases of over 250 dealers and hundreds of consignors, there was plenty to see.  Uncharacteristically, the dust level was close to nil causing my nose to do a little happy dance.  The bell system to call for assistance from the upper and lower levels, brings a member of their friendly staff, which includes certified appraisers, to your assistance in the blink of an eye.

We continued our quest and found another type of dime bank, the Lucky Dime Register Bank.  No key needed, it opens automatically at $5.00.  As usual, one bank isn’t quite enough and we came away with an octagonal cylindrical dime bank as well.  Heading down to the lower level, we came across a Gilbert Erector Set from the 1930/40’s as well as some Made In Occupied Japan miniature Toby mugs.  At this point, hunger got the best of us and forced us to head out in search of a very late lunch.

While we were in Columbia, we also visited Old State Theatre Antique Mall.  This building was a former movie theatre and is probably the most unique antique/vintage mall we have visited yet.  The staircase from the lobby area to the upper level show room is outstanding.  The ceiling has medallion scrollwork tile accents.  There is a stage area up front, as well.  Not only is the setting one-of-a-kind but we found items here that we have never seen before including a handmade scoreboard from a prisoner of war camp and a “Stripper” sign, because you never know when that might come in handy.  The owner, Michael Boyer and his brother are self-proclaimed “antiquoholics” and enjoy providing the public with artifacts that bring the past to life.  While many of these items are way out of our league, they have pieces of history to fit just about any budget.  We found a set of Made In Occupied Japan salt and pepper shakers that didn’t break our bank. 


Even though our fall visit to the Metrolina Expo Marketplace was a bit disappointing, we chalked it up to the horrible weather and decided to give the Metrolina Expo Marketplace Spring Event a shot.  Looking at the weather forecast for the 4-day show, we chose Friday, supposedly the best Mother Nature had to offer, a beautiful early spring day with plenty of sunshine heading our way and no rain in sight.  Do I hear a Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah?   

Because of inclement weather in the fall, the outdoor vendors weren’t able to set up and the vendors in the mall area weren’t much better off than if they had been in tents out in the open.  So we were glad to see sunshine and blue skies as we turned into the parking lot.  Definitely, we were not the only ones who had checked the weekend forecast. There were going to be plenty of shoppers spending money today.  

So we paid the obligatory $20 and started our quest searching with the outdoor vendors just in case Mother Nature decided to throw a little rain our way.  However, she was kind to us and although she huffed and puffed some gusty winds, the tents remained standing and nothing blew away.  Even without a mirror, I could tell it was going to be one of those days when I wish I was a hat person, but then I would have spent the entire afternoon chasing down the hat instead of treasures.  I did notice I was not the only bedraggled-looking soul who was trying to avoid mirrors.

We didn’t have to search too long before we found the cutest little pair of Made In Occupied Japan ceramic kids playing baseball and so we made our first purchase of the day.  This vendor also had some really beautiful end tables made from the drawers of old Singer sewing machines, so we got a little inspiration along with the ballplayers.  Eventually at another booth, we found MIOJ mini vase and that was pretty much the extent of our purchases for the day – unless you count the cinnamon/sugar almonds and the kettle corn on the way out.

More importantly, we spent a good bit of time talking with quite a few of the vendors.  We started off with Mike of Mike’s – N – Gayle’s Toys And Joys Antiques.  He was there in the fall and the Great One bought a dime bank from him.  It is one of the few banks he has that came with a key.  I was flabbergasted when he passed up the opportunity to bring home the motorized Richie Rich Computer Bank from the 60s along with the original box.  Will wonders never cease?

After we left Mike, we found a clock guy and I am more than ashamed to say I cannot, for the life of me, remember his name.  He was so generous with his time, knowing full well that we weren’t going to be paying customers, he still took the time to answer all of our questions.  His obsession with clocks started as a stress-relieving hobby and just kind of got out of hand.  He has restored and repaired clocks of all sizes, styles and makes.  And then and he told us about his radio.  We could have spent the rest of the day talking with him, but we figured he did have a booth to run and finally left him alone so he could sell some clocks. 

We appreciate all of the information he shared and only wish he had not given up the restoration part of his business.  We’ve become attached to a certain Seth Thomas clock that we would love to get restored for its owner.  After a few years in the garage, when I gently brushed away the cobwebs, I was surprised to see that it still looked like a clock inside.  It’s missing a bell and a pendulum and needs some keys for the winding mechanisms, but we’re hoping it can be brought back to life.       

As far as our overall assessment of our Metrolina Expo experiences – I guess we just must not be Expo kind of people.  However, there sure seem to be a lot of vendors and shoppers out there who return time and again, so they must be doing something right.