Vintage markets, where long-lost memories are awakened

There's a look to nostalgia.

It's a moment when a person sees something and remembers a long lost memory. Usually, the person smiles broadly and touches his or her face in astonishment.

Then comes the need to tell someone about it.

Eryn Enger has seen this look thousands of times — and heard the stories.

For the last eight years, she's been selling vintage items at various flea markets around Southern California.

Vintage is big business right now — with billions in annual sales — so swap meets or flea markets are now adding the vintage tag.

According to the National Flea Market Assn., there are more than 1,100 flea markets in the United States with about 2.25 million vendors. And 2016 saw a 60% increase in shopper volume.

Which means more stories for Enger. Sitting at her booth on a recent Sunday at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Enger said she is always amazed at the randomness of a sale.

"It's hit or miss," she said. "You never know what shoppers are looking for. I can put some things out at one show and they don't sell, but at a different show they will sell."

Enger works shows every weekend from Fullerton to Orange, Long Beach to Torrance. The Saddleback show, called the Driving Miz Daisy Vintage Market, is held the second Sunday of every month. .

"Saddleback has a big mixture — shabby chic, garden art. Garden art is huge right now," she said.

The allure of vintage perhaps is not surprising, given that the oldest baby boomers are now turning 70 and often downsizing. They are getting rid of household things that span the 1950s to 1970s.

Put another way, it's telling that "age" makes up part of the word vintage. It takes a certain number of years to fully appreciate a venerable harvest.

And by vintage I do not mean the replica record players at Urban Outfitters.

I mean the curated originals you find at these upstart vintage markets. They're popular now because they're better than swap meets and not as pretentious as antique malls.

The Saddleback market is bigger than you might think and will take a few hours to walk. It also offers food trucks and music, plus enough nostalgia to surprise and overwhelm you.

There's fragile glassware and heavy German steins, marbles, deer heads, stuffed alligators (eating a lobster), old Coca Cola bottles, radio equipment, film cameras, china dolls, model trains, pictures of trains, 1960s suitcases, rusty rare tools, analog gadgets, TV trays, rotary phones, "Mad Men" ties and, of course, vinyl records.

The distinction between vintage and antique, by the way, is apparent in its utility. Vintage was lived in. Antiques were in the room no one went into.

Vintage vendors are different too. They seem perpetually bemused and content with who they are. Their equanimity is based on the fact that they've seemingly been purveyors and curators their whole lives.

The woman who sells antique dolls looks like she would sell antique dolls.

The model train guy looks like a retired conductor.

The guy selling classic rock records is still wearing the T-shirt he got at the Black Sabbath "Master of Reality" tour in 1971.

The beauty here is that there are no stereotypes because they are real people. There is an authenticity at a vintage market that you won't get at Nordstrom.

For buyers, there's also a strong chance you will get a good deal.

Sellers are more inclined to haggle with you if they can sense you really want it — and you're nice about it.

They know that that random thing — whatever it is — was meant for you because it already has a history with you. If you reacted to it, that means it was on your grandmother's coffee table or in your grandfather's garage.

Your mom may have handed it down to you, but perhaps it was lost along the way. But here it is in front of you now, as if plucked from the fire.

It is the actual thing too, not a replica. It's a little beat up, as it should be, enough to validate its age.

At that moment, you realize how much has happened and how much has been lost. How many memories forgotten.

So that's why you stand there, mouth agape, wanting to recapture that part of your life.

"How much?" you ask.

In your mind it doesn't really matter; you know you're buying it.

And as you pull out your money, you tell the story to someone like Enger. She will nod and smile, knowing where you've been before you even say it.

In this way, vintage is past, present and future.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at hansen.dave@gmail.com.

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IF YOU GO

What: Driving Miz Daisy Vintage Market

Where: Saddleback College, 28000 Marguerite Pkwy., Mission Viejo

When: Second Sunday of every month

Cost: Free (may charge $2 entry fee starting in March)

Information: www.drivingmizdaisy.com

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Other OC vintage markets include:

Savoir Faire Vintage Market, Cal State Fullerton. First Sundays, www.savoirfairevintagemarket.com

Orange Flea Market, 146 N. Grand St., Orange. Second Saturdays, www.oldtownfleamarket.com

Jamestown Village Vintage Flea Market, 474 El Camino Real, Tustin. Fourth Sunday, www.vintagewhimzy.com

Orange Coast College Swap Meet, OCC parking lot off of Adams and Pinecreek. Every weekend, www.orangecoastcollege.edu/about_occ/swap-meet  

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