Jay Dauley, Swap Meet Founder, Dies

Jay Dauley, founder of the La Mirada Drive-In Theater Swap Meet and a number of other flea markets, died of heart failure Nov. 21 at his home in San Antonio, Tex. He was 66.

Born in Fort Worth, Dauley moved his wife and six children to California in the mid-1950s. He worked at odd jobs and as an electrician for several years before launching his first swap meet in Modesto. Within five years, he had a string of flea market operations from San Francisco to Los Angeles and in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida and Illinois.

He moved to La Mirada in 1964, the year he opened that swap meet, which grew to attract more than 20,000 buyers and became the largest weekend swap meet in Southern California. An article in The Wall Street Journal about that time named Dauley the “King of the Flea Markets.”

His Swap-O-Rama empire began to decline in the 1980s, however, when some of his investments failed, most notably an air show in Arizona. In 1985, he moved to San Antonio where he turned the Mission Open Air Market into the largest flea market in South Texas.

Dauley is survived by his wife Joanne, four sons, a daughter, two brothers, 14 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.