Rescuing the occasional sock monkey is not the grandest of heroic acts.

But Susana Miller has also taken in abandoned sock cats, dogs, reindeer and one sock anomaly she calls "the thing."

The West Hollywood resident started her foster home 25 years ago after she discovered a $15 wooden toy chest on wheels--a miniature version of a circus cage--in a Northern California thrift shop. She set about filling it with the little creatures that aunties and grannies made in the 1950s and '60s by stuffing men's thermal socks.

"Each sock toy has its own personality," Miller says, "with their little eyes, their little noses and even the way they're dressed. Some are boys and some are girls." She treats them like pets and swears they play at night when she's asleep.

The self-described "avant thrift collector" also has a soft spot for less mischievous objects: everything from discarded oil paintings and furniture to candlesticks and salt and pepper shakers. A waitress by night at Spago, she finds time to hunt at least twice a week.

Miller says she favors the larger shops because of their enormous selection. "They have huge rooms full of furniture, bins filled with toys, hundreds of framed oil paintings. . . . Plus, the prices are right--cheap."

Last spring, intent on replacing her $75 Victorian sofa from Goodwill with an even better $100 Art Deco model from the Salvation Army, Miller hung out a "For Sale" sign. The sofa, among other thrift-shop items, netted a $200 profit.


* Goodwill Industries, 6241 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 980-4777

* American Disabled Veterans Thrift, 6411 S. Fernando Read, Glendale; (800) 435-7328

* Salvation Army Thrift Store, 801 E. 7th St., Los Angeles; (213) 620-1270

* Council Thrift Shops, 6110 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 985-5020

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