One Saturday morning I heard of some local yard sales taking place and decided to head into town to see what I could find. Whenever anything goes up for sale for a good price I am ready to have a look. I think this comes from the experience of living in a remote northern community where there are few things available for purchase and anything for sale is often very expensive.

While I roamed around the different yard sales I discovered that there is a sort of culture of people that enjoy the idea of a yard sale or a garage sale. Some bargain hunters actually devote their weekends during the springtime to visiting yard sales.

I remember my first experience with a yard sale on a Saturday morning. I was living with the Locke family in Timmins while I was attending high school and every spring, they devoted their Saturday mornings to checking out as many yard sales as possible. I recall thinking the activity was strange, but as soon as I discovered that I could buy old comic books, small tools, gadgets, clothes, toys or camping equipment for mere dollars or even pennies, I was hooked.

Now I take the time once in a while to explore many types of yard or garage sales. Sometimes I am amazed at the things people throw out or want to sell. There is a lot of truth in the old saying – “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

In my recent Saturday morning garage sale visits, I found two pairs of perfectly good snowshoes for a great price. These were the traditional wooden types with the hide webbing and varnish finish. I was fast to pick them up, as they are hard to find today.

The purchase at a yard or garage sale is often a bit emotional. The used products you buy from another person come with an untold story or history of use. When I got the snowshoes home I noticed the well-worn edges, the weathered leather straps and the nicks and markings of a hundred trips into the bush. I could easily imagine the family taking them out on cold winter days to wander around on trails lined with snow-covered pines as they trudged through deep mounds of fresh, crisp snow.

When you come from a remote northern community, everything is valuable. One of the difficult realities of living in the north is the fact that we don’t have easy access to everything. I find that when I go to garage sales I have to hold myself back from buying everything I see. When I see something for sale I imagine what use I could put it to. Sometimes I buy things just to have the luxury of having an item available to me. How can you ever have enough pry bars, clamps, wrenches and screwdrivers?

At one sale, I surprised my friends when I picked up an old Singer sewing machine for a few dollars. It was a model from the 1970s that still worked perfectly. It was well maintained and even oiled to keep the parts from rusting. I imagined all the hours of work someone would have spent around this old sewing machine, hemming clothes, making new ones, fixing old pants or even making a quilt blanket.

My friends did not quite understand my purchase, but I had great plans on how I would use my new sewing machine. I grew up in a household where sewing was a part of our lives. Since we had no easy access to modern stores that had large stocks of clothing for good prices and the fact that we were a family of nine children, mom and dad could not really afford to buy us new clothes all the time. Instead, mom took on the task of repairing our old clothes on a regular basis. She resized our shirts, hemmed our pants, repaired holes in our jeans and darned socks that were worn out. She even taught us how to do some of the work. I remember taking a lesson in darning socks from mom and my sisters when I was a restless youngster looking for something to do.

The sewing machine was the centre of most of mom’s work. When she wasn’t mending clothes, she was making something new. Even through all the work of caring for a large family, she found time to make traditional parkas with embroidered designs of hunters, animals or other images of the north. She made these and other things to provide our family with another means of income to make our life better.

Now the question is when will I actually sit down at the old sewing machine and do something? I have lots of old work clothes that need mending so the need is there. Well, even if I don’t really get down to it right away, I can just take a little time once in a while to look at this marvel of technology and feel good about the great deal I got for seven dollars.