The Flea Market
We worked flea markets for a while. The whole family was involved. My mom made costume jewelry on a workbench in the basement. She took apart old watches and used the clockwork for broaches and pendants. Then every Saturday, we would set up a booth in at the flea market in Belleville, Illinois.
Roaming the Flea Market
I was ten and my sister was five. We helped my parents set up and tear down. Once there was a nice lull at our table, I would wander the flea market with my sister. It was a big place, and covering the whole flea market took a good hour. Most of the booths weren’t that interesting. I wasn’t interested in guns or knives or furniture or tchotchkes. Still, there were two booths that always drew my interest (and my allowance). The first was a coin dealer, who sold a lot of coins in my price range: wheat pennies, buffalo nickels and mercury dimes. He also sold novelty coins that were either four inches or four millimeters in diameter. Like many kids, I was fascinated by things that were not their proper size, so I always liked to buy these novelty coins.
My other favorite booth sold McDonald’s toys. Just McDonald’s toys. There weren’t any Burger King or Wendy’s trinkets there, and there certainly weren’t any toys that didn’t come with a burger and fries. There were plenty of toys there for me and my sister to buy. She liked the Glow Worms; I collected the Astrosniks.
The Astrosniks was a whole series of plastic figures resembling little green Martians. Most of them were engaged on some kind of sport: skiing, boating, skating, etc. There was an evil one with a beard and cape, a confused one with a drill, a robot, and a token female with blonde hair and an ice cream cone. (Like the Smurfs, they only had a single girl.) One day, I even got the toy spaceship for them to play in. Along with my dinosaur figurines, these were some of my favorite toys to play with as a kid. Only Legos were better.
Despite all of the toys I got, for the most part the flea market was a boring experience. I recognize it now for what it was: work. In that regard, working the flea market with my parents helped me with the drudgery of grown-up work. To my parents’ credit though, they never said anything about it “building character”. It was just what we had to do to put food on the table. And as jobs go, there are a whole lot worse. Looking back, I have fond memories of our time at the flea market.