About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Sunday, November 27, 2016


This post deviates from my usual blog subject matter.   People who love old houses also love antiques.  It goes with the territory. Auctions, yard sales and antique shops are high on our list of favorite pastimes. The lure of finding something wonderful keeps us hunting.  The search goes on.

Don , Katie, Mollie and Pru
Like so many others I pull out of my driveway every Sunday morning at daybreak, sometimes before, to head to Todd's Farm Flea Market in Rowley, MA.  This has been my ritual for many years.  Sometimes on a warm summer morning I arrive so early that I need my flashlight just to see as do the vendors who are still setting up in the dark with all kinds of lanterns and lights.

It's not that I need anything; it's not that I am a dealer.  It is just the fun of the search; the constant looking for a treasure or something I just love.  Sooner or later I will find a winner.  Other times it is the satisfaction of finding some article needed to make life easier such as a bowl or kitchen tool that is just what I was looking for.

At times various friends have accompanied me but most eventually cave in to the opportunity to sleep in on Sunday morning.  Only the die-hards like me go back week after week but there are plenty of us.

Todd's Farm is a dog friendly flea market.  It is a great place to take a new puppy who will soon be socialized and will find both human and dog friends waiting for them every Sunday morning.

I had long wished that I could take my dogs but I have two dogs, Mollie and Katie.  Surely I couldn't  shop while hanging on to two leashes.  Nor could I talk myself into leaving one dog heartbroken at home alone.

I have Katie who is a black cockapoo.  And then I have Mollie, also a cockapoo from the same breeder and the same line.  Somehow, Mollie is a throwback to an ancestor on the cocker side.
Mollie with her look-alike, antique Staffordshire dog. (from Todd's Farm, of course)
 Everyone who sees her thinks she is a King Charles spaniel.  I always admired King Charles spaniels so was not too disappointed when my cockapoo puppy turned into a King Charles!  She looks as though she belongs in an old English painting or mybe in another life she posed for a Staffordshire porcelain dog figure.

My problem was solved when a friend from Newburyport, Don, offered to meet me at the flea market on Sunday mornings and walk Katie while I walked Mollie.  He and Katie have had a love affair since she was just a few weeks old and he came to play with the new puppy. (She is now almost 16 years old.)

So a routine evolved.  I leave home at dawn or before and Don is waiting for us at the flea market.  As I drive through Ipswich getting closer to Rowley Katie starts to cry, then howl and jump around the closer we get.  Mollie who is now nine just hyperventilates from the time she wakes up and knows it is Sunday morning.  But after the early morning phone call from Don to confirm time and plans both dogs are "off the wall" until I get them settled in the car. Like Pavlov's dogs, the ringing of the phone early in the morning is the trigger that really sets them off. They are just about out of control with the joy of knowing they are going to the flea market.

We exit the car and when Katie spies Don I let go of her leash.  She races in his direction then abruptly puts on her brakes and comes to a stop in front of him in a cloud of dust from the dirt roads carved out of pasture lanes on the old farm.

By this time I am ready for a great cup of coffee and a donut before getting down to the serious business of shopping.  This is when the hullabalu starts in earnest.  Is there a dog in America who doesn't like donuts?  Mind you I am not advocating donuts as a regular part of a dog's diet but we all cheat from time to time and indulge by eating something sinful.  For my dogs it's Sunday donuts but actually it's just a piece of a donut.

At this point Katie starts to howl in earnest!  People I don't even know will holler, "Get that dog her donut!" or "Hasn't that dog had her donut yet?"  As we struggle in the direction of the donuts Mollie often thinks she can get there faster by walking upright on her hind legs much to the amusement of people who watch her.  And somewhere along the way someone may shout, "Donuts. Donuts" just to cause trouble!
Waiting for the donut
Their excitement has reached a fever pitch and when we finally reach the snack bar Don holds both leashes while I purchase my coffee and the long awaited donut that I will share with Mollie and Katie.  As my coffee is being poured I cringe as I can hear 
Katie howling outside.

Then it is a mad dash to the bench that surrounds the great tree. That is where we perch as I feed bits of donut to Mollie and break off chunks for Don to give to Katie and try to save a little bit for myself.

Don feeding a donut to  Katie

That over with we can finally settle down to shop.  Katie and Mollie are happy and ready to heel and be perfectly well behaved dogs for the rest of our time at the flea market.

At this dog friendly flea matket they have both human and dog friends.

There is Cody, the almost human huskey, who off-leash makes his rounds, very self assured, knowing just which vendors have a cookie waiting for him.  He is independant and knows exactly where he is going and is not to be deterred.

Bruce, a vendor, talking to Cody who is very vocal
There is another huskey, Lita, so well trained that she stays where her master sets up and does not leave that area even if her master goes for a quick walk around the flea market.  She is pleasant to everyone that stops by but would never think of leaving her area.  I don't know how a dog can be trained to be that dependable.

Dependable Lita who stays in her spot, never straying

Then there is Cuddles, the cutest cockapoo, who is such a happy dog that his entire body wiggles with joy.  You just want to  hug him!  He wouldn't stand still long enough to get a good picture.

Three cockapoos, Mollie, Katie and Cuddles
TaDa is the most beautiful, prize winning Scottie I've ever seen but much to the chagrin of her new owner, she doesn't really want to socialize. My dogs get the unfriendly vibes from TaDa and get as far away from her as they can, attempting to hide from her behind me for protection.

There was a handsome but scary akita for several years but I haven't seen him lately.  I didn't even have to tell my dogs to stay clear of him.  

One of the nicest dogs ever at the flea market was Jack, a handsome and rare large munsterlander.  He was huge but to accommodate my dogs or other  smaller dogs he would get down on the ground to their level.  He is no longer with us but never to be forgotten.

Mollie with Jack.   He always got down to her level.
Last year there was a tiny puppy being carried around by his mistress.  This year this tiny ball of fur is still small but has turned into a regular flea market dog.

Last year's puppy is now full grown
Tanner is a pomeranian that looks like their friend, Eddie.  I can't tell the difference but they can.
Tanner the Pomeranian stopping by to visit

And then there is Millie, the Newfoundland, beautifully groomed, patient, dignified and perfectly behaved.  My girls are a little in awe of Millie and her size.  Millie is an enormous dog who could not possibly be more gentle.  I'm sorry we don't have her picture.

Another regular is Simone who stays very close to her master, Frank.  If she strays it is not for long and she returns quickly to the spot where her master sets up.
 Simone often just sits in the truck and waits.

Sometimes they are accompanied by Shelley with Jake, a patient gentle dog who would not think of straying. 

This is Jake who sometimes visits Katie and Mollie at home.  Once he
even came for Thanksgiving.  You can tell by looking at him that he is
faithful and kind.

There are many others whose names escape me but there are also human friends as well who greet Mollie and Katie with hugs and kisses every week.  Some of the vendors have cookies to dole out and others very thoughtfully put out a most welcome bowl of water. Katie and Mollie have an amazing number of friends.  One day at an antiques show in another state suddenly, much to my surprise someone said, "How's Katie?"  It was in the winter but this was a friend from the summer flea market who likes Katie.

It must seem like a long week for Katie and Molly until it is Sunday again and my two little Donut Dogs can once more cause a weekly commotion at the flea market.

Today, November 27th, was the last flea market until April. Thanksgiving has come and gone and the early morning chill suggests that winter is on the way.  Mollie and Katie were wearing their sweaters.  Mollie's pretty sweater was from a church fair that Dottie Todd spotted and thought of Mollie.  It has served Mollie well for quite a few winter.

Mollie and Katie dressed for cold weather

I appreciate all of the tolerant vendors and shoppers that my dogs know and adore.  Nothing could be more fun for them than our weekly excursion to the flea market and for me, too.  For the rest of the week they have a very quiet life at home.  But one word they never will hear me utter during the week is DONUTS.  That word is saved exclusively for Sunday morning.

So to all our flea market friends, both two legged and four legged we hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a good winter. We look forward to April when we meet again.

Best wishes for the holidays from Katie, Mollie and Pru.

Post Script

My previous post, "Why Are You Gutting That House",  took on a life of its own.   I have added the following post script to the original blog post but will add it to this post as well.  Here is what happened.

When I posted this story my computer immediately went crazy with the viewings piling up by unimaginable numbers.

Meanwhile, a Newburyport group, Newburyport Preservation Trust, posted my blog story on Facebook and the number of Facebook viewings also skyrocketed.  At the end of 24 hours this blog showed 1000 viewings and Facebook had racked up 3000 viewings! That is 4000 total viewings in 24 hours. People responded nationwide.  Attention to what is happening to so many old houses touched a nerve.  The count on this blog has exceeded 1200 viewings at this point and still climbing.

The Newburyport Preservation Trust featured the story of what happened in their fall newsletter.  Read the story here.


This was followed by an editorial that appeared in all of the Essex County Newspapers condemning gutting and demolition of historic properties.  It also introduced the new mandate passed in Portland, Oregon.  In Portland if a house is going to be demolished  and is 100 years old it must be carefully
DECONSTRUCTED.  This means that it must be torn down piece by piece and the salvaged material recycled as opposed to filling dumpsters with destroyed debris.

I hope that this important converstion and attention to this problem continues to be promoted, not just here in New England, but everywhere.

Thanks so much for reading and caring about our historical built environment.