Spreckels Annual All-Town Yard Sale
It’s Saturday, as I make a quick stop at Starbucks and head through the light fog along Highway 68 to a little agricultural town called Spreckels. The drive is only 15 miles and about a half hour from Carmel, winding through a hillside dotted with wineries and bucolic scenery.
Spreckels was home to John Steinbeck who lived and worked there for a time, and used it as a setting for Tortilla Flat. It was also used as a location for the 1955 Steinbeck movie East of Eden. It was built to house workers for the Spreckels Sugar Company plant which operated there from 1899 until 1982. The Spreckels plant was the world’s largest sugar beet factory, which has a special meaning to me, as my father’s first crops were growing sugar beets in the Northern California farmlands.
This is Spreckels annual “all-town-yard sale.” Charming houses maintain the style and spirit of the town in their “lucky charm” pastel colors with white picket fences. It’s early, as residents are setting out their offerings on tables, blankets and front lawns. Parking is surprisingly open and “free,” a pleasant treat from the parking meters in Monterey which gobble up all your change & then some.
I didn’t expect to find many valuable treasures as this is a modest farming community, but was hoping for vintage tools & galvanized containers. Most residents selling these utilitarian items actually used them for their work and have now cleaned out their garages and attics to offer them for sale. And for mere dollars.
My first finds are paint palette scrapers. Their handles all weathered from use, and some traces of old paint and stucco still remain on the well worn blades. They are in my eyes, beautiful. I buy 8 of them plus a vintage metal level. All for $5.
Walking quietly from house to house, there is a lot of baby clothes & toys, which I pass by. But stop quickly as I smell homemade tamales. Two Hispanic women are selling these aromatic tamales at $5 for four. Can’t resist these, so purchase just one to taste, and find they are filled with meat and spicy flavors. I am already craving another one.
What’s charming about this sale is the contrast of the merchandise against the quaint houses, mostly surrounded by fragrant colorful gardens. I walk past clicking photos trying to capture their reflections on my iphone. Immediately I spot tools and piles of industrial metal. Bingo. Here’s my chance. A pile of old galvanized steel hooks are against a fence. Not sure what they are, but I totally want them. Find out they are meat hooks from an old meat house in the City. I envision repurposing them to hang plants, birdcages and lighting fixtures from. I see a man lunging for an industrial stool (darn, how did I miss that find!), so immediately commit to the meat hooks and now spot two amazing galvanized trash cans with lids and an old metal mail box. I ask for a price for all. I purchase the 33 steel meat hooks, 2 trash cans and an old mailbox for $70, as this nice man throws in a box of the vintage drawer pulls and hinges I had my eye on. I am not even sure the cans will fit into my vehicle, but have to have them all.
I walk on, now excited that I am starting to find what I came here for. Soon I come across a cool vintage blue wheelbarrel filled with terra cotta pots, which has a “free” sign placed inside. I look around as if I am the only one who knows this, not believing that it is actually free, and I so want to take it, but know I have no room for it in my car, so I reluctantly move on and find another house with piles of old cans, tools, and electrical cords up a fence, as I score these fabulous industrial steel tool boxes. Actually, two are most likely from a telephone company, and have such a great finish to them being black with metal frames, complete with a tray inside the larger one, and a snapping pocket in the smaller box. Also spot a small orange steel rectangular box with lid, and get the lot for $22. These would look great holding a potted fern, or tiny pots of herbs in the fold-out tool box.
Overjoyed at these boxes, I am now almost actually running through the neighborhood from house to house, missing out on incredible wooden planks, as a buyer is handing a young couple $80 for a stack of these weathered pieces that could’ve been used for paneling a vintage kitchen. I should’ve ran a little faster.
Taking in the scene, there are trucks for sale, a girl on a bike walking two dogs, families out with their kids, dogs sitting in the back of pickup trucks awaiting their owners return, as I pass people with handfuls of their newly found treasures.
This is what it’s all about. The excitement of the hunt, and the satisfaction of finding stuff that moves you.
It’s now time to leave this wonderful little town, but I take with me mementos of my visit here, as I stuff all this old, dusty, industrial, metal junk in my Range Rover, as people help me load while checking out my vehicle, now wishing they had charged me a little more.
SPRECKELS ANNUAL ALL-TOWN YARD SALE
First Sunday in June
Highway 68 East from Highway 1