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Citywide Rummage Sale, Cleanup in May

By Staff | Mar 25, 2016

May can be a busy month, with Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and other officially designated days, school graduations, plus spring cleaning, gardening, end-of-school events, fields to be seeded, the list never ends. Then, in the Rugby area, add in the citywide rummage sale and, a week later, the citywide cleanup. It will be a month totally jampacked.

The last two spring events are scheduled this year for May 14 and May 21 respectively, and some residents have been planning for them for several months.

LaRae Senechal is a big fan of the spring citywide sale. She and her aunt, Jean Lotvedt, have participated for many years and are planning to do so again this year.

“You gotta love getting rid of stuff,” Senechal said enthusiastically.

Over time she has discovered some years are better than others, with not every sale being a huge success.

“It’s hit and miss,” she said. “I think the spring citywide is better for baby and kid stuff and the fall one is good for adults’ clothing and Christmas decorations. But I definitely have it during the citywide.”

Lately, vintage items sell well and ‘junk’ is in big demand by the crafty crowd.

Leila Lehmann says she has been hosting family garage sales for many years. Her daughter and a friend come from Minnesota every spring for the Rugby citywide sale. They bring a vehicle full of treasures and stay for several days, combining the sale with a mini-vacation. Her daughter’s husband shows up the day of the sale to help out, she said.

“Sometimes my son from Texas puts things on the sale, too,” she added. Neighbors and friends join in and it usually becomes a seven-party sale. She is leaning towards not having a sale this year, however.

According to Don Sobolik, former chamber of commerce director, although individuals had held sales for years, the citywide originated in about 2003.

“It started as a chamber event,” he said. “We took the registrations and collected the fees. We worked with the Tribune to put kits together. After a few years the Tribune was doing most of the work so we turned it over to them.” Sonia Mullally, the Tribune’s sales manager at the time, devoted a lot of time to the success of the sales. She and Sobolik arranged for a semi from Goodwill to be parked in the east Pamida parking lot to which people could take their leftovers, a plan which worked well for several years.

“We made an effort to coordinate the sale the week before the citywide cleanup,” Don said, meaning unsold items could also just be hauled to the curb for pick-up. “I think it has been a good program,” he concluded.

Out-of-towners can also get a piece of the action, as Wolford’s Melissa Slaubaugh did for a number of years. When her children were younger and outgrowing clothes, toys and other baby and toddler items, she was a regular seller.

“I haven’t done it for awhile now,” she said. “My kids have gotten older.”

According to various online sources, rummage sales got their start in shipyards in centuries past when unclaimed or damaged cargo, or ‘romage’, was sold at discounted prices. The sales later moved from the docks to community buildings or churches, and, in time, caught on at locations far from oceans. It took a little longer for the rummage sale craze to catch on in Pierce County, even though it seems as if they have been a community staple forever.

A search of old Tribunes turned up a few sales in the 1930s, mostly held by church or civic groups with donated items. Profits went to support projects, missions or charity. But, for the most part, families held onto their possessions because they had no extras. Clothing was handed down to siblings or other relatives and worn until it was nearly in tatters. The war years of the ’40s were also austere. The ’50s, ’60s and ’70s brought more prosperity but the idea of selling excess just hadn’t yet caught on. There also may have been a stigma connected with buying your neighbors’ castoffs.

In those decades, individual ‘For Sale’ ads in the Tribune classified pages listed items, ‘spring chickens’, or ‘storm windows and screens’, or ‘baby buggy’, or ‘one Firestone tire’, but no generic ‘rummage’ was to be found.

It took until the mid-1980s for the pattern to change, and a July 1985 paper was a bargain hunters’ nirvana—10 sales. Apparently more disposable income allowed residents to purchase new furniture, new clothing, new appliances and all manner of new gadgets, and the old ‘stuff’ had to go.

According to sellers, almost anything will sell, with baby items, kids’ clothes, household goods, tools, home decor, seasonal and collectibles going well. One shopper mentioned yard art as something she looks for. “Or something I can turn into yard art,” she added. People don’t dawdle at the citywide, sellers noted, possibly because buyers want to hit as many sales as possible.

So even though Pierce County may have been a little late to the game, it has done a good job of playing catch-up. And lately, with the stigma removed, and recycling, repurposing, and reselling being the fashion, rummage sales are the hottest ticket in town.

So, if you want to get in on the action, and be a part of a historical event, consider holding a rummage sale this May 14. To register a sale or to get information on the event, call the Tribune, 776-5252.

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