Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Final Catlin Gabel Rummage Sale


For the past 65 five years, the Catlin Gabel school has urged community members to look through their garages and basements for things to donate to an annual rummage sale for the school's financial aid fund. Drawing thousands of shoppers from around the Portland area and generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, the Catlin Rummage Sale was a fixture in the local landscape. In early September, I received an email from the school announcing the end to a tradition beloved by members of the community and avid rummage shoppers alike.

An old cardboard box with a section of binding twine is a tradition at the Rummage Sale.

Over the seven years that I attended Catlin, sixth grade on, I built a strong association with the rummage sale, fall and school. To me, the rummage sale was as much a part of my school routine as buying my books in early September or speeding out of the school parking lot in early June listening to Alice Cooper.

As the Maine nights grew crisp and I attended the last autumn classes of my life, I yearned for the piles of clothes and old ski equipment of the rummage sale. I soon set forth on a war path to rationalize making the 3,000 mile journey back to Portland for a long weekend. Eventually, I called my parents and announced my return. The first inkling of my affinity for antiques and clothes had surfaced at Rummage years ago, there would never be another, and I hadn't been home in 11 months....

During the last two weeks of October the school comes to a screeching halt as students, teachers, and parents go out for pick ups, sorting drop offs and transporting the "rummage" from Catlin's West Hills location to the Portland Expo Center. In a flurry of collapsible tables and over-anxious type A parents, sale preparations culminate in the opening of the doors to parents, alums, and volunteers on Thursday at 3 PM for the presale.

I showed up at 2:45 and eagerly awaited my chance to peruse the collection of more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of donated rummage. Anyone see my brother in back? I will give you a hint, he's 6'7"...

At 3PM sharp I was off to the races. Dragging my box and awkwardly snapping pictures, I scuttled to and from large collapsible tables labeled with large plastic hanging signs leaving a wake of unfolded clothes and overturned hiking boots.

Mr. Tucker sorting through piles of shirts for a gem.

A view of the chaos. Dre.

The presale ran from three to five, after that the gates opened and the masses rushed various sections of the sale like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. In those two hours I ran around searching through piles of shirts, old license plates, tools, and boots, all the time filling my cardboard box with my bounty. It was everything I hoped it would be.