A lot of my favorite vintage items were inherited. The bulk of them came from my grandmother’s house, since she died within my lifetime.
From seeing old family pictures and talking to the few living relatives I still have, I know there were some really awesome vintage things I should have inherited, but didn’t.
Great-Grandma’s Art Deco vanity. Grandma M. sold it (to Wertz Brothers, of all places). Mom has sworn she’d have saved it for me if she’d known she would eventually have a daughter who would want one. I did buy my own Art Deco vanity eventually. But as much as I love it, I would have preferred Great-Grandma’s.
Grandma de Vere’s driftwood coffee table. Grandma de Vere was poor, but she was resourceful. In the 1950s, large pieces of driftwood still washed up on the beach in Santa Barbara. One day, she lugged a big piece home, bought four angled wooden legs from the hardware store, and made a coffee table. My dad has no idea what happened to it.
One set of Great-Uncle Sid’s lucite grapes. Uncle Sid made lucite grapes as a hobby and gave them to family members. No one kept any of them. (The fact that everyone else I’m related to thinks they’re tacky has everything to do with this. I know they’re tacky, but I really don’t care.)
Great-Grandma’s kitchen hutch. My mother wanted the hutch when Great-Grandma died in the late ’70s, but her apartment was so small there just wasn’t anywhere to put it. Good luck finding a 1930s-1950s wooden kitchen hutch (“Hoosier cabinet” for those of you in the Midwest) in an antique store that’s actually for sale…dealers use them to display vintage dishes and kitchenware and usually won’t sell them. I expect I’ll eventually have to buy a new one from an unfinished-furniture store, paint it myself, and add vintage-style knobs.
Grandma and Grandpa M’s red dinette set. My grandparents had a red cracked-ice 1950s dinette set and it was gone long before I was born. To my knowledge, there are no surviving pictures that show it clearly, let alone in color. My heart is broken.
Grandma and Grandpa M’s barkcloth curtains. Tropical barkcloth curtains. Nice long ones, too. I could have done something amazing with them. Alas, they survive only in black-and-white pictures.
Grandpa M’s stuff from the space program. Granddad worked for a company under contract with NASA, so he indirectly worked for the space program. Almost every single thing he had from the space program has disappeared (Grandma had Alzheimer’s and, as far as I know, threw it all out). The only things that survived – some 1970s concept illustrations – passed to my brother. (I wanted the pictures of Grandpa with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Oh well.)
Great-Aunt Stella’s wardrobe. My favorite great-aunt was a fashion designer for many years before retiring to the California desert. She had an INCREDIBLE wardrobe. I would never be able to wear any of it – she was even shorter than I am and VERY thin – but she had some amazing clothes (and shoes) ranging from prim 1940s suits to the psychedelic magenta dress she wore to the Broadway premiere of “Oklahoma”. Everything was in great shape, too. And my dad’s trashy cousin threw everything away when Aunty died (and didn’t even bother to tell us she’d passed away).
Grandma M’s Wedgwood stove. It was “outdated”, so she got rid of it when she could afford a new one. But I have it on good authority (from Mom) that it was in perfect working order and completely spotless. (Full disclosure: whenever I go anywhere near a vintage stove, the damn thing starts leaking gas. It’s happened in THREE different homes. I should probably just get a Big Chill stove when I can afford a house.)
Great-Grandma’s missing paintings. Great-Grandma took up oil painting in her later years. No one knows how many paintings she produced, but only a few of them have survived. My mother is particularly sad that a painting from her childhood never did turn up after a thorough search.
So. Many. Classic. Cars. From the rainbow of Volkswagen Beetles (nearly everybody had one) to Great-Aunt Ruthie’s pink Cadillac to Uncle T’s parade of Mustangs, I missed out on some pretty cool old cars. If I could have one, I’d choose Grandma de Vere’s turquoise-and-white 1955 Pontiac Star Chief convertible. Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel drove to California in that very car; Grandma de Vere did, too (but she was only driving from New Mexico).
If you have been fortunate enough to inherit nice vintage things, treasure them. If you don’t want them, there are collectors out there who would be thrilled to give them good homes.
And if anyone in Southern California wants to give a little red dinette a good home, let me know in the comments!