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My 23rd birthday was drawing closer. My few friends were all preoccupied with occupational and familial problems. I wasn't getting any fun toys, cakes, or parties. I decided to escape. With $42 in my wallet, a half tank of gas, and my boys clinging on the car for the ride, I headed out to have some old school fun. I needed toys. My toys. Old toys. And stickers. Because I love stickers.

I headed to Zern's Farmers Market of Gilbertsville PA. More than meets the eye. This place isn't just your typical fruit stand, it's much more. Zern's has everything from expired food from the 1980s to iPods and everything in between. Each Friday and Saturday you can buy your weight in cereal and fast food toy prizes. You can cover your car in Fido Dido stickers. You can clog your arteries with all kinds of freshly fried food.

You may remember my mentioning Zern's in an earlier article. That was the last time I was to Zern's, and because of my late arrival time I didn't get any further than Larry's Hardware. Luckily for me, Larry's Hardware is the heart of all of the market. A hardware store? Why yes. Though there's really little hardware in it. Mainly it's collectibles and old, dusty artifacts.

I had my camera ready since entry and a spare pack of AA batteries just in case. Between taking photos of Eureeka's Castle birthday sets and randomly screaming, "HOLY SHIT!" for an hour, they seemed a little eager to be rid of me. Their college-age son commented that he really liked my goggles, which makes him officially cool.

I spent over an hour there, digging to the bottoms of bins and shoving boxes aside to uncover hidden containers of California Raisin figures. I even had to strain my neck upwards, not wanting to miss anything. As I stared next to the shelf of vintage Coke memorabilia, I wondered just how old the box of Quisp displayed there was. I decided not to be so much of a pest to ask for a ladder to check and instead went back to oogling the Simpsons C.C. Lemon coasters in the locked cases.

As my money was limited, I decided to buy a lot of little things instead of one or two big things. For less than $19 I wound up with Masters of the Universe Party Favors, 2 packs of Eureeka's Castle stickers, Sailor Moon Balloons, a "Have you hugged your Smurf today?" pin, 4 Darkwing Duck comics to color books, a pack of Alf trading cards, 1988 Cool Spot Sunglasses, Batman & Robin Window Clings, and a Penelope and Pepe le Pew enamel pin. I grabbed my bag and swung it around merrily as I exited the store.

Before long I found myself in front of the largest collection of NES games I've ever seen. Now keep in mind, my older brother is the owner/operator of the East Coast Gaming Expo. So I've seen a lot of old games in my day. Games Tapes Unlimited has a WALL of Nintendo games, decorated with controllers and Pokemon plushies. If they had any dollies of Pinky or stickers of Bubs, you can bet I'd of snatched those up before my eyes fully focused them.

I was barely into the place and I'd already shouted so many obscenities that people were asking if I had turrets. I reassured them that I was just mildly retarded and went back to dismantling stacks of old comics. Some of the shrunken blue haired ladies began bleeding from their ears from my cursing, then gaped open-mouthed at my appearance. I'm used to stares over the goggles, but with my studded hoodie and black pants I looked like the rest of the redneck bikers out there. It really hurt my feeling when they began throwing holy water on me.

I passed by two different candy stands. You won't find any Hershey bars or Kit Kats here, it's all kinds of cheap novelty candies. They even had Sixlets, which are a poor man's M&Ms. I love Sixlets, especially the way you can use your tongue to pop them against the roof of your mouth.

When I got to the end of the row, I noticed a lot of people exiting out one of the doors. So I followed suit, and found myself amongst a maze of boxes.

As I eeked my way into the box maze to look around, I realized these weren't typical used wares in boxes marked $1. It was an outdoor dollar store. Not only that, but I was staring down at the exact same items I detailed in the 99¢ Store article I did. When I peered up to look for the owner, I wasn't shocked to find the place being run by orientals. Oh the asians love their bootleg Winnie the Pooh notebooks.

Ah, the Flea Market. Most flea markets around the nation have one huge problem -- they're outdoors. The Zern's Flea Market is indoors, and therefore weather resistant. The flea market was breath taking. A lot of the vendors in there were chain-smoking old fat men cursing like sailors. They seemed slightly perturbed by my humming and skipping about.

This stand had an orgy of old toys. Cars, pound puppies, wrestling figures, Ninja Turtles, cereal prizes, fast food toys, trolls, Barbies, etc. I could have filled up Scrooge's money bin with goodies and swan dived into them. Out of the lot I picked out an Indian Leonardo and a red TMNT Dinosaur for $3.

I found a table stocked with expired cereal and amusing novelties. As I reached my arm out to grab an Addams Family box, I stopped. I mean, I STOPPED. Frozen, like a scene in one of those bad sitcoms. Everything around me continued to move, but I was stuck, hand outstretched and locked in position. I was staring eye-to-eye with an original Ernest P Worrel doll. I adore Ernest movies, and flip over his commercials. When my current boyfriend turned to me and said, "Knowhutimean, Vern?" that was the exact moment I knew it was love.

An overenthusiastic man in a cowboy hat ran up to me, begging me to take all of his expired cereal boxes. He said he's let me have all of them for $20. I only wanted one, so I handed him $5, grabbed my sealed box with Thing flashlight and skipped merrily off.

At the very end of the row I found a lovely stand filled with action figures from $1-3 tied and strung up by strings. I found a few Ghostbusters, and selected a white and a black clad Egon so that I might battle them against one another in a war of good vs evil. The very nice deaf couple running the stand let me have the two of them for $3 total. Had I felt stronger about my sign language, I could have spelled out "thank you," with my hand but instead hoped they were able to lip-read.

An arcade! A COOL arcade! Now, the ticket counter left much to be desired. There was one showcase with a few trinkets for Valentine's Day. This arcade had some cool old games, not a lot, but better than some other's I've been to. One of the greatest was Ninja Turtles Pinball. Despite the fact that I sucked worse than a $5 whore at this game, it didn't prevent me from losing a pocket full of quarters to it.

All this walking made me hungry, so I had the snack of champions -- a blue raspberry Sno-Cone. It felt good to take a breather. I wasn't quite done yet, so I circled back around for the final buy of the day. I handed some guy in a leather jacket a quarter in exchange for a bendy figure of Launchpad McQuack. As I retired from 4 hours of vintage shopping, I had one thing left on my mind...

Where the fuck did I park my car?

         

mystie@crowncombo.com

 

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