Rummage Sale Is Recycled One More Time

March 20, 1986|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

The World's Largest Rummage Sale, which died last year, will be back Friday and Saturday. And that's final.

Like the hundreds of thousands of discards that were given new life within its walls, the legendary sale by the Pasadena Auxiliary of the Boys Republic of Chino has been resurrected at the age of 71.

'We're Too Old'

"After the last one, we knew there was no way we could do it again," said Marjorie Rees, auxiliary president. "We all fell to pieces. We're too old."

Rees, 65, now finds herself chairman of a phenomenon that is bigger, longer-lasting, shorter-handed and generally more difficult than any of the estimated 25 Boys Republic rummage sales she has worked on since about 1970.

The sale will open at 9 a.m. Friday and will be the auxiliary's first two-day rummage sale, closing at 4 p.m. on Saturday. It will also be the first ever held in the vacated former Home Laundry building at 432 S. Arroyo Parkway, instead of in Pasadena's Civic Center.

Rees expects that it also will be the busiest, possibly bringing in more than the 4,000 customers and $40,000 a day that the sale consistently brought in even during the decades when the auxiliary held two giant rummage sales every year.

She bases her prediction on the facts that it will run for two days and that three major department stores have donated truckloads of unused merchandise to the sale.

Exhausted Members

Last year, exhausted auxiliary members--whose average age is 65--voted to operate a year-round thrift shop instead of continuing the rummage-sale madness. They kept collecting and storing castoffs as they searched for a site for a store. It has not yet materialized, and meanwhile the department stores have made their giant donations. Space and time ran out, Rees said, and "we just had to have another sale."

Throughout this week, Rees has directed the set-up of hundreds of racks, tables and counters that will display every conceivable kind of hand-me-down household, sporting, musical and clothing article.

"If it rains we'll die. We'll just die," she said, eyeing water dripping from the ceiling. "The roof leaks, but what's worse is that water comes up through the floor. We were ankle-deep last weekend. We were rained out of one whole section and we found it was drier outside--at least the water ran off there. And the toilets wouldn't work."

The sale will be in the 17,000-square-foot building and a partially roofed adjoining courtyard.

Decrepit Setting

The decrepit setting belies the auxiliary's upper-crust standing in Pasadena, where a generation ago "we had a 150-member limit and people stood in line to get in," one longtime member recalled.

Since the first rummage sale in 1915, all proceeds have gone to support Boys Republic, a home and school for teen-age boys who are wards of juvenile court. About $1 million has been raised by the auxiliary through the years and has been used to build a swimming pool, tennis courts, a chapel and a gymnasium and to buy a variety of equipment, a Boys Republic spokesman said.

"The sale started in 1915 and for years it was held in any little empty store," said Carol Henderson, a member of the Boys Republic board of trustees and an auxiliary member for more than 20 years. It moved to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in the 1930s, she said, and to the Pasadena Convention Center in 1974.

Nobody remembers when they started billing it "The World's Largest Rummage Sale," but nobody ever disputed the claim, Henderson said. The auxiliary held two giant sales a year for ore than 25 years, and in 1980 began holding one a year.

Short of Help

Members called a halt last spring, Henderson said, "because we were so short of help and so long in years."

"We are the last generation for whom volunteer work was part of our lives," Rees said. "We can't get new members now. All our daughters and daughters-in-law are gainfully employed. Our membership is down to 54 now."

Still, there are more than 100 vounteers sorting and displaying merchandise and ready to work from 9 to 4 for two days. Rees described them as "some people who just love to rummage, and some who don't, but who have time to devote."

As preparations began last weekend, a giant sign on the Home Laundry building announced that the sale would be "open daily," and prospective customers had to be shooed away until the sign was corrected.

To make matters worse, the electricity stopped at midday Monday.

But the workers continued sorting, stacking and marking thousands of items.

"We're never getting out of the rummage business," Rees said, referring to the fact that the auxiliary is still looking for a thrift shop location.

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