Like mini museums, antique shops celebrate the history of our culture and all the gadgets, furniture and decorations we've acquired on our trip through time. Unlike a museum, there is no admission price, you can handle items--and even take them home.
Where else could you see in one trip Victorian furniture alongside dolls featuring the likes of Bob's Big Boy, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Flip Wilson?
A tour of two antique malls and a craft mall in Santa Clarita provides the creature comforts of home, more for remembrance than materialism. Start antiquing at Country Antique Fair Mall in Saugus.
10 a.m.: Manager Pat Lemmons said the Country Antique Fair Mall contains so many items in its 105 booths that often the first time she notices an object is when it is being purchased. Because antique dealers fill the mall's 12,000 square feet to the brim, you could probably spend all three hours here.
But give yourself at least an hour. Work-weary antique lovers regularly spend Friday nights at the Country Antique Fair Mall, stopping on their way home to unwind and take advantage of the mall's one late night. Entering the mall, help yourself to a cup of coffee (5 cents is requested, on the honor system).
Lemmons and the rest of the staff gladly point out the differences between Franciscan china, a dainty collection of hand-painted pieces, and the thick and heavy yellow ware and stoneware cooking bowls, pitchers and other containers of the late 1800s to 1920s. Some items stand out, such as a brass foot scraper shaped like a dachshund ($35).
Cotton-Eyed Joe's booth carries a range of cowboy boots, antique cap guns and a life-size cardboard cutout of Roy Rogers. Another booth displays what Lemmons called "primitives," more of the rustic, less refined antiques and crafts, such as an all-wooden washboard ($39.95) or a tiny pair of children's leather shoes with button straps ($22.50).
Another booth spans 100 years of contraptions, tools and other items such as a mid-1800s fireplace toaster ($125), an antique mousetrap that looks more like a bird cage ($75), a Buckeye brand pottery water container for baby chickens ($65) and a multitude of canning jars, coffee grinders, cherry pitters and apple peelers. One booth showcases items from Indonesia, such as wooden hiking staffs carved in the shape of dragons and lions ($36) and puppets in colorful costumes ($35).
One popular trend in antiquing is to seek out decorations to liven up kitchens, Lemmons said, noting that old detergent boxes, spice tins (rusty even) and such gadgets as old sifters are big sellers.
But Lemmons encourages shoppers to use their antiques instead of letting them collect dust. 11 a.m.: Want to accent your antiques with hand-crafted items? Across the street from the Country Antique Fair Mall, in a small shopping center, is Handcrafter's Guild / Santa Clarita's Craft Mall, an homage to all things country. Booths display an array of crafts bedecked with sunflowers, rabbits, cows and other barnyard residents.
At one booth, I was startled to come nearly face to face with a cow wearing a bonnet, long dress and an apron. The quilted bovine doll, as well as its rabbit, mouse and people counterparts, was displayed on a tall stand to show its use as an upright vacuum cleaner cover ($39.95 to $45). Will crafters never cease?
The popular sunflower trend can be witnessed in the mall's numerous homemade tributes to the bright yellow flower: painted watering cans ($8), shoes ($6.50), baskets ($12.50), wreaths ($31.95), a shirt and leggings set ($30.99) and tiny bags ($6.95).
Ceramic magnets and knickknacks also are prevalent, such as a shelf crowded with small, realistic pigs in a range of poses ($2.99 each).
11:30 a.m.: Head east on Soledad Canyon Road for a couple of miles until you reach a shopping center called Soledad Plaza on the left side. This may be a good time to have an early lunch. In the shopping center, you have your choice of a Chinese restaurant, a home-style cafe, a Mexican restaurant or a new brewery that not only serves up ales made on the premises, but offers an array of fare from pizza to salads to hearty burgers.
12:15 p.m.: To walk off lunch (or samples from the brewery), take another stroll through a two-story establishment in the same shopping center, American Antique Malls, previously named The Antiquary.
Owner Sandy Hurst came to love antiques because her grandmother operated an antiques store in Pomona for many years.
"They bring memories of good times, warm feelings," she said. "During (the Persian Gulf War), we had people wandering through just to get comfort and get away from the news. You're in your own little world when you're looking at antiques."
American Antique Malls' many booths carry items that represent different decades, from a turn-of-the-century Native American ceremonial purse to contemporary artwork by Bev Doolittle ($55 to $90).
But the past prevails. A tiny late-1800s teakettle ($49.95) sits atop an old cast-iron cooking stove ($350). Children's toys, such as a pint-size Sunny Suzy ironing board ($15), sit in one booth corner.
You can also order custom-made Victorian lace hats, vests and dresses ($8 to $49) designed by a Santa Clarita seamstress.
WHERE AND WHEN
What: Country Antique Fair Mall, 21546 Golden Triangle Road, Saugus.
Getting There: Exit the Golden State Freeway at Valencia Boulevard, head east. Valencia becomes Soledad Canyon Road. After a few miles, turn right onto Golden Triangle Road.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., till 9 p.m. Fridays.
Call: (805) 254-1474.
What: Handcrafter's Guild, 21515 Soledad Canyon Road, Saugus.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., till 4 p.m. Sundays.
Call: (805) 254-3590.
What: American Antique Malls, 20655 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Call: (805) 251-8273.