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The 2013 Garage Sale

posted Nov 18, 2013, 6:32 PM by Westminster Webmaster   [ updated Nov 18, 2013, 6:32 PM ]

When the last jigsaw puzzle, the last barbecue flipper and the last picture frame were sold, when the volunteer crew had demolished the traditional pizza lunch, when the leftover shirts and tapes and baskets and keyboards were boxed up to be picked up by The Working Centre — when all those things were done, on the afternoon of Canada Day, Cheryl counted up the money from the annual Westminster garage sale.

The figure she reported included a few pennies found in purses that had been donated for sale, but did't include expected revenue from a few particularly valuable items that were sold on Kijiji rather than in the face-to-face sale in the Great Room. Steve submitted the money from the Kijiji sales on September 1 and Rev. Mary announced that the final tally was the second highest ever. It’s not quite a record (the record was set in 2003 included a large amount from the proceeds of selling many perennials from Rev. Gary's garden) but it counts as a great success, and it may just make a difference between a deficit and a surplus this year for Westminster’s operating budget.

The garage sale (or “indoor yard sale” as the signs describe it) is a tradition, and many of the purchasers who dropped by this year told us they were at last year’s sale and in some cases many sales before that. We seem to have lost track of how long the congregation has been holding the Canada Day sale, but it goes back for twenty years at least.

However, this was probably the first year we were able to sell a plush dancing-and-singing pig (it went, for a dollar, within the first few minutes after the doors opened at 7:30). It was also the first year a Three Stooges mask was among the mountain of clothes, household goods and oddities that were donated for sale, and it too found a buyer, though not till the day was almost over. In fact, that worked out well; the yard sale staff had fun with the mask whenever things got slow during the day.

Those who track the merchandise trends from year to year said there was a glut of rollerblades, golf clubs and men’s shirts this year. The offerings also included twelve (yes, twelve) bird feeders. Cheryl eyed them all day long and finally succumbed to temptation and bought one, just before we closed the cash at the end of the sale.

Don kept trying to avoid looking at the cow lava lamp and later confessed that he was hoping someone would buy it so he wouldn’t “be forced” to buy it. A discerning purchaser did buy it finally, although it was almost at the end of the sale, and Don had to give a good deal on some other items to convince them to take it.

One of the staff pointed out that there were more men’s clothes for sale than there were men in the congregation! Claire and Jackie wanted to look at the kid’s clothes, but spent just a few minutes doing so. As they left the area, they were heard to say that, “They’re mostly ours.” However, one of them ended up buying a sweater later. We don’t think it was her own.

The most expensive item bought at this year’s sale was a vintage 1936 sewing machine, which Steve guaranteed was in good working order. Steve knows technology — although we did notice that in the course of the sale he managed to butt-dial the intercom system at least a dozen times — and confidently answered buyers’ questions about whether keyboards and car CD players were in good condition.

The least expensive item? A plastic toy bought for a quarter by a serious-faced youngster for whom the garage sale is high finance. Lynn and Chris, working the cash table at the door, had the opportunity to welcome buyers of all ages and families of all sorts. Among the visitors were a couple who in the end didn’t buy anything, but left behind a $10 bill as a gift to Westminster. “We’re friends of John L,” they said, but didn’t give their own names.

And then there was the young couple who have just arrived in Waterloo — she a Canadian back from several years living in Ukraine, he a student from Saskatchewan — who picked up kitchen equipment for an apartment that they’re just starting to furnish. We couldn’t help noticing that their first purchases included a decanter and a wine rack.

Of course, the buyers included dealers, looking out for resalable bargains, and the inevitable few hagglers. On one occasion, Chris added up somebody’s purchases and announced a total of $19. “Impossible, that’s too high,” the buyer would say, so Lynn would add up the total again, arrive at $21 and insist on collecting that amount in full. The same thing happened a few times and Lynn’s intimidating auditing talents added nicely to the final tally.

About those resalable bargains: they would include a piece of Delft china that went for a quarter. “You should maybe look that up on the Internet,” Lynn suggested as the buyer was leaving. “I’m from Holland,” the customer said. “I know what it is.” We later concluded its real value was something like 300 times what it sold for.

Other highlights of the day included a shelf of baked goods brought in by Paul (quite a few of the cookies were munched by Westminster volunteers in the course of the morning) and a bulk purchase of hockey sticks and other sports equipment by a man who explained he was a trainer in Waterloo minor sports.

The garage sale was organized again this year by Steve and Cheryl, who put in countless hours of work beforehand as well as a long day on July 1 itself. Cheryl even took the next day off work so that she could be there to greet and help the people from the Working Centre load the leftover items in their truck. Other volunteers included (and the word “included” is emphasized, because almost certainly some names are missing here) Brian, Don, Moira, Anneliese, JR, Lynn, Dianne and Scott, Cheryl and George, Chris, Ramani, Susan, Mary, Karen and Rodger, Lori, Jay, Joan, Paul, Clyde and Janet.