Our motto: God wants you to buy it

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Some people say if you don't get to the St. Gall annual rummage sale before dawn the first day, you might as well stay home.

I disagree. In the few hours I spent at the sale Friday and Saturday, I bought $10 worth of stuff I didn't know I needed, renewed acquaintances, ate wonderful food and thwarted a major heist.

Sure, the $20 Kirby vacuum cleaner got away from me and the boats were gone by the time I strolled in at 9 a.m. Friday. But when I finally left Saturday afternoon with my prize purchase -- a $1 Royal Companion portable typewriter (originally $2) -- I felt as though I had won the Irish sweepstakes.

For nearly 25 years, the rummage sale has been the parish summer event. Thousands of dollars have been raised recycling books, clothing, skis, dishes, toys, exercise equipment, appliances, Christmas decorations and all kinds of people's what-have-you.

Sometime in June, the Sunday bulletin announced a major change -- no underwear, please. Sifting through other people's boxers and briefs, pajamas, nightgowns and ladies' unmentionables proved to be unprofitable, so there were no corsets or girdles and darn few socks this year.

Every year, newcomers and longtime parishioners work side-by-side, spending weeks sorting, cleaning, mending, moving and tagging thousands of items. As the parish grew, the sale moved around Carson Valley, but the faithful always found it, lining up well in advance for truly great bargains. It is now held in the pastoral center at the Catholic church, and the items spill over into the hallway and the parking lot.

I cashiered for a few hours on Friday and conducted exit interviews with shoppers I expect to see someday on Antiques Roadshow. I learned how to make tiny Santas from miniature glass brandy snifters and purses from blue jeans. One woman paraded victoriously out to the parking lot in a full-length fake fur coat (original price $216, St. Gall price $15) that she was planning to convert into pillows. Another lady paid $5 for a brand new Gap wool jacket for which I would gladly give her $6 (OK, $8).

Every once in a while, a murmur would ripple through the crowd: "They're putting new stuff out," and I would disappear to see if I could find an authentic Hawaiian shirt (I did).

The most exciting moment on my shift came as we witnessed an attempted theft. A woman approached us loaded down with plastic kitchen containers and dragging a garbage bag you could barely lift. I was curious because everyone else was filling up paper and plastic grocery, but I added up the kitchen items, and turned to the big, green bag which was tied with a knot.

The shopper claimed she had to hurry off to work and couldn't wait for us to go through each item, so could she just give us a nominal amount?

Not so fast, missy.

My coworker offered to add up the total and told the woman she could come back for her purchases. The shopper stormed off in a huff and the ladies took the bag back to the hall and emptied it.

The perp was a pro. One of the floor workers said she watched the woman pull the garbage bag from her purse and load it up. Then, she filled up plastic bags with jewelry and tucked them among the clothes. She never came back, the items were returned to the tables. Case closed.

Had she waited until "buck a bag" on Saturday afternoon, she could have filled a double-wide for practically nothing with what was left at the hall. By the close of business at 3 p.m. Saturday, volunteers from Project Santa Claus were boxing up warm winter jackets and sweaters which looked uninviting in 90-degree temperatures, but will keep somebody warm come December.

I am thrilled with my new typewriter. First of all, it works. The ribbon is fading but I am confident I can use the new technology of the Internet to track down an old-fashioned typewriter ribbon for my 15-pound, original laptop.

The case is buff-colored and indicates the typewriter once belonged to a Mr. Harold Caldwell of Oakley, Calif. (no zip code). The typewriter is battleship gray with green keys to match the inside of the case.

It is perfect for writing extortion notes and cranky, anonymous letters to the editor. However, I will have to refrain from exclamation points. If you remember from typing class, you hit the apostrophe, backspace, then type a period. Only with this typewriter, the apostrophe kind of slides off to the right. It will be a dead giveaway.

There was an electric typewriter for $3, but, please, I am a purist.

Sheila Gardner is the night desk editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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