Jumble Sale

Article written by Jessie Bowler

Whatever has happened to Jumble Sales? They appear to have been replaced by the plethora of Charity Shops that fill the high streets of our small towns and car boot sales provide the family with a Sunday morning out. Since my days in Sandgate (1961-1986), I miss the business of collecting together the most unlikely items, putting up posters, delivering leaflets and finding out the dates and venues of rival societies.

The most popular posters gave phone numbers and said “Will collect”. I think most Jumble Sales were seasonal. Autumn till Christmas seemed to be the most popular times with occasional sallies into Spring.. Scouts, Guides, Churches, Schools (where second-hand uniforms did a big trade), Women’s Institutes, Townswomen’s Guilds, Amateur Dramatic Societies (always on the lookout for period clothing) and charities like Oxfam and Barnados all came round in turn.

The Setting Up – husbands and sons were press-ganged into action to put up tables and carry heavy articles. Everything had to be sorted, perhaps ironed or polished before priced and put on display. Ah! Pricing – this called for diplomacy of the highest order especially if the donor was present. Some people could get very indignant if hubby’s good suit was priced at half-a-crown instead of ten shillings.

Queues would form quite early outside the hall or hut. Some organisers charged an admission fee of three pence. A sturdy husband would be sat inside the door at a card table taking the money. There would be a cup of tea and a biscuit for perhaps another three pence, At some sales (not the Baptists) there would be a raffle – top prize a bottle of home made wine (sometimes very potent) or a large basket of fruit.

Guessing the weight of a home made fruit cake called for all of a cook’s culinary knowledge.  It had to be guessed to the nearest ounce! Each stall holder would have a tin for change – the kitty.

First through the door would be “The Dealers” They would be on the lookout for commemorative china, silver items, jewellery etc. Then the ladies who sold second-hand clothes. The stall holders had to try to add up the items as they were grabbed and stuffed away into capacious bags. These two lots of customers did not stay long. They had other Jumble Sales to get to before the best things disappeared..

Books and toys were always popular with the buyers. Mothers took their children’s old toys to be sold at their peril. The little darlings would buy them back along other Mum’s contributions, mostly rubbish.

Some items turned up time after time. I well remember one particularly lurid orange and black check coat that did not find favour being brought back three years running. My young son was very puzzled when a lady told us she had bought a lovely gazunda with roses on it! There was often something sold by mistake.  At one Scout sale the District Commissioner (no less) took off his good suede jacket to get down to work only to discover later the jacket had been sold for ten shillings. The price it went for only added to his indignation. Fortunately, he was able to get it back or that Scout Troop would have had a black mark. Little girls would have great fun trying on all the hats at the hat stall.

The sale would last from 2pm. till 4pm and for the last half hour the ladies would sit around drinking their tea and catching up with the gossip waiting for the raffle to be drawn. A great and cheap way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Then came the counting of the money and clearing away. Husbands again were expected to report for duty. Clearing the bric-a-brac usually took some time. A character universally known as Ginger Baker used to arrive at Sandgate Scout Hut to take away what was basically rubbish. What he did with it I do not know except that woollens were sorted separately so there was obviously some value there. Some things were stored until the next time and long suffering spouses would have to find room in the garage or loft. But what a virtuous feeling we all had! We had done our bit to raise funds.