The Mother of All Takeovers!
As a nod to Mother’s Day, Martha Whitney’s mom shares an intimate account of what it meant to pass on her love of antiquing to her children.
- story by Marcia Butler, photos by Martha Whitney Butler
As I left the house at 6:30 every Saturday morning to make the 65-mile drive to Harpersville, Alabama for Martha Whitney’s riding lesson, did I have horses on my mind? Heck no! I was busy contemplating my purchases at Danny's Antiques and David Tim’s Antiques on the return drive home.
Martha Whitney looked forward to seeing the glitzy costume jewelry and the artwork, not to mention the free Cokes and gifts (which were sometimes kittens) Danny had awaiting her. Usually, all the children looked forward to our antiquing trips because each had a favorite item they stayed on the lookout for: Heath: sports memorabilia; Ben: knives and fishing tackle; Will: fishing lures; and Caroline: antique quilts.
photos and captions by Martha Whitney Butler
Clockwise: A collection of medallions from the Paris flea market collected over the years. A pair of delicate porcelain flower earrings that I'm sure my mother doesn't know I took from her jewelry box almost twenty years ago. An antique Murano glass vase that I paid way too much for at the Vanves market in Paris. As much as I lost in Euros, I gained in knowledge of Murano glass from the vendor. Scapulars and a picture of the pope- some of the most common items at the Paris flea markets. And last but not least, the pin I used to wear on my collar during the horse shows in Harpersville.
As I ventured out and began my European antiquing trips, Martha Whitney really began to notice the treasures we would find and would learn everything she could about their provenance. I would like to think these trips piqued her interest enough in the decorative arts to earn her art history degree, which she did. I can't say she enjoyed being at the Paris Flea Market at 7:00 in the morning “picking” as the vendors unloaded their wares, or lugging heavy bags of “small a” to our hotel several times daily. However, she persevered and still enjoys the thrill of the find today.
Summers were spent antiquing our way to the beach several times each season so our family enjoyed much bonding time within the confines of the Volvo station wagons we always drove. Thankfully, they didn't complain much if they had to make the five-hour trip home caged in by a chair back or with bags of smalls at their feet.
As I look around my home, each treasure presents itself as a memory of one of these occasions. It was thrilling back then to share in the love of the find with my children, but now I find that I treasure the memories attached to these things more than the items. Knowing that I passed on my passion for antiques and art is one of the best gifts I've ever received from my children.
I asked a few of our local antique shop owners to share some of their fondest memories of either antiquing with their mom, or antiquing as a mom. Here's what they shared:
Suzi Walters, Identity Vintage:
My mom was quite the collector of objects and had the most gifted eye of anyone I have ever known. She was employed throughout the 1960s for a dime store chain in New Orleans as a stock clerk. I clearly remember her admiring certain objects such as the cobalt bottles that held the Evening in Paris colognes and telling me that someday people would collect such things. To her it was the bottles that were special. She collected rocks that she thought looked like things like potatoes, ladybugs, and frogs. Our home was full of her completed Paint by Number masterpieces and rooster pictures on plywood rendered with dried beans and peppercorns. She taught me to appreciate presentation and to see the unexpected.
Althea Boudreaux, Something Special:
My daughters, Sarah and Melinda, began antiquing with me when they were still in diapers. When they were about 8 and 10, they got their own “space,” a four-foot shelving unit at a flea market on Coleman Avenue in Waveland — Miss Mary Ann gave it to them rent-free. The purpose was to raise money for Children International so they could continue to sponsor a child. They went through all of their finds over the years and decided what they could part with. For the next two months they did everything — staged the space, priced, and restocked. I think they raised about $200 but it was the best summer adventure ever! Who would have known that their mom would actually have her own shop many years later?
Sylvia Young, Antique Maison:
Once, I was antique shopping in the Atlanta area with my daughter for a buffet. We found one and she was amazed at the quality, plus the style matched her dining table. It had a great sale price and I was able to get it for her Christmas gift. Things like this can only be found in an antique mall.