Information Please

Information Please

Paul Villard

Originally published June, 1966 Readers Digest; reprinted with permission in the December 1999 issue of the Singing Wires newsletter, TCI club.

When I was quite young, my family had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well the polished oak case fastened to the wall on the lower stair landing. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I even remembered the number – 105. I was too little to reach the telephone but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked into it. Once she lifted me up to speak to my father, who was away on business. Magic! Then I discovered that somewhere inside that wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was “Information Please” and there was nothing that she did not know. My mother could ask her for anybody’s number and when our clock ran down, Information Please immediately supplied the correct time.

Antique 1901 wooden wall telephone rare oak hand-crank

My first personal experience with this genie-in-the-receiver came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool-bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be of much use crying because there was no one home to offer sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver and held it to my ear. “Information Please,” I said into the mouthpiece just above my head. A click or two, and a small clear voice spoke into my ear. “Information.” “I hurt my fingerrr-” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience. “Isn’t your mother home?” came the question. “Nobody’s at home but me,” I blubbered. “Are you bleeding?”. “No”, I replied. “I hit it with the hammer and it hurts”. “Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it on your finger. That will stop the hurt. Be careful when you use the ice pick,” she admonished. “And don’t cry. You’ll be alright”.

After that, I called Information Please for everything. I asked for help with my Geography and she told me where Philadelphia was, and the Orinco–the romantic river I was going to explore when I grew up. She helped me with my Arithmetic, and she told me that a pet chipmunk–I had caught him in the park just that day before–would eat fruits and nuts. And there was the time that Petey, our pet canary, died. I called Information Please and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-up say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled. Why was it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to whole families, only to end as a heap of feathers feet up, on the bottom of a cage? She must have sensed my deep concern, for she quietly said, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow, I felt better.

Another day I was at the telephone. “Information,” said the now familiar voice. “How do you spell fix?”. F-I-X.” At that instant my sister, who took unholy joy in scaring me, jumped off the stairs at me with a banshee shriek-“Yaaaaaaaaaa!” I fell off the stool, pulling the receiver out of the box by its roots. We were both terrified–Information Please was no longer there, and I was not at all sure that I hadn’t hurt her when I pulled the receiver out. Minutes later, there was a man on the porch. “I’m a telephone repairman. I was working down the street and the operator said there might be some trouble at this number.” He reached for the receiver in my hand. “What happened?” I told him. “Well, we can fix that in a minute or two.” He opened the telephone box exposing a maze of wires and coils, and fiddled for a while with the end of the receiver cord, tightened things with a small screwdriver. He jiggled the hook up and down a few times, then spoke into the phone. “Hi, this is Pete. Everything’s under control at 105. The kid’s sister scared him and he pulled the cord out of the box.” He hung up, smiled, gave me a pat on the head and walked out the door.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Then, when I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston-and I missed my mentor acutely. Information Please belonged in that old wooden box back at home, and I somehow never thought if trying the tall, skinny new phone that sat on the small table in the hall. Yet, as I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversation never really left me; often in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had when I knew that I could call Information Please and get the right answer. I appreciated now how very patient, understanding and kind she was to have wasted her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way back to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour between plan connections, and I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister who lived there now, happily mellowed by marriage and motherhood. Then, really without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please.” Miraculously, I heard again the small, clear voice that I know so well:”Information.” I hadn’t planned this, but I heard myself saying, “Could you tell me, please, how to spell the word ‘fix’?” There was a long pause. Then came the softly spoken answer. “I guess,” said Information Please, “that your finger must have healed by now.” I laughed. “So it’s really still you. I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during all that time….” “I wonder,” she replied, “if you know how much you meant to me? I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls. Silly, wasn’t it?” It didn’t seem silly, but I didn’t say so. Instead I told her how often I had thought of her over the years, and I asked if I could call her again when I come back to visit my sister when the semester was over. “Please do. Just ask for Sally.” “Goodbye Sally.” It sounded strange for Information Please to have a name. “If I run into any chipmunks, I’ll tell them to eat fruits and nuts.” “Do that,” she said. “And I expect one of these days you’ll be off for the Orinoco. Well, good-bye.”

Just three months later, I was back again at the Seattle airport. A different voice answered, “Information,” and I asked for Sally. “Are you a friend?” “Yes,” I said. “An old friend.” “Then I’m sorry to have to tell you. Sally had only been working part-time in the last few years because she was ill. She died five weeks ago.” But before I could hung up, she said, “Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Villard?” “Yes.” “Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down.” “What was it?” I asked, almost knowing in advance what it would be. “Here it is, I’ll read it-‘Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean'”

I thanked her and hung up. I did know what Sally meant.

Never Underestimate your Ability to Make Someone Else’s Life Better – Even If You Never Know It. Greg Louganis

Looking for antique and vintage telephones? Check out https://shops.texasvintageshopper.com/shops/united-states/texas/fort-worth/moore-old-signs-and-antiques/

Find more than 770 of these special antique Shops Across Texas at https://shops.texasvintageshopper.com.

Painting Antique Furniture – Or not?

Painting Antique Furniture – Or not?

It has happened to most of us.  You are at an estate sale and find a wonderful vintage/antique furniture piece and ask yourself…..do I just polish it up and enjoy it in the original state?  Or….do I slap a coat of gorgeous paint on it and enjoy a “new” creation?  This is also a question many of us agonize over when we are lucky enough to inherit a family heirloom.

Painting Antique Furniture Ideas: Things to Consider

This question is often a topic of discussion in the junking community.  There are those who just stop short of saying it is a crime to paint an old piece of furniture, while others do not hesitate to cover Grandma’s old cedar chest in a vibrant hue of pink!  In talking to many devoted junkers, there seems to be somewhat of a consensus in that it really depends on the piece.  There are many things to consider when trying to determine to paint or not to paint.  For instance, is it a sentimental piece?  If so, you must ask yourself if a paint transformation could cause regret.  If painting Grandma’s cedar chest will cause you to “miss” the piece the way it is burned into your childhood memory, you might not want to paint it.  Many of us have experienced “painter’s remorse,” and it isn’t pretty!  On the other hand, if you have no firm emotional attachment to the piece, then you just have to ask yourself if painting will bring a more versatile function or perhaps make it more appealing.  For those of us who sell wonderful old treasures, it is also a decision that affects our bottom line. 

Condition, Type of Wood to Consider When Painting Antique Furniture with Chalk Paint

 Many of us would be less likely to paint a walnut or mahogany piece, but might not mind painting a more common one made from pine (I’m not hating on pine, it is just a less expensive wood!)  There are some amazing paint products out there that can reduce and, in some instances, eliminate the need to sand and/or strip before painting.  A personal favorite of mine is Dixie Belle paint.  Safety could also be something to consider because many older pieces have a lead-based finish and could be harmful to small children and/or animals.  In that case, you might want to enlist the services of a professional. 

Antique stained wooden Hall Tree

Antique stained wooden Hall Tree

Popular Antique Furniture Painting Techniques, Trends May Not Last

You might want to be cautious of furniture redo trends that have come and gone throughout the years.  Some are good and some are memorable, but not necessarily in a good way.  For those of us who were around in the 1970s, “antiquing” furniture in avocado green and harvest gold was all the rage.  That is a trend that I personally hope never comes back!  I’ve seen some pretty cool pieces with stenciling and gold leafing, but just know what is popular now, might not be something you will love a few years down the road. 

Best of Both World Options: Paint some, Leave some Original on the Antique Piece

If making this decision stresses you out, consider the options of painting, then distressing to let some of the original wood show through.  This allows you to enjoy the new as well as the old.  Or, before you make the leap to paint, try a product such as “Restor-A-Finish or my favorite, olive oil to spruce up a wood finish.  This will allow you to judge the piece more adequately by viewing a cleaned-up version.  I really struggled with this decision with my farm table and chairs, so I opted for both!  I left the original stained wood on the table top and the seats of the chairs, but painted the table base and the backs/legs of the chairs.  Yes, this is an option!  It is “the best of both worlds.”  However, I would never even consider painting my hall tree.  And if any of my kids paint it after I kick the bucket, I will come back to haunt them!  A few years back, I had a weak moment and let my daughter paint my great-grandmother’s brass bedframe, silver.  I do regret agreeing to that, but it is okay.  It is still a family heirloom and I love it just the same!

Farmhouse table and chairs

Original stained wood farmhouse tabletop. seats of the chairs, painted table base and backs/legs chairs

Of course, if you choose to paint an old piece and experience “painter’s remorse,” you can most likely strip it and re-stain, but understand that stripping (especially multiple stripping), is very hard on furniture and may cause damage in some instances.  Sanding is often a necessary evil when it comes to redoing a piece and it can also be very hard on furniture, especially antiques. 

Just give some careful thought to gage your emotional attachment, the condition of the item and the desired function of the piece.  I personally have painted some antiques, left some of them in their original state and have certainly experienced some regrets along the way.  You will make the right decision!  And if you don’t, it is okay!  You will find more treasures on your junking journey.      

What kind of Emotion does Pyrex Conjure up?

What kind of Emotion does Pyrex Conjure up?

What kind of emotion does the word Pyrex conjure up in your vintage heart?  For me, it takes me back to a time when my grandmother used various Pyrex pieces as a vessel for serving or storing her amazing meals. Long ago, this special glass was called borosilicate and was used in science labs because it stood up nicely when intense heat was applied.  In 1915 this unique glass was acquired by Corning Glassware and the name Pyrex was born. The use of borosilicate glass was used until 1998 until it was replaced with a less costly glass that was even better at performing under heat. Prior to 1947, Pyrex was basically clear.  But, in 1947 colored Pyrex pieces were introduced and their popularity is still strong today! 

Pyrex Perfection

Eventually, the Pyrex market expanded to include various shapes, sizes, and patterns.  Many pieces are considered standard and are still very popular today, but the most sought- after pieces are the ones that are considered “promotional” ones that were in production for a short time.  These promotional pieces are generally more costly to acquire. According to an article at www.shared.com/pyrex-patterns-worth-money/ the following is a list of the top 8 collectible patterns that can be valuable to collectors:

  1.       “Lucky in Love” – (1959) A pink heart and shamrock pattern
  2.       “Butterprint” (1957) also known as “Amish Buttercup”, “Farmer’s Wife” and “Rooster & Corn” –      

     an aqua farm pattern   

  1.       “Atomic Eyes” (1950) – Mid-century vertical eyes pattern
  2.       “Gooseberry” (1957) – A botanical pattern in pink/white, black/white, black/yellow
  3.       “New Dots” (1968) – orange, blue, yellow or green dotted pattern
  4.       “Rainbow Stripe (1965) – Striped set in pink, sandalwood and blue
  5.       “Snowflake” or “Garland” (1972) – Blue and white snowflake with pouring spouts
  6.       “Pink Daisy” (1956) – Pink floral pattern

Look for Pyrex at many of the Wonderful Texas Antique Shops

Luckily for collectors or for those that just enjoy adding some of these lovely Pyrex pieces to their own kitchens, they can be easily found.  Look for Pyrex at many of the wonderful vintage shops found within TexasVintageShopper.com!


Brandon Shinholser, 2009. Vintage Pyrex 101: A Guide to Pyrex, Estatesales.org

Blair, October 5, 2018. 8 Vintage Pyrex Patterns That Are Worth A Lot Of Money Hidden Gems/Vintage


Marburger Farm Antique Show Shares Surprising Secrets

Marburger Farm Antique Show Shares Surprising Secrets

Marburger Farm Antique Show in Round Top, Texas

ROUND TOP, TEXAS –  If an antique show had secrets, what would they be? The Marburger Farm Antique Show in Round Top, Texas spills some secrets here. For instance, did you know that shoppers can actually enter the show early at 8 a.m.? And did you know that those very early birds will find complimentary continental breakfast, coffee, and shopping in the early Texas buildings at the show’s Tailgate Breakfast? Not to mention early parking and an opportunity to swap tales with top interior designers who are part of the Designer Dream Spree tour. Check out the show’s website for up-to-date information and upcoming show dates. https://www.roundtop-marburger.com/

What other secrets? Marburger exhibitor Susan Wheeler from Susan Wheeler Home in Seattle shares this surprising secret: “Never shop with a plan. Be open to what you find.” Where has that led Wheeler for the fall show in Round Top? To pink! Pink? Yes, amid the pearl gray and black upholstered French and Italian furniture for which she is known, look for Wheeler’s pink in Mid-Century Modern art, in antique dishes, in pillows made from vintage Indian saris with gold thread, and for the first time, in a selection of 1960s-80s designer clothing by Lanvin, Pucci and all their friends.

More secrets? “If an antique speaks to you, don’t stress over whether it will work in your house. If you love something, it will work with all the other things that you love because of you,” says North Carolina exhibitor Joanne La Poma. Exhibiting in Marburger’s air-conditioned General Store building, La Poma deals in the secrets that emerge from the earth. In addition to collections of Victorian jewelry and sterling baby gifts, her inventory includes fossils and mineral specimens, most about 150 million years old. “When they dig a vein, you never know what they will find.” La Poma will offer copper specimens from old Michigan mines, as well as ammonite fossils that display well in many settings, from homes to offices to commercial spaces.

Marburger Farm Antiques Show in Round Top, Texas


Marburger Farm Antique Show in Round Top, Texas

More dealer secrets? Getting a trade secret from Bob Bixby of Farm & Factory Interiors in Missouri is a big deal. Bixby and his wife Becky run one of the largest UL Certified repurposed lighting companies in the United States, serving interior designers, homeowners, commercial and restaurant customers with large scale industrial chandeliers, sconces and other lighting. “My secret is simple,” says Bob Bixby. “Offer unusual pieces and great design at a fair price.” How will that translate in the fall show?  New designs are coming in response to shopper requests for sconces and other wall lighting, such as industrial vanity and porch lights. Plus, massive steel chandeliers will be displayed in a context of antique furniture, old advertising signs and a huge Iowa step back glass-front cupboard. Throw in some fall garden furnishings and you have antique-industrial paradise.

Another version of paradise will arrive with Charleston, South Carolina exhibitor Letha Polk of Le Petite Tresor. “Everywhere I go, I’m always searching for vintage rattan and a funky mix  —everything from unusual old-school pieces to Mid-Century Modern.” That’s her secret: “It’s the mix that makes a home work. Buy across different styles and eras.” This show’s mix will include a pair of six foot tall rattan chairs with backs that curve high up over the sitter, plus a metal Chinese Chippendale fretwork coffee table turned into an ottoman, a sleek Danish Modern sofa and a pair of Milo Baughman metal chairs with cane backs that Polk describes as “killer crazy good” —antiques dealer secret language for the best of the best.

furniture at Marburger Farm Antique Show in Round Top, Texas

The final and best secret comes from Texas dealer Rodney Cooley of Urban Habitat. Along with his wife Shonte, Cooley will offer a 15 foot farmhouse table from Pennsylvania, an industrial table/kitchen island with metal locker topped by a huge chopping block and a collection of Victorian cast iron outdoor furniture (porch season starts in Texas around October 1). His secret? “Those of us who buy and sell and live with antiques love what we do. We all really love this. We could shop seven days a week and never complain.”

Never complain? Now that’s a secret worth knowing!

Shop with the 350 exhibitors at Marburger Farm on 43 acres of fun. Look for every style, era, and price point, from antiquities to Mid-Century Modern to the select artisans with original arts.

Huntsville Antique Show Held Each September

Huntsville Antique Show Held Each September

The Huntsville Antique Show is held each September in historic Huntsville, Texas in the air-conditioned comfort of the Walker County Fairgrounds located at 3925 HWY 30, 77340, just three miles west of Huntsville on Highway 30 (Exit 116). Huntsville is located an hour north of Houston, on I-45. There is a $7.00 Admission fee and Children under 12 get in free. The Huntsville Antique show hosts more than 65 quality dealers from across the U.S. offering a wide array of antiques to suit every budget and taste.

Visit huntsvilleantiqueshow.com to find information on upcoming show dates.

Kay King, September 8, 2018

huntsville-antique-show-glassware--turquoise-roseville-weller- linens

Huntsville Antique Show Offers Something for Everyone: Guns, Jewelry

Shoppers will find items from furniture and fine estate & costume jewelry, gold, coins, glassware, vintage Boots for women, turquoise, Roseville, Weller, and linens, Transferware, Stoneware, Fostoria, Guns, Royal Daulton, Sterling of all kinds, Tartan Ware, Baccarat, Lalique, Lladro, Sabino, Kitchen Collectibles, Books, Postcards, Primitives and Art.

There is something for everyone, and you never know what you might find.

Shoppers are encouraged to check out photos from prior years as well as the Huntsville show dealer list. These photos offer an idea of the fun and variety that are the hallmarks of this show, which had a record Crowd in 2017! Photos can be found on the Huntsville Antique Show Facebook page.

huntsville-antique-show-turquoise-estate-jewelryhuntsville-antique-show-Tartanware-Baccarat-Lalique-Lladro-Sabino-Kitchen-Collectibles-Books-Postcards-Primitives,-Arthuntsville-antique-show-transferware-stoneware- Fostoria-guns-royal-daulton-sterling-Tartanware

Huntsville, Texas: Numerous Activities For Weekend Road Trip

In 2016, the Huntsville Antique show had a great year with a crowd of over 2100 shoppers & record booth sales. Anyone who would like to be a vendor at the next show should send an email to huntsvilleantiqueshows@gmail.com. The Huntsville Antique show staff is always happy to answer questions and visit with their antiquing friends.

Huntsville is a historic town with an old-fashioned courthouse square, surrounded by antique shops and specialty stores. Along with finding unique treasures at the Huntsville Antique Show, visitors can also visit the home of Sam Houston located on the ground of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum complex. Huntsville is home to Sam Houston State University, the Raven’s Nest golf course, and Huntsville State Park so there is no shortage of activities to fill a weekend.




Army Air Corp Propellers – Repurposed Lone Star Signs

Army Air Corp Propellers – Repurposed Lone Star Signs

The Lone Star brewery acquired WWI Army surplus propellers from Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. These were repurposed and distributed by the brewery from 1941-1942 with a clock or shield. The porcelain shield was produced in 2 sizes. There were a few variations with neon or painted letters on the blades. The propellers were originally used on the Army Air Corp. training plane Curtiss JN4-H and later JN4-J (Jenny). Over the years peopled removed the signs and kept the props.

According to a letter written to all Lone Star Distributors by Harry Jersig, Vice-President In Charge of Sales on March 19, 1941, these signs were 23 years old (at that time) and originally cost the United States government $125.00 each. They were in the shape of a propeller and measured eight feet, three inches long and made of wood with an enamel sign and a special type of electric globe with flasher attached.

Charlie Staats August 12, 2018


Lone Star Beer Propeller Signs Installed in Retail Outlets

These Lone Star Beer propeller signs were highly finished in oak or mahogany and were in absolutely new condition. These propeller signs were installed in the retail outlets by means of a chain hanging from each end of the blade and attached to the ceiling or wall.

According to the letter, these propeller signs were limited to a small number of outlets and only in outlets opposed to putting up any other Lone Star point of purchase material and had stucco or a similar type of finished walls.

The propeller signs were sold to the outlets for $35 with a deposit of $3 required  to be paid by the outlet to the distributor before shipment was made. These propeller signs were considered to be the property of the brewery at all times and were subject to being returned to the distributor on demand. The $3 deposit was refunded if the propeller sign was returned to the brewery for any reason.

1941-Lone-Star-Beer-Propellor Sign

How to Spot a Lone Star Beer Propeller without Sign

Look for the hanging screw holes on the edge of the blades. The holes will be about half way between the hub and the bottom of the prop.

For more Texas Brewery history see https://texasvintageshopper.com/blog/2018/05/22/shinerbeershow/