STRONG, Ark. (AP) - The first antique he collected nearly cost Bubba Medlin his life.
It happened the day his uncle cleared a lot with a bulldozer. Medlin watched until he noticed that his dog went under the wall of small building on the lot. Medlin, 8 years old at the time, had to have a look. He crawled under the wall and discovered a well, three feet wide and four feet deep. The well had been covered. Sitting on the top of the well was a statue clock, about 15 inches high, very dirty with age and exposure.
Medlin picked it up, crawled out and carried it into the house to show his dad, the El Dorado News-Times (https://bit.ly/1NxEutk ) reported.
His dad told him, “Put it back.”
Medlin would have obeyed, except when he returned, the building was gone. His uncle had bulldozed it away.
He carried the object back into the house, cleaned away the years of grime and discovered a 1934 Franklin Roosevelt clock. The small bronze statue of Roosevelt at the helm - which holds the clock - came from about 10 years before Medlin’s birth. He was born in 1944 and found the clock in 1952.
That clock became the first oddity that Medlin just wanted to keep.
Now in his 70th year, Medlin’s love of antiques and the curiosities from the past can be seen in a large room attached to the Medlin Metal Roofing store in Strong. Neatly arranged so that visitors can see and explore the variety of vintage appliances, knick knacks, and curiosities, the room serves as Strong’s museum to the past.
Medlin pulled out a small wooden box holding the microscope that his grandfather, Dr. Medlin used in his practice. No one else in the family wanted it, so Medlin took it home.
With a nod to his father’s years as a barber, Medlin sits in the barber’s chair he purchased on eBay. He used eBay as a source for several other items before he said, “I quit buying on eBay.”
He pointed at a small, old fashioned looking scale. “On the screen it looked like it was really big and it wasn’t,” he said.
He picked up a Coca Cola bottle made into a lamp. “I was going to make lamps out of the last of the 32 oz. Coke Cola bottles and sell them for $20. I put in a cord, a light and a shade. Then I found out that the bottles cost $20,” he said, putting the coke lamp back beneath two shelves of desk telephones.
“I was going to just collect telephones,” Medlin said. His phones extend to the wall where he has mounted phones in wooden boxes and more sophisticated, desk phones including one with a decorative painting which he bought at an auction of antiques in Huttig.
“Most of this stuff we had at home,” he said pointing to the treadle sewing machine and pump organ.
Having his antiques in the attached room next to his store allows more people to see them.
“At the house, I’m the only one that gets to enjoy them. Also, I thought they would be safer up here,” he said. He changed his mind about their safety, though, the day he heard a loud commotion on Highway 82 right outside his shop. A truck driver passed out at the wheel, stomped on the gas and broke through the wall of his room of antiques. Medlin pointed to the oil the truck left on the carpet and the dents in the organ.
Reaching up to the top shelf, he took down a framed certificate. “A guy gave me this certificate and I had it framed,” he said. The large certificate, dated 1912 for Frank Hitchcok, announces that Annie C. Russell is the postmaster of Pigeon Hill. “I had it framed in case anyone knows who she was.”
A wooden desktop holds a metal rack that store keepers could use for tracking purchases on credit. He pulled out a ticket from Randall, Kansas, where the purchaser (possibly who bought on credit) owes $2.83.
A portion of Medlin’s purchases come from Canton, Texas, which has a huge antique flea market the weekend prior to the first Monday of the month.
At the close of one weekend in Canton, Medlin prepared to leave with nothing. “The only thing I saw was that casket,” he told his family. “If he still has it in the back of his truck, I’m going to buy it.”
He bought the small wooden casket. When they returned home late at night, he carried it into the house and left it on the living room floor. About the time he and his wife, Paula Medlin, fell into bed, he heard the clunk of the handles.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” he said. He went to the living room, grabbed the casket and put it outside the house.
“It continues to be a good conversation piece,” he said.
Medlin’s collection includes a number of vacuum cleaners. The Hercules vacuum has a foot pump and very thin wand for picking up dirt. Each antique vacuum demonstrates the evolution of the invention as does his collection of nine or 10 washing machines made of wood and brass with tubs that had to be churned. Most of these he keeps in another warehouse.
From the Huttig General Store, Medlin added several items such as a set of chairs for sitting in when trying on shoes.
“Dad had a hardware store that included a display of cutting instruments. Every so often the dealer came, pulled out the display tray and put in the newest models. I kept the last one,” he said as he stood by the waist high display of knives and scissors.
Medlin has a few larger items outside, such as the Allis Chalmers tractor that he found in the woods. “I was going to fix it up,” he said. He explained he has not had the time to do it.
A warehouse protects a buggy similar to the one that his grandfather used when making house calls as a country doctor, a vintage Chrysler and a prison wagon with shackles, chains and bars like a circus cage for transporting prisoners in Arizona.
“When I bought it the man said, ‘Now, you change the name to Arkansas,’ but I didn’t.”
Many of the items were headed for the dump, unwanted like the Coca Cola cooler marked 10 cents that he asked to have when the store across the street closed.
Other items come to him through the front door as a direct purchase like the vintage cameras up on a shelf. “The guy said he found them and wondered if I would pay him $20 for them,” he said. Although Medlin questions the origin, he figures, “If they belong to someone, I’m only out $20.”
At 70, Medlin recognizes that someday someone else will be in charge of his finds and will probably sell them. He may regret that. For now he enjoys his display of farm equipment from the horse drawn era, his antique radio, Victrola and so much more - as do many others who stop at his shop for hardware - and find a window to the past.
Information from: El Dorado News-Times, https://www.eldoradonews.com
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.