Monday in general is not a good day to go antiquing as many stores are closed, not to mention the long 4th of July weekend. Yet Geo and I could not resist an ad in “Antiquing Texas Directory and Atlas” paper, which reads “Antiquing Adventure Along Hwy 82: Cruise Hwy 82 in North Central Texas and Experience an Adventure that Brings History to Life!”
Not sure how history comes into life, we decided to give a try. There are seven antiques malls mapped out along Hwy82. The first one is in Gainesville, TX, near the Intersection of I35 and Hwy82. From there 40 miles eastward, another six malls scattered around the highway before the road reaches Nocona, TX.
Though the grasslands and cattle give it some charm, scenery in North Central Texas is generally not the country’s most picturesque, but Gainesville is just over one hour drive north of DFW. The first stop is Radcliff’s Buffalo Nickel Trading Post. Like many antiques stores we have visited in Texas, a rusty cart lies in front of the store. We did find a taxidermied buffalo and a cow proudly hanging on the walls, although we were somewhat disappointed with the selection and the size of the store. But everyone looks for something different.
The next one is in Lindsy, TX. “Yesterday & Today” is situated next to the Smokehouse. Later we were told that Smokehouse was one of the two wonderful barbecue restaurants in the region. Unfortunately, it does not open until Wednesday.We moved on to the next town Muenster, TX, just another 10 miles away.
Upon reaching Muenster, we noticed a sign saying “Muenster, Birth Place of Germanfest”. Geo was excited to explore his German heritage in a small town of Texas.
Muenster Antique Mall is situated between two German restaurants of the town along Hwy 82. It is quite large and features some antiques, mostly collectible and a few gifts and local souvenirs. Geo found a gift box of a wallet and belt, both with “Miller High Life” logos. “Would you wear it?” He asked. Although I do not mind speaking out loud my favorite beer, the belt is apparently too long. In another stack of records, books and cards, Geo found some interesting interior photos, possibly from a 1900’s arts and craft house, well decorated with furniture of the period. We also found some vintage beer cans for $2 each. If they sold fast, drinking beer could have been money-making as beer is usually $6 for a six pack. There are also stacks of word rolls for player pianos, yet we didn’t spot such a piano in the store.
At the checkout, the woman at the counter told us 60 to 70 percent of Muenster residents are ethnically German. A quick Wikipedia search shows the town was founded by German Catholic in 1889. Originally named as Westphalia, it was changed to the current name because Westphalia had been taken by another town. For a population of 1500, there is even a German grocery store at the center of the town. “You are lucky. Just in 20 minutes, you will see Glockenspiel playing at Fischer’s. Hurry to see the milkmaid!” With her encouragement, we decided to stay another 20 minutes to get a little German out of the trip.
From Fischer’s Meat Market’s own website, we learned that that is the only known glockenspiel in the state of Texas and there are only three or four known in the United States. “The dictionary defines a Glockenspiel as a percussion-type instrument played with a hammer or mallet. Often a Glockenspiel is an ethnic celebration honoring the people of the world through a presentation of music, bells, animated figures and a clock.”
The store, with an German tavern looking exterior, like most of the groceries store, provides regular staple food and produce although imported German beer is displayed in prominent entrance shelves. Soon Geo discovered there are a lot of home made sausage, apple butter, peach butter and even cherry butter. “I have only seen apple butter before, but look what variety they have here.”
When it got closer to 2 p.m., we walked across the street to the “Bird Nest”, an antiques store specializing in garden decorative. Although the store was closed, it has a good view of the Glockenspiel. Fifteen minutes seemed long, but to our surprise, the clock barely rang twice and nothing happened. No milkmaid or sausage man, not to mention dancer or king.
Disappointed as we were, we headed east to the next town Saint Jo. Although the town has less than 1,000 residents now, it has a town square with stores all around. It is actually quite a saddening scene as most of the stores seem to be out of business. Saint Jo was the oldest town in Montague County and was founded in 1849 with a different name – Head of Elm.
Gilbert’s Fenton Art Glass and Collectibles Museum did not open on Monday (Saturday and Sunday only). It features one man’s collection of 30,000 pieces of Fenton Glass and collectibles. Fenton Art Glass Company is in Williamstown, WV. Roughly five years ago, when I ran the annual Parkersburg Half Marathon, Geo and I did stop by Williamstown and also Marietta, OH. It is somewhat extraordinary that such a large amount of glasswares are now in a small town of North Central Texas.
Nocona was our last stop based on the map. By then, we have figured out these antiques malls have formed sort of alliances to advertise them together. (They even have their own antiques trail plastic bags.) Two Blondes Antiques Mall is behind the famous Nocona Boot Company. From the company’s website, it was established in 1925 by Miss Enid who decided to stay in Nocona while the rest of the family moved to Fort Worth. The discovery of oil in the town brought in not only workers but also business for the shoemaker. They made a 16 inch “lace-up” boot that was tough enough to survive the oil fields and the wildcatters kept coming back for more.
A really marvelous PR events happened in 1939. “On the way to the company’s national reputation as a quality bootmaker, Miss Enid sponsored a Pony Express race from Nocona to San Francisco. Fourteen cowboys and one cowgirl took off at 9 AM on March 1,1939, from Nocona and the first rider reached San Francisco at 2 PM on March 24th.” Thus the cowboys covered more than 1600 miles within 24 days, almost 70 miles a day!
At Two Blondes, we did find some Nocona boots. The mall seems to take the space of a warehouse of the company. A set of stereo-viewer and more than 100 cards caught Geo’s eyes. It was in good condition, but Geo wants specific cards, not lots of cards. Plus a 300 dollars price tag seems not aligned with the massive supply on ebay.
Touch of Magic Antiques is on the Clay Street. It is smaller and focus on mostly collectibles and gifts. Honestly by this point we were tiring of gifts and collectibles. We did spot an attractive English dinner plate.
On the way back, we took a different route. We stopped accidentally at an antiques store in Bowie. With more than 5,000 residents, it is the most populous town in our antique trip. Like most of other small towns, it was established because of the expansion railroad in the last quarter of the 19th century. Under the city’s directory, there are four antiques stores in the town, although we visited apparently the 5th one – Ladybug’s Antiques. By then, our expectation has been lowered. There are some interesting bottles, yet neither of us know anything about the bottles. But I didn’t head out empty-handed. There, to some degree to justify the antiquing in small towns of North Central Texas, I found a mint record by Van Cliburn playing Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 and brought it closer to where the legendary pianist lives.
List of stores that we visited:
201 W Hwy 82 Gainesville TX 76240
Mon – Fri 10-5:30, Sat 10-5
405 E. Hwy 82 Muenster, TX 76252
Mon-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5
917 E. Hwy 82 Nocona TX 76255
Mon-Fri 11-5, Sat 10-6, Sun 1-5
102 Clay St. Nocona TX 76255
218 N Mason St. Bowie TX 76260
Enjoy our sideshow of the trip!