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Michelle’s Antiquing Road Trip: Touring Texas and Oklahoma

by Michelle Staley (08/28/12).

Paul Nerren’s Junk Barn in Lufkin, Texas. The sign says it all.

I recently returned from an amazing trip through Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas with my eldest daughter, Jennifer, and my 11-year-old grandchild Kaya.

We were headed  from Kansas City  to Mabank, Texas, to assist with and be present for the wedding of my only nephew. I am a Native Texan and always welcome any opportunity to cross the Red River to go home. The rest of my family from Kansas was to meet us in Mabank. But we also took the opportunity to stop at as many antique stores as we could find along the way.

On the trip down, we got a little sidetracked by Safari Joe’s Wildlife Sanctuary (primarily an alligator and reptile roadside attraction) out of Adair, Okla., and Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Hugo, Okla. I love a good cemetery and rarely pass up the opportunity to visit one. They are our history and many have a story to tell. Some headstones rival the most exquisite works of art, and you can learn a great deal about a person’s life in just a few short sentences. Mt. Olivet is one such cemetery. What makes it so unique is that Hugo serves as the winter quarters for several circuses and bears the moniker “Circus City, USA.”

Along with the specially marked military section, you will find an area called “Showman’s Rest” the space is marked off by pillars, each topped by a small elephant, and a large elephant monument takes center ring with the etching “A Tribute To All Showmen Under God’s Big Top.” The headstones are amazing; a circus tent, wagon wheel, nine-foot tall engraving of a ringmaster, acrobats and many more. There are also three world champion rodeo riders and one of the Buster Brown little people interned there and an original Marlboro Man has his headstone in place, even though he is not yet under it.

We passed up shopping in Muskogee hoping to arrive early enough to Hugo to hit the thrift stores and antique shops in search of old circus-related items, but that was not to be. It was after 5 o’clock when we got in to town.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Muskogee, Okla., along Highway 69, is dotted with antique shops, as is the downtown area. If you find yourself in the area it is worth spending a day antique shop hopping.

A display of Native American items, including a concho belt.

We were in the Cedar Creek Lake area in Texas for several days for the wedding, and located a nice Goodwill store in Mabank, Texas. If there are any antique shops in the town surrounding the lake, they are well-hidden because we only found one and it appeared to be closed when we had the time to shop. We did find a unique shop, “Funky Junk,” located on the main drag in Gun Barrel City, Texas. What drew me to this store were the banks of lockers lined up on the sidewalk out front. It is a good thing that we were traveling in my daughter’s car, because I would have come home with a couple of old school lockers. The store was like stepping back in time to the 1960s and 1970s. The shop also had one-of-a-kind art pieces and a magnificently huge industrial bellows from an old foundry or blacksmith (purchased by the shop owner at Trade Days in Canton), the wood and leather pieces were in superb condition. My youngest daughter purchased a unique dream catcher—or as the artist called it an “Indian Fertility Talisman”—strong on a large animal pelvis bone.

After the lovely wedding, we headed down to Galveston for a few days of fun in the sand and surf. Since I was determined to NOT get back on Interstate-45 we altered our return course to take us through the heart of East Texas.

As we were making our way north through Texas on US-59, we came upon an amazing sight: as far as the eye could see, shelving units packed with stuff, most sitting out in the elements (except for what was in the old school bus and a fairly large metal building). We had lucked upon Paul Nerren’s Junk Barn in Lufkin, Texas. You either like dirty, rusty, piles of assorted goodness or you don’t. I happen to love getting down and dirty digging through mounds to find treasures.

There is a semblance of organization to Mr. Nerren’s place. You will notice the children’s chairs somewhat neatly stacked, hubcaps tacked onto a piece of plywood and tumbling in to a mass on the ground, car parts, bicycles, cast iron stoves, etc. We wandered around for quite some time and found our way in to the shop, where I met Mr. Nerren. He proudly showed me his photos of the “American Pickers” guys Mike and Frank, who had visited recently. Mr. Nerren has been building his business for almost 50 years by attending local auctions but primarily through his monthly jaunts to First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas. Sadly, we had to leave much sooner than I wanted to, but it was hot and the mosquitoes were eating us alive.

A display of Frankoma Pottery at I-44 Antiques and Collectibles Mall.

Our next stop was the I-44 Antiques and Collectibles Mall in Tulsa, Okla. This lovely antique mall is owned by Kathy and Bill Anthamatten, who opened the shop in 1996. Kathy told me that they subscribe to and use WorthPoint on a regular basis to help them write descriptions for items they sell on eBay, identify wares that come in to the shop and to aid them in pricing items. One of the pleasures of shopping in areas outside of your normal stomping grounds is finding items specific to that region. Oklahoma has a long Native American history and was also the home to Frankoma Pottery. You also find a lot of antique and vintage “western ware,” as in saddles, chaps and other items worn or used by cowboys. I-44 Antiques and Collectibles Mall did not disappoint in any of these areas. They also have a large inventory of old slot and trade machines. The store is well laid out, clean and the staff is very helpful. It goes in to my book of must visit again shops.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I think that it would be an interesting study to find out exactly how many antique shops there are in Oklahoma. I have crisscrossed it in just about every direction and am never disappointed in the wide selection of shops to visit. Please chime in if you own or know of a good antique shop in Oklahoma.

Dewey, Okla., the home of the Tom Mix Museum, was our next stop. This is a quaint little town and, for a town its size, has a good selection of antique shops. We dropped in at Kay’s Antiques, 415 E. Don Tyler, and Mimi’s Antique Market, located at 402 E. Don Tyler. Kay’s Antiques is owned by Steven and Sharon Marshall and even though it was undergoing some renovation during our visit (they’re adding a pie shop!), the store has a nice selection of all types of collectibles and vintage wares. Mimi’s Antique Market gives you a nice, homey feel when you walk in the door. The owner Sharon Wilson and a friend were sitting off to the side of the shop playing a rousing game of cards. There is a small reference library in the back for anyone to browse through the large selection of price guides and reference books. To top it all off, the prices cannot be beat!

An old slot machines found at I-44 Antiques and Collectibles Mall.

An old cast iron stove at Paul Nerron’s.

We made it back home safe and sound, a little road-weary and a touch sad at having to leave my home state once again. I know I will be back fairly soon, as I have to tell you all about First Monday in Canton and the “Antique Capital of East Texas,” Gladewater.

This trip’s important details:

Purchased on this trip: 15 bags of Lady Cream Peas, $60 (if you have never had Lady Cream Peas, you probably don’t understand buying out the stock and toting them back to Kansas on ice); 1 pair of vintage plastic mannequin feet, $10; Scirocco wood Egyptian queen figurine, $5; Large, mid-century fighting horses pottery figurine for a friend, $19.
Total number of hotel/motel swimming pools my grandchild swam in: 5.
Highlight of the trip: The amazing smile on my Kaya’s face when she first stepped in to the Gulf of Mexico.
• Upcoming Event: Kan-Okla 100 Mile Highway Sale, Sept. 7-8, 2012, and, yes, I do plan to attend.

Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.


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2 Responses to “Michelle’s Antiquing Road Trip: Touring Texas and Oklahoma”

  1. Mark childs says:

    Hello. It was comforting to find out that I (& one other person I know) are not
    The only ones out there who can appreciate a good cemetery. I remember
    When I was young and waking through the cemetery at historic fallsington pa.
    And seeing all the colonian era gravestones & being amazed at the history
    & wondered about the lives of those people who were alive & nearby when
    George Washington crossed the Delaware to defeat the hessians in Trenton.
    That summer afternoon walking through the cemetery in fallsington may have
    Been the catalyst to my studying archaeology in college & collecting antiques
    For the past 30 years. I particularly like the stories behind the antiques I collect whether they are accurate or not. Good hunting & I hope to hear more
    Of your antiquing adventures.

    PS. You don’t look old enough to have a granddaughter.

  2. Hi Mark, Some people are very squeamish about visiting a good cemetery. I just submitted an article about Weston, Missouri and a great shop I visit there. I briefly mentioned a cemetery there which has headstones dating back to 1840 and is also one of the few remaining maintained slave cemeteries. Several generations of Daniel Boone descendants are buried there as is a former girlfriend of Abe Lincoln.

    Like you, I love the history behind the pieces I collect and sell and wonder about who might have owned the pieces when they were new.

    A few years back assisted an archaeologist with identifying items they were finding around the living quarters of the people who dug the Panama Canal. It was amazingly fun and interesting. After the dig was completed he sent me a CD showing all the items they found in the area.

    Thank you so much for the compliment. Yes, my grandchild just turned 12. I did have her mom when I was pretty young and I must take this opportunity to brag on her. Yesterday she was named the Teacher of the Year for the school district in which she is a high school Science teacher. I guess that despite the young age I must have done something right along the way.

    My best to you and thank you for reading my articles.


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