archie’s.

“We need to go to Archie’s Resale Shop,” Rich said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s out by the Great Swamp,” he said.  This made it even more confusing to me – I had no idea what or where the Great Swamp was.

“Not where, what?!” I explained.

“It’s like the world’s biggest garage sale,” he said.  “It’s huge.”

“And what are we going to find there?” I asked.

“Ideas.”

So we drove.  And drove.  And found ourselves in a part of New Jersey that I never knew existed; farms and mountains and grass, as far as the eye could see.  

“Here,” he said, pointing to what looked like a farm.  In front of the barn was a dirt parking lot.  Between the barn and a colonial farmhouse, in front of the parking lot, was a big cage.  Inside the cage, there were deer.  Deer.  In a cage.

Next to the cage was an old man with shocking white hair and a long, white beard.  He wore overalls and a plaid shirt.  He looked like a cross between Jed Clampett and Santa Claus.

“That’s Archie,” Rich said under his breath.  “This is his place.”

He guided us behind the barn where we encountered a series of sheds.  Inbetween the sheds was a tremendous assortment of junk – antique farm equipment, old machines, hubcaps – it was, indeed, the world’s biggest flea market.

“Can you imagine living here?” I asked.

“Check this out,” he said, walking into a shed.

The sheds were actually more like small barns.  Each one contained old stuff, arranged in sort of a theme.  The first one we walked into, we were greeted by a large sleigh.  Like, a Santa Claus sleigh.  Inside the sleigh were hundreds of dolls – all different types of dolls, all different shapes and sizes.  Each doll was sitting upright in the sleigh, covering every surface inside and on top of the sleigh.  Each doll’s head was turned at precisely the same angle, facing the doorway through which we had just walked.  Some of the dolls were dirty, some were naked, some had one eye open and one closed, some were bald, but each one was sitting upright, looking at me.

It was the creepiest fucking thing I had ever seen.

It was awesome.

Further into the shed were dozens of sleds.  Antique, Flexible Flyer types, with metal blades and wooden seats.  Plastic, toboggan types.  Plastic discs.  Wooden toboggans.  Plastic bobsleds.  Everything you could imagine.

We were there for all of twenty minutes by the time Sandy got creeped out to the point where she wanted to leave.  You couldn’t have pried Rich and me away.

Another shed was filled with sports equipment.  Hockey sticks.  Ice skates.  Baseball bats and gloves.  Old footballs.  Jerseys.  Balls.  

In one shed there was a lot of antique furniture.  I stopped and gazed at an old hutch that had, behind its glass doors, dozens of books, ceramic figurines, and display pieces.  In the middle of all this, locked behind a glass door, was a large lock of hair, tied together with a rubber band.  Hair, I thought.  That’s somebody’s nasty hair; it might be a hundred years old or it might be two weeks old, but it’s definitely somebody’s hair.  Somebody saved it.  And now it’s in this shed.  For sale.

Another shed was filled with old tools.  Big ones, little ones, farm tools that were way too big to get out of the shed because so many things had been moved into the shed behind them, that you would have had to tear down a wall to get them out.  In the back of this shed were stacks and stacks and stacks of old magazines.  Time.  Popular Science.  Popular Mechanics.

This is where I camped out.  I grabbed handfuls of magazines from the 1940s and 1950s, and began leafing through them.

I’ve always been fascinated with the imagery of post-Depression, pre-Cold War popular culture.  Typefaces, illustrations, color schemes, ads, toys, music – they’ve always fascinated me.  I had decided that I wanted our advertising, and our artwork, to mimic the post-art deco era.  It was the first time I was playing around with the idea of creating a visual identity for Dromedary, and I had hoped to find a few publications that had old print ads I could rip off for my own ads.

At Archie’s, I hit the motherlode.  I wound up buying about a dozen old magazines, mostly Popular Science and Popular Mechanics, as well as a handful of other display items and pictures that I could hack up and use in our ads.

The copy in the ads was completely irrelevant.  I didn’t care what they said; I’d just drop out some of the headlines and replace them with info about our label.

The result was a string of nonsensical print ads that all borrowed their visual identity from old ads and designs, old album art, and old retail display pieces.  I’d shoehorn my own copy into the ads.

I did the artwork using a combination of an early version of Quark XPress, rolls of scotch tape, and a Xerox machine at the library.  I would literally piece the main images together by cutting them out of the publication with a scissor, and then reducing or enlarging them accordingly using the re-sizing function on the library’s copy machine.  I used the copier to take pictures of our record art, and would reduce the size of the copies by simply copying it over and over, at a smaller size each time.

Then I would buy or steal various fonts for my computer, and print out the titles and ad copy on my inkjet printer (an early Canon BubbleJet, if I remember).  I’d slice up the copy with a scissor, and then scotch tape the whole thing together.

Once everything was together, I would then reduce the entire ad until it was small enough to fit in the quarter-page space we usually took in the publications we advertised in.

Can you imagine how crude this was?  No scanners (scanners cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars; no way we could afford one and they weren’t that good anyway), no decent clip art, no real effective way of doing this.  Today, you can approximate old ad designs in minutes, using a variety of online sources; in 1993 without a graphic artist on staff, this kind of thing took hours.

And looked pretty crappy anyway.

Archie died 9 years ago, by the way, according to this article in the New York Times.  That the Times would run an obit on a junk dealer from western New Jersey, and reference Charles Osgood’s coverage of him, should give you an idea of just how freaky and memorable this place was.  I have no idea if it’s still there or not, but it was definitely a place worth seeing.  I’ve never been back there, but I’d go in a heartbeat.

~ by Al on March 11, 2009.

3 Responses to “archie’s.”

  1. Archie’s sounds kinda like “The house on the rock” in Wisconsin. Freaky rooms filled with freaky shit. Here are some pix.
    http://www.pbase.com/ysic/the_house_on_the_rock

  2. […] mentioned our crude method of constructing ads in this post – essentially, we took images, typefaces, and concepts from 1940s and 50s magazines, and then used […]

  3. I want to go there sometime – that really sounds awesome. And that House on the Rock place sounds equally cool.

    Al, as we already discussed, so much of this story would be different if the technology was even five years ahead of what it was. Scanners, printing, recording processes, design, file distribution, burning CDs, communications – they were all so primitive back then. I like now better.

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