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Chuck Hinman. IJMA No. 040: Uncle Floren

It's Just Me Again No. 040. Uncle Floren's Follies
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by Chuck Hinman

It may be hard for you garage sale addicts to believe but there haven't always been garage sales. I have never seen any reference in the Bible that Adam and Eve's children had an estate sale. If they did have such a sale and someone got some dried-up fig leaves pressed in an ancient-looking stack of manuscripts, hang on to them; they are priceless beyond your imagination. Believe me!

My first memory of garage sales was when Uncle Floren, a house painter who lived in Wichita, Kansas, became smitten with attending early day garage sales. He was a sucker for a bargain even if he had no use for it. He bought slightly broken things, took them home and in just a short time had them useable again. One of the things he specialized in fixing was broken toasters. Toasters in the 1930s burned out easily. But Uncle Floren found that just a simple solder job would put a burned out toaster back in "like new" condition.

It wasn't long until his garage was filled with used toasters and other small kitchen appliances no one wanted. He had bought them for practically nothing but at his own garage sales he soon found that no one wanted a used toaster at any price! The toasters still held the original owner's dried bread crumbs in them! Yuk!

When Uncle Floren's family had the sale of his estate featuring his like new toasters, I heard that Goodwill Industries came in at the conclusion of the sale and hauled off 18 used toasters. What a wasted effort for Uncle Floren. But who said life is easy, or fair?

Uncle Floren also had a couple other things for which he is remembered, particularly by his family.

He was always on the lookout for something new and unusual (and cheap). He and my dad, Arley Hinman, were always on the prowl seeing who would be the first (between them) to own something unique.

Dad upstaged Uncle Floren in the early days of the depression of the 1930s when he brought home a Jacobs brand automatic clothes washing machine. Uncle Floren was green with envy until he found one of these unheard of marvels in the Wichita area.

Unfortunately his washing machine turned out to be a "lemon." And he was unable to get the dealer to refund his money.

He sought legal advice and they encouraged him to "bite the bullet and get on with his life."

Not one to avoid a fight, Uncle Floren cleared his shiny pick-up truck of painting equipment and mounted the Jacobs washing machine in an elevated position in the truck bed. Then using his painting skills, he "got even" by preparing signs mounted around the truck lambasting Jacobs washing machines as "lemons" and the dealer as unfair. He drove the truck for years all over Wichita like a float entry looking for a parade.

I don't know if his tactics were the reason no one remembers the name Jacobs like they do Maytag.

In later years, Uncle Floren and Aunt Norma spent the winter months in the sunny environs of Arizona just across the border from old Mexico. They liked to go into Mexico and find unheard of bargains like their medications, etc. Uncle Floren had been unable to use his US made dentures because they were broken. He was determined that "some day" he would find a way to fix them. So only his family knows how many years he went toothless -- his broken teeth at home in the "junk drawer."

Then on one of their forays, he lucked out when he and Aunt Norma were browsing in Tijuana Mexico. He found a Mexican craftsman who "fixed" his broken dentures for practically nothing. The only problem was the glue was black and it made him look like a jack-o-lantern when he talked or laughed.

But Aunt Norma, bless her heart, put up with Uncle Floren's follies over a lifetime and he was my favorite Uncle. What a character!

This story was posted on 2010-11-14 01:45:02
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