Mark Twain said, "There are people who accomplish things and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded." In my case, I blame it all on a book.
Our family found some old books in the basement of our first home in Victoria. The one I remember best was A Vagabond Journey Around the World, filled with photos of unpronounceable foreign places as they were in 1903, and this spurred a keen interest in history and geography that's fascinated me ever since.
Through high school, I worke dfor the Times wholesale office and supervised scores of boys who earned four cents for every newspaper they sold on street corners. A budding entrepreneur even at 14, I posted a list of coins I would buy for more than face value, knowing I could resell them and use the profit to fuel growing collections of stamps and books. Many times, the boys made more from me than they did from newspaper sales.
Over the years, I worked for a bank (more coins), for a stamp dealer in England (more stamps), and spent Saturdays haunting the London street markets soaking up information on the antiques trade. Returning to Canada, I paid college fees by buying anything old at garage sales and reselling it at the long-gone Tillicum drive-in flea market. Collecting was shaping up as a sustainable hobby.
With a shiny business degree, I travelled the byways of B.C. as a government employee, visiting countless secondhand shops and antiques dealers after hours, restricting my purchases to things I could lug back on a plane. I learned along the way.
There was that strange lady in Lillooet whose store and home was stacked like a warehouse with little hotel-sized bars of soap (Note to self: do not buy little hotel-sized bars of soap. I know where there are enough to wash the entire Canadian population every Saturday until 2052). There was that roadside sale in Creston with a table full of 1960s lunch boxes priced at 50 cents each (worth hundreds now). And then there was that 1966 Beatles bass guitar I found in a Vernon pawnshop. I still have it, though it doesn't play very well. Or maybe it's me who doesn't play very well.
Government years went by, and after a forefinger had a disagreement with a wood axe, I took some time to ponder my future. I never went back.
I'm blessed with a loving and supportive wife and family, and with their encouragement, I went from swirling my toe in the bathtub of a hobby business to a cannon dive into the uncharted waters of self-employment. Yep, that was scary.
If you're old enough to remember the Roy Rogers Riders Club, where kids signed a form saying they'd follow "the rules," you'll recall Rule No. 6 - study hard and learn all you can. Roy had good advice.
In the antiques trade, you can't just order inventory from a wholesaler, you have to go find it, and then likely compete with your own customers to buy it. The exciting part is you never know what will turn up next. In the fruit business, you buy an orange and sell an orange; some have seeds and some don't. Whopee. In a typical week, I get to poke around basements, dig through storage bins and look in boxes that haven't been opened since Grandma passed on in 1980. What I find is amazing! There are old diaries, pressed flowers, faded photos, and naughty bits under the bed.
I've learned what's worth keeping, and where to find it a new home when it's time for someone to let it go.
Throughout this, I get to meet many interesting people who like to reminisce, I get to write about what I love, I look at folks' treasures and provide valuations (see you at the Seniors Expo!), and save an incalculable number of odds and ends from destruction.
Writer Maya Angelou said it well - "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." It works for me.
Comments and suggestions for future columns are welcome and can be sent to Michael Rice, PO Box 86, Saanichton, BC V8M 2C3 or via email to email@example.com
MARCH 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND