Monday, December 5, 2011

Antiquing with Della - Stranded in South Texas

Save the dates Friday March 9 & Saturday March 10, 2012 for the 49th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique & Art Show in Fort Worth, Texas. We are busy signing up 75 fabulous dealers from coast to coast, with a few surprises in tow. Our 2012 blog starts soon after Christmas. 
Just for fun, see below for the true tale of an antiquing family, as told from the perspective of the youngest member. Enjoy the story and share it with a friend.

Stranded in South Texas 

An Occasional Column
by Della Orr-Harter (then age 2)
as Told to her Mother

So, we decided to take a vacation, whatever that is. Driving from the top of Texas to the very bottom at Padre Island, we had a few stops. Mom says that might be an understatement, whatever that is.

First we filled the Big Red van with our empty banana boxes and drove them to Austin so that my brother Jack could pack up his dorm room. Antiques dealers never throw away boxes. Daddy says our boxes have names. He calls one of them Methuselah. We drop off the empty boxes for Jack and promise to come back.

While we’re in Austin, we deliver a folk art basket woven from plastic Wonder Bread bags to Jane, who was Mother’s customer in New York and now lives in Texas. Jane loves the basket because it is an “over-the-edge antique,” which is the only kind she buys. Then we spend the night on the couch at Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen’s house. They have a fish on the wall where you push the button and it sings “Don’t worry, be happy.” Uncle Jim lets me push it over and over. It’s wonderful.

Early the next day, we go to San Antonio to the art studio of Mother’s customer Bettie and her assistant Loretta who is an interior designer. Mom has brought Loretta a bed, a standing Ranch Oak lamp, a cactus lamp, a big painting and other items to try out in a dude ranch that Loretta is decorating. We unload everything and then look at Bettie’s big colorful canvases. They are beautiful. And all around the studio and living area are the antique pillows that Bettie buys from my mom. They are full of color too. We promise to come back on our way home to pick up whatever pieces Loretta doesn’t want. Now, on to the ocean, whatever that is.

Before we get to the ocean, we have to visit all the antique stores in Corpus Christi that Mom and Dad went to years ago. Mom remembers buying her first Bauer dishes in Corpus. Once at a thrift shop there, they found a folk art landscape done during the 1920s. On the back it said, “Painted in exchange for lunch and overalls.” When we go back today most of those old stores are full of reproductions and new merchandise. Mom doesn’t like new stuff. (But she likes me.) We shopped all day long and bought a $3 painting and an old picture book for me, Honey Bunch Rides West. (I am a cowgirl.)

We get directions to one more store out in the country that is sort of on our way to pick up Daddy that night at the Harlingen airport and then on to the ocean.

But we don’t make it to Harlingen. Out near the edge of the King Ranch, which is near the edge of nowhere, the Big Red van goes plunck, plunck, plunck and we are stuck by the side of the road. Mom says “Oh, x!#x!” and I say “Don’t worry, be happy.”

A family stops. They are on the way to the high school baseball game and can drop us off at the Dairy Queen in the nearest town, which is Robstown, Texas. At the Dairy Queen Mom calls the auto club. The closest tow service in the club can get there in 4 hours. Mom says no dice and calls a local tow truck. A man named Raymond is just finishing his dinner and comes right away with the truck and takes us back to the van. I like sitting in his big truck.

While Raymond hauls our broken van onto the tow truck bed, Mom calls Dad to say, “Don’t fly to Harlingen. We’re stuck and going back to the Ford place in Corpus Christi.” Dad had just sat down on the airplane. They let him off so he can fly to us on another plane. See, don’t worry.

Raymond takes us first to the car rental place where Mom locates the smallest car on the planet. Out of the broken van Raymond and Mom pull my car seat, my diapers, my stroller, my food, my toys, beach towels, lotion, bug spray, books, clothes for 3 people, an ice chest and a few other things. Raymond just laughs as we stuff it all in the tiny car and follow him to the Ford place.

It is now dark and the Ford place is closed. We decide to leave Big Red outside the gate and call them in the morning. But Big Red won’t come off the tow truck. Raymond pushes and pulls, but the tires are locked. While I’m in the rent car watching, Mom gets out the gallon of water she always carries just in case. Raymond pours it on the tires and with a WOOSH, Big Red flies off the back of the trailer, rolling backwards down the street. This is not good. Mom’s on one side and Raymond’s on the other, running after it, digging their feet into the road to finally make Big Red stop. Don’t worry. Be Happy.

We thank Raymond, who says it has been a heck of a ride, and we drive in the rent car to the Corpus airport. We could have gone to find a motel, but Mom is still shaking a little and thinks we better just sit and wait for Daddy. There he is! We manage to fit us all in the car and Daddy takes us to a motel. We could have driven on to Padre Island, but we decide to take it easy. It is almost midnight. Will I ever see the ocean? The next morning, we go by the Ford place. They will call us soon, they say. And a couple of hours later, we are at the ocean.

In South Padre Island there are no antiques stores. It’s great. We are really on vacation. We go to the beach, we eat shrimp every day, we wash off the sand with bubble baths and Daddy talks to the Ford place. Several times a day Daddy talks to the Ford place. Finally, they say they can fix it in a week. Don’t worry. On our last night of vacation, we eat at a restaurant on the water and I wear my new sunglasses during the whole meal.

The next day, we take Daddy to the airport and head back toward Corpus to wait for the van. We’ll just have to shop for antiques all week. Our first stop is Kingsville. Remember the King Ranch? At the Opera House Antiques, in an old opera hall, we buy a Ranch Oak lamp with a hand-painted shade. Feeling lucky, Mom plunks down $67 for her own Mother’s Day present (Dad and I had forgot). It’s a big yellow Bauer mixing bowl with no cracks, a treat. At the Kingsville Goodwill I tried on a straw sombrero hat and got 3 dresses for 99 cents each. This is the life!

On the way out of town, Mom hits the brakes of the tiny car and circles back for a junkyard. We like junkyards. This one has a little house in the middle. Anybody home? Out comes Tony Taco, a gentleman who had lived here with his wife for 40 years. Her nickname had been Enchilada and the whole junkyard had started by selling a $4 basket of corn. From there it had grown to include old restaurant tables and benches, old playground stuff, old computers, car parts, big plastic formerly neon letters from stores out of business and plaster figures that look ancient because of the ocean air.

Mom looks through everything and sets aside a plaster Jesus. She digs through the piles of old store sign letters, piling up an S and an R and a P. “Do we have a potential snake problem here?” she asked. “Well, sort of,” said Tony Taco and Mom started being more careful. She sees a big board in the garage and tugs and tugs and pulls out an 8-foot long sign that says “Chalupas” painted in big blue letters. She is happy. Hot Tamale Antiques (that’s us) buys a chalupa sign from Tony Taco whose wife was Enchilada. While Tony and mom laugh about this, I knock over the plaster Jesus and off comes his head. “At least it’s a clean break,” says Tony, “You can fix it. Don’t worry.” Isn’t that what I always say? We pay Tony and agree to come back and pick up the letters, the sign and the headless Jesus as soon as we get our van back.

Over the next few days, we try to hit every antique store in south Texas. In Corpus at Patsy’s Forget Me Not Shop, a cast iron bathtub sits on a 25-foot pole above the store. Inside are jukeboxes, fancy enamel letters, and an elephant ride from an old grocery store. Next door we visited If Wishes Were Dishes, room after room of neatly organized second-hand dishes. We never found a person, just rooms stacked with dishes. Across the street at Betty’s Trash and Treasures we liked a 6 foot yellow ruler which had been a prop in a photography studio and an old blue painted pool cue wall rack from a Mexican bar for $40. We should have bought that, but the tiny rent car said, no way. We almost bought a Bauer olive green #10 massive bowl for $135 with a note taped to it that said, “This is what you shop in these kind of stores for.”

Next door at the Wild Goose Chase, a name that made mother laugh for some reason, I got a big tin spinning top just like Mom used to have. She found a small antique Saltillo weaving in a dust pile under a broom. Jerry, the owner, said, “I was going to give that to the first person who showed an interest and you’re it.” This has been our lucky trip. We even went to a junk auction one night where we sat next to another dealer who might actually be Santa Claus, beard and all. At the auction we bought a folk art terrarium, maybe the only one out there. We did not buy the 1940’s dress patterns, the chippy painted folding stools, the broken Roseville or the old green paint wooden ice cream bucket, which we should have bought.

Now all this time that we are shopping in the world’s smallest car, we are also staying at the world’s cheapest motel. Mom found a real winner this time. On the last day of the week we drive down to the New England-style seaport village of Rockport. If you are ever stuck in South Texas, shop here first. At B & P Resale we found a Beacon blanket and a vintage red vest for me with horses on it. At the Piddlers and Peddlers Resale shop we found a 1953 Airstream trailer decorated with real longhorns for $6,000. We really should have bought that, but you won’t believe what came next. At Red Man Trading Co., they have a whole wall of fish that sing “Don’t worry, be happy.” It’s incredible!

But, even with the fish, Mom’s favorite store was Mary Anne’s Antiques, full of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts furniture. For $185 we could buy the best 6 foot tall Mission Oak hat stand in South Texas from the c. 1910 Bishop Elliot Lodge, an old Camp Fire Girl retreat along the coast. We measured and unloaded and re-loaded and managed to squeeze part of the hat rack in the tiny car, part hanging out of the window, tied in. It just fit, so we bought it. Mother is an old Camp Fire Girl herself.

Our last stop was Carolyn’s Antiques where Carolyn was sitting on the floor covering a bird-bath with shards of beautiful Fiesta pottery. It turns out that there’s a 1910-1950 old garbage dump where Carolyn goes to dig for pieces of old dishes to make into new things. It also turns out that Carolyn, sitting here on the floor in front of us, is the reigning oyster eating champion of Rockport, Texas. This year she ate 132, but her record is 159. She’s starting to slow down, she says. I like Carolyn.

Now it’s time to call the Ford place and tell them we’re on the way. Well, they say, we’re not finished---maybe Monday. Monday!!! Mom calls Dad. “I’ve been in a flea bag motel with a baby for a week. I can’t make it to Monday!” She is so disgusted that we go into the Big Fisherman restaurant at 3 pm where she orders all-you-can-eat fried oysters for herself and a steak dinner for me. Meanwhile, Daddy calls our Ford place at home. That Ford place calls the Ford place in Corpus. And the Ford place in Corpus calls Mom and says, “It’ll be ready when you get here.”

And it was. And for some reason, the Ford people just stand there and stare at us while Mom pulls from the rent car and loads into the Big Red van my car-seat, my stroller, my diapers, my food, my toys, clothes for 3 people, an ice chest, books, bug spray, beach towels, about 10 bags of our purchases, a few other things and a 6 foot tall Mission Oak hat rack.

Tony Taco & Big Red
Glad to be in our own Big Red van, we drive straight to Tony Taco’s to pick up the pile of plastic letters, the 8 foot chalupa sign and the headless Jesus. All in all, a terrific vacation. And did I mention the ocean?

For some reason, Mom is still laughing. Maybe she just remembered that we still have to go back to Loretta and the dude ranch in San Antonio and then to pick up Jack’s banana boxes in Austin! But you know what? That’s a whole other story. So until then, happy trails--- and keep looking for the big one. Your friend, Della

Copyright Jan Orr-Harter, 2002
See you at the show this March 9-10, 2012. Don't worry, be happy--and happy holidays to all.

Happy Birthday, Dolly Johnson!

Save the dates March 9-10, 2012 for the show!
This week marks Dolly Johnson's birthday.
Who the heck was Dolly Johnson?

The late Dolly Johnson, the founder of our show, was a mid-twentieth century character in Fort Worth, Texas. Though tiny and with a soft voice, she had a big Texas personality. Instead of big hair, she had a big heart. Together with her husband Rip Johnson, Dolly and Rip brought energy, excitement and passion to everything they touched. They loved Fort Worth and Fort Worth loved them.

Rip was the General Manager of Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum for many years. He brought fresh new entertainment to Fort Worth—the Harlem Globetrotters, the Ice Capades, major musical acts and more. Perhaps you have driven on Rip Johnson Way, the road named for him at Will Rogers Memorial Center today. Rip brought ice hockey to Fort Worth, including my Yankee hockey player, Tom Harter.

I call Dolly “a character” because people of all ages, from many places have told me that they knew Dolly Johnson and that they have never known anyone else like her. Their very first words about her tend to recount a late night event or phone call. Apparently Dolly had a light-hearted view of time. The middle of the night was fair game for friendship, visits and phone calls. She was a character and she had character. I wish that I had known her.

 Just this week, I heard two new Dolly Johnson stories. When illustrator Louis Daniel retired after 25 years with Fort Worth's Witherspoon advertising agency, he started taking on printing projects on his own. One of his clients was Dolly Johnson, for whom he printed antique show programs for many years. "Dolly was so enthusiastic about antiques herself," says Louis, "that it just rubbed off on everybody else."

Louis told me about Dolly's station wagon, "Uncle Sam," in which she would excitedly set off on buying trips near and far. "She would come back with things tied to the top of Uncle Sam that you would not believe. She went to Pennsylvania and came back with a row of three folding seats from a Red Goose Shoe Store tied up top." Most of you will not remember the Red Goose Shoe Stores, but I do, including the rows of seats. What a cool thing for a Fort Worth character to drive across the US to buy!

Louis goes on: "Dolly kept the row of seats for a while and then Rip made her have a yard sale to get rid of some things. She sold me the row of seats. As an advertising man, I kept them for many years and then eventually sold them to an advertising friend. Every Christmas we go to her house and visit Dolly Johnson's Red Goose seats."

The other story involved another trip "back east" to the mother-load of American antiques in New England. At this week's rug-hooking group, one of "the hookers," Sue Vanderford, told me about Dolly organizing her friends to attend the estate auction of top-notch antiques dealer Roger Bacon in 1982. (Stay tuned for more stories about the Hookers...) The Dolly Johnson Antique Show in Fort Worth was by then nearly twenty years old and well-known "back East." Sue says that "when we got to the auction in New Hampshire, the auctioneer had saved all the front row seats for us." Maybe he had heard about Dolly's interest in buying seats!

In the show archives I found a yellowed newspaper, the very first volume of Antique News & Views. It had eight pages and two of them told the story of Dolly Johnson taking a group of Texas friends to the very first Heart of Country Antiques Show in Nashville in 1982. The article begins: “Dolly Johnson is a petite, fun-loving 19 year veteran Antique Show manager from Ft. Worth, Texas.”

Nineteen years? A photo with the article shows Dolly with antiques author Mary Emmerling who is described by the reporter as “shockingly youthful.” When Mary Emmerling was just starting out and when Heart of Country was born, Dolly Johnson had already been producing her show in Fort Worth for 19 years. Emma Lee Turney came to do one of Dolly’s shows in order to learn how to start her own show in Round Top, Texas in 1968.

  Dolly Johnson never met an estate sale where she couldn’t find some treasure. The collections mounted and filled her new Tanglewood home in Fort Worth. There were quilts and coverlets, found locally and on trips back east. There was plain, primitive, bench-made furniture, very unlike the furniture that most people wanted in post-war America. There was a collection of tiny graniteware child and doll pots and pans and dishes. On and on, the list of well-loved antiques grew each year of Dolly’s life.

In the early 60s, Rip, ever the promoter, dared Dolly to start an antique show. She took him up on it and produced her first show in the spring of 1963. Her focus was American antiques. This was before women’s lib and years before the 1976 Bi-Centennial would light the Americana market aflame.

Influenced by the Dolly Johnson Antique Show, an active group of collectors began to emerge in Fort Worth and to spread across Texas. It was a time when people named shows after themselves, so naturally Dolly named the new show after herself. It was actually known as “Dolly Johnson’s Antique Show.” Today we don’t name shows after an individual’s full name---it’s just that Dolly’s show is one that has survived and evolved and is still going strong. For many, it is simply called “The Dolly Show.”

You can imagine the excitement that must have surrounded Dolly Johnson’s Antique Show when the American Bi-Centennial finally arrived.

I digress here…Does anyone out there remember the celebration of the Bi-Centennial in Fort Worth? Many events were planned, including a huge gathering to hear the symphony at the old Leonard’s M & O Subway parking lot. Well, on the 4th of July, 1976 it poured rain in Fort Worth. Not sprinkles, it rained and rained and rained. And we all went downtown anyway. In the pouring rain, the citizens sat on soaked bales of hay that had been set up like mountains to get us out of the water. I remember eating thoroughly drowned fried chicken.

But at sunset, amid all the soaking flags and banners, the rains parted and the most beautiful light flooded the city with a long summer sundown. Everything reflected a pinkish golden glow and the world seemed clean and new. In our wet clothes, the citizens of Fort Worth finally heard the music and saw the fireworks that had been planned all along. When Fort Worth gets its Trinity River Vision in place with a new town lake, many people will remember that at the bottom of that lake is the place where we sat on wet bales of hay and celebrated our country, rain or shine.

And with that Bi-Centennial came the new-found craze for antiques. Dolly Johnson had helped to usher it in. Suddenly, abandoned small towns sprouted antique shops and collectors clubs began to form and flourish. Helen Pringle, one of the group that went with Dolly to that first Nashville antique show, writes on our show website about “the long line of shoppers” who began to eagerly await the opening of the Dolly Johnson Show each year. See under “Show History.”

At a recent Marburger Farm Antique Show in Round Top, I sold an enormous Minnesota stepback cupboard to a woman about my age from Houston. I told her about the Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show in Fort Worth in March. She looked at me and said, “I knew Dolly Johnson.” Well, it turned out that they were in fact old family friends.

 The next day, when Dolly’s friend came back with a truck big enough to carry her cupboard, she handed me a bag. It was a gift. Inside was a marvelous geometric American hooked rug, with all the signs of being well-used. “When I was a young girl, Dolly and I went to an antique show together,” she said. “Dolly picked this rug out for me to have in my future home. I want you to have it now.” The spirit of Dolly endures

Dolly’s daughter, JJ Frambes, who is a whole story of her own, took over running the show for the last 20  years or so. Her daughter, Krista Luter, and JJ’s grandchildren, Haley and Josh Luter, helped from an early age. In fact, you can probably find Dolly and Rip Johnson’s great-grandchildren at this year’s show, helping still.

 So, Happy Birthday, Dolly! Your show must go on!

Blog Photos by Krista Luter

Friday, March 4, 2011

With a Whole Heart - Meet Cissy Thompson

 Sometimes in the world of antiques your very best find will be a thing. Sometimes it’s a friend. Meet my friend Cissy Thompson, Associate Director of the Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show. Cissy and I met over a decade ago when she was helping to run McKinney Avenue Antiques Market in Dallas. In fact, I found a mother-lode of friends in my years as a dealer at McKinney Avenue Antiques. Today Cissy is the face of the Dolly Johnson Show, out and about almost every day to meet and encourage North Texans to check out the show. 

Cissy lives in Fort Worth, where her heart belongs to TCU. Her heart also belongs to her husband James and her family. And, luckily for me, her heart has embraced the 48th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show. Cissy, with the help of another McKinney Ave friend Barbara Felty, has delivered thousands of our beautiful show postcards to antique shops in and surrounding the DFW area. She led up the mailing party for the show, organized all the folks who will run the show ticket desks for us and has personally invited most of north Texas. “What’s next?” she asks.

 Cissy clipped and sent me a snippet from Parade Magazine with this statement by comedian Aisha Taylor: “I really believe that engaging in everything that you feel excited about keeps you creative, keeps your life interesting.”

Really engaging describes the quality of commitment and energy that Cissy brings to the show and to everything that she selectively determines to do. She has a positive, creative approach to life and, consequently, her life is interesting. Boredom is not part of Cissy Thompson's world.

She teaches me that, if something is worth doing, do it with your whole heart. See Cissy here with more than a few pieces of the brown and white transferware that she collects. Blue and white? Not this cowgirl. Cissy collects deep, not broad. 

She did confide, though, that she made an exception and bought the small Texas landscape behind the dishes at last year's Dolly Johnson Show.  

Boy, is she going to fall over when she sees the "Texian Campaigne" transferware plates and platters coming to the show with dealer Jerry Wood of LA. These dishes were made about 1842 to celebrate the independence of Texas. Miss Ima Hogg's collection of these dishes is at the Bayou Bend Museum in Houston and the official Texas collection belongs to the Governor's Mansion.   

On March 11-12, meet Cissy Thompson and the whole team that will help to create the 48th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show, which will soon be here!

Find a discount coupon and show special events at  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parking Fee Rebate at March 11-12 Dolly Johnson Antique & Art Show

Antiquers love bargains. Here's a bargain at the March 11-12 Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth: Parking Fee Rebate

For those, like my mother, who can't abide $3-$5 for parking, come anyway! Our dealers will sweeten your deal with a Parking Fee Rebate with your purchase of $50 or more. Mother will still probably park for free at the UNT Medical School on Camp Bowie and walk (and get the rebate). But it will make her happy.

The goal of an antique and art show is to make you happy. To inspire you, give you visual beauty and a form of inner re-creation and rest. This is why we like antiques to begin with. They make us happy. Come to the show, park for $3 or $5. Buy a treat, get your rebate and go home happy.
Park your Wheels at the Show--or find them! Wooden Industrial Molds, Georgia Morel Antiques
PS the $3 lot is on Harley St, just south of the Cowgirl Museum and Cattle Barns. Say hi to my mother.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Real American Pickers

Had a text from Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show dealers Becky Chapman and Mary Jane Schooley that they are shopping for the show in a freezing Pennsylvania. See here the lamb's tongue rug they found today, in such a modern black and white.

Cheeky Mare Antiques

TrueLuck Design -Andrew Church

Others roaming the world include Tammy Strop of The Cheeky Mare Antiques, who just packed up a container in England of 17th, 18th and 19th century finds. The Dolly Johnson Show will get the first pick. 

Mary Brady of English Rose Linens is also due home from shopping in England for textiles, lighting and whatever else she can get to Texas. Erik Yang just returned from buying a collection of mid-century modern and retro jewelry in New York. Janet Waldrop of Skip 2 My Lou is somewhere in Paris, likely on her knees, digging through boxes at flea markets while Andrew Church is packing a tight load of all the art and industrial antiques that have come from a season of searching in California.

These folks are out there, living a bit on the edge, in pursuit of antiques and art.

I’m pleased by how many Americans have seen and enjoyed the History Channel’s show, “American Pickers” about two men who travel America, buying and selling antiques from their Sprinter van (they copied me). 

 A few months ago in Kansas City, I bought a huge industrial metal shelf that needed the bottom straightened out. After it resisted my efforts, I drove this monster over to our local high school and found the Ag-Shop where kids learn to use tools and work on repairs like the one the piece needed. “Sure,” said the teacher, “leave it here and I’ll let the kids hammer it straight.”

So about six young guys climb into my Sprinter and heave the thing out. Off it goes to school. As I’m closing up the van, a couple of them come back and look at me and at the Sprinter----“Are you a picker? Like those guys on TV?” 

Well, yes, many of us in the antiques business work as pickers, finding things that are available in one place and taking them to another place where they are harder to find and highly desired. My husband calls it a trucking business.

Now that they had a real live picker, the boys wanted to know more. “What are those?” one boy asked about a pair of polyester vintage pants with the Eiffel Tower printed on them that were hanging on the wall inside the van. I had bought them in, of all places, Oklahoma City. “You like those?” I asked. “If you fix my shelf, I’ll give you the pants.”  OK, you got a deal! they all shouted.  

Two of the quieter boys hung around and one me asked me, “Do you ever run in to alternators?” Well, as a matter of fact I had seen a fine alternator at a yard sale the weekend before, priced at $30. I didn’t tell them that it was my father’s well-cared-for alternator, but they gave me their phone number and I promised to call if I could acquire the alternator for $25. “Why do you need an alternator?” I asked. They stood up very straight and said, “We’re going to build a windmill.”

When I returned the next week with the $25 alternator, they paid for it all in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. The group shoved the much-improved industrial shelf back into the Sprinter and I presented them with the Eiffel Tower pants. In what other line of work could this possibly happen?

So, 75 dealer-pickers are out there somewhere right now searching for the best that they can bring to you at the Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show, which will soon be here. They may even find some Cowboys and Indians. Take a peek and tell a friend.
Fit for a Cowboy!

American dresser and folk art from Paul Ashby

Estate Jewelry with David & Sheila Stallings

Indian figure from Tenny & Al Roche

Now that's an Indian! from J.Compton Gallery

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Empty Bowls, Full Hearts

Yesterday I joined 2,000 other supporters of the Tarrant Area Food Bank in their annual "Empty Bowls" fundraiser in the West Texas Room at  the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth.

In just three weeks the Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show will host a Benefit Booth for the TAFB in the very next room.  Got stuff? You can help by donating antiques, art, jewelry and vintage collectibles. To donate, contact us through the website at

See here the 2,000 people lined up in the lobby to pick out their hand-made empty bowls, each donated by a local artist. Instead of a fancy fundraising luncheon, the empty bowls are beautiful creations, plus you get to taste samples of food from the booths of many eateries.

People selected their bowls with care, Here is mine, hand painted by a member of the Fort Worth Porcelain Art Club. Whoever you are, thank you!

Sponsored by Tom Thumb, the event involved many local businesses who gave food samples and silent auction donations.

For the silent auction, the Dolly Johnson Show donated a large folk art wooden bowl from Pennsylvania that had been completely surfaced with tile circles in the 1950s. Leave it to me to go to the mother-lode of Americana and come back with something from the 1950s. (Of course when shopping the flea markets of France, I brought home bakelite and plastic Cowboys and Indians.)

But back to "Empty Bowls"--- last year this event raised over $200,000 to help the Tarrant Area Food Bank provide food to 300 community food banks in 13 Texas counties. Day in, day out, their mission is filling empty bowls. They do it by engaging the local community as supporters and as volunteers.

The Dolly Johnson Show selected the TAFB for our 2011 Benefit Booth because of the involvement of James Thompson who volunteers there regularly to load food onto trucks. James is the husband of Dolly Johnson Show Associate Director, Cissy Thompson. Thank you, James.

By the way, James was the one-man music committee for the upcoming March 11-12 Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show, until Cissy and daughter Claudia took it away from him to lower the decibel level. Still, most of his selection survived and you can expect some great tunes between the live sets of Clear Fork Jazz and Paul Cox/Texas Acoustic.

So contact us if you have items to donate for the Tarrant Area Food Bank Benefit Booth at the March 11 -12 Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show, which will soon be here.

Get involved or learn more about the Tarrant Area Food Bank at

Billboard ad: on left, girl looks at viewer; on right: Hunger Is Here. You Can Help.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hello, Dolly! Three Weeks Till Showtime March 11-12

Hello, Dolly! Coming to Fort Worth March 11-12
Save the Date and Tell a Friend

Hello from the world headquarters of the Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show. Three weeks from today, we’ll blast up the volume on Louis Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly” and fling wide the doors of the Will Rogers Memorial Center. Inside you’ll find 75 of the hardest-working, most creative and visionary antiques and art dealers that we could jam into one exhibit hall. If you are sick of winter, you will love this.

Yesterday I ran into dealer Cathy Harmon who was visiting Fort Worth early. I found her buying a chandelier from our friends at Butler’s Antiques on Eighth Avenue.

See the photo here of Cathy’s booth last year, as well as antiques that she will be bringing.

Like the other 74 dealers in the show, Cathy has “a good eye”---or as Larry McMurtry’s Cadillac Jack put it, she has the ability to see beauty in the dimmest of lights.

 So put it on your calendar now:
Friday March 11, 9 am - 7pm with a Happy Hour Party from 4-7 pm and again on Saturday March 12, 9 am - 5pm.

Come for the beauty, come for the stuff. Come for spring, which will soon be here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dolly Johnson XLVIII Congratulates Super Bowl XLV- And Now for Something Entirely Different!

Forget about the football and the big chill, what about those Black Eyed Peas? Wasn’t the Super Bowl half-time wonderful? And now that it’s all come and gone, what’s next for the Arlington-Fort Worth-Dallas Metro-Plex?

Save Fri. March 11 & Sat. March 12 for the 48th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. We couldn’t get the Black Eyed Peas, but we have signed 75 top exhibitors from California to the Carolinas. We even have a dealer coming from Wisconsin, where they are rightfully jumping up and down on their cheeseheads.

And the Dolly Johnson Antique And Art Show will have live music, including Clear Fork Jazz and Paul Cox/Texas Acoustic. They may not be the Black Eyed Peas, but Paul has played pool with Willie Nelson. That’s got to count for something.

So farewell, Super Bowl.Just in case you didn't get a seat at Cowboy Stadium, take a look at some of the seats at the Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show, which will soon be here.

Take a Seat!


Best Seats in the House!

See the show's new photo gallery at 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show..."Antiquing with Della -- Shop Ohio!"

The Show Goes On!

Welcome to the blog for the 2011 Dolly Johnson Antique & Art Show in Fort Worth March 11-12, 2011. You can read about last year's show further down on this blog, but new for this year:

--Updates on antiques & art dealers --and their merchandise-- coming to the 2011 Dolly Johnson Show

--Reflections on the central question: Why do so many people love antiques? And what's in it for you?

--Back by popular demand, "Antiquing with Della," a series of stories about our family's adventures in the antiques world, told from the perspective of youngest child Della. See below for "Della Does Ohio" and look for future stories from MN, NM, Brimfield, Maine, Marburger Farm and more.

Hope to see you at the 48th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show, March 11-12, 2011. Stay tuned! 

Antiquing With Della---Me-O-My-O, Shop Ohio! 

by Della Orr-Harter (then age 2) as Told to Her Mother

So we went to Ohio--- America’s heartland, home of my Harter family roots and the antique buyer’s land of milk and honey. I was a Buck-Eye baby in search of the big one. And from Ohio we were going on to sell at Brimfield, Massachusetts, the really big one.

Well, it took three days to load the Big Red van. There was a car seat, a stroller, a portable baby bed, a play pen, a baby swing, one month of clothes for mom and me, a cooler and our food, my toys, a folding rocker, an extra stroller, bedding, camping gear, a 10 foot show tent, fifteen cases of vintage jewelry to sell at Brimfield and one case of diapers. And carefully wrapped next to me was yet another box of jewelry that said “Ginny Mom’s jewelry.” Ginny Mom, my Daddy’s mother, was the real reason we were going to Columbus, Ohio.

We pulled out at 6 pm and met Daddy at the bar-be-cue place up by Texas Motor Speedway. After our last taste of Texas, we kissed goodbye and Hot Tamale Antiques, that’s us, headed north. Daddy headed home for something called “peace and quiet.” We made it to Oklahoma. Then Hot Tamale---that’s me and Momma--- drove all day the next day, arriving at 1:30 am in Springfield, Ohio where Art at the Super 8 had saved our reservation.

We slept until 5:30 that morning and then headed over to the Clark County Fairgrounds for the Springfield Antiques Extravaganza. I wore my pajamas all day. The sign said “2500 Dealers, The Midwest’s Largest Antique Show.” Mom says 2500 is a lot, as big as all the Round Top and Warrenton shows in Texas put together. Well, it wasn’t really all that big, but it was a nice spread, a flea market where you have to look hard to find something great. We did.

Mom wanted antiques that didn’t need a lot of work. We already have plenty of the other kind. Well she bought the best thing we saw at the show and it needed work---a folk art inlaid wood table, parlor size from New York state c. 1880. (We had to re-pack the whole van) Then we found 2 Beacon blankets, a big cake pan shaped like a horse-shoe and a match-stick cross that needed only a little glue. The best, though, was a little framed embroidery sampler, “The Law of the Camp Fire Girls---Worship God...Be Trustworthy...Be Happy.” Momma said this is “a keeper.” She was a Camp Fire Girl. Sometimes she says that I’m “a keeper” too.

By 2:30 we had seen everything, so we headed over to the three big Antique Malls along I-70. They were staying open late. We got lucky and found a folk art quilt in a Japanese Flag pattern that didn’t need any work, a big green and yellow painted basket and western textiles. One mall said “The Biggest Antique Mall in America.” We shopped it in one hour and didn’t buy anything. It’s hard to impress a couple of Texans with bigness. Or maybe we were just shopped out.

Since all we had to eat that day was Vienna sausage, we went for a peaceful, sit down dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It wasn’t so peaceful. I threw my food and hit a lady at the next table with my spoon. They had to bring out a mop because of the ice and water I poured on the floor, so we left. We went back to the motel, took a bath and went to bed---two tired Tamales.

 The next day we drove East to Columbus, Ohio where my father’s parents and even his grandparents had met one another in grade school. . We were there for Ginny Mom, to put her ashes in the Union Cemetery. I never met her, but she knew I was on the way. Daddy says she was gentle and tolerant and wise, kind of like him. And we were going to celebrate her.

All of the other cousins and relatives were coming, but Mom and I were there a day early, so we checked into what she calls a “sleaze-bag motel.” We stay at those a lot, but what is a sleaze bag? Anyway we headed over to the Ohio State Fairground for the Scott’s Antique Market. Mom told me that the Ohio State Fairground was Ginny Mom’s favorite place to go as a kid and I would surely have a great time there. Hmm, sounds like more antiques to me.

For many years Don Scott has been running shows in Ohio and in Atlanta. He and Mom talked a while and then we set off, me in my stroller with my portable cassette player humming away. Everywhere I go, I make music. It’s helps me sleep, but we only have one baby music tape, so it gets a little old. Anyway, we see amazing things---a dealer with a parrot on a leash, a hooked rug dated 1939 in the Blue Willow china pattern for $375 and two huge 1920's “101 Ranch Wild West Show” banners found on a building wall in Zanesville, Ohio when the church next door was torn down. But the most amazing thing is what Don Scott shows Mom in the office. At the show he had bought an early New England fire screen with a painted stick and ball frame and a naive oil painting in the center for $300. Mom just stared. Oh, she wanted to be the one who had bought that fire screen. We call this a Lukewarm Tamale moment.

The next day everybody gets there, including Daddy and my brother Jack. There are 30 of us, most under the age of 12. We stay at a fancy hotel with an elevator and a swimming pool---no sleaze bag for Ginny Mom. We eat hamburgers, we watch old family movies, we play games. And then the next morning, while everyone is asleep in this great hotel, mom gets me up at 5 am to go to the Kingman Drive In Theater where someone told her we’d find the world best “dirt market.” Boy were they wrong. I think dirt market has something to do with sleaze bag. We lost our flash light and then later saw someone selling it to somebody else. All we found was a train set for my Texas cousin Daniel and a magazine rack shaped like a dog. We did see someone in a Mercedes buy something in a big envelope for lots of money and then leave before sun up. Somebody got lucky. But it wasn’t us.

The next day we got up at 4 am and headed to another drive in theater in south Columbus. It wasn’t much better. We did see some high end 20th century designer furniture really cheap, but the Big Red van said no way. Going back, we stopped at a yard sale that looked like Martha Stewart’s house---pottery, quilts, painted furniture, everything perfect. (Our house is a little different from that---Mom says Daddy is an imperfectionist.) Anyway we bought a hand-made western hat rack that came apart and fit in the van.

On the way back to breakfast, we saw a man mowing down a field of chicory, that roadside weed with the tiny blue flowers. Mom hit the brakes and filled what was left of Big Red with the chicory weeds. At the hotel we made a soaring arrangement of chicory in our trash can and then went to see what was happening.

Ginny Mom's jewelry was what was happening. We joined all the daughters and granddaughters---15 of us females-- around a huge pile of jewelry, each old birthday or Mothers' Day gift carefully tucked in a tiny plastic bag. We took turns and everybody picked until it was all given out. I got a pin made from a button and put it on right away. Mom got Ginny Mom's bakelite bracelet . We picked out engagement rings for all the boy cousins to give their future mates-- and the boys all blushed. My Florida cousin Ellie and Mom will share the silver Hopi bracelet that the Harters bought on a vacation out west. Each Christmas Mom and Ellie will send it back and forth through the mail. Momma says that someday I can share it with Ellie. Momma likes to think ahead.

That night we had a private dinner at the hotel and all the cousins had our pictures taken in our best clothes---and all Ginny Mom’s jewelry----earrings, brooches, bangles, pins, glittering necklaces. We looked great. It was almost like Ginny Mom was there. The next morning we all processed to the cemetery down the block, carrying the box of ashes and a trash can of blue Ohio chicory. Including Ginny’s sister Judy and Great Aunt Anne, four generations stood together around the little hole in the ground, which was surrounded by even more generations. We sang, we told stories, my Daddy cried with his sisters and brother. Standing there, all dripping in Ginny Mom’s jewels, we all cried. Somebody said that we were her jewels. Finally, we turned on the lullaby music in my stroller cassette player, said goodbye to Ginny Mom and turned to go.

My Daddy and brother and everybody else headed off to the airport. But Mom and I climbed northeast in the Big Red van to spend the night in Akron, Ohio with antique dealer Charles Auerbach, his wife Mary and their sons. They live in an Arts and Crafts era bungalow with trees so high you can’t see the tops. Chuck was Mommy’s friend in New York, where he would drive from Ohio to do the shows that she managed. Chuck is a good friend. He got his first break in the business in the legendary Russell Carrell shows in Salisbury, CT, carrying quilts, carved whimsies and other great American folk art. “I take a quirky view of life,”he says. “I like to see the maker in the objects that I buy and sell.” Chuck shows us his own collection of roadside religious signs like the big sign in the dining room that said “Repent Now. Jesus is Coming Immediately.” He says that it’s folk art and Mom has been looking for a sign for him ever since.

We stay in Chuck’s basement office where he stores the artwork of an Akron man named Alfred McMoore. McMoore is what is called an “outsider” or self-taught artist. He works in pencil and crayon on long scrolls of paper which Chuck has everywhere--stacked behind our bed, tacked on the wall, standing in boxes. We take a shower and settle down to sleep, surrounded by the fantastical, sad, weird, funny and wonderful visions of one man’s heart.

The next morning I play with Mary on the front porch with a folk art carved wooden rattle. Chuck fixes Mom blueberry pancakes and they talk about changes in the antiques business.

“Yes, I sell on the Internet,” says Chuck, “but small, more traditional antiques. Buyers on-line want something with a clearly identifiable value---Lionel trains, advertising, items easy to ship. The more adventurous, one-of-a-kind items I save for shows.”

 What’s your advice to buyers now? “The same as always,” smiled Chuck. “Buy what moves you and buy the best you can from the best dealer you can find.” We thank Chuck and Mary and tell them “We’ll see you at Brimfield next week.” And then we head east toward Massachusetts.

But that’s a whole other story. Until then, happy trails and keep looking for the big one.

Your friend, Della

Copyright 2002 Jan Orr-Harter

Where to Buy Ohio Style in Texas?

The 48th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique Show

Friday March 11- Saturday March 12, 2011

Will Rogers Memorial Center - Ft. Worth, TX