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By John Addyman

   Adventures in rummage sales.
   I never cared much about rummage sales when I was a kid. I felt pretty much the same way when I became an adult. They seemed to be the magnet for people’s junk. If you couldn’t take something to the dump, find a rummage sale. They’ll take anything. Rummage sales were for “other people.”
   Things have changed. 

   I know first-hand, because I’ve been spending time with Betty Colasurdo lately. She has been the prime mover behind St. Michael’s Church twice-yearly rummage sale since Moses took his first bath in the Nile. She has a co-chairman this year, Pat Murphy, but we all know who’s in charge.
   Betty is one of those forces of nature you don’t want to get in front of. Despite the fact that she criss-crosses the vast floor of a church basement using a cane and a cart for support, she does cross it, a hundred times a day during the weeks leading up to our church rummage sale. She has a legion of helpers, for sure. But most of the work is done during the day, so the volunteers are people who are on the side of Social Security where you get pay-outs rather than paying in. And most are female. But nobody puts in more hours than Betty.
   People of a certain age get a little fussy, a little persnickety, and can be very demanding – and surprised when you don’t obey without questioning.
   Welcome to my world of the last week.
   I came to Newark with an idea in my head of what a rummage sale is. Betty, Pat and St. Michael’s changed that on my first accidental visit almost two years ago. I was impressed by how much stuff was in the sale. There was a good measure of junk, for sure, but more than enough treasures to go around.
   So this year I decided I’d get involved. I knew Betty and Pat’s crew needed help, and I had some hours here and there to offer.
   I wasn’t ready for the sheer volume of donated stuff that was piled in the hallways, and stacked to the ceiling in the garage. The cut-off date for bringing in donated goods was more than a week ago, but even after we’d started the first day of the sale, people were still walking in with more donations. And on that first day, they’d drop off their donations and then go shopping.
   Betty and Pat had my talents sized up right away when I reported for set-up duty.
   “John, go get all of the stuff out of the hall,” Betty said on my first day of work. I did.
   Then it was, “John, go empty all the stuff out of the garage.” Some 30 trips later, I was about two-thirds done. 
   I cleaned things up for sale. I tested tape recorders and video players and lamps and things. I folded and unwrapped. I broke down boxes. I sorted books. I swept up broken glass. I priced items. I assembled things.
   And I threw out a lot of stuff that was torn, broken, frayed, non-working or way overused. The dumpster is full.
   “We have a reputation to uphold,” Betty told me.
   And I had fun.
   The fun wasn’t in the doing so much as it was in the doing with other people, none of whom I knew. They were my neighbors whom I might not see again until the next rummage sale.
   And they were a couple of steps ahead of me. Two of them brought soup for lunch for everyone. One brought chili. There was coffee cake and bundt cake. Bags of cookies. Pots of coffee and hot water for tea.
   The kitchen was gossip central. I spent five minutes in there during the lunch break and learned more about Newark in that span of time than I had in two years of covering the Arcadia Town Board and the Newark Village Board. 
   My wife and I shopped the rummage sale. Somebody had to remove all that stuff. We did our part.
   Gayle bought pillows and wreaths and tiles. I bought local church and community cookbooks (including a gem – “’Twas the Night Before Christmas at St. John’s Parish, 1985” – does anyone know the artist who so lovingly added all the drawings?). I also picked up a whole bunch of Broadway Show tapes.
   Time well-spent, all of it.



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