COBWEB CORNERS: Bargains in the baggage
By Mel McFarland
I ran across this story, and I had never thought about the subject, but it seems worth sharing with you. Once, there were two places in town to get some real bargains. Sometimes the buyers got more than they bargained for; other times, much less. The cause was unfortunate people who lost things, or merely forgot what they had. The sales were at the railroad stations, both Rio Grande's and Midland's.
The sales were held whenever the pile of unclaimed baggage or freight filled the storage area. With baggage, the station agent or clerk would open the bags to see if they could find any names to notify. If not, they waited a reasonable amount of time, often six months. With freight, the agent tried notifying the shipper for a better address; if that did not work, it was sold.
Buyers sometimes lined up outside the baggage room to inspect the baggage. At an appointed time an auctioneer would start selling the items. Baggage seldom went for much. Like at most auctions, if there was an interesting item, bidding might rise to the sky. With freight, it was different, in that the packaging was not opened. Sometimes there were clues to the contents, but not always.
In this particular story, the reporter was amazed at some items in the sale. One was a crate labeled "drugs". Today this might raise suspicion. When the buyer opened it up, it contained perfumes, cosmetics, hair oil, tooth powders and the like. Two barrels contained crockery, and dishes of all sizes and patterns. One small keg contained a variety of nails, another some kind of lubricating oil. A big crate turned out to contain a small steam pump. In another crate was a load of tanned leather, probably destined to be turned into saddles. One item that surprised the buyer was an old-fashioned spinning wheel. The reporter observed that many of the buyers set up shop outside the depot, selling the items that they had purchased. Anyone interested in a keg of varnish?