Feeling Nostalgic

I’ve been seeing a lot of Facebook posts from friends that I knew in San Francisco and I’ll admit it’s made me a tad nostalgic. I moved there not long after college and loved living there for three years. During my last year I lived on Dolores Street just two blocks from Mission Dolores. And two blocks in another direction was Church Street and fabulous Sparky’s Diner and Aardvark Books. Two of my favorite neighborhood places.

Photographer unknown.

Sparky’s had a peanut butter chocolate torte that was to die for. And I remember a hilarious evening my friend Patty and I met up for dinner. We were both Dubonnet fans and each ordered one with a twist of lemon. Well it turns out they didn’t have much left and brought us each a high ball glass a quarter filled (which really was about the normal serving size) and promised to get more. They sent an employee down to the Safeway grocery store on Market Street and bought another bottle. They came back to our table and literally filled our tall glasses with this fortified wine. By the time we finished our meal and our drinks we were…well, a tad tipsy and very giggly. (Thankfully, I only had to walk home two blocks and Patty was taking the streetcar back to her apartment.)

And as a book lover having a second-hand book store like Aardvark so close to our apartment was like kryptonite. I loved browsing and buying and petting the shop cats. It was a dream.

Aardvark Books, 1986. Photographer unknown.

And now neither Sparky’s or Aardvark’s exist. And gosh that makes me feel both sad and old.

Me and my bestie on our college hillside campus.
Late 1970s.

I know we all have places like this from our past. Homes. Restaurants. Stores. Churches. Schools. Malls. That are gone. Some have been bulldozed. Some taken over by other owners. Some renovated to something unfamiliar. Even my college alma mater chose to sell off their main campus just north of New York City a few years ago. (Still shaking my head on that one.)

And these are wrenches. Tiny tears to the heart.

But that’s life. Some would call it “progress.” I don’t know about that.

Maybe this is partly why I like vintage and antique things…as a way of preserving the past. Holding it in my hands. Even if it’s not my past. And I love it when someone buys something from me and later shares that it’s just like the one their grandmother had or that they had as a kid. I think a lot of folks try to buy back happy memories.

So the other day after visiting with a friend a few towns away I popped into my favorite boutique thrift store on the way home. This small store (American Cancer Discovery Shop in Menlo Park, CA) gets some amazing things and has the nicest volunteers. I hadn’t been there for months so all the stock was new to me.

I drooled over these outstanding Asian pieces.

Things are priced for collectors so as a reseller I don’t buy much. Still in the end I got a couple of small things yesterday. Here are my favorites.

I would have passed up this antique white metal mug (by Webster & Son) till I saw the name “Hazel.” And something about that old-fashioned name just melted me. I mean, honestly, Hazel. And gosh it was half price at $2.50 so I knew Hazel was coming home with me. It’s not usable as a mug anymore, but would be perfect for pencils, flowers, makeup brushes.

But my real score is this little English earthenware pot for rose cold cream. This is totally out of my wheelhouse but I love the look of these little Victorian-era chemist pots that use a zillion different fonts. Aren’t they a hoot?! And this one has plenty of honest signs of age, wear and discoloration.

But when I researched Pain & Bayles I mainly found their bottles of ginger beer.

Finally I found one of their rose cold cream lids (yes, just the lid) on Worthpoint, though it was slightly different.

Then I found out that the firm “Pain & Bayles” dissolved in March 1901, but then carried on in October 1901 without Robert Bayles, but still using his name. Interesting!

After hours of online research using a variety of search parameters, I am comfortable in saying that this particular pot by this company is a scarce thing. Rare even. And I am pricing it accordingly, though I will continue my research. (One thing to be careful about is that the lids of these pots are now being reproduced in China. Mark Chervenka writes about this on the Real or Repro website and his article “Advertising Pot Lids Reproduced” is worth a read.)

In closing I’ll say that I am trying not to wallow in nostalgia! In all honesty, things weren’t perfect then either. Each period of life has joys and hardships. Beauty and pain. And this moment, right now, is what I have. I want to make the most of it.

Happy hunting friends,


P.S. My feature photo was taken a few years ago when we did a family mini-vacay in San Francisco and stayed at an Airbnb in Chinatown with this amazing view. Our two adult daughters joined us and we had a blast. There is something so wonderful when your adult children still want to hang with you!!


  1. I grew up in a S.F. east bay suburb, and until I was in high school my father worked in The City (he worked from home after that, a rarity in the 70s!). He met my mother when they both worked at The City of Paris. I loved to go there at Christmas time to see the huge tree in the center from all the levels. No more. We’d drive over from the suburbs on Christmas ever to see the lights at the Marina, the houses and on boats. I haven’t seen the new aquarium, but I think I’d miss the old one, parking by Stow Lake and going in the back doors! Oh, you make me nostalgic! I don’t think my kids have anything like that in their childhoods. Or, we all do, just different. I have a painting attributed to Manuel Valencia of Mission Dolores that was my grandmothers (San Mateo). He painted the scene quite a bit, and some for the tourist trade, sold at Gumps. Valencia St. was named for his family.

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