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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

No junk, just a look into past

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

For two days last weekend, the Blaisdell became a folk museum.

The 16th annual Hawai'i Collectors Expo managed an impressively low junk-to-treasure ratio, which is rare in the age of puffy paint and reproduction prints. The treasures included a nice array of plantation-era antiques, glass balls, samurai swords and Don Ho LPs.

To walk through the tables of pre-Glad-wrap glass storage containers and stacks of embroidered dish towels is to realize how disposable we have become and how thrifty our grandparents were. Paper towels? One-use deli meat trays? Juice boxes? Poho. Here's a towel that used to be a rice bag, then it was somebody's underpants, then to wash dishes, and later, wash car.

Soda and milk came in bottles that were specially made for the bottling company or the dairy. No plastic jugs, no Big Gulp cups. Many of the bottles for sale were dug out of the mud of a long-gone plantation camp like buried treasures. Though the plastic jugs and Big Gulp cups will no doubt still be intact in a hundred years, it's hard to imagine anyone taking the time to unearth them.

Glass floats that washed ashore from Chinese, Japanese and Russian fishing vessels were like jewels. There were displays of blue, green, even purple orbs and spindles with prices into the thousands. These days, anything that washes up from a fishing vessel is just garbage messing up the shore, messing up the sea, messing up the turtles.

There is a kind of intimacy to these kinds of homey antiques. These are dishes some family clearly used. You can see the spoon dings on the bottom of the cereal bowls. There are ashtrays from long gone tiki bars and hotel lounges, somebody's favorite hangout. There are necklaces of ivory beads shaped to look like pikake and lei of Ni'ihau shells still colored by the wearer's skin oils, the brown from years of thumbprints indelible on the clasps.

There were boxes of papers from the old Waimea Sugar Plantation on Kaua'i: receipts from the grocery store and florist (the plantation apparently bought liquor and lei for various occasions) and a ledger showing monthly rent for families in plantation houses ($50-$75 in the 1930s).

The annual show, and the All-Hawai'i Collector show in July, is a chance to step into the lives of generations past.

Which leads you to wonder, what items of our lives will be so sweetly nostalgic to generations to come?

Tokens for Dance Dance Revolution? "Big Boi" window decals? Jack antenna balls?

Perhaps the paraphernalia of our modern time will seem simple and dear to those yet to be born, but that's hard to even imagine.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.