Yesterday I drove down to the older, original part of Alton, Illinois. The side streets in this part of the city I’m coming to call home are brick paved, flowing over hills that rival downtown Seattle and San Francisco for their grade.
I parked the car at one end of the street and headed out in search of antique shops. I wasn’t disappointed. My work in progress in my cozy series has a new shop in town, Thomas’ Fine Antiques. I needed to do some recon.
What I didn’t expect was to run into two and maybe three new characters for my book. My first encounter was a man sitting outside his store, enjoying what my mom always called Indian summer, a warm October day. One of those days that tries to fool you into thinking snow, ice and freezing temperatures aren’t weeks away. Anyway, sitting outside the front door was an original member of ZZ Top. Or he could have passed for one. My original impression of this man didn’t mix with what I found inside the store. Warm, cared for furniture, waiting for a new home. A soft side to this hard, rock biker dude with kind eyes.
Big find here? An old hotel or business switchboard with the wires and plugs still attached.
Going on down the street, I was amazed at the differences from store to store. From being well cared for like store number one, to a jumble of items, dirty and dusty, and unmarked. The next to last store was the most ‘retail’ focused. They’d decorated for Halloween, had lots of glass cases and every item was marked and marketed to its best advantage. Candles burned, music played, and the two men running the store were gracious and helpful. A couple I could see running one of my imaginary bed and breakfasts in my mystery series.
Of course, my characters won’t be the people I met on my walk. When I’ve let the muse play with their history and life stories, the original models will be just a memory. My characters will have their own thoughts, memories, hurts, and accomplishments. Just like the stores I walked through, they will have their own personality and feel.
Major find for the day? I bought a soup bowl in the same pattern as the china my mother gave me. Currently I only have serving pieces, gravy boat, bowls and platters. I guess raising five kids took its toll on the set. Now I have a soup bowl too.
What antiques do you have that you treasure?