A couple of weekends ago I took my 15-year-old daughter to the fabulous Farmers Market in Los Angeles. It isn't a typical farmers market. It was established in 1934 at the corner of Third and Fairfax, and over the years it has grown into a charming, bustling cluster of shops and restaurants. It has a great toy store, a bunch of really good restaurants, produce stands, butchers, home made ice cream shops, nut vendors, florists, barbers, shoe shine stands, and other specialty shops. It's got a distinctly old school feel, and thankfully has not been modernized. The whole place is covered so you can walk around in the rain or the blistering sun. It's one of my favorite places in Los Angeles.
Sarina and I had a great time visiting the Shine Gallery there, a place that sells vintage memorabilia. Somehow they are able to get their hands on large quantities unused novelties, magic tricks, and other ephemera. My overall impression from visting the shop was that people in those days had a nasty sense of humor. Here are a few of the things we came across there:
These plastic cigarette cases have passive aggressive messages printed on them, such as "Take one you cheap skate," and "Leave one for me! Chiseler."
This was the first magic set I ever owned. My cousin received it as a Christmas gift and never used it. Whenever I came over to visit I pulled it out of her closet and immersed myself for hours in the tricks and booklet. After my tenth or so visit, she ended up giving the set to me. The Mystic Smoke was a gloppy paste that you applied to your fingers. When you rapidly rubbed your fingers and thumb together for 30 seconds, a few strands of cobwebby glop would drift away for a few inches before dropping to the floor.
It's fun to watch your friends break their teeth on these plastic peanuts. It's hilarious when they choke on them and turn purple!
On the left: Calling card for stalkers and other "lovers." Right: A piece of plastic disguised as a pat of butter, for "party fun." The plastic was filled with dark specks, which would scare off anyone about to butter their toast.
If the magnifying glass hadn't shifted in its packaging I would have been fooled!
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects
MORE: Vintage Weird