There was a new consignment auction sale in our town in the late 1930’s. It was held in a formerly vacant business room on North Fayette Street. My mother and her friends were delighted! They collected antique dishes and glassware often bidding against each other “good-naturedly” and still remaining friends.
One spring, mother decided to do away with the accumulation of boxes and barrels of debris from years of auctions that were cluttering up the small storage room on the second floor of our house.
It was painful for her, but with a stiff upper lip, she called a junk man and had it all hauled away, saving only Grandma Miller’s marble-topped dresser, a wash-stand and sewing rocker. She visualized an attractive guest room in that space.
Her first stop was to Jim and Georgia Summers’ Hanna Paint and Wallpaper Store on South Main Street. After visiting with her old friends, she chose a pale blue wallpaper. Then, she called the friendly wallpaper-hanger (who knew the way to our house after all of my mothers’ redecorating).
After the new wallpaper was hung, she polished the floor and hung some dainty curtains from the rod to the floor. My sisters and I dusted the furniture and she placed an antique lamp on the wash stand. Now, she had to find an antique bed to complete the furnishings. It was off to the auction she went with her friends and as soon as she stepped inside the door, she saw it! There was a four-poster bed that would go perfectly with grandma’s furniture. Now, if she could only be the top bidder…
She noticed there was already a crowd around it. She was prepared to own it if she had to dig into next week’s housekeeping money! She won! She hired a delivery man to haul it home for her and she was jubilant.
My father had three siblings— Jimmie Miller who had the ice cream store on East Court Street for many years, Mary and Rebecca. Rebecca, known affectionately to all of us kids as “Aunt Beck” had lost her husband “Uncle Will” in the first World War. Rather than giving herself over to sorrow, she moved to Cincinnati and opened a tearoom on East McMicken Avenue. She catered to society ladies out for an afternoon of conversation and the many delicacies she served. Her business was thriving. She was always closed on Mondays and sometimes she’d head for the old home town in her Essex and pay us a visit.
We dearly loved Aunt Beck. She was witty and charming and it was always interesting to hear her tell of the fascinating people she met in her business. She was pretty and well-dressed, but she never married again.
She always made herself at home when she came to visit and seemed quite content to sleep on the little daybed in the dining room.
Now, she would be the first to sleep in the new guest room! (My older sisters and I had many arguments over which of us would be able to talk mother into letting one of us have that pretty room. She remained firm: “No way.”)
Aunt Beck greeted us with hugs and kisses and mother proudly took her upstairs to show her the new room. “May!” she said. “You have outdone yourself. It is beautiful!” (The family all called our mother by her middle name.)
That evening, we had a jolly time with Aunt Beck, hearing the latest about the big city. All too soon, we noticed she was nodding and we realized she had had a long day and a long drive. She excused herself and went upstairs. We were all happy that she had such a pleasant room to retire in.
The next morning, a disheveled aunt came down to breakfast and we could see at once something was wrong! “May,” she said. “You have to get rid of that…bed! It’s haunted!”
“Why, what do you mean?” mother asked in a state of shock.
“Last night, as soon as I got to sleep, something began to tap on the head of the bed. I thought I had been dreaming and so I went back to sleep. The same thing happened again! Whoever had that bed before apparently didn’t want anybody else sleeping in it so I pulled the little rocker over to the dresser and tried to sleep with my head propped against the side. I am just worn out!” she added.
“Why, I never heard of such a thing as a haunted bed,” mother argued. “You poor dear!”
I had the feeling Aunt Beck couldn’t get out of there fast enough and headed her trust Essex due south.
Sadly, the next morning mother called the man who had hauled the bed to our home and re-consigned it to the auction. She was grief-stricken. My father came to her rescue and said, “Honey, go down to Will Dale’s Furniture Store and buy a new bed, something that will go with the rest of the furniture.” And she did.
Mother’s love for auctions cooled somewhat after that, but I think she would have been happy to know her youngest married an auctioneer.
Jean Mickle is a local resident who writes columns for the Record-Herald.