Volunteers keep Salisbury Antiques Show going strong for 60 years
Organizer Lib Taylor can only remember one real hiccup in the 60 years the Salisbury Antiques Show has been around.
The furnace had gone bad at the old National Guard Armory, where the show was held for years before moving to the Salisbury Civic Center.
“This was maybe a few days before the show, so we had to make other plans because the oil tank that was in the ground floated to the top and there wasn’t any way that we could have any heat,” Taylor said. “We ended up at the new National Guard Armory out near the airport.
“It was a brand new building, so nobody knew where it was.”
But Taylor said it all worked out.
“That’s the only real disaster, I think, we’ve ever had,” she said.
Taylor would know, she’s been one of the primary organizers from the event for as long as she – or anyone else - can remember.
She’s fuzzy on the exact date, but Taylor’s been helping out since Mrs. Getty Guille, one of the founders of the event, asked her to fill in for Mary Hanford who had undergone gallbladder surgery and was still in the hospital.
“It was really a privilege to be with those women,” Taylor said. “They were so particular; they knew exactly what was right and what wasn’t.
“It was fun to get to know them as people and not just women who were older than I was.”
The show has grown to include as many as 100 volunteers, fellow organizer Trudy Thompson said. Many of those people come back year after year because of Taylor.
Thompson said she believes the antiques show, which is one of the oldest fundraisers in town, has held on for 60 years because of “lots of volunteers, many, many hours of work and a guiding light.”
“That guiding light is right here,” she said, pointing to Taylor. “Her leadership truly is the reason.”
Back to the start
The annual antiques show, the longest-running in North Carolina, began after Guille helped establish the Rowan Museum, which is also celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
Taylor said after the museum was started and the group began to operate the Utzman-Chambers House, owned by the Maxwell Chambers Trust, they realized the inside needed furnishings.
“We didn’t have money to buy authentic American furniture, so the idea for the antiques show was born,” she said.
Their first purchase was a bed for the upstairs bedroom.
“We were so proud,” Taylor said.
More than 20 regional dealers and one from Ohio took part in the first antiques show.
The lunch menu included chicken salad, vegetable soup and homemade desserts, which continue to be popular staples today.
“I just went to an antique show where they didn’t serve lunch,” Taylor said. “Down here, people come to eat lunch, sit and talk, visit and walk around.
“It’s a social kind of outing, people just love being together.”
Times are a-changin’
When Taylor started helping out with the show, there was no place to rent tables or chairs.
“We borrowed them from funeral homes or churches,” she said. “We would borrow a stove and refrigerator from Duke Power Company.”
Taylor said they used to recruit a boys club from Salisbury High School to help set everything up.
“Paul Brown was one of them,” she said. “I can see him right now coming in with his hat on. They were having a good time skipping class.”
Taylor remembers Mrs. John Van Hanford calling everyone she knew to see if they would cook a chicken, cut it up and bring it to somebody’s house.
“We would get all this chicken and mix it together to make the chicken salad,” she said. “Thank goodness we don’t do it that way anymore.”
The group eventually moved from the old armory building near City Park to the Salisbury Civic Center.
“I think we were about the first group that used it,” Taylor said. “We were kind of the guinea pigs, I guess, but we’ve been down there ever since.”
Thompson, who has been an organizer for more than 20 years, said it was sad to leave the armory.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “It had so much character.”
Finding antique dealers has become easier with the introduction of modern technology.
“It has helped us locate dealers and get information about them,” Thompson said. “I would say more so even in the last five years because they have not all been online until recent years.
“This is an interesting fact for a show steeped in history, this year it’s on Facebook.”
Taylor said even though times have changed, the show remains a “community effort.”
The 60th annual Salisbury Antiques Show kicks off at 10 a.m. today at the Salisbury Civic Center, 315 S. Martin Luther King Ave.
Organizer Virginia Robertson said the show has a “nice core group of volunteers who have been around a really long time.”
“I would say many of our volunteers have been doing this for at least 20 years,” she said.
Taylor said the women who originally started the show all have descendants who continue to help out.
“It just goes with the territory,” she said. “That’s why it pretty much goes off like clockwork year after year.”
Taylor calls Robertson and Thompson the “lifeblood” of the show.
“These two are the ones who get the dealers,” She said. “We wouldn’t have a show if they weren’t such good salesmen.”
This year’s show features 19 dealers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
“Every year it’s fresh because we’ve got a few new dealers and a lot of returning dealers who have new inventory from year to year,” Robertson said.
Robertson said it’s been easy to get people to come back to the show.
“Our vendors see this is such a rich tradition and they build relationships with families in Salisbury, so they can anticipate what they like and know them on a more personal level than some of these huge shopping experiences that are so popular now,” she said.
Thompson said that’s a change.
“Fifteen years ago they all wanted to attend the larger show,” she said. “We had much more competition getting the dealers we wanted.”
The women said they spend a lot of time on the phone checking out dealers and searching for news ones.
“To have an interesting show with history, good quality merchandise and honest people you really need to have a little knowledge about who you’re inviting,” Thompson said. “You either need to know them personally or find someone who knows them and their reputation.”
Thompson said she also relies on other dealers for help tracking down people with particular wares. She also leans on Taylor and her daughter, who frequent a number of antique shops.
“They do much more traveling than Virginia and I do,” she said.
This year’s dealers will be selling everything from scarves to furniture
Robertson said the women make a “concerted effort not to duplicate the kinds of dealers and their specialty.”
“That definitely takes some work to think through,” Thompson said.
Future of the show
Taylor said for years parents have brought their children to the show, allowing them to look around and explore the many treasures in sight.
That practice has instilled a love of history and antiques in them that grows as they move into adulthood, she said.
Thompson is one of them.
“I used to watch my mother work on an antique show in Virginia where I grew up,” shes aid. “I find it amazing that here I am participating in the same thing I watched her do.”
Taylor said she knows it’s a trend for people to hire decorators now, but she hopes many will continue to seek out their own décor.
“I think Rowan Museum’s school groups and history camp children are cutting their teeth early and they’ll stick with it,” she said.
Funds raised through the show go to benefit the museum and its programs.
Robertson said through the show she’s found not only antiques, but friends.
“I think the camaraderie makes it a lot of fun,” she said. “I know for me being new to town 12 years ago it was a wonderful way to get to know some civic-minded individuals while having fun and giving back.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.