On The Road: Idaho

For this past weekend’s picking trip, Alex and I headed down to Idaho, leaving before dawn and taking the back roads. Our first day was spent in Idaho Falls, hunting through all the antique shops and thrift stores.  When we were last in Idaho Falls, Alex bought a Pentax Spotmatic camera and upon returning to Bozeman discovered a roll of 15 year old undeveloped vacation photos from the Grand Canyon inside.  She tracked down the man who sold her the camera and delivered some prints.

I got off to a pretty good start, finding some WWII shipbuilder badges right off the bat, followed up by a ’40s western shirt, WWII USN duffle and an early ’50s fedora in nearly unworn condition.  When I started vintage dealing, back around 2006 at the tender age of fifteen (gosh how time flies), antique shops were chockablock with hats like that and my ceiling price was somewhere in the range of $20. I very rarely found ones at that point any more expensive than that.  Then eBay really took off, the Fedora Lounge boomed and demand exploded.  The supply in antique shops either dried up or mirrored the rising prices on eBay, and I basically was priced out of the hat market.  Prior to 2008, I was almost exclusively a hat dealer, only coming to the rest of the vintage clothes market when hats became too expensive and scarce for me to make a living off of them.  Out here in Montana I still find 1960s western hats with some degree of regularity, but while I love them for myself, the seller’s market on them isn’t great.  Finding a real vintage hat in the kind of condition and at the price I was eight years ago was really a thrill.

On to the neon pictures- Idaho is the land of surviving mid-century signs.  Throw a rock, you’re bound to hit some kind of beautiful signage (metaphorically).



Theme hotels are also big in Idaho for some reason.  We stayed at the Black Swan Inn in Pocatello, in the pirate themed room.  It was delightfully over the top, with an under the sea mural crashing through the side of the sunken “ship” (complete with curved ribs!), a stocked fish tank under the bar, a cannon as the tub faucet, jewels and booty embedded in the counter tops and swords over the door.  A bit pricier than a Motel Six, but who remembers a highway motel after you’ve left it.  I certainly can’t. I don’t think I stopped giggling about all the little details and wonderfully absurd conceits of the room for a solid hour.  Every part of my past seven years of architectural education (I’m a grad student in Architecture on top of this vintage gig, how ’bout that?) wants to hate places like this, but god I love them so much.

Back on the road, and on to Twin Falls, then back to Pocatello.  Sunday was, of course, more of a sightseeing and driving day than a thrifting day. In this part of the country, you’re lucky to find a few restaurants and gas stations open on Sundays, forget about shops. The antique shop in Twin Falls that I made some big finds at on my last trip, back in May, had a hand-written sign in the window that they recently stopped being open Mondays, and the Salvation Army, who we called beforehand, was also closed, and the Goodwill no longer exists.

Deseret Industries, for those of you who don’t have them in your area, are organized by color, which appeals to the obsessive in me, but makes digging through everything time consuming and annoying.  All the DI’s had almost exclusively suits and jackets made within the past 10 years and mysteriously absolutely no men’s outerwear. As they’re a chain, along the lines of Goodwill, each location is set up in exactly the same way inside and I have to say it was disconcerting going into a couple of them in a row, separated by hours of driving.  Like walking through a door into the room you just came from.


Not a bad haul despite the picking stalling for the second two days.



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