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Wednesday
Apr172013

Finding the stories in the stuff in Pennsylvania!

After a week and a half on the road, last night I went and bought a hard cider.  That's right-- a single bottle.

Sad, I know.

I got to my hotel room, turned on the mini-fridge just to chill this one, sad little bottle. 

Excited for a sip after a long night writing this blog, I grabbed it after a few hours and went to open it-- only to discover it's not a screw top.

Awesome.

All these days on the road alone and all I want is a little bit of brew before bed and I have no opener. And apparently neither did the front desk.

Flash forward to some frantic googling of how-to videos with people able to open a bottle with everthing from a CD, to a piece of paper, wedding ring and a pen. Foolishly I attempt to try it mysef.  

Now cue the bleeding knuckles.

Aggrivated and tired, I gave it one last try against the bathroom's granite countertop. Voila!  The top came off-- along with the top rim portion of the glass bottleneck.

Whatever works! You can't keep this road-weary girl from her first cider in weeks!

My first stop of the day this morning was teh Goodwill in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh.  I can tell it's going to be a good one too-- this area seems kinda fancy.  

Once inside I meet Cindy, the store's manager, who says she's been reading along on the trip.  I love to hear someone's enjoying the ride along with me!  She introduces me to one of the store's regulars, Christine, who has an aqua piece of Fiestaware in her cart that I'm completely jealous of. 

We stop to chat for a bit and she tells me she's been thrifting as long as she's been able to shop, and she donates constantly as well.  She primarily looks for antiques, but also for things she can upcycle. "I'm very much into recycling and repurposing," she says. It's obvious she's into this for other reasons than just the financial benefits.

Like me, she sees stories in the aisles of donated stuff.

"I like things with a past, I like things with a story," she said. "I like things I remember from my childhood. That makes me feel comfortable." 

Browsing the t-shirts, I find some clever quotes-- I call this sort of stuff Thrift Store Wisdom.

One asks, "Got Biscuits?" while another reads, "Proud to be everything that liberals hate." One shows Mt. Rushmore with four lightly drawn Native Americans hovering over the rocky sculpture with a caption, "Founding Fathers." Another has written across the back, "I got WHIPPED in Pittsburgh."

And one of my favorites of the trip so far-- "Proud to be SHORT & WIDE." 

I say my goodbyes and get back in HaRVey2. Realizing that I'd be dipping further away from my route to Scranton by going all the way into Pittsburgh, and seeing mostly consignment stores there anyway, I make an executive decision. Rather than adding another two hours onto an already long five-hour drive, I'll take a chance on stopping in at a thrift store in State College, Pennsylvania, on the way to Scranton instead.

A few calls on my quick lunch break at a roadside McDonald's and I got in touch with the State College Women's Club's Thrift Store in State College. They're there today sorting things for tomorrow.

I meet up with Shirley. "I'm two months older than Shirley Temple, so I wasn't named after her," she tells me.

Everything is in place for tomorrow's sale as she give me a tour of the shop, which spreads into the Women's Club's auditorium area.  There's a dark stage at one end of the room along with racks of goods and a cash register. 

Shirley explains that this Women's Club was started in 1894 by the wife of the 7th Penn State University President, Mrs. Atherton. The thrift shop became a part of the Women's Club during the 1940's, when members began selling their own clothing to make money during the war to make money.

She's been managing the thrift shop here since 1993, when she moved to town after retirement. Her background in retail helped the shop go from good to great. She says when she got there the store was badly in need of reorganizing.

Now have a line 20-30 deep of people waiting to shop when they open the doors each Thursday. Money they raise gets donated to about 14 different area programs, including a library, a wildlife preserve, several scholarships and a local nursery school. Last year they donated over $21,000 to area groups and hope to top that this year.

I love hearing all these stories of the lives that are impacted for the better by all the money made from secondhand goods. It's truly amazing.

Back in the car and bound for Scranton!

I have to say, the roads in Pennsylvania have been the most challenging to drive during this trip. Between all the mountain grades and a seemingly endless caravan of semis on the road, I don't think my knuckles have been any color but white since I crossed in from Ohio. Here's hoping the roads in upstate NY and New England provide a little relief! 

So I leave you tonight just outside Scranton, where I hope to find some awesome stuff tomorrow.  Perhaps a souvenir from the Schrute Beet Farm? A girl can hope.  

Goodnight, America!

 

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