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Grafton Flea Market hums even on a slow day

Grafton Flea Market hums even on a slow day

By Rod Lee

Weather (it was overcast with a hint of rain in the air, and humid) stifled the attendance that the Grafton Flea Market typically enjoys on a summertime Sunday the morning of August 12th, but this did not dampen the spirits of vendors—or patrons shopping for merchandise.

“How much for these pens?” Bob Wilcox, holding up several writing instruments, asked Betty Twitchell.

“Eight dollars,” Ms. Twitchell said.

“Is that a fair price?” Mr. Wilcox inquired of a bystander.

“They look like good pens to me,” came the reply.

The transaction was quickly consummated.

Exchanges like this are the norm for Ms. Twitchell, who has been as much of a fixture on the scene at the Grafton Flea Market as signage proclaiming “Beer Garden Now Open,” “Corn Dogs & Nachos” and “Fried Dough” for “close to twenty-five years now,” she said. She sells “a variety of stuff” including jewelry, which is always a popular item.

Carol Chevalier was one of the few vendors in evidence outside the building in which others were also peddling their wares (otherwise the grounds were barren, and the parking lot across the street was mostly empty too despite the proclamation at the entrance that there would be “No Admission Today,” a waiving of the usual one-dollar fee).

Told “I know that name, Chevalier” Ms. Chevalier said, “I’m no relation—to Maurice” (the late French actor, cabaret singer and entertainer); announcement of which brought a mutual chuckle when she was informed that the person who had made the observation had meant “the Chevalier furniture people in Worcester.” Ms. Chevalier laughed. “I wouldn’t know them. I’m from Woonsocket.”

Ms. Chevalier dismissed the suggestion that a less-than-stellar turnout would mean fewer sales.

“You can have a very crowded day and half the people are just looking,” she said.

The attraction of the Grafton Flea Market dwells not just in the bargains that are available for the acquisition of belts, shoes, hats, lamps, steins, DVDs, books, candles, records and computer paraphernalia, displayed in abundance, but in the homey atmosphere that greets customers when they arrive and in the cordiality of the merchants who lie in wait for them.

One of these is Roy Went, who was relaxing in a chair next to his booth as a customer and his daughter perused what he had to offer.

“I have been doing this for more than thirty years, not just here, all over,” Mr. Went said. Noting that “sports cards” are his hottest ticket and that good pricing is the key to success, he said “if you don’t sell cheap, you don’t sell.”

Seeing that a Hess truck had caught the eye of a visitor who had made it a habit to buy one for a grandson every Christmas, Mr. Went said “that I got reasonable and it’s got four cars in it. It’s in good shape, they probably didn’t play outside with it.” Thinking of the grandson, whose collection, with boxes, has grown, he said “the longer he keeps it, the more it will be worth.”

As a self-proclaimed “talker” who relishes the back-and-forth with customers Joe Lynch is as much a reason to visit the Grafton Flea Market as the wares he sells.

By way of hailing people walking past, Joe Lynch said “I’m eighty-one years of age. I’m a talker. I was born a talker and I’ll always be a talker. Begging to differ with Mr. Went, Mr. Lynch said “I have so many sports cards, they’re not worth anything today. They flooded the market with them.”

Classic musical caricatures of “Popeye” and “Olive Oil” are another matter. Mr. Lynch had them marked at $120 apiece. They are worth every penny as collectibles, he said.

He may need to sell them. “Last week, I bought gas to get here from my home in North Reading, spent $30 to rent my booth and purchased two Halloween items. I lost money on the day!” he said.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.