Shoppers at a weekend antiques fair in Chapel Hill who perused old furniture, toys and jewelry also were helping to support old soldiers.
The market was sponsored by Post 6 of the American Legion, regarded by some as a relic in its own right.
“We’re dying off,” Pete Jaeger, a post leader, said of his fellow former service members.
Post 6 is down to about 130 members, fewer than half of whom show up for monthly dinners at the headquarters building off Ephesus Church Road in Chapel Hill.
But the American Legion still is the nation’s largest network of wartime veterans, and it continues to advocate for service members and do community projects, including helping the Boy Scouts and promoting youth leadership skills through its annual Girls State and Boys State programs.
Keeping up a building and investing in community projects is expensive, said Jaeger, who is 75 and served in the Army in the 1960s, including during the early years of the Vietnam War. So last year, he offered to organize the chapter’s first Spring Antiques Fair, inside the building and under tents on the grounds. It rained on that first fair, he said, and attendance was only about 300 people for the whole weekend.
Saturday and Sunday, it was chilly in the shade of the exhibitors’ tents but warm in the sun and in the building. About two dozen dealers paid to spread out their collections of military paraphernalia, Depression glass, antique toys and tools. On Saturday alone, Jaeger said, about 500 shoppers came, with most adults contributing $5 each to get in.
Bill Wolfe, who said he served 11 years in the Army National Guard, brought a collection of furniture from his store in Fayetteville, Billy Blue’s, including a buffet built sometime between 1836 and 1842. He had a pretty good day on Saturday, he said.
Ellyn Brannick, who has a shop in Rockingham called Plantation House, is picky about the shows she attends, she said, preferring those that benefit women’s groups and historical societies.
She set up a booth at the American Legion event because her mother was a Gold Star wife in World War II, meaning her husband was killed in combat. The pair had been married maybe three years when it happened, Brannick said, and her mom was home with a baby boy – Brannick’s half brother – at the time.
“It broke her heart,” Brannick said. “He was the love of her life.”
Brannick has read accounts of the incident online; Clair Vander Schaaf was in a plane that was shot down over Germany.
During the antiques fair, Brannick said, she enjoyed talking with other veterans who came to shop or help out with the event.
“You never know when you leave the house and come to an event who you’re going to get to talk to,” she said.