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Day Tripping: A Friday Backwoods Adventure

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - May 12, 2014





A Stand of Arms

Bill Eagan in front of his shop, A Stand of Arms. Photo: Kathi Caldwell-Hopper

Fridays in May are special. When the week slides to a close, most people are thinking about weekend chores and fun they can pack into two days. As a freelance writer, my schedule is nothing like 9-5 folks; sometimes I am not sure if they are the lucky ones or if I am just as fortunate!

One thing I can count as good luck is my ability to make my own schedule. That means I am not always deeply engrossed in a project/work on a Friday. After being cooped up indoors all winter watching more snowstorms than I care to recall, I have been eager to get a jump on my favorite hobby: driving around to yard sales and second-hand shops.

As any seasoned lover of yard sales and a good bargain will tell you, the springtime start of yard sale season is an exciting time. One never knows what will be out there just waiting to be snatched up at a good price. Fridays in particular are great days to sneak away and get a head start on yard sales.

My friend, Charlene, has been bemoaning all winter the fact that she has “terrible yard sale fever.” In yard sale terminology, this means she is just dying to get out and shop some yard sales and second-hand shops.

In the past, we shared a booth in an antiques shop, but we shop for ourselves these days, rather than buying as low as possible to resell and make a marginal profit. It is fun to shop yard sales and second-hand shops to buy what we like for ourselves and/or for our relatives and friends.

With this in mind, we decided to kick off yard sale season on the first Friday in May with a trek to the Danbury/Canaan/Dorchester area. “Let’s go to Jeanette’s!” Charlene suggested as we planned our route.

“Perfect!” I answered happily. Jeanette’s is our nickname for the little second-hand shop of a fellow antique lover, Jeanette. We’ve been shopping at Jan’s Junk, her shop on Route 118 in Dorchester, for years. (I could fill a book with the great stuff I have found at the shop, from artwork to antique paper goods to picture frames and so much more.)

The Friday adventure dawned bright and clear, if a bit chilly. We headed on Route 104 from Meredith to Bristol and continued to Danbury. Charlene is a fan of the sandwiches and baked goods at the newly reopened and refurbished Danbury Country Store in the village of Danbury. Charlene was certainly correct about the array of pastries and the great deli in the store.

After purchasing two raspberry turnovers, we were back on the road and headed on Route 4 toward Grafton and a shop I wanted to explore called A Stand of Arms. (I picked up a business card for the shop last year. It sounded intriguing: According to the card, the shop offered Detritus of War, Militaria from all Periods.)

Route 4 is a twisting, winding, very rural road and one that I know well from years of driving it with my parents when they went picking for antiques in barns and old homes. In the little village green area of Grafton we took a turn onto Riddle Hill Road. I realized the shop was on the same country road as Ruggles Mine, a favorite summer spot of my kids when they were small.

We drove not far up Riddle Hill Road to A Stand of Arms. You cannot miss the charming little shop because there is a wooden sign outside to let you know you have arrived. The shop is small and rustic, situated in the front of the yard. Also on the property is a circa 1790 home where owners Bill and Lois Eagan reside.

Entering the shop, I was greeted by Bill. It was difficult to know where to focus my attention first, because the Eagans have packed a lot of military antiques into the one-room shop. I quickly spied old military uniforms, a few paintings, and a glass case with weapons and a smaller glass box full of military pins.

Bill has had a lifelong interest in military antique items. “In 1938 when I was a child, my father introduced me to one of the last living Civil War veterans in Connecticut,” Bill remembers. Clearly the meeting made a lasting impression on Bill, as did all the military items in the room where the meeting took place. “I noticed there were shelves loaded with drums, muskets, swords, and other items. I was fascinated with it.”

That encounter sparked Bill’s interest and it wasn’t long before he became a collector. “My Dad would go to ballgames and I wasn’t too interested in that. My mother collected antiques, so when my Dad was at a ball game, I would go with my mother shopping for antiques,” he says.

Bill started selling military items at gun shows when he was old enough to do so. After working for IBM in the Boston area for many years, Bill moved to New Hampshire because he and his wife had always liked the area. “When I retired 30 years ago, we moved here and opened the shop,” he says. After fixing up the home, Bill and Lois decided to open A Stand of Arms in the tiny building on the property.

The shop, according to Bill, is a hobby and allows the Eagans to indulge in their interest in military weaponry. “It’s a hobby business,” Bill says. “It keeps us busy and active. We also attend shows as far away as Maryland and Pennsylvania. The shop is really a base for the shows we attend. We ask that visitors call ahead to set up an appointment to visit; we are also open by chance.”

Within the shop, many old and unique items are for sale, such as the New Hampshire Civil War belt buckle Bill points out, and antique medical instruments, brass band instruments, wooden toy soldiers from the World War I era, and a collection of military uniforms.

I have a personal interest in antique paintings, so I was drawn to the painting of a World War II-era soldier. “Sometimes, if a relative died in war, the family would commission an artist to do a painting of their loved one,” Bill explained as I gazed at the oil painting of a dapper young man in uniform, smiling out at me from long ago.

Bill also has collected military vehicles in the past and still owns one. “I have had military jeeps and even a military ambulance,” he laughs.

I could have spent hours in the fascinating shop, but knowing we had other stops planned, we soon were back on Route 4, headed to Canaan. In the village, we took Route 118 which is a winding mountain road leading to Jan’s Junk, one of my favorite shops.

If you are looking for a lot of stores and excitement, this might not be the road for you. But if you like real rural New Hampshire scenery, this is a great route. The landscape is beautiful, and as you climb the mountain road, the views are wonderful.

Jan’s Junk is directly on Route 118, with a small sign outside. If the flag is up, it means the shop is open. The shop is in the garage and Jeanette and her husband live in a cute little A-frame home on the property.

The shop doors were wide open and Jeanette was there to greet us. It was good to see our yard saling/antiquing pal after a long, snowy winter of being stuck indoors.

She pointed out all the new things she had gotten in the shop over the winter and I came away with a rustic metal plant stand and a Horlick’s milk bottle. Charlene snagged a painted wooden bowl, some retro china, and a wonderful sign.

“Where should we head for lunch?” Charlene queried as we drove down the mountain road and onto Route 25 in Rumney. We settled on Plain Jane’s Diner, not far from Polar Caves in the Rumney/Plymouth area.

The diner is a great choice when we are out antiquing because the décor is pure old style, 1950s rock ’n roll. Huge cutout figures of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe are situated near the front door and the cozy booths beckon.

We indulged in warming homemade chicken and spinach soup and sandwiches, topped off by blueberry pie and coffee.

Although it was a cold and blustery Friday in early May, a few people were having yard sales as we passed through the Plymouth area. We didn’t get much, but that is never a problem; rather, it is part of the fun of yard saling.

“You never know what you might find,” Charlene said with a gleam in her eye when I commented on our less-than-huge stash of finds.

That is the fun of a Friday day trip adventure to the mountains; and, indeed, what makes Friday yard saling so much fun.

Contact A Stand of Arms at 603-523-7575 or email milcoll@myfairpoint.net. The shop is located at 92 Riddle Hill Road in Grafton. 

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