As to where to look he suggested every nook and cranny in New Paltz and the towns nearby. “People throw things away” was how he described it. “Be there when they do.”
In time I became a ‘frequent’ at the occasional local auction. My Mother loved to pick through debris, her interest old glass and ancient plates she lined up on our chair railings, - so I usually had a companion. Myself, I remember the smell, old places musty with age. At one sale she bought a set of ancient spoons carried out of a house one step ahead of the undertaker and smelling of it. I declared them the “poison spoons” and never used one. On summer afternoons for years after we would have ice tea – someone invariably asking for a "poison spoon."
When I was 12 the household possessions of a teacher at New Paltz Normal School went up for sale. Esther Bensley, whose lawn I had trimmed, wasn’t well and her worldlys were to be dispersed. Come Saturday I went to take a look. It was a “call” auction, the only material put up those things requested by a bidder. All else would sell for a song to the small group of men in overalls standing at the back once the “requesteds” were disposed. These men were scavengers, a ring of sorts I think.
Walking through Miss Bensley’s tiny house I saw three old volumes I didn’t yet know, Bigelow’s American Medical Botany, all in original bindings, their 60 aqua-tint prints in, to my eyes, impeccable condition. I did what any book collector would do. I hid them and biked home to negotiate with my Mother. Then having bargained to mow the lawn, trim the weeds, clean the garage and the basement I peddled back with $2.50 to supplement my own $.75.
Then bringing the set from its hiding place I carried the three volumes to the auctioneer: "Sonny, what you got there?" “Some books I would like to buy sir.“ “And what are you prepared to pay?" "$3.25!" Then turning to his minyan of vultures standing in the shade, “is anyone going to bid against this young man? I thought not. Sold!”
Ten years later I bought my first car with the money made – a 1958 Austin Healey. Goodspeed paid me $225 and soon after offered a set in June 1968 for $325. We both did well.
In 1969, back from college and selling advertising for the family newspapers, the St. Andrews Novitiate and Monastery in Hyde Park closed and I heard about it from Rad Curdy, later the Dutchess County historian but then a newspaper man in Putnam County, his passion the American Revolution. I knew him from Cal Smith’s auctions in Pleasant Valley. He suggested, “I drive up.”