If there was a moment when the idea of the Rummage Sale was born – or a single person responsible for it – the stories of both have been lost to history. What is known is that the First Parish Women’s Alliance held the first Rummage Sale in 1944, and it quickly became a favorite First Parish and community tradition.
Some things have changed through the years: In 1989 the first item on the list of rules was “NO SMOKING – except in the kitchen.” The conventions of gender-based language and names have also changed. From a 1958 Town Crier article: “Co-chairmen of this year’s sale are Mrs. Henry Doane and Mrs. Edwin Schneider.”
Many things have stayed the same, including the perennial debate about whether or when to allow workers to buy items before the Sale. From those 1989 rules: “The purpose of our Sale is to raise as many $$$ as possible for our Church. We need returning customers from outside the church. The good customers come because we have good stuff. If our workers stuff away the best things for themselves before Sale Day, then the customers won’t find it worth their while to come to buy on the day of the sale.”
On one thing the rules were unequivocal: “NO BOUTIQUE SALES TO ANYONE UNTIL SATURDAY.”
Our Archives reveal facts about the Rummage Sale through the years, but not the stories, and there must be hundreds. Through the seventy years of Rummage Sales, how many friendships have been made or cemented while sorting bric-a-brac or pricing housewares? How many First Parishioners cherish an item they bought in part because they know who donated it? How many visitors come back year after year because they know they’ll find something wonderful, and a friendly Rummage worker to buy it from?
The First Parish Rummage Sale – long may it endure.