It was the 1970s when I first entered a consignment shop. It was in Columbus, Georgia and I was with my mother. She knew the owner, a lovely Jewish women who was retirement age, and she wanted to say hello. I can remember the small white former home, turned into a used dress shop, complete with a slight musty smell, crowded circular chrome racks and hand written price tags. I was fascinated. It looked like an upscale Goodwill, where someone had pulled out everything interesting and wearable. There were a lot of two piece business suits and beaded twin set sweaters with sagging linings from the 1950s. Some pieces looked to me "old" and others looked like they could be in the local Gayfer's or Kiralfy's department stores of the area. Both stores have long since closed, but the memory is still open.
There was a lot of chit chat going on, something very southern and very special. It was a love fest of sorts for these used clothes and a bit of a community. My mother was inspired to try on a few things and she found something to buy.
I remember the owner taking out a 5 x 7 white index card out of a scratched tan metal box and writing down the sale in addition to writing out a sales receipt. It was all accounted for by hand before the item was handed to my mother. She wrote a check for the item, something I could probably not do many places today. Stores are allergic to checks decades later.
The store was cramped. It needed a breath. But I was full of breath and excitement as I wandered around the took it all in. I felt the fabrics, memorized the pieces and stroked the sweaters. I liked this place. It was interesting. It was different. It was curious. It felt like some sort of secret we had stumbled upon. Once secret I would keep my entire life, until now.
Decades later, the secret was finally out.