This picture should tell you everything you need to know about my trip to the Amvets store on Elvis Presley Blvd. They finally fixed the sign, which is encouraging, but it was still bleak, overall. Very bleak indeed.

A little (brief) background. I’ve always had a soft spot for Amvets, when I first came to town and started this misguided voyage into destiny, Amvets was the place that jumped out at me as being maybe the best combination of funky charm, reasonable prices, and that intangible grit that I feel a real thrift store has to have, that feeling of knowing that you’re probably going to have to get your hands dirty but at the end of the day you’re going to take home a lot of gems. And as almost all the stores within the city limits that I visited and loved (RIP Salvation Army Danny Thomas and Goodwill Chelsea) closed up shop to be replaced with sterile, charmless suburban equivalents (cough cough Salvo Kirby Whitten cough), Amvets still hung on. I still went, I still found great shit, and I still talked it up to whoever’d listen. After today, maybe not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a good time, but the “funky charm” has just given way to funk, the “reasonable prices” in many instances have been replaced with inexplicable guesses, and the “intangible grit” that I’ve always loved so much has become tangible. Way tangible. Evinced:

Amvets has always had a lot of furniture. Most of it would be “worn” to varying degrees, but you could usually count on stumbling across at least one or two genuinely quality finds. Not so much now. You’re going to think I’m exaggerating, but almost without exception, all of this furniture was stained or scuffed or mangled beyond repair, when it wasn’t just flat out broken to the point of being useless to anyone. Bear in mind who’s saying this, by the way. I’m in no way unable to see the value in what most other people would probably find disposable, but a coffee table with two legs ripped off is asking a lot, and a couch with over half the cushions missing is just… come on. What are we doing here?

I really didn’t want to waste my time and energy going through and photographing every inch of their “electronics department” but take it from me when I say it all looked like this. I’m not sure I saw more than one or two things that even looked like they might remotely work, let along were from this century. Am I bumming you out yet? Well don’t worry because

Then there’s just the laughably inexplicable, like this fucking toilet WITH NO TANK that someone was ballsy enough to slap a 24 dollar price on. This is where I just started cracking up. 25 bucks for a used toilet. Tank sold separately. Amazing.

And a bed pan, because of course there’s a bed pan. Why wouldn’t there be a bed pan. There always needs to be a bed pan. Bed pan. Also one wonders why one would shell out 25 bucks for the nonfunctional toilet when you could get the presumably functional (I don’t know for sure, I didn’t check) bed pan for a mere three dollars? That’s some homespun country wisdom, right there.

It wasn’t all bad. There were actually more than a few objects of interest, or at least amusement. Like this vintage “Electric Chord Organ,” which is basically an accordion with less buttons and a fan in it that runs on AC power. They’re kind of cute and kitsch and you can usually get them for hells cheap, but they’re missing one crucial element. A volume control. Considering the internal fan basically just comes ON and starts blowing air AS HARD AS IT CAN as soon as you flip the switch, these innocuous looking things are actually pants-shittingly loud, and there’s really no way to address that. So unless you have excellent soundproofing, and/or very understanding neighbors or domestic partners, buy at your own risk. This has been a public service message from your friends at Secondhand Underground, Inc.

The monitor itself, not very remarkable, but does anyone else remember this exact screensaver? I want to say ALL the computers in my middle school (all five of them) had this exact screensaver set as their default, and I remember very clearly in my later, more “experimental” years, turning this on my own computer at home, turning off all the lights in my bedroom, getting VERY VERY, VERY baked, and watching this for what could only be described as an amount of time. Hadn’t thought about that in 15 years. Amazing, what comes flooding back to you out of nowhere.

This is a travel mug from a small regional chain of restaurants called Lambert’s Cafe, where their entire gimmick is apparently that they throw bread at you while you’re trying to eat. I’ve had occasion to drive past the location in Sikeston, MO several times (exactly why I don’t recall), and every time I do, I cannot for the life of me fathom who would find that to be an appealing idea. The parking lot’s always full, so clearly there is a type of person to whom the notion of getting assaulted with one particular type of food while you’re trying to eat presumably perhaps even that same type of food is just the cat’s proverbial ass, but I just don’t get it. The only thing I can imagine is this, and bear with me here…

I know a guy who somehow stumbled upon a wonderful game to play with his cats. How exactly he came up with this I’ve never thought to ask. Anyway, the entire game consists of him taking uncooked hot dogs, and attempting to beat his cats (gently, mind) about the head and face with said hot dogs, while the cats, sensing the presence of food but ALSO sensing a potential beef-bludgeoning threat, simultaneously attempt to eat the hot dogs AND avoid being struck by them. Try to picture this in your head, for a moment. I apologize if it breaks your brain.

…so my only thought is that perhaps the people at Lambert’s are trying to tap into this primal juxtaposition, this duality of fight AND flight wrapped up in the same moment, that you WANT the rolls but you want to AVOID the rolls but they smell so good that you HAVE to have them but they’re coming RIGHT at your head so duck! But eat! But duck!

Perhaps I’m overthinking this a little.

This microwave(?) has more wood paneling than a 1976 Chevy Caprice

Lest you think a trip to Amvets would be a total loss, they do have one ace in the hole. The clothes. They have an absolute deluge of cool clothes. Granted, like the furniture used to be, some of it is going to be stained or smelly or otherwise undesirable, but if you dig you can find things like

This REALLY swank fur-lined brown suede coat, looked to be in fine shape and going for about 8.98, if memory serves. A find like this alone would render an entire trip down to the Amvets worthwhile.

And then sometimes you just find hilarious things like this giant sized pair of shorts. 54 waist. Wider than they are long.

And they DO have quite a lot of books, and although they’re mostly disposable they ARE super cheap, and something like this

Might be worth picking up for around a dollar, just to cut out this image and frame it above your bed

I never said you wouldn’t have to think creatively.

Speaking of which, I actually had occasion to recommend Amvets to a friend who was looking for vinyl records to “upcycle” into chip bowls to sell on etsy, and so in that instance it didn’t matter that a good majority of these records were/are scratched, missing sleeves, or otherwise probably not suited for addition to anyone’s collection. They’re cheap and they’ll suit her purposes perfectly.

Plus this is just fun to look at, I don’t care who you are. Speaking of music, check out these tapes I found:


I don’t know how well the picture shows it but this is a game called “Heaven’s Trail.” The side of the box reads “Answer These Questions While Traveling On And You’ll See The Light Leading To Eternal Life.” Well, ok. Seems like an unusual back door into the kingdom of heaven, but what do I know? Just looking at the outside of the box, you’d think this was some sort of weird, Christian-themed ripoff of Trivial Pursuit, and guess what…

IT IS! It fucking is! I could not BELIEVE it when I opened the box and saw this! Like some of you, my first thought was “perhaps choosing concentric pentagrams for the board layout was somewhat counterintuitive…” but I guess they were trying to avoid getting sued because they basically lifted the entire game from Trivial Pursuit, check out a sample question card

And because I know you won’t be able to live without the answers…

There. You learned something today. I can now officially refer to my blog as “edutainment.” Also, I find a deep and wonderful irony in the fact that someone chose to completely rip off a game called “Trivial Pursuit” in service of the least “Trivial” of all “Pursuits”…

Eternal Salvation. Here endeth the lesson.

Ok time to wrap these junts up. Box of hair? Check.

INSANE amount of crutches (lotta legless folks around Elvis Presley Blvd apparently)? Check.

And of course what trip to Amvets would be complete without a stop in at the Snack Area/Arcade. I bought a can of Pepsi and left.

All in all not a COMPLETE waste of time, although I only walked out with a can of soda to show for my efforts, but I got to listen to “Rump Shaker” again for the first time in oh, maybe 16, 17 years. So that’s something. Although I didn’t find jack shit at Amvets and was kind of let down, I can still see the right person with the right set of needs walking in on the right day, and leaving with some truly exceptional finds. It’s tempting to say the place has “gone downhill” or whatever, but it’s a hardscrabble thrift store in the middle of a genuinely hairy neighborhood, so what would that even mean, really? Stores just change, times change, and either you can do the work and still find what’s worthwhile in the midst of a bunch of crap, or you can’t, and in that case maybe it’s not the STORE that’s lost something special, intangible, and important. Just a thought. Talk to you next time, dearies.



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One Response to Amvets

  1. Pingback: Amvets… again? | Secondhand Underground

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