Hello and welcome dear friends, we’re here to shine a light on a (relatively) little-known spot in the greater Memphis environs, while not TECHNICALLY a “thrift store” per se, we are here today to show you the amazingness of a wonderful little place called “Nostalgia World.”
A bit of backstory: I’ve lived in Memphis about 4 years as of this writing, haunted the junk shops and back alleys in a very public and well-documented way, but for all of my tooling up and down Summer Avenue in the course of said pursuits, I never once managed to set foot in the rough diamond that is Nostalgia World. Reason being? It’s only open ONE DAY A WEEK. OK the basic idea is: old guy has a shit ton of junk. Rent on tiny storefront is cheaper than storage unit, monthly. Would you rather have a fun little shop full of stuff that you like and make a few bucks off it or pay money to stash it all in a gross darkened room that probably has bugs and disease? So add it all up and what do you get
You get this. THIIIIIIIIIIIS. My brain exploded the minute I set foot in the door. Okay, you want to find the real freaks in Memphis? The vinyl junkies, the book sniffers, the weirdos? They come HERE. They come here between 9 and 5 on Saturdays because this is the ONLY PLACE they can go. Also those are the only hours that it is open. Which explains why I’ve never managed to set foot in this venerable establishment prior to the recent visit documented here. Saturday mornings and afternoons I’m sad to report are usually reserved in my adult life for sleeping, rolling around in bed clutching my temples and cursing god, taking 45 minute showers, or some combination of the three. But now I have a new thing to do. I’ve found my church and it is called Nostalgia World and I need to go every week to attend services.
Before I forget I just want to thank my good friend April Novak for not only informing me of this place’s existence, but also bothering me to go there, and being a wonderful adventuring companion to boot. We probably spent over two hours digging through a store that was about the size of my apartment (small) and the consensus upon leaving was that we had barely scratched the surface. But enough empty promises, let’s get our hands dirty, shall we?
There’s no way to organize this like a traditional (god, does that mean there are actual established traditions in this giant pile of nonsense I’ve been doing for years?) thrift store assessment, so we’re going to associate even a little more freely than we normally would. Bear.
Case in: for those of you not hip to the bottom shelf whiskey scene, “Lord Calvert” is a particularly nasty brand of filth that I am unlucky enough to have regular contact with (thankfully not as a consumer) which is disgusting enough on its own, but the very idea of a Country/Western (both kinds of music) mixtape sponsored by a bottom shelf brand of Canadian Whiskey (seriously, it’s awful) just makes my head spin in about 8 different directions. Consider this the first of a long series of WTF moments that basically constituted the entirety of my time spent in the whirlwind topsy turvy blender of weirdness that is Nostalgia World. Oh also note the Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians tape IMMEDIATELY under it. I hesitate to point to any one object or picture or moment as an epitome of this place “in a nutshell,” but this one comes awful close.
This is awesome, and I’d explain why, but Andrew Earles did it better than I ever could, so just go and read what he wrote on the subject. It’ll take like 3 minutes. I think you can spare the time.
There were a bunch of comics which, like books, I’m not allowed to buy any more, but I still sweated over pretty hardcore. We’re gonna venture into some pretty thick nerd territory here, but fuck me if it wasn’t a huge deal for you when DC decided to KILL FUCKING SUPERMAN back in the day. Granted, it turned out to be a complete waste of everyone’s time, and we have the regrettable Shaquille O’Neal vehicle “Steel” to show for it (even though John Henry Irons might be one of my favorite people in comic history (which is maybe only because the story of John Henry is still one of the most insanely inspiring pieces of folklore that exists, ever), right behind Irwin Schwab) but still. I think the whole point of a store called “Nostalgia World” is nostalgia, and seeing this sealed pack of comics (or even just remembering a time when there was a point to selling comics all sealed together in a package) featuring the ostensible death of Superman definitely triggered that.
This place… it was just unbelievably thick with records and toys and all kinds of weird shit. You got your Star Wars, Stargate, f*cking Gene Pitney records and all the other mess, just laid out there in a huge pile. If you don’t like to dig for things, don’t ever set foot in Nostalgia World but for god’s sake if you do, just GO TO THIS PLACE because, well…
For the uninitiated, here’s how I can best describe the process of… whatever the fuck it is I do, I call it “thrifting” but that’s not really applicable here. If I were a DJ it’d be “crate digging,” if I were a financially well-off older person it’d be “antiquing” and if I were my father trying to find things to use for still life in his art class it’d be “just going through other people’s garbage.” But whatever you call it, here’s how it breaks down:
-The whole point of digging is to dig
-You never know WHAT you’re going to find, and if you did, what would be the point
-Anything you find while digging is exponentially multiplied in value, because you had to dig to find it
-The experiences you have while digging (whether hilarious, uncomfortable, bizarre, or some combination of all of those things) are just as valid and wonderful if not moreso than anything you happen to find
-But beware. Once you start digging it’s hard to stop
I also loved the way certain things were behind glass, as if 15 copies of a Star Trek book were worth protecting while some vintage Elvis record that would probably fetch a freaking fortune on eBay is just sitting out for anyone to grab. I’m sure there’s a weird logic behind the structure and organization of Nostalgia World that would explain this random pile of Star Trek Collectible books stored in a locked case, but I’m a little afraid that if I start to understand it I’ll start to agree with it and next thing you know I’m a 70 year old dude just sitting smoking cigarettes in a tiny museum to my own obsessions, listening to basketball on the radio and trying to fish out fallen 45s from in between my many cabinets with a coat hanger. Those were all things I saw btw
This is supposed to be Madonna apparently but really just looks like a Ken doll in drag
Ok have you ever had the experience of walking into a thrift store, or a yard sale or an antique shop or just any place that might have some secondhand things in it, and seeing a toy you had when you were little (since we all were, at one point)? Well Nostalgia World basically beat me over the head with that sensation until I collapsed in a heap on the floor. I had this EXACT microscope when I was little. Chemical samples, slides and all. Science isn’t that far away from magic in my head and having a little set like this made me feel like a f*cking wizard and still would. Harry Potter ain’t got nothing on Harry Microscope.
Thats doesn’t make any sense. Moving on
I’m not sure I could provide any explanation or context for this photograph that would in any way enhance or mitigate its existence, so I’ll just leave it alone.
This was legit awesome though. I didn’t even mind paying 8 bucks for it because what it is, more or less, is kind of what my entire blogging thrifting internetting process would have been if I was a well off woman living in New York City in the early 90s. This lady wrote this whole book about things that she and ostensibly her friends and stuff found in little junk shops and estate sales and whatnot throughout the downstate NY region, and she took all the pictures herself and while it’s not THE most entertaining or insightful thing I’ve ever read (some of it just comes off like bragging, to be perfectly honest – “can you believe I got this old oil can for just five dollars?!?” (not an actual quote)), it still struck a chord with me, and I’ll probably keep it forever, if for no other reason than to have a testament to what it was like in the early 90s before secondhand shit became “cool” to have around, and also to delude myself into thinking that someone could actually front me a publishing advance to make a book out of all this nonsense myself someday because I NEED TO THINK THAT.
When I say that Nostalgia World specializes in a lot of real weird specific nerdy shit, this is basically what I’m talking about. I’ve eaten a fair amount of Pez in my life, but at no point did I ever consider collecting the god damn things or their dispensers or whatever, let alone creating an entire BOOK to document their collection and history and whatnots. And I paged through this thing after taking this picture, trust me, that’s EXACTLY what this is. Kind of baller? Kind of insane? Kind of like what the fuck am I looking at? You be the judge, audience. You decide. Kids Court.
“Super Slab Hits” is not, as you might assume at first glance, the name of some super weird porn, but rather an album of music about truckers. Just songs about truckin’, about what it’s like to live the truckin’ life, about drivin’ a big ole truck all day, and it has a unique appeal to me because even from my earliest days I was always fascinated by the very notion of driving a big rig back and forth across the USA, chatting on the CB radio, taking a shower at a gas station, etc. Very few things seem more… what’s the term I’m looking for here? Patriotic? Nah. Unique and specific to the experience of what it is to be an American? Nah. Oh wait this is what I’m trying to say
ROCK FLAG AND EAGLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLE
Thank you Charlie. Anyway back to Nostalgia World, underneath the giant boxes of LPs were stacks upon stacks of 78s, which, if I hadn’t been so stupid as to get rid of the record player I scoured out of my parents’ attic when I was in college and refinished by hand over the course of one long and particularly excruciating summer, I would still be able to listen to. Unfortunately very few record players these days accommodate these gems. Fortunately most music released on 78 RPM record format sucks hard ass. Unfortunately, I just checked and the Crosley turntable I bought last year actually does play 78s. Moral of the story: I’m an idiot.
These close-up shots don’t do it justice, but take it from me it was wall to wall insanity in there, this is underneath another humongous shelf of records, there were MORE records just sitting basically undisturbed in boxes 2 deep, pushed up against random milk crates full of miscellaneous detritus. So brilliant.
Wait, didn’t Miscellaneous Detritus play backup center for the Denver Nuggets back in the day? Sports joke! ZOOM
Okay so when I talk about Miscellaneous Detritus (who is now a completely real person in my head btw, who actually existed and played basketball and had a career and everything, I think I still have his rookie card stashed in a box somewhere) this is precisely what I mean – this is a box that contains nothing but wacky marshmallow puff totem pole candles, fake plastic clamshells, and eyeliner pencils. That’s all we got going on here.
Catwoman party hats, for of course the next time you feel like having a Catwoman party
And on that note, about three dozen sealed boxes of trading cards from the first Tim Burton Batman film. There was a ponderous amount of this kind of stuff, things that made me wonder almost audibly “Who would be interested in this, in this kind of quantity” but I think part of the logic that went into the merchandise selection of Nostalgia World was a sort of willful disregard for that exact thought, a willingness to snatch up stuff with no clear inclination of a potential audience or market, because you never know WHAT people are going to be interested in, you, as one person, cannot possibly anticipate the wide-ranging, eclectic spectrum of everyone’s interests and how deeply they feel compelled to indulge them, so by that logic a person could exist who would walk in and say “Wait, you mean you only have TWELVE boxes of Batman: The Movie trading cards?!?!? What the hell?!?” and as a former book-buyer for the hypothetical store I never ended up opening, I can completely respect that. Wow, we just took a ride on the logic train! Toot toot!
Records upon records upon records upon records. And then some more records. And mostly staggeringly cheap. The picture doesn’t show it well enough but I think most of the 45s were under a buck. If you don’t think you could see yourself paying a quantity of money that is less than a dollar to have “Mr. Roboto” on vinyl at your disposal then GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR.
I SAID GOOD DAY!
Also there were some legitimately old things too, like this copy of Memphis State University’s (before it was the U of M) newspaper from freaking 1950. This thing is nearly 62 years old. Geologically speaking I know that’s not much, but when you look at it through the lens of the history of this city it’s pretty impressive.
More randomness. Just combs. Big milk crate full of huge-toothed combs, for people with VERY thick hair. As in like each strand is about as thick as my arm. Does anyone have hair like that? Picture it for a second. Anyway now these people know where to get their combs
Smut cards! Collectible Smut Trading Cards! That whole “I know it when I see it” approach to pornography gets completely inverted in a situation like this I think – let me see if I can explain: so as most of you may know or remember from congressional hearings back in the day, the basic “know it when I see it” argument was devised as a response to people who were making porns and trying to pass them off as something else, whether it was art or whatever, and also a way for fucked up conservative idiots to try and crack down on art they didn’t like but that’s another conversation entirely, but the basic logic was “if it seems like it was designed to arouse me and it DOES arouse me, that makes it a porn” but in a situation like this, something that’s supposed to be openly and almost ostentatiously pornographic, basically only designed for titillation, is actually just hilarious and kind of stupid and in no way arousing whatsoever, so it becomes kind of a reverse porn object, to where I would show these to just about anybody without worrying about the risk of offending them (this is perhaps one way in which I am naive and probably end up unintentionally offending people a lot) because I just think they’re funny. Two lipstick chicks pretending to have at it for the purposes of packaging it as a set of TRADING CARDS? That is an anti-porn. “Every man’s fantasy” indeed. Getting turned on by that, to me, is just as weird as getting turned on by a potato. Although this is the internet, I’m sure there’s a website or two out there that address that particular fetish. STOP DON’T GOOGLE IT WAIT
Well f*ck me, I HAD to buy this. I mean now when I get the inevitable prank phone call asking “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” I can say “YESSSSS” and wave this thing at my phone in ultimate victory.
Because I live in a world that is some combination of old school Looney Tunes and Mad Magazine from about 35 years ago, where people still do things like that, and carry flowers that squirt water out of their lapel, and fall in manholes, and run off cliffs but don’t realize they’re running in midair until they look down (NEVER LOOK DOWN) so I remain prepared for ALL of these eventualities.
7 huge boxes of candy. Because why not?
April snagged this little jean person. Hilarious and great find. I gotta give her tons of credit, she was in this to win this, when I talk about “getting your hands dirty” in the process of finding great shit, sometimes I literally mean it and this was a great example
I don’t know if that picture quite does it justice but we were both coated in a fine layer of filth by the time we left Nostalgia World this cloudy Saturday afternoon, but we both made out like bandits, in addition to the book and the Prince Albert can I also picked up
This pack of Nancy Kerrigan’s Diary trading cards, which if there isn’t at least one card in which the diary entry is just “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY” I’m going to be sorely disappointed and
This BADASS old movie poster for a film I’ve never actually heard of or even seen, but you get to see Dick Clark go on a killing rampage so I think it was worth a dollar. I’m discovering now as I write this that it’s on Netflix streaming so I think I know what I’m watching next time I want to sit down and look at a thing.
And that’ll just about do it for our little detour into Nostalgia World. Thank you all for coming along and special thanks again to April for finding this wonderful little place and dragging me out there even though I probably bitched and moaned about getting up and doing something before I had to go to work, it was totally worth it and I’ll be going back again soon and you all should as well. Get up early on a Saturday (anathema, I know) and truck down Summer and poke your head in, you’ll be glad you did. When you see the porns theater, you’ll know you’re close.
Oh also one formal note, we’re sad to announce a new policy here at the Secondhand Underground Blogging Thrifting Writing Operation Society. We’ve had so many issues with this that we’ve had to institute an official stance on the subject. As follows:
Until next time