“You can’t park there.”
I had just pulled my rental car under a tree on a hot Texas morning and was walking toward a group of men tending a grill under a pavilion when Tom Drummond, one of the locals, stepped forward to address me. “You can’t park under that tree,” he said.
“That’s fine,” I replied. “I just need to make sure I’m at the right place. I’m here to do a story on the Carmine Dance Hall Antiques Show.”
“You’re at the right place,” he said. “Are you going to have breakfast?”
The question caught me off guard. “I’ve come to do the story, but, yes, we were planning to have breakfast.” I pointed back to the car, where my wife and older daughter waited.
“If you’re going to have breakfast, then you can park there,” he said with a hint of a smile.
Drummond, it turned out, is one of those guys you quickly come to like. Texas is full of Tom Drummonds. There’s something else about Drummond and the men of the Lone Star State that’s worth noting upfront. They know how to cook, especially barbecue, and their breakfast isn’t bad, either.
Food is among the allures of the Carmine Dance Hall Antiques Show. The show’s fall edition, held September 23-27, 2017, was one of the first major events of the Round Top antiques festival, which stretched from mid-September into early October.
No-Way-Ke-Sug-Ga [He Who Strikes Two at Once] / Otoe, a hand-colored folio-size lithograph from Thomas McKenney and James Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America,… (1836-44), was $1650 from Josephine McDonough of McDonough Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia.
Engraved Dorflinger footed sherbets with attached underplates, green over crystal, $495 each from Rex and Janet Andrews of Andrews Antiques, Rushville, Illinois. The glassware came from the home of Elizabeth and Isabella Dorflinger, descendants of Christian Dorflinger. Rex Andrews noted that the pattern, color, and Dorflinger connection are unusual.
This four-color coverlet in dark blue, green, red, and natural with a corner block lettered “Charles / Young /Mechan / icksburg / Pennsyl / vania. / 1838.” was $350 from Sandi Severance.
An antiques show has been held at the Carmine Dance Hall since 1993, when Emma Lee Turney, who founded the original show that birthed the Round Top antiques festival, added the venue. When she sold her show to Susan Franks, the Carmine Dance Hall continued to be leased through the fall of 2016. Last spring, the Cedar Creek Schuetzen Verein (CCSV), a nonprofit organization in charge of the Carmine Dance Hall, took over sole operation of the show.
Hazel Giles of Glenville, North Carolina, is one of three dealers who work together to manage the event. With approximately 20 dealers in the fall and slightly more in the spring, the Carmine Dance Hall Antiques Show is the smallest of the major Round Top shows. Unlike several of the larger venues, Carmine Dance Hall now has free admission, a change made by CCSV, but same as a few other indoor shows, the event is air-conditioned—a significant factor during steamy autumn days.
Part of the charm of Round Top is the unique persona of the various markets found along a 15-mile stretch of eastern Texas. At Carmine Dance Hall the feel is that of an old-time sorority show with a relatively small number of dealers, most offering traditional tabletop antiques such as china, glassware, and silver. It’s an identity that has long worked in Carmine.
The difference from one show to the next gives the overall antiques festival a boost. “That’s what makes people come back,” said Giles. “There is a huge variety, and the venues are entirely different. Each has its own flavor.”
At Carmine Dance Hall, the atmosphere on opening day could be described as serene. There were no snaking lines of anxious shoppers, no customers running to get to a particular dealer first. It was civilized and comfortable.
This shipping crate with its original lithographed paper cover and lettered “Dunham’s / Cocoanut / Doll House” on the top was priced at $395 by Nancy Carlo of Humble Bee Antiques, San Antonio, Texas. It sold early on the first day of the show.
English brass-bound rosewood woman’s travel case with crystal containers having sterling silver lids, a lower jewelry drawer, and a side drawer, circa 1850, $3500 from Gale Sigloch of Golden Chances Antiques, Houston, Texas.
Hill Country Autumn by William A. Slaughter (1923-2003), signed and dated 1973, oil on canvas, 24" x 36", $8200 from Paul and Shirley Cox of Cox’s Antique Gallery, Salado, Texas.
On the dance hall floor, the merchandise was offered by a mix of general-line and specialty dealers. The latter included Nedra O’Brien of O’Brien’s, Advance, Missouri, who offered a line of linens and other textiles that had customers waiting in line to make purchases. O’Brien was set up at Carmine Dance Hall for the 47th time. That kind of loyalty was the norm across the floor. “We come back every time,” she said. “I’ve never had a really bad show here.”
Among the items in high demand from her booth were doilies and tablecloths. Most of her dry goods came at prices affordable to someone on a limited budget. A Battenberg lace table runner with a linen center was priced at $45. Other items could be had for less than the cost of a decent lunch. The affordable nature of many of the items offered is part of the success story at the Carmine show.
More expensive items certainly could be found, including those with Texas origins. Paul and Shirley Cox of Cox’s Antique Gallery, Salado, Texas, had a William A. Slaughter oil painting, Hill Country Autumn, tagged $8200, while an unusual wall-mounted hatrack with seven cow horns on an inlaid, shield-shaped back, circa 1900, was $850.
The Coxes, who are relative newcomers to the dance hall, also set themselves apart from other dealers with their offering of Oriental rugs, including a Persian Zanjan runner from the early 20th century for $1400. “We have a reputation for carrying good rugs,” said Shirley Cox. “People always want rugs. Rugs go with contemporary items as well as antiques.”
The hall didn’t suffer for the quality of antiques offered, whether it was a selection of George Edwards bird prints, circa 1750, priced at $695 each by Josephine McDonough of McDonough Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia, or a woman’s travel case in brass-bound rosewood, English, circa 1850, offered for $3500 by Gale Sigloch of Golden Chances Antiques, Houston, Texas.
Country antiques and Americana, available as part of the overall mix, included an 1838 four-color coverlet made by Charles Young of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, priced at $350 by Sandi Severance of Yesterdays Treasures, San Antonio, Texas, and a carved and painted spread-wing eagle plaque tagged $350 by Dick and Kathy Dooley of Cattle Creek Collections, San Antonio, Texas.
One thing the show lacked was an abundance of furniture. The Coxes had a Pennsylvania stepback cupboard in walnut, circa 1840, at $2800, and Jason Guzman and Francisco Salazar of Pink Pearl Antiques, Galveston, Texas, showed a Belle Époque tufted parlor chair priced at $800, but most of the merchandise offered fit on a table or hung on a wall.
Chinese embroidered shoes in pink and turquoise, for bound feet, early 1900s, likely for a girl’s wedding, $450 from Candace Coney of Scarlet Lady, Weatherford, Texas.
Advertising creamers offered by Jan Studinger of Jean Warman Antiques, Iowa Park, Texas (from left): Brittain Tractor & Supply Co., Frederick, Oklahoma, damaged handle, $28; Duerksen Garage, Inman, Kansas, cracked, $38; R.L. McClellan, Grain and Implements, Spearman, Texas, $55; Ingham’s, “Everything For The Builder,” Yale, Oklahoma, $55; Easter’s - Butane Gas Lumber and Coal, Bokchito, Oklahoma, $55.
This Crow Hunters’ Decoy Kit by the Carry-Lite Decoy Division of the Pulp Reproduction Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was $195 from Dick and Kathy Dooley of Cattle Creek Collections, San Antonio, Texas.
For the fall show, the single biggest impact had nothing to do with antiques. Instead, it was Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall along the middle Texas coast on August 25. Harvey stands as the costliest tropical cyclone on record and the second-most-expensive natural disaster worldwide (topped only by the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami). Although Carmine didn’t face the kind of devastation seen in the Houston area, the town did receive more than 30" of rain. Fortunately, the downpours came in intervals, which kept local flooding to a minimum.
While the various markets of the Round Top festival opened as planned, repercussions from Harvey were still felt. Slightly smaller crowds were the norm. People directly affected by the hurricane were still dealing with the storm’s aftermath. Few were likely to be thinking about purchasing antiques.
Even buyers from far away grew cautious. “We get a lot of out-of-town people. A lot didn’t come because they thought it wouldn’t be a good time because of the situation,” said Giles.
Despite the uncertainty, many dealers at the Carmine Dance Hall reported strong sales. “With the situation in Houston, we expected some issues. My sales were still about as good as they normally were,” said Giles, who offered a mix that included silver, artwork, and historical china. “The people who came came to buy. That’s often more important than the attendance number.”
Some of her customers brought along friends from the Houston area—people who were looking for an escape from dealing with the mess that Harvey left behind. “They were dazed and needed to get away from it for a little while,” Giles added. “These are people who will be customers again, but right now they don’t know what’s repairable and not.” There are also insurance claims to be handled and renovations to be made. “It’s going to be a long-term thing for a number of people.”
Carmine resident Vicki LaRue of the Fayette County Tourism Association noted that the Round Top antiques festival has the potential to play a major role as people begin to replace items lost to Harvey. “We think the spring show will be big,” she said.
Staffordshire figures of Punch and Judy, England, 1860s, $750 the pair from David Boyer of Mears and Boyer, North Buckinghamshire, England.
Hazel Giles asked $1600 for the coin silver creamer and covered sugar by William Braisted Heyer of New York City, circa 1798-1828, and $2500 for the 18" diameter coin silver fruit platter by Maciel, Mexico City.
The dealers at the Carmine Dance Hall will be ready. But any account of the show would be incomplete without mention of two important assets (other than the food—more on that yet to come). There is the history of the building, and there is the strength of the community.
William Marth, who lives across the street, is glad to tell the story of how land was donated for the dance hall in 1890, with construction that same year. It wasn’t an unusual concept. According to the nonprofit organization Texas Dance Hall Preservation, dance halls were among the first buildings raised in Texas communities founded by Central European immigrants in the mid-19th century. The halls served as gathering places with overlapping functions for clubs that focused on interests as diverse as singing, shooting, and physical fitness. “In the rural Texas culture of this period, these halls were as important to community life as courthouses and churches,” notes a Texas State Historical Association article on the subject.
In Carmine, another pivotal date was 1916, when local residents formed the Cedar Creek Schuetzen Verein, a club for target shooting. The concept of a marksman’s organization faltered, but the town gained a body that oversaw the use of the hall for entertainment purposes as varied as bowling and dramas. For a long time, however, the facility’s real identity was in the dances held there, a tradition that eventually faded.
“We don’t have dances no more,” said Marth. Instead, the hall hosts family and community events, such as weddings and graduation parties, still under the oversight of the CCSV.
Cherrie Wines, a fourth-generation resident of Carmine and treasurer of the CCSV, is quick to point out the value of community in the small Texas town, population 250, that at one time had four grocers but now makes do with a convenience store. She knows the importance of the building that anchors the town. “The dance hall is the community,” she said.
Each year, four fund-raisers help keep the dance hall doors open and the lights on. In addition to the spring and fall antiques shows, two fried-chicken dinners are held. But it’s not just about a building. Some of the money raised is set aside for scholarships. “This community is big, big, big on their kids,” Wines added.
The people there are also keen on good food, which brings this account back to Tom Drummond and breakfast. The Carmine Dance Hall Antiques Show is legendary for the meals served there. Breakfast includes bacon (perfectly fried, it’s worth adding) and eggs, hash browns, and toast, while the real claim to fame is the German-style barbecue made on site for lunch.
“There ain’t no barbecue like these guys’,” said Wines. “In this town, most of the men do the cooking, and the women bake.” That baking includes homemade pies worth bragging about and possibly the best bread pudding on the planet. It’s that mix of antiques and good food that keeps people coming back.
The spring 2018 Carmine Dance Hall Antiques Show will be held March 24-28. For more information, visit the website (www.carminedancehallantiqueshow-texas.blogspot.com).
The two 1950s Navajo squash blossom necklaces were $750 (left) and $950 from Miklen Rykunyk of Southwest to Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Denise Salvagno and Debbie Keneson had two Tuk-Away Butcher Blocks by Texas Mfg. Co., Brenham, Texas, the 8" diameter one priced at $185 and the 13" diameter one priced at $330, and a 30½" diameter full-size butcher block in old red paint, priced at $1200.
Originally published in the January 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest