I haven't always been a thrift shopper. Far from it in fact. I used to think it was kind of creepy because so many of the shops I knew were in areas of the city that were rather run down and seedy. They all had a funny smell and weren't very well organized.
My earliest exposure to buying secondhand was in the accompaniment of my dad. He was a small town businessman and also owned several rental properties. We lived an hour away from the Twin Cities and made frequent trips for business supplies, this or that home repair item for a rental, or to do our family shopping. Dad always loved a bargain and was careful with money. If we ran the water too long in the bathtub we could be sure he'd be pounding on the door telling us to shut it off! Three inches of water is more than enough to get clean. Leaving a light on in a room, even if you were just leaving it for a minute, was certain to bring a reprimand. He was given the high school nickname "Dutch" for a reason.
I would often tag along on trips to the cities with my parents, Dad driving us around to various discount stores, salvage yards and thrift shops. We made stops at bakery outlets for day old bread bargains, produce outlets for well-ripened fruits and vegetables, and discounted grocery stores where he bought cereal, dried milk and canned goods by the case. (To this day I cannot eat corn flakes or canned plums!) We didn't usually eat in restaurants on those trips. My parents would pack salami sandwiches, a thermos of coffee, a quart jar of milk for us kids along with a purchased candy bar or sweet of some kind. When mealtime came we would have a car picnic! It wasn't that we couldn't afford to shop regular retail or eat in restaurants. We were firmly middle class with a decent house, two cars, a lake cottage and a boat. My father liked nice things as much as anyone. But, a penny saved was a penny earned and with a family of seven every bit helped I suppose.
Now, my dad was not the type who would embarrass easily. He didn't give much care or worry to what others might think of him. So one particular occasion really sticks out in my mind. Dad had just arrived home after going to a funeral visitation for a local town resident. It was summertime and he was wearing a nice shirt. I complimented him on it and he beamed that he had gotten it at Goodwill, obviously proud of his find. As he turned to show it off I spotted, there on the back side of one sleeve, a little stapled on tag with a price and the word "Goodwill". I thought my dad would absolutely die on the spot from embarrassment. There he had stood, in line to offer condolences to the bereaved, while sporting a Goodwill price tag for anyone to see! In a town of a thousand people, where everyone knows everyone, you can be sure the story got around a few times. That was in the 70's and thrift shopping wasn't trendy then. It was more like stealth shopping. A dirty little secret.
One other family story that pops up now and again is about the time Dad bought a pair of jeans at a thrift store. He had a skinny, wiry physique and was so pleased to have found a pair of well fitting jeans that were "just like new!". So when he came downstairs one morning wearing those newly acquired jeans, and passed by heading for the coffee pot, I got a glimpse of his backside. There on the waistband was a rather large leather patch that said "Chic" and some embroidered swirls on the back pockets. Yep, they were women's pants! He swore up and down they had been on the men's rack and didn't want to believe it. He did eventually concede to taking the patch off but continued to wear those jeans for quite a few years afterwards. You can be sure there were comments about his "girlish figure" now and then.
It wasn't until a few years after Dad passed away that I happened to wander into a thrift store looking for a Halloween costume. A Goodwill store had opened in town and it was new and bright and clean. I ended up buying a couple of things and became an occasional shopper. Soon I found myself stopping more and more often and then after awhile I started to think I had a problem. I was bringing home things I didn't need but that were deals too good to pass up. Bargains like the Cusinart skillet I got for $4 or the 50's Finnish enameled saucepan I resold for $75 to a collector in Japan. I'm slowing evolving to be more discretionary about what I buy for myself. Having an Etsy shop, where I sell vintage finds, lets me justify buying things I like without adding more clutter to our house. Until they sell I get to enjoy them for awhile.
Of course it's still about the thrill of the hunt too, that little bit of adrenalin rush when spying something good. But I mostly like to think it's a part of my Dad that lives on in me.