Perhaps the memories of her life as a child led Helen Gandee to hold on to what she was able to gather around her as an adult, Hamsher mused. "I think we see that some with a lot of folks who came out of the Depression. They kind of clutch on to these possessions they love because they didn't have hardly anything then."
What is valuable
Gene Gandee, who at 90 is still going strong, picks up the thread of his wife's warehouse-size devotion to collecting. He sat in a back office in the warehouse complex along W.Va. 119, as a small white poodle named Penny napped atop his desk
"She never threw anything away! She even saved the stretch around my underwear to tie up something with," he added, laughing.
He grew up in Hard Camp in Roane County and met Helen when they were teenagers. At age 19, he watched her get baptized in the Elk River at Clendenin. He seized the opportunity, he said, chuckling again. "I asked her for a date as she come up out of the water."
As his family's supply business prospered, the couple were able to travel -- and collect things.
"We traveled all over the world. I tried to buy something good wherever I went. It's not all valuable. I got a little Russian girl about that tall" -- he holds two fingers 6 inches apart -- "that I glued her head back on three times. That's valuable to me. It's not worth 50 cents broken."
The couple had property in Florida, where they first started collecting in earnest, he said. "It's a habit, a good habit. A lot of fun. And you can lose money real easy. But you can have fun. I sold $60,000 worth to a doctor in Florida and two trailers of stuff."
More recent auctions didn't go so well, he added, waxing philosophical. "In these last auctions we had, we lost our shirt. But that's part of life."
It's a little depressing seeing the collection out there in the warehouse about to be scattered, he said. "But you live with it. We'll do better here by renting some of these spaces."
New old stuff
For Chuck Hamsher's part, he and his wife have so much stuff to disburse that visitors who come on different weekends will see a constant infusion of new old things -- until everything is gone.
"There are some things we're not going to have room for even given the amount of space here. We're going to be feeding things in during the duration of the sale. There'll be new items added into it virtually every week."
Given the limited number of sale dates and the large amount of objects, prices will not be sky-high, he added.
"One or two pieces are probably going to be in the thousands or thousand-dollar-plus range. There hasn't been a priceless antique here. But it's certainly all good quality and things that we don't see every day in this area."
Want to go?
WHAT: Helen Gandee estate sale
WHERE: 5148 Elk River Road, along U.S. 119 in Clendenin in an area known as Blue Creek; look for the "Truss America" sign and a yellow warehouse.
WHEN: Hours for the first weekend of the sale are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 5 and 6 and noon to 5 p.m. July 7. The sale could extend throughout July; for details, visit pmestatesales.com.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.