More secondhand stories

Two weeks ago, I invited my readers to tell me about their favorite secondhand items. Nine people submitted their stories. (You can read the first five here.) Enjoy the final four today!


the pool.jpeg

It was an if-you-haul-it you-can-have-it situation. Of course we couldn’t pass up a 20 x 30-foot above-ground swimming pool, even if it was secondhand. We had eleven children to keep entertained in the summer, not to mention all the guests and friends who hung out at our house.

My husband and a few kids traveled several hours to haul our great prize. By that evening we stood looking at the pile of metal sheets and posts lying in our yard. Never mind the thing had been already unassembled by the time my husband arrived. Never mind there was no instruction manual. We knew it was supposed to be oval. How hard could it be to set up? We would just have a pool-setting-up party. Invite a few neighbors and guys from church.

“We’ll probably be done by lunch,” my husband said.

The workers arrived; I had 17 extra people at my house that day. I served them lunch. Then I served them supper. By 10:00 p.m. we had ten posts standing. The project dragged on through the summer. There were many days of workers and extra meals. We brought in a surveyor... and a skid loader... and sand. And there were many setbacks. We read that oval pools are the most difficult to set up. We understood why.

Winter came upon us before we got to use our new-to-us pool. But by the following summer, we were open for business. That pool became the focal point of the yard... and the summer. We entertained many guests in it and had lots of heart-to-heart conversations with friends on the deck next to it while we watched our children swim. Poolside there were brats hot off the grill, guitar jam sessions, and naps in the hammock. In the pool there were volleyball games (not only with a volleyball, but also with our small children as big brothers gently tossed them over the net to waiting arms on the other side—they loved it), countless races and games of Marco Polo. Our pool even had the honor of hosting several baptisms.

As the years passed, rust became its enemy, increasing until one year we feared the pool would burst in spite of the large piece of sheet metal we’d used to support the weakest area. We knew our beloved pool could not last another year. It was with a bit of sadness we took it down in 2016. It had served our family well for fourteen years, saving us hundreds of dollars in pool passes at the local pool. All our children had learned to swim in it.

The disassembled old pool left a gaping hole in our yard. And we realized we had grown accustomed to having a pool. We used our tax refund to buy a new one, slightly smaller but still oval. (We were much quicker setting up the second one; we’d learned a few things.) But of all the secondhand items we have acquired over the years (and when you have eleven children, you learn to love garage sales and secondhand shops, believe me!), nothing quite compares to our first pool. It lived a long, good life and served its second family exceptionally well, right up until the end.

Hope, Cataract, WI


bicycle built for two.jpg

Here is a secondhand item I bought for $25 after hearing it advertised on a local radio trading post program many years ago—a bicycle built for two! This bike has entertained riders of all ages and never been in a serious mishap. Just a few weeks ago, it served as a prop for a wedding photo!

Avis, Newfolden, MN


I got a pink secondhand shirt from a friend. It looked metallic and felt like it weighed ten pounds. I wore it to a cousin’s church, and we all stood in a giant circle, staring at each other while communion was passed around. I thought it would be a good idea to drink the juice with my lips wrapped all the way around the little cup. And then I spilled all over my ten-pound shirt. I never got the stain out.

Thora, Minneapolis, MN


When I was seven years old, we went to Salvation Army. Mom bought me a pair of bright red, swishy athletic pants (the kind with a mesh layer on the inside.) I’m pretty sure they cost five dollars. I loved those pants. And when I got home and found a five-dollar bill in the pocket, I loved them even more.

I heard on KLOVE radio that even five dollars could make a difference in someone’s life, so I sent the money to the station with a note written on a little scrap of paper. After that, I was on their mailing list for many years. I never gave to them again, but it felt good that one time.

Inga, Minneapolis, MN


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.