Glendale, California Vacuum Cleaner Treasure Hunt

This past Wednesday, June 20th, 2007, six Vacuum Cleaner Collectors Club members met here in Los Angeles for a “Southern California Mini-Meet.”

Kyle from Eagle Rock, Rick from Westminster, Marty from Palm Springs, Victor from Palm Springs, Marc from Spokane (Washington), and myself from the Miracle Mile gathered at Ace Vac in Glendale. Ace Vac, originally founded by Art Taylor, has been at 412 S. Central Avenue, Glendale, since 1930. The current owner, Al Romero, who has had the shop since the mid 1960s (I think), is retiring.

The Ace Vac building has two large attics, both of which were filled from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with old machines, parts, literature, attachments and accessories -- mostly upright machines from the mid 1920s to the mid 1940s. The tip-off for this treasure trove came from Marc who has known Al and his son Mark for many years.

At 10 a.m. on that sunny, clear, very warm day, we met up with Al and his son Mark (who told me he had helped out at the store with his dad since he was a little boy). We made introductions all around, then, along with three hired day-laborers, spent a long, hot, dusty, but FUN (fun to us collectors anyway!) job of clearing 50 years’ worth of accummulation from two huge attic storage rooms.

OH ... MY ... GOSH.

You should have heard the murmured exclamations and low whistles coming from us as one treasure after another appeared from that attic. I have to say, we all managed to remain very nonchalant about it, even in a few instances where I am sure someone just wanted to shout!! (You know the old bugaboo about some vac shop owners -- how, what has in their minds been “crap and junk” that they have wanted to get rid of for decades, and how that “crap and junk” suddenly becomes priceless treasure when someone comes to their shop and shows interest in “the old stuff.” As it turned out, Al and Mark weren’t that way at all, but we did not know that at first so we were all really playing it cool!)

The hired hands who were working had already been at it for quite some time, and there was a huge mountain of flattened-down boxes, mostly for 1930s and 1940s machines. There were dozens and dozens and DOZENS of Eureka Model M and G cartons. It was really too bad that they had already been flattened and torn up. Oh well, when you read about the treasures we did find, you’ll understand why I am not shedding too many years!

There was so much stuff, so many old vacuums, so many boxes and large cardboard flats full of advertising collateral, literature, instruction booklets and full-size graphics that we all just kinda felt numb after a while. It was difficult to take it all in. Talk about being the proverbial kid in the proverbial candy store!

There were easily 300 old machines there, if not more, including (off the top of my head):
— Scores of 1920s Hoovers running from 102s to 825s (alas, no Dusters, 925s, 972s or 150s!)
— Dozens of early Royal Standards and Super Royals
— Early Eurekas including some very, very old straight-suction models
— A dozen or more of the various streamlined Kenmores (even a complete Imperial “Bug Eye” and another partial one)
— Air-Way uprights (including two complete “Green Goddesses” and parts for a third)
— Premiers and G.E.s
— A variety of early Regina straight-suction uprights
— Hamilton Beaches
— Singers (including an R1, and R4, a couple of antique straight-suction models, and one of the later 1940s low-profile models)
— Very early Filter Queens (the cone-shaped. dark-brown wrinke-finish model, one in the original box)
— Early Rexairs (some in original boxes)
— Apexes (one of the very early “flat-front” straight-suction models, one of the blue “speckle-finish” uprights, and FOUR of the later “steering-handle” revolving brush models)
— And plenty of “odd birds” - an assortment of early Westinghoues, a Graybar, even an electric upright from the dawn of electric vacuum cleaner antiquity, a “Reliable.”

This place was definitely an early upright fanatic's dream! And there were no Hoovers later than an 825. No Convertibles and none of the later "plastic crap."

There were very few Kirbys - parts and attachments for a 4C, then a complete 2C. Only a handful of canisters but some really beautiful and exotic “rocket ship” models such as Universals, Kenmore Commanders, Air Chiefs, etc. And there was no Electrolux stuff! I was hoping for a rack of brand new cloth XXX & LX hoses, haha! Surprisingly, other than a blue XXX in the window display, there was only ONE Electrolux, a Model XI that one of the guys very happily took!!

Many of the machines were just very dusty and dirty but still in good and complete condition. There were also quite a few that were very rusty, in pieces - obviously beyond restoration.

Then there was box after box after box of handles ... wands ... cords ... handle bails ... and a mind-boggling array of parts and attachments and repair components -- wheels, springs, carbon brushes and unidentifible doo-dads and gee-gaws!

Everyone was cheerful, giddy almost, happily eager to see what treasures one another had found and very gracious and courteous to each other. There was no arguing, no “territory marking,” no foaming-at-the-mouth greedy-grabbers running from machine to machine shrieking “That’s mine! That’s mine! That’s mine!” The attitude from everyone reminded me of the old Chip and Dale cartoon -- where the two chipmunks are so sweetly cordial and gracious to one another -- “After you.” “No, after you.” “No, after you - I insist.” “Well, since you insist, then thank you very much.”

When there were wistful moments, of, say, someone coming along with a claimed machine and someone else saying, “Ohhhh, I have wanted one of those for years,” well guess what .. the machine was handed over without comment with only one or two exceptions. (Victor - you may get that blue Apex yet, so don’t give up hope on it!)

People tended to gravitate toward what interested them -- one very endearing scene was when I watched three of the guys, jaw-dropped, excitedly stooping in front of a huge box of paper collectibles. They passed items around to one another, one gem after another. (Plans were made to take all the paperwork that was not claimed and bring it to the Omaha meet; I do hope someone who’s planing to attend did follow up on that.)

In looking through two large boxes of never-used cloth bags -- some original replacements, some “new-old-stock” brand-name replacements and some bojack replacements -- I found three really nice old Black Kirby bags. Another collector noticed my pile of bags and asked very nicely, “Since you found three of those, you think I could have one?” Well, of course. The only reason I had “appropriated” all three in the first place was because I thought I was the only “Kirby nut” there; actually I was, but some of the other guys did have the odd Kirby or two that they wanted to complete. It was a joy and a pleasure to see that happen.

Around noon I started getting hungry. I was so excited when I got up Wednesday morning that I couldn’t even eat breakfast, so by noon I was starving and starting to feel kinda cranky - a sure sign that I needed to get something to eat. So I went up street to a little lunch stand and had some delicious chicken shishkebob. When I came back, everyone was asking “Where’d you go?!” When I said I had gone to get a bite to eat, and they said they had all wanted us to go together. Well, “who knew?!” I thought I did loudly announce where I was going but apparently they didn’t hear me.

So they then all went to eat. While they were gone, I helped Mark get the rest of the stuff, which was just a few more boxes, from the second attic. I then made financial arrangements with Al to pay for the stuff I had picked out. I held my breath while he looked my items over, murmuring to himself and making a mental tally. He then named his price. His initial figure was very reasonable but way higher than I could manage, so we did a bit of negotiating and agreed on a price that was mutually acceptable.

I went up to the street to an ATM to get the cash, returned, made my payment; and then with Mark and Al’s help loaded my van. I have to tell you, there was not a square inch of spare room in my van! I could just barely load the last machine in there.

(I did bring away far more than I should have, probably more than I will ever get around to working on or doing anything with, but I knew it was either take it or see it disposed of; so I took as much as I could, thinking that if nothing else, I’d have some great treasures for my next Great American Garage Clean-Out!)

After loading up my van, I was POOPED. I sat down on the grass in the large back yard and rested for a bit, took a little nap.

When I awoke, I got up and wandered around the store and the grounds, looking at all the vacuum cleaners and imagining the different people who had brought the various machines in for repair. I gazed at the old ads and point-of-purchase displays and imagined people coming in to buy belts and bags or seeking repairs for their Apexes, Bee-Vacs, Cadillacs, Delcos, Eurekas, Filter Queens, General Electrics, Hoovers, Kenmores, Lewyts, Modern Hygienes, norcas, Ohios, Premiers, Royals, Saniways, Torringtons, Universals and Westinghouses. Or to purchase a new Royal or Eureka, the two main brands the store carried in the early days.

Then I went inside and took some photos of Al and Mark, and then I had a long, enjoyable chat with Al as he worked on a Eureka Sanitaire, listening to hilarious anecdotes from the good old days. Mark telling us how he had workled the since he was a boy.

After that, the rest of the guys returned and we pretty much began wrapping the day up.

A few more machines and odds and ends were added to people’s piles, but there was still a TON of stuff left there.

The store will be open until mid-July, so if anyone out there wants to drop by and see if they might want to pick up some goodies, Al welcomes you to “COME ON DOWN.” You can get the phone number and address from the web site link above. What’s left when the store finally closes will be taken by a scrap metal dealer - so, if you can, go on over there and see what you can find.

I want to close this by thanking Marc for iniviting us to Ace Vacuum, and also to thank Al and Mark for having us over. They easily could have just said, “The heck with THAT -- we’re not going to bother with all those nuts!” and just have disposed of everything. Instead, they very graciously allowed us not just to come by but to let us have full run of the place for the entire day. THANKS GUYS!!!

On the following seven pages are photos. Yes, there are a lot of them; even at that, I am not showing but a small fraction of all that was there. But I did have to draw the line somewhere.

PLEASE NOTE: I have not created this set of web pages to “gloat” or “brag” about our adventure and the amazing finds --- but simply to share with everyone our amazement that this treasure trove was still there waiting for collectors to find. This gives us all hope that stuff is still out there waiting to be found!

 


 

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Glendale Treasure Hunt - Photos, Page One
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