Monday, July 6, 2009

Delta Dawn?

In her younger days they called her Delta Dawn
Prettiest woman you ever laid eyes on ...

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I frequently refer to items I’ve purchased at estate (tag) sales. I love going to them. I feel the excitement rising as I approach one. I have to remind myself to “please keep your seat belt fastened until the plane, I mean car, comes to a complete stop.”

I’ve been to a LOT of them. I can almost always find some little something to take home and treasure, but they’re definitely a mixed bag. The ones I like least seem to be little more than moving/garage sales.

At one of those “just OK” sales, one of the workers told me “the next one’s going to be in Brownsville, and it’s going to be a GOOD one.” When I mentioned it to a friend later, she said “That’s Delta Dawn’s house, you know!” I didn’t know. Do you remember the song, “Delta Dawn,” made famous by, among others, Helen Reddy, Tanya Tucker, and Bette Midler?

I did know that the man who wrote it was from Brownsville, Tennessee. I’ve heard him (Alex Harvey) perform the song. True or not, the idea that the house had “a history” added to its mystique.

I was familiar with the neighborhood – some of the most impressive old homes in Brownsville. This one appeared deceptively modest from the street. Up close, the quality was apparent; it just wasn’t as grand in scale as some of its neighbors. The sale was advertised as being the possessions of three generations of the same family – one of those “fine old Southern families” -- socially prominent, cultured, well-educated. By the time the last inhabitant died, the sole heir was in a faraway state and wanted none of the contents of the house. The instructions were to sell everything.

The sale attracted a HUGE crowd. Cars lined the surrounding streets for blocks and blocks. People were standing in a long line to enter the house (and I later learned, in a long line to pay and leave). The large backyard was packed with people filing past long rows of tables piled high with lesser items that had been moved outside. I picked up a set of vintage damask dinner napkins, a box of ribbons, and a small silver tray. I asked about a large concrete urn next to the house (filled with old dirt and dried remains of a plant). I knew the worker; he said I could have it for $25 … “if that’s OK.” I thought it was a good value compared to garden center prices (and this one was pre-patina’d!).

It saddened me to see old, yellowed pieces of sheet music blowing about in the warm, late-Spring breeze. I picked up some of them; they were from the early 1900’s. There were old family photographs – some had writing on the back identifying the subjects. One of the women was so beautiful I almost took her home to give her a place of honor among my own ancestors.

As I was waiting to pay, a woman I know came up behind me. She and I cross paths frequently (never before at an estate sale). She’s tall, blonde, patrician-looking. I asked her about the Delta Dawn rumor. She smiled and answered, “Well, Alex always said she was a composite of women he’d known – mostly based on his own mother.” Then her eyes sparkled as she leaned forward and whispered in a conspiratorial tone “But everything about this family fits perfectly.” I decided to accept that as sworn testimony from an expert witness.

I only bought one item inside. Most of the antiques had already sold. I heard that three sets of sterling flatware were snapped up within the first ten minutes of the sale. I picked up one little monogrammed sterling ladle. It was $17. I don’t know if it was a bargain or not, and, for once, I didn’t care.

I like owning Delta Dawn’s silver spoon.


The houses above are in the neighborhood, but not the house where the sale was held.
If you like, I could do a walking photo tour of the historic district this fall.
What do you think?
Just in case you want to hear the song:

Helen Reddy - Delta Dawn
Uploaded by newcanadian. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

This one has more of a gospel flavor:

Shania Twain (1993)
Uploaded by Rortwain. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.


  1. Very beautiful, but where are the damask dinner napkins?! There is a special place in my heart for beautiful napkins and vintage pillowcases. :)

  2. I would love a tour of the old homes. They are so grand and so gorgeous. We don't have any like that in AZ. Just a lot of old adobe homes, not the Southern Historic type. Love your finds. They are all gorgeous. Hugs, Marty

  3. Great post! I love that you bought Delta Dawn's silver spoon. :)


  4. Did the folks 'round Brownsville always call her crazy? Funny thing about these 3 generation family homes--they usually hold secrets :) This song always made me sad. Take care of her spoon!

  5. WOW & WOW. I am a huge fan of the song but I have always thought Tanya's was the stronger of all of them. Maybe it was her fearlessness. Who knows. I like helen reddy too. What a fantastic find. You can always look back fondly and think, "gosh, I have a piece of delta dawn history". I like the urn you snagged as well. Good trade if you ask me.

    Thanks for having me and I hope you stop by for a visit.

  6. Bill, that is a fascinating story, and yes, I would love to see a walking tour of the district. It is beautiful.

    I'm so glad that you got a piece of Delta Dawn's silver, and even if the story wasn't the complete truth, I'm sure the piece still has a history. Silver is like that, you know. ;-)

    Thanks for sharing...


    Sheila :-)

    P.S. The urn is great, too!

  7. My youngest daughter sang Delta Dawn, when she was a tiny little thing. She sang it every time she was in the car! Now her children, ages 3 and 4 years old, sing Delta Dawn. We think that is a hoot!

    I love the monogrammed spoon. I know I would have brought it home, if given the chance!

    Wonderful post!

    Pat@Back Porch Musings

  8. Bill I would have loved to seen this house in person...there is just something about these Old dames that is wonderful...Loved the story and the ladle..May you have a great day...Hugs and smiles Gl♥ria

  9. Great story! Yes, yes, yes...a walking, don't make me beg! :-)
    How come I never find estate sales like that!?

  10. Bonjour Bill,
    It's a pleasure to visit your blog. You're living in a delightful neighborhood. And yes, it would be great if you could post more pics of those old houses. I love them.
    Do you have a web site where you show your artworks ? :o)

  11. Bill,
    I remember Delta Dawn vividly and love you stumbled upon this neat connection. That ladle is a great “quality bargain” and the fact it has a monogram is the icing on the cake. Thank you again for your kind help concerning my blog. I am once again a 3 column blog on all browsers after much behind the scenes tinkering!

  12. Bill,
    I also remember that song, how great you could visit the house and bring home a little piece of it with you. Here in the west we don't have those wonderful old homes, in our town if anything gets too old they tear it down! I visited Boston once and thats one of the things I loved about it, seeing those beautiful old homes! You are very 'Pro'ficient and blogging already, I'm enjoying your blogsite very much! Have a great day. Suzie

  13. Thanks for the tour. Yes Please - Do a walking tour and share it with us. :-) Love those old homes like that. Like they say "if walls could talk". Like the spoon and urn.

  14. Just found your blog, and I love the story! Off to read more posts.

  15. Bill, I'm sorry my old blog keeps coming up on the comments, just wanted to let you know the new blogsite, it's the one I'm on most now!
    Thanks again for stopping by!

  16. You really know how to tell a story, Bill! Love the neighborhood & I'm fun that was a neat sale to attend, even if there weren't a lot of bargains. That old time-worn urn is great. And yes, do a tour of the historic area. That's always interesting. Thank you for coming by to see me!

  17. Bill, What a great story. I must say that you're a great writer and seem to have mastered blogging in such a short length of time. Keep up the great posts!

  18. Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience. Who cares if it wasn’t a steal. Not only did you get a usable item but an item that comes along with a great story! I love antique pictures too. I love thinking up stories about what their life was like when the picture was taken.

  19. Hi Bill, I remember Delta Dawn, the Helen Reddy version. I even remember some of the lyrics! Very charming post, thanks for the tour!

  20. A sterling ladle for $17 sounds like a bargain to me, not to mention it's pedigree! I used to go tag sale-ing, but hadn't been in awhile. I happened upon a few this weekend and stopped. Not sure what I'm doing with my purchases, but you never know when they'll turn up. Continue having fun! - The Tablescaper

  21. I'm glad I clicked on the "here" and read this, enjoyed it a lot!