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Saturday 13 Jul 2024

Hidden Treasure
AJ Robinson

When you think of Orlando, you tend to focus on the theme parks: Disney World, Universal, and SeaWorld. Well, there are some places beyond the city limits that are worth a look. Up, northwest of Orlando is the quiet community of Mount Dora; it's chiefly known for its fruit, and its annual art festival. Well, its other hidden treasure is its flea market, and this is no open-air, small-scale place. The building is sort of E-shaped, but with four "prongs" instead of three, and the main shops are in the vertical part of the "E." This is also the area with air conditioning. The other parts are roofed, but not really enclosed; so they can get a bit warm. Beyond the "E" are other covered stores, and then the true open-air stuff.

When it comes to shopping, you can find just about anything at the Mt. Dora Flea Market. The stores there carry everything from vacuums to videos, toys to paintings, groceries to potted plants; and their prices are incredible. Out in the open-air area is where the true bargains are, but you do have to hunt for them. We've seen antique furniture (badly in need of restoring!), whaling harpoons, and even an old lobster trap there.

The flea market isn't the only thing to peak your interest. Right next door is Renninger's Antiques. Like the flea market, it's a collection of stores - some in the main building, and some out in their own little shacks or cottages. Once again, they've got just about anything you could ever want or need in order to deck out your house.

It was at Renninger's that my wife Jo Ann and I found our own hidden treasure. We were never ones for fancy furniture or grandfather clocks. Of all things, we like antique toys. I got Jo started on them. Back when we were dating, we went to an estate sale in Englewood, Florida. An elderly spinster had passed away, and she'd had some toys for her nephew to play with when he came to visit. Well, among them was a "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" game from the 1930's. As it was a rather "girl's game", he'd never bothered with it; so it was in pristine condition. I bought it for $20. Jo never understood why, until we went to Disney World on our honeymoon, and she saw the same game there for a whole lot more! After that, we both looked for old toys.

Well, this one time, we happened upon a store that had some toys. Most weren't much of anything, but back on an upper shelf was this one little item that caught my eye. It was a Tinkertoy, in perfect condition! For me, it held very special memories. Growing up, I was the youngest of five boys. That had certain pluses, and minuses. When you're the baby of the family, you do have some perks. Yet, there is one little drawback: you tend to get hand-me-down toys. So, I never had a real Tinkertoy, not a complete one.

That day, I got my Tinkertoy. Ever since, we've been regular patrons of the flea Market and Renninger's. Some days we find real treasures, and others we just have fun. The point is; we're never disappointed.

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Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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