Objects of Desire: Nostalgia

From the December 27, 2011 edition

I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I’d argue that the popularity of shopping vintage and thrift stores, which skyrocketed when the economy nosedived, is more than just a cost-saving measure, an eco-friendly gesture or an attempt to be hip or ironic.

The less obvious benefit of buying old stuff is that it makes us feel like things are going to be OK. Seeing the past through rose-colored glasses (preferably a plastic rimmed, ’70s-era pair) is especially rewarding in a time when the future feels so precarious.

I was trying to find a way to best describe nostalgia, but it found me at Petro Annie’s in the form of a tiny wooden wall hanging that read, “Nostalgia is recalling the fun without reliving the pain.”

Petro Annie’s is in an old house and garage just west of some railroad tracks on Weber Road in Clintonville (595 E. Weber Rd.). The building is easy to miss, and it looks defunct from the road, but inside is the nucleus of nostalgic shopping in Columbus.

The store, opened by proprietor and storytelling savant Norm Oakes in the early ‘80s, houses old records, old cars, old posters, old pinups, old taxidermy, old everything.

Petro Annie’s doesn’t advertise, really. There’s no Petro Annie’s website. You won’t find them on Facebook. Just word of mouth, like the good old days.

“The good old days.” Why do we say that? The old days weren’t that good. Why do shoppers flock to this crap? Why can I not get enough of things that smell like moth balls?!

As I wished for justification, again, like my very own Zoltar, Petro Annie’s led me to my answer. There I found an old button with a photo of Tommy Sands (I didn’t have cash, so I’ll be going back to buy it soon). Sands sang a song in 1957 called “Teenage Crush.” It had the same theme as Katy Perry’s 2010 “Teenage Dream” and includes the line “all they say is this young generation is just not the way it used to be.”

The people who were there when this old stuff was new struggled, lost, made mistakes and bad music, too. But they also loved, lived and worked through the bumps.

And if you can eke that sense of security out of a purchase of an old lunchbox, it makes you feel better than any $1,000 handbag ever could.

Objects of Desire is a bi-weekly column that explores the items Columbus shoppers crave. Follow Jackie Mantey on Twitter at @Jackie_Mantey.