Having set up as a vendor each year since the Third Annual VFW Labor Day Gun Show and Flea Market, Edna Montgomery will celebrate her 46th consecutive year at the Hillsville show in 2015.
Things have changed so much over the years, Montgomery said there were just two tables set up outside the VFW building when she first starting coming. Of course, the show quickly exploded, eventually becoming one of the biggest flea markets east of the Mississippi River.
“We lived close by and the children wanted some clothes for school, so I said ‘Let’s go to the Gun Show.’ I missed the first two, but have been coming every year since,” Montgomery said. “When we first went, people parked where it was graveled across there to visit the inside. There were only two outside tables. They started adding more and more tables and then people had to find a parking place after so many years. They just kept adding on and adding on and it started to explode.”
Montgomery, who joked she will “turn 84 backwards” just prior to this year’s Labor Day show, sells costume jewelry and antique-type dishes. She said she has gained a following over the many years of repeat customers and “people who come by to see what kind of hats I have on.”
“I am a people watcher and I just enjoy being there. Last year one girl came back and said ‘I know you think I am crazy, but my friend was here yesterday and said you would have a different hat on. She said she wanted me to take a picture of you,’” Montgomery said. “I try to wear a different hat every day and I have some doozies. I just enjoy being there. You forget about your aches and pains for a while.”
The Annual VFW Labor Day Gun Show & Flea Market has become a bit of a family tradition for Montgomery. After her husband, Brooks Montgomery, passed away, she said her son Mason starting helping her. Now Mason sets up just around the corner from Edna as he sells “primitive” items such as old mop buckets, water bags, scout items and other wares.
“My daughters, Bonnie Montgomery and Bonita Williams, have helped me at times, and my granddaughter, Allison Dalton, has also helped me at the Flea Market,” Montgomery said. “I have had a lot of fun down there and met a lot of good people. And the VFW in all those years has really been good to me and helped me out when necessary. They are very helpful down there. I always take some extra chairs so my friends can visit and so people who have walked too much can sit down. It has been fun.”
Montgomery said the annual flea market used to be a breeze to set up because the family lived three houses down from the show. Plus, there weren’t anywhere near as many dealers as there are now.
“I just remember two tables and we were on the side that goes on the side door facing the building. We were on the left and the other table was two boys selling leather belts,” she said. “Inside was mostly guns. We started on the cement side when we first went and it was too hot there, so we moved spots. Our spot now, just as you enter the main entrance for the VFW, is our third spot. John Martin gave me that spot when he passed away about 20 years ago.”
She said many of the vendors become like a big family over the years. She’ll never forget the generosity three fellow vendors, in particular, showed her recently to help her get out of the sun.
“We had a small space and didn’t think we could find a tent to cover it. During one flea market these three guys, Danny, Billy and Robbie, they met me at the door and told me they had something for me if I would accept it. They made me a tent cover for my space,” Montgomery said. “We are kind of like family. That was something else. It was just unbelievable. They set up the poles and did everything. I am still using it. That is what you call a good friend.”
A Hillsville resident, Montgomery said she doesn’t make much at the Flea Market. It’s more something see does to have fun and to make many new friends. It’s something she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“I am going to do it as long as I can get in there,” she said.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN