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Hear Here: Unexpected treasure at the Alemany Flea Market


The Alemany Flea Market is a San Francisco institution.  Every Sunday, vendors of useless knickknacks and pricey treasures set-up their wares in the dirt lot along Alemany Boulevard under the 280 underpass. And then they wait for the right buyer to come along. As part of our place profile series, KALW’s Penina Eilberg-Schwartz headed to the market to ask people about what this long-running market means to them.

PENINA EILBERG-SCHWARTZ: I’ve been a customer at the Saturday Alemany Farmer’s Market for years.

When I found out that this same dirt lot – the one that's filled with vegetables and flowers on Saturdays – was transformed into a flea market on Sundays, I decided I had to go. I really love librarians, and collectors, and people who see the value in things that most wouldn’t think twice about – vintage license plates, toys from the 1930s, or musical instruments from the Philippines. The Alemany Flea Market - I heard - was a good place to look for people like that. The thing about the market, though, is that you never know what you’re going to find, even if you know exactly what it is you’re looking for. 

This place, even with all the change of new people coming through and goods changing hands, has become an important site of community for people. One man...

ANTHONY JAMES DAHER: Anthony James Daher... "Tony" to my friends!

EILBERG-SCHWARTZ: ...told me a story that's about community, but also the importance of asking where things come from. I spotted a music box on his table and he told me the story of how it got there.

DAHER: It’s a very heavy brass piano, probably, handmade before, or – how would you call it – hand-cast, you know, in a mold. The song, I’m not sure, it might be “One Summer Night” or something like that. I can’t remember what the name of the song is. The guys, these old flea-market dealers that used to live on the hill over there in my neighborhood, Vienna street…actually their home address is the same as mine, only two blocks up…

Well, coming to the Flea Market and selling – this was 10 years ago – being a newbie...I guess he just introduced himself to me, probably. He was like a lot of these people that go through and buy things from other people in the morning, so that’s something he was doing. I would see him drive by, because being in the same neighborhood you drive by, and his car was loaded with stuff all the time, and I’d just kind of nod, you know, 'Hey, how’re you doing? Joe Rodriguez was his name.'

He, um, passed away in a fire. And this came from his sister. A lot of this stuff came from his sister. These clocks…Because I knew him, they allowed me to have as much of the stuff that I wanted that they weren’t going to keep. It was very sweet of her giving all this stuff to me, so I appreciated it.   Thank you, Joe.

What’s a place in your neighborhood that means something to you – and why? Our Hear Here community storytelling project wants to know the answer. If you’ve got a story of a significant place, visit the Participate page at www.hearkere.kalw.org and tell it to us!

You can also find the project on Facebook and follow it on Twitter at @hearhereradio.

Hear Here is part of a national initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, Inc designed to bring new journalistic and technical ingenuity to extending public media service to more Americans. From Chinese restaurants in Boston, to shuttered factories in Dayton, to the oil fields of North Dakota, to Bay Area startups, the ten Localore production teams are working with their public station incubators to uncover ground-up stories of America in transition. Follow their development, and learn more at Localore.net.