Friday, April 18, 2014

Salvation Army Receives Large Donation of Chicken Knick-Knacks

By Charlotte Rudnick, Quilt staff


The Easter Bunny came early to local business leader Salvation Army Family Store near the corner of Roscoe and Canoga in the bustling Rosconoga neighborhood.

“Yeah, someone gave us a lot of ...uh... chicken things,” reports Donation Intake Coordinator Trenice Campbell. “They’re being priced and are going on the shelves as room is available. This is an employees-only area, ma’am, I need you to go back out to the main floor.”

Canoga Park's Salvation Army Family Store, purveyor of porcelain poultry,
thanks to a recent generous donation.  Photo: Parker Glassport for the Quilt.
Those with a penchant for poultry or a fetish for fowl are advised to get there soon as soon as possible to get their pick of the litter flock as these chickens that have come home to roost are now flying off the shelves.

These handsome rooster coffee mugs are $1.95 each. Just the two on the
shelf are available now, but maybe there's more in the back. Staff photo.
“Actually, a lot of it’s been there for a few weeks now, ma’am. Donation came in at the beginning of April,” Campbell mentions. “I’m going to need you to step back, please. Sales floor is out there, ma’am.”

Chickens and roosters and hens, oh my! But what about eggs and baby chicks - items perhaps associated a bit more closely with Easter?

Just a few of the hundreds of wonderful chicken items available right now
at Salvation Army's Canoga Park retail location on Roscoe.  Staff photos.
“Ma’am, we received a large donation, a lot of boxes, we don’t know what’s all in them, so far it’s only been chickens; like I said, we’re opening them up as we get more room on the shelves. Now I’m going to need you to exit this area--”

So where exactly did this cornucopia of cluckers come from? 

Mystery solved!  Staff photo.
“Now ma'am, I can't tell you that. I can't discuss that information with you. That’s information of a confidential nature between the Salvation Army and the people who give to--”

A clipboard of donor receipts  on a nearby stack of cardboard boxes provides the answer.

“Ma’am, that’s not--  You can’t--  Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to give that back.”

* * *

Gwendolyn Lundquist of Granada Hills remembers the first chicken item she ever got. 

“Yes, it was a tin recipe box. It had roosters on it. Someone gave it to me as a housewarming gift when Ed and I moved here in 1962. I must have said I liked it - I mean, it's a gift, what are you going to say? - and then suddenly after that, everyone’s giving me things with chickens on it.

“I actually did like that box, and I used it for years. It matched the color scheme we had back then in the kitchen. But I was never a fan of chickens. They sort of give me the creeps, and I don’t even like the taste of chicken, really, unless it's in a casserole, or chicken salad. But somehow, everyone I know got it into their heads that I collect these things, and every blessed birthday and Christmas and gift-giving event since then, everyone’s giving me chickens.”

Another small sampling of the breathtaking collection. Staff photos.
Such an extensive collection then begs the question: Does each figurine, each decorative plate and tile trivet, each butter dish and salt & pepper shaker set hold a cherished memory for her, of who gave it to her, when, and for what occasion? 

"Nope. After about the tenth identical cookie jar, it's all a blur."

December, 1983: The employee Christmas party in Topanga Plaza's May Co.
store, where Lundquist worked part-time. "I probably got ten of those ridicu-
lous t-shirts that year. Oh, I never wore any of them. They went into a drawer.
Years later, I gave them to Ed to wash the car. " Photo: Gwendolyn Lundquist.

And that first special item that started her treasured collection? 

“My niece Sarah really wanted it so I just gave it to her last year, after she bugged me about it forever. She collected recipe boxes at the time, so I finally let her take it. Then two months later she tells me she decided to just collect pictures of recipe boxes on some internet website, which I don’t even understand. She sold all of the ones she had on eBay, and I would have loved to have mine back. Frankly, that really kind of pissed me off.”

The Box That Launched A Lifelong Obsession: Gwendolyn Lundquist's original
recipe box, by Style-Craft, now resides in a private collection.  Photo: Pinterest
Last year husband Ed passed away and Gwendolyn decided it was time to move. 

“The house is too big for me. I’m moving to a little condo in Thousand Oaks. And I’m finally getting rid of the chickens, all of them, thank God. I’m officially done with it. No more chickens. Period. I still have about twenty-five cartons of this stuff - there wasn't enough room on the truck the first time they came. You said something about the Salvation Army - are you here to pick up the rest of these? Can you at least take a few boxes? You don't even need to bring them there, I don't care. There’s a Dumpster behind Von’s down the street...”

A pair of amorous chickens enjoy a passionate
embrace while a lonely ceramic mermaid won-
ders if she, too, will ever find love. Staff photo.
We left Gwendolyn as she wandered sentimentally among her two dozen boxes of precious memories. Thinking of all those who'd given her so much joy. Through chickens. Remembering the good times that each spoon rest, each scouring pad holder represented. 

* * *

Back at the Salvation Army, there was definitely some lively interest in the amazing collection.

“F_ckeeng look at all this sh_t, man. It’s all f_ckeeng chickens an’ sh_t," exclaims an enthusiastic young man as he tenderly picks up a colorful ceramic bird from the shelf and carefully turns it over in his hands. "Holy sh_t, this one looks like f_ckeeng Heisenberg, my f_ckeeng rooster an’ sh_t.

“F_ckeeng three ninety-five. Naw, man, this ain’t three ninety-five, ha ha!” he laughs as he picks at the price tag with his finger, not unlike a chicken scratching at the ground with its foot. “Aaah, f_ck it, ha ha,” he laughs, as he quickly pulls up his shirt and shoves the rooster into the waistband of his underpants before making a beeline for the door, no doubt heading out to his car to retrieve his forgotten wallet so that he might purchase his newfound treasure.

Meanwhile, a blonde woman in her late 20s glances in the direction of the bric-a-brac shelves and her eyes go wide. 

“Oh my God, Brian, come here!” she says to her companion, a thin young man with a full, bushy beard that would make Fidel Castro green with envy.  “Look at all this chicken stuff! Oh my God - Aunt Gwen’s condo-warming party in Thousand Oaks next Sunday! We have to get her all of this stuff! She is just going to freak!”

And while the young lady’s purchases briefly left some empty spaces on the thrift store’s shelves, there’s still coopfuls of chicken memorabilia available for the plucking: Trenice Campbell reports there’s plenty more for chicken-loving collectors in Canoga Park.

An unopened cheese plate, a ceramic rooster (sold!) and other henabilia are among the
many wonderful items you'll find at our local Salvation Army thrift store. Staff photos.
“I’ve got a truck picking up another 25 boxes of this stuff. I don’t know where I’m going to put it all. We're going to have to start stacking it outside.

"And I’m not going to tell you again, ma’am, you can’t be back here. I will call Security.”

Salvation Army Family Store is located at 21375 Roscoe Boulevard. Open Monday through Saturday 9 am to 8 pm.

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