A Vintage Weekend

Although I’m not an outgoing person and have, for this as well as other reasons, chosen to pursue the lonely craft of writing, I really enjoy going out and doing things. By “things” I mean attending car shows, farmers’ markets, antique shops, or even just going for a drive on a pleasant day. Whenever I go out, interesting things tend to show up; and I’m always fascinated by new and unusual things.

A few weeks ago, my mum and I went to an antiques market in nearby Orillia– markets like these seem few and far between in the area. Given that, I wasn’t expecting anything huge or sophisticated; I was just excited to attend a celebration of everything antique and vintage! But the market was a surprise, it was far more varied and extensive than I expected.

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Some of the first antique stalls, selling everything from midcentury furniture to 19th century hat pins

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There were dozens of stalls, but as my mum and I arrived fairly early in the day, we didn’t have to compete with too many other customers!

My experience at the market was wonderful– everything was so lively and exciting! Antiques offer a glimpse into the past, and thanks to technological advancements and changes in lifestyle over the years, one is bound to find things that just aren’t seen anymore. Those things, like pretty floral chamberpots or antique washboards, are fascinating; but of course all I really look for is anything pertaining to Russia, the Soviet Union, or the military. I never thought that an Ontario antiques market would be a hotspot for such things, but I was very wrong.

I came away from the market with empty pockets, but a handbag full of no less than three Soviet military hats plus about two dozen Soviet pins! I got a great deal for them, and now I have a fabulous collection of pins which I am looking forward to adding to in the future.

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All of these pins came with the hats I bought

The pins are so cool, and I’m slowly trying to research what they all signify. My humble knowledge of Russian has come in handy with that! I do have some favourites, however…

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The BT-7 pin at top left is one of my favourites, and it pays homage to a tank that featured heavily in the Spanish Civil War and Great Patriotic War.

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I got several Victory Day pins, such as this one at the top right, which was created for the 30-year anniversary of the end of the war in Europe in 1945

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My very favourite pin is the gold one at the top, due to its unusual design and the beautiful badge in the centre which reads “USSR” and below, “Victory”

Now onto the hats. I chose one peaked cap with a camouflaged emblem out of a collection of eight or nine brighter versions, because although the others with their red piping and embellished emblems were more attractive, this one could be worn safely anywhere due to its dull colours.

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Usually I only see hats like this in museums, but now I have one of my own!

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According to the label inside, my peaked cap is from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg)

The second hat I got was a real pilotka. It’s like the sidecap utilized by countless militaries across the world, and for me the simple green pilotka is a symbol of the average Russian soldier during the Great Patriotic War. Vainly, I’m quite pleased with my pilotka since one of my novel’s central characters always sports one!

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This is such a beautiful piece of headgear, with the red piping and bold emblem on the front

Last, I got a hat which the seller believed to be from Poland or Eastern Europe, instead of specifically Russia. Nonetheless, it came with the distinctive Russian coat of arms on the front and Russian badges on the side. It’s a very functional hat as the flaps on the top fold down over the wearer’s ears; and it looks very familiar to me. I may have seen it in a book somewhere!

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The camouflage pattern and style of the hat makes me think it may be from around the ’60s or ’70s

When I go to antique shops and markets, I’m always excited to see vintage rhinestone jewellery and the like– but in the back of my mind, I’m just waiting to find something military. Usually it happens, but it’s still always a surprise, and I’m so grateful to have found so many treasures so close to home!

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