SEVENTY YEARS ANTIQUING AND STILL GOING STRONG!
The Story of Barbara & Harlan Parsons
When dealers and collectors shop the Medford Armory Antiques & Vintage Sale Benefitting DOGS for better LIVES,
Barbara and Harlan Parsons, Medford OR are always there with youthful smiles and a spectacular display, specializing in
country kitchen primitives. Avid collectors since the 1950's, the Parsons will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on
November 19, 2019. They met in 1949 at a 4th of July Carnival at Port Hueneme, CA (near Oxnard) where Harlan’s ship
was stationed in harbor. He was nineteen and Barbara, still in school was sixteen. Four months later they married and
became life long soul mates, building a wonderful life together and pursuing their passion for antiques. Discharged from
the Navy in 1951, Harlan worked as a foreman at Oxnard Glass Company for thirty-eight years. Barbara went to work
packing lemons in a lemon house. When their son, Steven was born in 1952, Barbara became a stay-at-home Mom.
The Parsons’ passion for collecting antiques began “when we fell in love with a fourteen-inch coffee grinder, bought it and
from then on really went all out collecting, a bit of everything, mostly tinware, we saw one thing then another!” says
Barbara. They started out with a space in an antique mall in Ventura CA “with ritzy stuff and a few primitives,” says
Barbara. In 1977, when a building across the street became available, the owners of the “ritzy stuff shop” encouraged
them to open their own Shop, and “the rest is history.” Once they opened their Shop in the 1970's, they also sold for a
while at the iconic Rose Bowl (one of California’s largest swap meets.) While running their shop in Ventura for seventeen
years, they became good friends with many long time customers. Their Shop was so successful that Harlan eventually
quit his “day job” so he could do refinishing and help run the Shop. They continued to be known for their country kitchen
primitives. They began traveling a lot to shop for antiques, closing their Shop Sunday through Tuesday and even a week
at a time. Their antiquing journeys took them as far north as Washington, an eleven hundred mile journey! They also had
a “great picker from back East who sold to them,” says Barbara. “We’d visit shops, shows, always buying!” In 1989 the
Parsons decided to make a major life change, closed their shop in Oxnard CA, relocating to Medford OR in 1991. “We got
rid of everything, had a BIG sale, moved up there, then ‘twiddled our thumbs’ so decided to open a space at Main Antique
Mall in Medford,” says Barbara. After five years, they switched to 6th Street Antiques in Grants, Pass OR, owned by
Carmen and Yvonne Herrala who are also dealers at the current Medford Armory Show. When the Herralas retired and
closed their shop, the Parsons starting doing shows. In 1997, the Parsons took part in their first Show at the Medford
Armory with S.O.A.C.C. (Southern Oregon Antiques & Collectibles Club.) Shortly after, they also began doing Phyllis Bear’
s Medford Armory Antique Show Benefitting DOGS for the DEAF (now called DOGS for better LIVES), promoted by Carole
Berry of Twin Bridges Antique Productions since 2008. In their early days in Oregon, the Parsons also did out-of-state
shows, but now only Loleta CA and the biannual Show at the Medford Armory.
After almost seventy years, the Parsons still have a passion for collecting. Tinware is still Barbara’s favorite. Harlan has
always had a passion for coffee memorabilia, i.e., signs, tins, grinders and wooden ware. “There’s not too much we don’t
care for! When people say it’s a disease [collecting] it really is! It gets in your blood, you’re always looking. Sometimes
its always out there if you look. If you look at a whole Show, you can find the neatest stuff. Sometimes you find
something you’ve been looking for for years, and there it is! Sometimes you see something and aren’t sure if you really
like it. It may not be there ever again, just depends on the item, so if you really want it, get it, you may never see it again
at any price! Most dealers and collectors know that part of collecting is looking for the unusual and eventually you do find
it!” says Barbara.
“Graniteware used to be very popular, not so much now. You don’t see books and magazines. When we had our Shop,
everyone read the magazines and asked for those things. Books help a lot. If I love something, I read up about it. Antique
books are interesting,” says Barbara. Pursuing her passion for kitchenware, “years ago we didn’t have all of these
‘electric things’, there was a gadget for everything! You had to start from scratch in the old days, that’s what I like about
kitchenware, its interesting, fun to read about” says Barbara.
With their 70th Anniversary coming up in November, the Parsons plan on continuing to keep going as long as they can.
Their son, Steven is a big help. “Collecting antiques, you meet the nicest people on this earth, people we never would
have met. Harlan and I have a lot of nice memories,” says Barbara. The Parsons like to have their cherished collectibles
out where they can see them at home. “It’s nice we both like the same kind of stuff, not always the case” says Barbara.
One part of their kitchen is like a country store, so they can see and enjoy their many treasures collected over the years.
The Parsons will take part in the May 16, 17 and October 17, 18, 2020 Antiques & Vintage Sale at the
Medford Armory Benefitting DOGS for better LIVES. As always, they will be there with youthful smiles
and a fabulous selection of kitchenware and country collectibles.