My flea market pal Phyllis and I went on an expedition to Brookville, Indiana, last Wednesday morning. White’s Flea Market has been in business there since 1968. The flea market is held every Wednesday on their 260 acre farm and draws up to 400 vendors and 6000 customers in the peak summer season. If urban shopping malls did this well, the recession would end in a day. It takes 45 minutes to get there. We set out at 7 a.m., and even with what seems like an early start the parking lot was jammed when we arrived. The flea market is actually a minor side operation to the White family’s main business of real estate and property auctions ($10 million per year). After the market closes around noon they hold a livestock auction on the grounds.
I mention all of this because Brookville is one of my favorite trip destinations. The flea market is unlike anything in Cincinnati, and, for an urban-dweller, it’s like visiting a faraway place, rooted in the past. This is rural Indiana farm country, and there are few commercial vendors. A lot of the merchandise is what you might expect from farm or small town households, e.g., tools, tires, household items of all sorts, antiques, toys, knicknacks, CDs, produce, puppies, ducks, and chickens. Phyllis looks for vintage jewelry, and I look for old postcards or photographs. We always have good luck. There are lots of rifles and hunting equipment, also lots of knives. You can get rocks, seashells, and deer antlers. Occasionally you’ll run across esoteric memorabilia like Ku Klux Klan documents, Nazi swastikas, or confederate flags. Amish families sell cheese and baked goods. There are a couple of African vendors, though the crowd, like the population of Franklin County, is at least 99% white. I’m sure there’s some proportion of Cincinnatians who drive out on Wednesday morning, but mostly you hear southern Indiana drawls. You feel like you’ve found the inner heartland of America.
I’ve put some photos below which give you a sense of the flea market scene. I found taking public photos difficult. There were dozens of individuals whose image I would have liked to capture, but I was reluctant to ask them directly and nervous about eliciting negative reactions, so I relied on quick, unobtrusive shots from a distance. Though less than ideal, the pictures will give you some feel for the Brookville Flea.