Fine-tuned flea market: Muster draws crowd

In addition to firefighting competitions and antique fire apparatus, the annual Engine 260 Fire Muster includes a unique kind of flea market — a fire-themed flea market.

Fire-themed flea markets aren’t unheard of, some of the dozen vendors said as they sold their wares Saturday at the muster at Eisenhower Park.

In fact, many of the vendors spend their time traveling to the various fire musters and similar events around the Northeast setting up their temporary shops.

While non-firefighting items could be found for sale, the majority was clearly of a firefighting nature. There was a firefighter-shaped garden fountain, firefighting flags, windsocks, helmets, hose connectors, fire extinguishers and GI Joes dressed as firemen.

There was even a photo of Moe, Larry and Curly — the Three Stooges — portraying firefighters in one of their episodes.

Stacie and Ray O’Connell run, and they came from Yantic Saturday for the Milford flea market. The couple got into the specialized line of business because Ray was a fire chief and a volunteer and, like many firefighters, developed a like for fire-themed memorabilia.

“There are a lot of people from firefighting families who come looking for these things,” Stacie said. “People come with their Christmas lists.”

She said the Milford muster always provides a steady and consistent stream of customers.

The different vendor tables offered an array of fire-themed T-shirts, toys, music boxes, mugs and calendars.

Hot sellers included small cast iron vehicles, many of them fire themed, that Russell Haloon was selling. Haloon drove 2.5 hours from Tewksbury, Mass., to sell his wares at the local fire muster.

Haloon has been a toy collector since he was a child, and many of the toys in his vast collection are fire themed.

“When I was a kid, I’d get my allowance and then go buy a Matchbox car,” he said, pointing to a table filled with unopened toy cars from his youth. They were selling for $2 Saturday, which was great for children who wanted to buy something at the event, and a good deal for him because he said he probably paid no more than $1 for them when they were new.

Collectors focus on different branches of any given collectible item, and Haloon, being a firefighting buff, bought fire-themed collectibles.

He decided to start selling his vast collection 13 years ago so he could use the money to travel.

There are fire-themed flea markets held all over the country at different times of the year, so he has a regular stream of customers.

Around one bend of the flea market, there was a fire department telephone, axes and more T-shirts.

Martha Butz could be found in that area selling hose nozzles and couplings and a lot of other fire-themed things she’s collected over the years.

She didn’t, however, bring her two fire trucks — a 1945 Mack and a 1981 Hahn. Those are keepers, and they stayed at home.

This was her first time participating in a flea market. She has a lot of merchandise because her husband, Ronald Butz, is fire commissioner in the Nichols section of Trumbull. Her son is a firefighter, and her daughter was a firefighter.

She’s been collecting for 42 years, and is now selling a range of items, from $5 Matchbox cars to a $300 Mac fire extinguisher that she said is “hard to find.”

She’s planning on doing her second show Oct. 13 in Stockbridge, Mass.

Wayne and Lucy Crossman have been setting up a table at the Milford muster for about 10 years. They both have ties to the Easton Fire Department — Lucy is now deputy fire marshal and Wayne is a volunteer.

They only sell at the Milford muster, and they are mostly items the couple has collected over the years from tag sales, flea markets and auctions.

“We sell so we can buy more stuff,” Lucy said.

There’s a long line of firefighters in the family, so part of their house is clearly fire-themed decorated, Lucy said.