Take a Peek at This Canadian’s Impressive Antique Collection!

Alan Hermitage’s antique collection includes thousands of books, bottles and other Canadian items lost to history.

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Alan Hermitage
Photo: Darlene Lawson

Check out this Canadian’s amazing antique collection

In his own words Alan Hermitage admits, “I’m a show-off and I love it, but I mean that in a good way!” And indeed, those words are true, for anyone who knows Alan knows that his joy in life is filling every little nook and cranny of his world with items he can show off.

Born in Rexton, N.B., and raised in Moncton, he spent most of his summer vacations with family here in Kent County, N.B. It was his love for the area that brought him back as a teacher in 1972. His first teaching job was in the First Nations community of Big Cove, which was later renamed Elsipogtog. In 1973, he joined the staff at Richibucto Junior High, and later worked at our local high school, Bonar Law Memorial School, before retiring in 2001.

When Alan was 14, he met Margaret Hicks of Lutes Mountain, N.B. Both were students at Harrison Trimble High School when Alan asked Margaret the big question: “I am going on a bottle dig—do you want to come with me?” Margaret replied, “Sure,” and then asked, “What’s a bottle dig?” And, as you might say, the rest is history. They were married in 1970, and their family extended to three children. Their mutual interest in antiquing grew to include thousands upon thousands of some beautiful, some charming, some unique, and some very odd items.

Thanks to Alan’s preoccupation with studying things of the past, the family spent many holidays scouting out the best treasures in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. When they returned from a vacation, Alan would jump in his pickup truck and retrace their journey, returning home with a truckload of new items.

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Stoneware bottles
Photo: Darlene Lawson

Reconnecting with happy memories

Today, he has endless amounts of collector items housed at his shop in Rexton and at his mother’s place…including 450 yardsticks. What, might you ask, would be the reason for that? Well, they are not just any yardsticks: They each represent a long-ago era, revealing history through the years. He also has 500 cups and saucers, teapot collections, Royal collections, and probably about 10,000 books, just to name a few objects of his fancy. One of his most-treasured items of all is a wooden shovel from A.J. Richard’s former store in Rexton.

Of his many collections, the one he remembers most fondly is the one that really got him started—a bottle dig that his mother initiated. She always encouraged Alan in his pursuits, and one day asked a store owner in Berry Mills, N.B., if they could search his rock pile for old bottles. The owner gave her permission to do so and, during the dig, Alan uncovered 23 stoneware ginger-beer bottles. It was instant gratification for Alan. He stood them on the shelves in his father’s basement and so began his collection of collections. In 1984, he sold his bottle collection, which had increased in size to 200 items by then, to finance his endeavour to return to the University of New Brunswick and earn his Industrial Arts diploma.

“From an early age I was always interested in collecting and searching for pieces of history,” Alan says. “It is what I love. I am addicted to everything that pertains to the past, and I dislike plastic with a passion. I have an endless array of debris that no one in their right mind would ever want to keep. The joy of going through boxes and finding what is there is where I get my high.

“People who visit Rexton drop into my shop for the experience of antiquing. A lot of people come from away, as far as Europe, and a great many locals visit regularly. They look for things that are no longer available, things from the past, and to reconnect with happy memories that make them feel good along their journey of life.”

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Antique wall-mounted key holders
Photo: Darlene Lawson

Saving unique items from destruction

Alan has a long history with the antique shop that he still owns in Rexton. “When Margaret and I first settled here, we went to Christmas Eve service at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church. A few days later, the pastor visited and invited us to attend the church on a regular basis. Margaret said yes, and as the years went by, our three children were baptized there, and our son was buried from there. When the church eventually closed, it deteriorated quickly. One day when we were driving by Margaret asked, ‘Why don’t you buy the church and fix it up?’ So I did. Then, I was faced with the question of what to do with the empty building—well, of course, you make an antique shop out of it! I do crazy things, like filling my shop to the rafters with stuff that is going to outlive me. But, as I have done with the church itself, I can’t resist saving unique items from destruction.”

Always waiting for the flash of intrigue as he travels the back roads of Atlantic Canada, Alan plans to continue collecting, stating: “What else would I do with my time!”

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Originally Published in Our Canada

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