Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Classified advertising addicts are bit like prospectors. We will go past the obvious places and peep under rocks looking for the finds that could change our lives.
While a lot of things about modern society are "in your face", the classifieds abound in little nooks and crannies that many overlook.
The satisfaction of finding a bargain in the sea of grey is a great reward for the effort. The classifieds reflect a lot about the essential nature of reading and writing, where the smaller details can end up as the most important.
In a profile-type story in a local paper a few years back, for instance, I recorded the subject’s birthplace. The two words put him in touch with his "old high school teacher" who was living in the same suburb. A cluster of people from the town, in fact, had moved into the teacher’s street.
"Where were you born?" is one of the best questions for opening up pathways to the real stories. I usually ask this after a member of the classified community unlocks for me the door to their hopes and dreams.
More about later. Today’s post, which dates from March 2002 in the Gladstone Observer, focuses on the fossicking …

MANY surprises are buried in the small print of classified advertising.
Forget all the tantalising little bits such as "I am not responsible for the debts incurred in my name" and the titillating (your choice of category).
Just concentrate on the garage sale ads.
A recent Observer notice worked its way through bar fridges, rotary hoe and furniture before dropping the notable name, Mercedes Benz, for a surprise touch of class.
The car is the property of a Byfield Road couple who have moved into a three-bedroom house from a five-bedroom at Emu Park.
"I bought the car for my wife about two years ago but we don’t need it now," Don McNeil, semi retired, says.
The $17,000 car, 1987 model, was still available early this week but the McNeils sold "about three quarters of the stuff".
Don says the sale went fairly well considering "this road is a dead-end and there’s not a lot of traffic" so the Checkout notice played a key role.
Another car popped up after silky oak wardrobe and windows, french doors, colonial shelf, household items, pottery wheel and kiln. This time, a Ford Prefect.
The address was St Barnabas Anglican Church, Little Musgrave Street, and my inquiry on the church’s number led to Des Houghton.
Des said the old car belonged to Father Chris Desgrand, who had been the St Barnabas priest for 11 years but would be on a sabbatical for about six months.
The congregation was awaiting word from the diocesan office on Father Desgrand’s replacement.
Des understood the Prefect was still available early this week several days after the ad appeared.
Last year I spoke with a country builder who tacked three letters, 4WD, on to an ad for surplus timber.
He was delighted that the vehicle sold at 7am on publication day. The timber failed to attract a call.

This blog celebrates the 25th anniversary of Classie Corner, which over the years has appeared (sometimes briefly) in the following newspapers in New South Wales and Queensland: Kempsey, Mid-Coast Observer; Coffs Harbour Advocate, Grafton Examiner; Lismore, Northern Star; Tweed Daily News; Ipswich, Queensland Times; Toowoomba Chronicle; Sunshine Coast Daily and Sunday; Gladstone Observer, Rockhampton Bulletin; Bayside Bulletin; and Redland Times (current home).
The flashbacks and reprints come from incomplete archives after a vandal at one of my workplaces trashed a folder containing hundreds of columns from authorised storage.
This left some columns on my home computer and a box of undated tearouts and uncorrected proofs that I had flung into the backs of cupboards, apparently anticipating such a surreptitious attack.
The attitude of some journalists to Classie Corner has been disappointing.
They have been quite happy to poach story leads from classified advertising for generations but when one of their "family" does something to repay the debt, jibes have included, "Why would a journalist want to write plugs for classified ads, of all things?"
One would expect those entrusted with doing some thinking on behalf of the community would look a little deeper.
Another time, I was writing as many as nine columns a week on top of a demanding fulltime job at a daily newspaper.
After surviving on a gruelling regimen for about a year I lamented that I was "feeling the pinch" from all the hard work. My family life and health were suffering. A colleague who overheard the comment piped up, "So you reckon you work hard … you call Classie Corner work … really?"
Enough of the bitterness from the past. All that is behind me now. Times and circumstances have changed. Classie Corner has "done a Lazarus".

More about the philosophy and the history appears in the early posts. Those who stick with this blog in the days, weeks, months and years to come will get a smile or two along with insights into a marvellous community. Feedback to

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