Today we in the UK tend to think of car boot sales as a particularly British phenomenon even though their popularity has spread all over Europe and Australia. The USA and Canada have similar events too although they call them by different names, Flea Markets, Swap Meets, Garage Sales and Driveway Sales for example. In fact the idea seems to have come to Britain from Canada.
The British car boot movement, I think its growth over the years has been of sufficient speed and magnitude to call it that, apparently owes its origin to a Catholic parish priest from Stockport, Cheshire, Father Harry Clarke. It seems Fr. Clarke had been on holiday in Canada in the early 1970s and there he had come across one of events. Being a priest it's likely that thoughts of fund-raising were never far from his mind and no doubt he saw the potential in something that was obviously bigger and gave more scope than a jumble sale!
Sometime after returning to the UK and his parish duties Fr. Harry apparently got a team together and organised what is believed to have been Britain's first ever car boot sale. Unless you know different of course! I haven't been able to establish the actual date of the sale or indeed the actual site. It seems logical to assume that it would have been in the parish served by Fr. Clarke somewhere in the Stockport area, probably in aid of parish charities. That's assuming he was still working there of course. Priests do get moved around from time to time. Someone out there may well know a great deal more about this seminal event than I do.
The earliest car boot type sale I've managed to come across is actually called Denio's Roseville Farmers market and Swap Meet. This is a more or less full time event which takes place most days in Roseville, Ontario, Canada. It may even be the one Fr Clarke came across in the 1970s as it was already in existence then. It was founded by Jim and Marilee Denio way back in 1947. If you look at its website and read the testimonials you can see that it's still very popular today.
Back here in the UK Fr Harry really started something, probably something far bigger than he could have imagined! He'd found something far more effective than the jumble sale in the Church Hall! By the 1980s car boot sales where springing up all over the country wherever there was a suitable space. In the years since then a support network has grown up so that now car boot enthusiasts can communicate with each other and generally keep I touch with developments with what's happening where and when throughout the year. You rarely come across a jumble sale now and it seems that in general they've quietly surrendered to the power of the car boot sale and allowed themselves to be absorbed. They always say, "If you can't beat them, join them!" It seems jumble sales have done just that.
The popularity of car boot sales under a variety of names has spread pretty well world wide now. You find them in France, in Spain and elsewhere in Europe and all over Australia. Car boot sales are a great way of raising money as well as being fun. Perhaps in these cash-strapped times some governments ought to give it a try!
This article was supplied by freelance copywriter, Pete Hopper at Write 4 You.