There were a number of surplus stores I have visited as I was growing up. One of the first I can remember was just down the road from my aunt & uncle's house. That house was located on Sand lake about halfway between Triego and Spooner Wisconsin. The store was run by a family called Strunks and was just an old little combination bar and general store.
I first remember Strunks as an Army Navy surplus store. They had WWII bombs shells out front and mortar shells hanging in the window. My dad and I would walk the block or so down there every time we visited. My uncle was actually my mothers uncle but he had this small farm and my dad loved to visit. My dad should have been a farmer and probably would have if it had not been for my mom. Anyway we would walk down there and just browse. Strunk's also had old farm tools and general junk. I can remember buying little things like lenses and odd plastic things. Strunks also got some surplus from some small factories in Rice Lake and Eau Clair. The Army stuff like boots and things were what my dad bought a lot of.
I would also buy anything that was cheap and could be taken apart. I loved to take things apart. Small instruments and electronic devices are the most fun. I would learn every time I took something apart and sometimes I even put them back together. I still have a black can motor with lots of gears and cams inside that I bought there about thirty five years ago. I never figured out what it was for but it has Army Signal Corps on the name plate. I actually bought two or three of them and used one of the precision motors in a model train once. The rest all were sacrificed to my learning.
The second store I remember still exists in a revised form. A local store in the Western part of Duluth now called Central Sales was originally owned by a man named Klien. He had a lot of Korean war stuff and old electronics. He made a good living in the sixties by buying things like gyroscopes in Colorado and holding on o them for a month or so and then selling them back to the Government in some other state where they needed them. The Federal Government did that way too much. They would sell an airplane to a scrapper in Arizona who would leave the plane sitting on the Government property and wait a few months and the would buy it back or parts of it for more that they sold it to the scrapper for. That was probably one of the biggest wastes we had ever.
On that same subject why did the government hold on to some of that stuff so long. They would keep things like boots for thirty years and then sell them when they were all musty and old. They almost gave them away when the did finally sell them. I know that even though they were old and smelly the best boots I ever had for working in the woods and swamps of Northern Minnesota were jump boots I paid $5.00 for from the Viet Nam or Korean war. For winter wear the White Bunny boots from the Korean conflict were great you could not kill those things and they were warm. Uncle Sam. probably paid $75.00 a pair and I got them for $8.00.
The electronic stuff at Central Sales was great too. I got switches and relays and lights for my model railroad. I got some great power supplies and just about anything you would want. The store is now owned by Jim Russell and he has found the best profit in things like household products that are out of date, picture frames, speakers, Chinese toys and tools and various surplus products. He seems to make a good living and has two other stores, one in Esko Minnesota and the other in Two Harbors Minnesota. He also has plumbing, hardware items and snowmobile parts. Jim also is part owner with his brother of a small handy man steel company in West Duluth.
There are some great surplus stores in the Twin Cities and my favorite is the Axe Man. He has three stores in the metro area. They have a lot of electronic and computer stuff. They also have some old military stuff. I got two neat 100mm cannon shells there. I use one for a stand to hold my welding rods in my shop. They have the various toy parts including things like the eye mechanism from Teddy Ruxpin dolls. One time I went in there and they had hundreds of old glass plate negatives from the first part of this century. They were selling them as decorations. The Axe Man also has things like urine specimen jars that they sell as juice glasses. They even have a large male urinal they sell with them to use as a decanter. Larger items include tables without legs and legs without table tops, no they don't go with each other.
I have not been to the Minnesota State Fair in about fifteen years so I do not know if the Dadson's surplus is still there or not. They used to be at the end of "Machinery Hill" and my dad an I always got there when we went to the fair. They had nuts and bolts and hardware stuff. They also had surplus from the local manufacturing plants in the Twin Cities. I still have some explosive rivets that were used on airplanes. I don't know if they still use them but they work great for blind fastening. They do not leave a hole open like "POP" rivets. I still have about 300 of them and I bet we bought them in 1960 or so.
How about a few on line surplus stores.
Mystic Army Navy Store
Archie McFee - (kind of a surplus store - very neat!)
American Science and Surplus
That is all I will put here for now. Go visit a surplus store near you. You might find something you need.
Last modified 12/23/2004
Maintained by Mark Olson