Janet M Kelly
Have you heard of “Pickers?” The noun comes from the 1520’s and originally meant “someone who steals.” Most people know about pick-pockets, or slim-pickings, but in modern terminology, a picker is someone who has picked up a bargain or a treasure… something of value for a great price.
In 1949, when Hilda Warren was a girl, her dad Gordon Jaus proudly brought home a treasure he picked up in Downtown Los Angeles… an eight-foot-tall neon Jesus Saves sign to put on the church where he was pastor in Kingsburg. Seventy-two years later, another kind of Picker found this treasure in a shed at Hilda and Wayne Warren’s home in Kingsburg, and picked it. Not for a church but for the television show “American Pickers.”
In July, two large motor homes, a string of vans and a crew of more than ten along with all their filming equipment pulled into the Warren’s driveway for a three-day filming of their television series on the History Channel. This was TOP SECRET. Hilda and Wayne told a few close friends and swore them to secrecy. NO ONE was supposed to know about the filming. The producers didn’t want onlookers or interference.
A few months earlier, when “American Pickers” heard about Wayne’s collection of antiques and oddities, they sent a representative from New York to check out the “pickings.” Satisfied that Wayne and Hilda had the kind of “pickings” the show was interested in, they made arrangements to bring the TV show to the Warren’s home.
The Warrens have a beautiful log-cabin style home on the Kings River along with museum quality out-buildings full of beautiful antiques: Victrolas, music boxes, even mechanical monkeys. In past years, they had an antique business in the old VFW building that had housed the bowling alley where Wayne set pins for 15 cents a line as a kid. His antique collection was refurbished and carefully kept. He expected the “Pickers” to focus on the many well-preserved antiques in his warehouse… but no. The Pickers wanted to check out the sheds where Wayne kept the “junk.”
Digging through dusty relics of the Warren’s past antique business, the pickers found the sign. They were fascinated by the red, white, and blue neon, the story of how it had been found and how it illuminated the Assembly of God Church adjacent to the Creighton Mortuary. They loved how the sign was featured in a painting by local artist Maxine Olson, an almost-life size oil painting that hangs on the wall in the Warren’s home. Even the painting’s title, “Jesus Saves,” was a testament to the sign, its location, and two older women on their way to worship. The Pickers wanted that sign.
“Uh oh.” Wayne knew this could mean trouble.
Hilda LOVED that sign. She had treasured that sign for decades. It reminded her of her dad. She had planned to have it refurbished and hang it in the back yard where the boaters could see it when they passed by on skis or in inner-tubes. Other people had asked to buy it. Hilda always said “no.” Wayne knew how hard it would be for Hilda to sell the sign.
Hilda had experienced the kindness of the crew, Mike Wolfe and his brother Rob. Hilda, Wayne, and daughter Stephanie Grant spent hours with the crew. On July 4th, when most local businesses were closed and the crew wanted some Mexican food, they ordered meals from Los Pepe’s and instead of eating in the motor homes as the crew normally would, everyone enjoyed their dinner on the Warren’s deck overlooking the river. Something stirred in Hilda’s heart. She is a deeply committed Christian, and her spirit told her… “Let them buy the sign.” Who knows? Maybe the sign will have a message to give to the millions of viewers who will see it on TV.
When The Pickers left Kingsburg they were loaded with treasures. They had a number of items “picked” from The Warren’s home. They had three days of hospitality from a warm and loving family. Plus, they had an eight-foot-tall Jesus Saves sign to feature on their show. All in all, those were very good pickings.
Keep your remotes handy, as the show featuring the Warrens will air in November.