Not necessarily Dior

WHILE airlines are vigorously competing, with rewards for mileage and bonuses for travelers, I think our little seaside town should be recognized for its long-established ``perks'' offered summer visitors. All they have to do to recoup some of their lavish expenditures in rentals is to scan our daily newspaper. In addition to learning that the fishing fleet on a given day brought in 80,000 pounds of mixed fish, and that certain scuba divers have been arrested for catching and keeping short lobsters, they will also find out where all the church fairs and backyard sales will be held. Information that Editor & Publisher at one time might have condemned as ``free publicity'' and the watchful city editor would have killed.

Bake sales are not what they used to be since cakes made from mixes so often resemble the old-fashioned confection ``made from scratch.'' But for the woman searching for bon march'e clothing there are unbelievable ``perks.''

Balm in Gilead, in a way, considering the summer motel and cottage rentals. Once you have convinced yourself that the unused old frocks in your wardrobe can be relinquished (and who would wear a d'ecollet'e evening gown to a covered-dish supper or a clambake?) you gladly make your contribution, even if nondeductible, and go in search of practical garments. Not necessarily Dior or de la Renta outfits, though they have been known to surface occasionally.

My blue jacket, which I have traced from church to community-house to art association through the years, is perfect for landscape painting. And easily recognizable by the yellow and white daubs. Almost a ``still life'' subject, itself.

The pants were too large, but at $3 I was willing to take the whole suit, until the summer visitor whom I kept bump-ing into in the church pew where I was trying them on found they were just right for her. And the saleslady said, ``Well, you may have the jacket for $2, and the pants can go for $1.''

That was the beginning of a warm friendship with the other customer, who offered me a ride home. Collecting her bargains - two cardigans, the pants, and a dirndl (``The inn requires skirts in the dining room'') - total outlay $12, she said her driver was waiting in the churchyard. I felt sure that at home, in New Canaan, she would have said ``chauffeur,'' but she had summered with us long enough to catch on to the local vocabulary.

If by chance you take home a garment that doesn't quite fit, there are the thrift shops, which pay a commission ``when sold,'' and the neighbors who pop in to look at your bargains for daughters going off to school, who don't get annoyed, as you do, at the L, M, and S (large, medium, and small) labels in the department stores. Sizes that fit nobody.

Clothing, of course, is by no means the only merchandise at bargain rates. Or the only thing that can be halved. A butter-dish top, a cup without a saucer, part of a double boiler, a lamp without a shade - these on the white-elephant counter - usually find customers.

From the thousands of used books that pile up at the fairs, we must be the most reading town in the area. Fifty cents appears to be the most popular price, though paperbacks fetch only 25. The sets of classics sell more slowly. They are marked, ``Make an offer.'' It may be a little disconcerting to come upon some book you wrote, long ago, priced at half a dollar - until you pick up Longfellow's Complete Works marked at the same price.

Summer will eventually be ``icumen in'' even in New England, bringing strawberry festivals, clambakes, free painting demonstrations, band concerts on the beach, and the sales, which my New Canaan friend considers ``better than Filene's Basement.''

Perhaps the blue jacket could be cleaned and recycled. I can quite honestly say I've had my money's worth. And the Congregational or Methodist or Unitarian ladies would welcome it as a long-familiar item of bon march'e.

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