10 facts about it that you didn’t know

10 facts about it that you didn’t know
10 facts about it that you didn’t know

Shoppers waiting for the church bell to ring at 9 a.m. examine potential purchases at last year’s White Elephant Sale. File photo.

OLD LYME—The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme’s highly anticipated White Elephant Sale begins Friday, July 12, with the first strike of the church clock at 9 a.m. It will run weather permitting inside and outside the church until 2 p.m. Friday, with a food court at lunchtime, and then again on Saturday, July 13, from 8 a.m. to noon, when most items will be half price.

There will be coffee and donuts on both days. Payment is made exclusively in cash or by check.

Organized by the church’s Ladies Benevolent Society, the sale has been a staple of the area’s summer events since 1936 (except for two years due to the pandemic).

Here are 10 facts about the White Elephant Sale you may not know:

  • In the early years of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme—the mid- to late 17th century—the women of the church cooked meals and sewed clothing to raise money for the church’s charitable projects.
  • In 1888, the women of the church officially formed the Neck Road Society, and over the years the society hosted concerts, social gatherings, and other events to raise money for local causes.
  • As early as 1917, the society hosted dinners for the men of the Connecticut National Guard.
  • In 1920, the society held its very first garage sale—a small event confined to a single room in the church—which raised $200 for charity, a surprising amount at the time.
  • The name “White Elephant Sale” was given to the event in 1936 and thereafter it became an annual tradition.
  • In the 1950s, the market briefly expanded to include a fairground festival, horse show and square dancing, and over the next few decades it evolved into the popular two-day local tradition we enjoy today.
  • During and after World War II, the Society used the proceeds from the sale to support various international charities – including helping an orphan in Czechoslovakia, a church in England, and children in China. (Today, more than 25 charities in our region and around the world benefit from this.)
  • At some point in the mid to late 20th century, the group’s name was changed to the Ladies Benevolent Society. Since then, the society has expanded to include both men and women, and people of different faiths and backgrounds. The society is increasingly referred to simply by its initials “LBS.”
  • In 2020 and 2021, the sale was cancelled for the first (and only) time in its long history due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Proceeds from the sale benefit the Church’s many ministries, including a wide variety of local, national and international projects, such as food banks, health organizations, family support centers, children’s programs, volunteer literacy projects, affordable housing, Native American causes, social justice initiatives and disaster relief.

While there are other flea markets and rummage sales throughout the year, few can match the size, color, camaraderie and excitement of this one. Known for its high-quality goods, you’ll find antiques, art, books, bicycles, canoes, clothing, collectibles, kayaks, kitchenware, musical instruments, shoes, ski equipment, tools, toys and more.

Volunteers are needed in all areas of sales. To volunteer, call the church office at 860-434-8686.

For further information about the sale please visit visit this link.