Updated: Friday, 05 Feb 2010, 5:32 PM CST
Published : Friday, 05 Feb 2010, 4:58 PM CST
AUSTIN (KXAN) - When Moody Anderson was in his early 30s, he decided, just for grins, to go to an auction. He took a shine to a blacksmith forge and some tools on the block that day. When they bidding started, he raised his hand.
"I didn't have anybody to bid against me, so I got 'em for little o' nothin'," said Anderson. "I just took it home and throw'd it in the garage." (Watch the full interview with Anderson here)
At some point, he bought something else for his "collection," but he no longer recalls just what it was.
"I don't know; I just went crazy after that," he laughed.
Then, in 1972, Anderson happened by a small, but well-preserved town just north of Fort Hood. Years before, the people of The Grove, Texas, had banded together to stop a highway from coming right through the center of town and covering up its only well. The well is still there and has never run dry. But with the new highway bypassing the community, the town did dry up and almost everyone moved away. Anderson found the owner on the "liar's" porch in front of the general store and eventually talked him into selling out. That's when Moody Anderson went to work.
"I got all these counters in the middle of the store from Paige, Texas," he said during a tour of the place. "J. E. Pauls, he used to run a store down there that was built in the 1800s. And it was all pine building. And so I took all of the fixtures out of the store and some of the merchandise that's on the shelves. (Watch the full interview with Anderson here)
"Then I bought another old general store down in Dale, Texas, the first store I ever bought in my life. I bought the brick building and all the contents. And so I've got a lot of contents in here that haven't been opened, way back in probably the early 1900s. Some of them may have not been opened since the 1800s. The lids haven't been taken off of them, lot of the stuff in the original boxes."
Room after room in the store and nearby buildings are bursting with antiques and curiosities from a time long gone. There's a sign sporting a woman whose eyes seem to follow you as you move about. Parts of an antique sausage maker lie sprawled across the floor. All manner of canned goods, tobacco containers, kitchen tools and advertising signs are neatly arranged on every surface, wall and spot of floor. There's an old post office and a bank teller's cage. Mannequins dressed in period clothing sit at desks, seemingly frozen in time.
The items, though, don't just sit there forever. A casket on a shelf was once used in the film, Lonesome Dove. In a vault, are meat cleavers and knives that served as props in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Anderson never intended to lease to filmmakers. That started when someone from a production house stopped by and offered good money and even more money if something should get broken on the movie set. Now, Anderson is a fixture in the industry.
"Many a film, I would even almost guess that any movie made in central Texas probably ends up with something of Moody's stuff in it," said Carol Pirie, Deputy Director of the Texas Film Commission. "It's been a big part of how popular the central Texas area has become for film making. What Moody has there is such a collection of period antiques, and not just big stuff like the horse-drawn hearse, but down to the seed packets from 1900 and so forth. To have this tremendous plus of filmmakers being able to go and pickup truckloads, absolute truckload after truckload of period props and antiques, and so forth; to get it all in one place has been huge."
Anderson also has a mammoth warehouse west of Austin that is also packed with props and antique items. He expects to lease much of them to the Coen Brothers for their upcoming remake of the classic John Wayne classic, True Grit. The movie will be shot, beginning in mid-March, in Granger, Blanco and other central Texas locations.
All of this came about because of the Texas National Guard.
"I worked for the United States Property and Dispersing Office at Camp Mabry in Austin," said Anderson. I retired out there after going on active duty for a short period. I retired after thirty years." (Watch the full interview with Anderson here)
Back then, there was a requirement that anyone who worked at Mabry had to be a member of the guard. That meant having to attend periodic training sessions that came with extra pay. Anderson calls them, "drill checks."
"That's one thing my wife never touched, was my National Guard drill check, but she helped me spend the rest of the money," he laughed.
Outside, the sound of passing car penetrated the thin walls of the store. The 81-year-old Anderson cocked his head at the rare sound, then returned his eyes to his "collection," drifting back into the land of his parents and their parents and their parents, unfolding before him, the culmination of his life's work.