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A customer bargains with Laura Skinner over a baby backpack during the monthly flea market at the Naval Station Rota, Spain, drive-in.
A customer bargains with Laura Skinner over a baby backpack during the monthly flea market at the Naval Station Rota, Spain, drive-in. (Scott Schonauer / S&S)

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Naval Reserve Chief Petty Officer Laura Skinner laid the old baby clothes in small stacks next to the toys, a stroller and a backpack.

Almost as soon as she finished, her makeshift Wal-Mart was attracting a crowd of customers.

“That’s because I have a lot of crap,” she said, laughing.

One mother’s crap, is another mother’s treasure.

Bargain hunters on the prowl for deals on everything from clothes to Budweiser bottle lamps, never miss the monthly flea market at the base drive-in movie theater.

About once a month, the theater parking lot serves as a flea market for Americans wanting to hock their used and unwanted stereos, bikes and strollers. Unlike the many weekend yard sales held in base housing, all of the sellers are in one spot, making it a one-stop shopping center for people looking for anything used.

It is a popular place for military families who want to get rid of some belongings before they move to their next duty station.

On a recent Friday, the flea market attracted 30 sellers.

Skinner’s clothes went for 50 cents, but she was willing to wheel and deal on just about everything.

“What’s that?” said one customer, pointing at a long rainbow-colored cylinder with a strap.

“That’s a cooler,” Skinner said.

Meanwhile, across the parking lot, Tara Baker haggled over some used baby clothes she was trying to sell from the back of her SUV.

“They’re 50 cents or a quarter — the best offer,” she said. “Make me a deal. I’m trying to get rid of this stuff.”

Baker, whose husband is stationed on base, sometimes frequents the many yard sales in the housing area when she’s not selling.

“I do bargain shopping,” she said. “When you got three kids, you got to.”

The flea market was a potpourri of old and some fairly new stuff, a Kmart for the second- hand shopper.

There were several TV sets, pictures, golf clubs and shoes. The golf shoes, the label said, were only worn once. There were VHS tapes, bikes, plants and old Nintendo systems.

The items ranged from small toys that went for a quarter to a 1997 Camaro with an asking price of $14,500.

One person was selling miniature schnauzer puppies.

Marlene Loya, whose husband, Eric, works for the fire department, spent $20 and walked away with Christmas decorations and videos. She likes the convenience of having all of the sellers in one area.

“I think this is great,” she said, pushing her son in a stroller stuffed with her bargains. “It’s hard to go to the yard sales because they’re spread out. But this one, they’re all together.”

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation department organizes the flea market and only Americans are allowed to buy and sell.

While military families often pawn their old stuff at weekend garage sales, it is a little tougher to find a bargain on second-hand items out in town.

Each Wednesday, the city of Rota has the Gypsy Market. There are some good deals on everything from shrimp to bras — most of it new. However, a lot is poorly made.

Spaniards generally regard buying second-hand merchandise as tacky. But the first time Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Yee held a yard sale, a group of Spaniards who had base access rushed to get the best deals. She said she had to scream to calm down the excited Spaniards as they sifted through her sale items.

Another spot to get some deals on second-hand items is the base Thrift Store, which is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Myla Perkins, whose husband Rich is stationed on base, frequents the yard sales. She’s part of a group of garage sale seekers who make the rounds almost every weekend.

“I’m a shopaholic," she said. “I like to find good deals. I don’t always buy stuff for me. If I find something really nice for a good deal, I’ll send it to family or friends.”

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