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Taylor Bowman, 9, sells a handful of coloring books for 100 yen, while his brother, Thomas, 4, watches at a flea market at Camp Foster, Okinawa, on April 1.
Taylor Bowman, 9, sells a handful of coloring books for 100 yen, while his brother, Thomas, 4, watches at a flea market at Camp Foster, Okinawa, on April 1. (David Allen / S&S)
Taylor Bowman, 9, sells a handful of coloring books for 100 yen, while his brother, Thomas, 4, watches at a flea market at Camp Foster, Okinawa, on April 1.
Taylor Bowman, 9, sells a handful of coloring books for 100 yen, while his brother, Thomas, 4, watches at a flea market at Camp Foster, Okinawa, on April 1. (David Allen / S&S)
Shoppers cram a flea market at Camp Foster, Okinawa, on April 1. There’s a flea market on a military base somewhere nearly every weekend.
Shoppers cram a flea market at Camp Foster, Okinawa, on April 1. There’s a flea market on a military base somewhere nearly every weekend. (David Allen / S&S)
Terry Hays, the “Plant Man,” and a sample of his wares on a recent Saturday at the Camp Foster flea market.
Terry Hays, the “Plant Man,” and a sample of his wares on a recent Saturday at the Camp Foster flea market. (David Allen / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Pssst! Hey man, wanna buy some sneakers? Adidas, man, hardly worn and in good condition. I’ll give you a good price.

Or how ’bout this tropical plant with the huge orange flower? You can have it dirt-cheap.

Or clothes? What size? Old uniforms, summer dresses, Hawaiian shirts. How much you looking to spend? Everything must go.

That’s the buzz at base flea markets on Okinawa. Open to the military and local community, the crowded lots — where someone’s trash is inevitably someone else’s treasure — usually offer something for everyone.

At the Camp Foster flea market on a recent Saturday, the cars were lined up for a half-mile along Highway 58 waiting to get into a lot teeming with shoppers and sellers. Whether it was children’s books, someone’s DVD collection or a teddy bear strapped to a child’s car safety seat, it all has to go.

Or be packed up and saved for next time.

There’s a flea market on a military base somewhere nearly every weekend. They are sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services and 18th Services on Kadena Air Base.

The Camp Foster flea market opens for business from noon to 3 p.m. every first Saturday and Sunday. On the first weekend in April, shoppers there were taking advantage of one of the island’s perfect spring days.

In front of one van, Taylor Bowman, 9, sold a handful of coloring books for 100 yen. His mom, Daphne, surveyed the few items she had left for sale after two hours on the lot.

“I emptied pretty much all of my boxes, so we did pretty well,” she said. “This takes care of our spring cleaning.”

Toward the end of a line of cars and vans parked along the fence line, Terry Hays, a Kadena High School biology and math teacher, sat in a lawn chair and good-naturedly haggled with shoppers interested in his plants.

It was a sort of reverse haggling, with Hays usually offering to practically give away ferns and flowering plants he’d hauled from home.

“I’ve been on Okinawa for about 10 years and have been bringing in plants ever since,” he said, as he accepted 500 yen for a large plant with leaves that looked like huge green elephant ears. The buyer later smiled and said it would have cost five times as much in a local garden shop.

Hays, 52, calls himself “the plant guy” and says he plows whatever he profits from selling his plants back into his backyard hobby. “It gives me money for the things I need — like fertilizer — just to keep things going,” he said.

On the other side of the lot, Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Wallace, 31, and his wife, Ai, 27, were getting rid of clothes and household items in preparation their move back to the States.

“This is our first time here,” Wallace said. “I’d pass by here some weekends and see the long line of cars on Highway 58 waiting to get in, so I figured they must do a pretty good business.”

The Foster flea market opened for customers at noon. Wallace arrived at 9 a.m. and waited in line a few hours to make sure he got a good location.

“We’ll keep coming back until we get rid of everything we don’t want to take back with us,” he said.

Looking to make a buck? Want to shop?

The schedules for the flea markets are:

Kadena Air Base: First and third weekends, at the lot next to the Chibana Golf Course, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Vendor slots cost $10 and must be prepaid through Kadena Outdoor Recreation, Building 614, the Monday before the market. Persons selling within 90 days of transfer to a new duty station get half off the fee. The gate opens to SOFA-status buyers at 6:30 a.m. For more information, call 634-2811.Camp Foster: First weekend of the month, noon to 3 p.m.Camp Courtney: Second, fourth and fifth weekends (if applicable) from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.Camp Kinser: Third weekend, noon to 3 p.m.The vendor slots for the MCCS flea markets cost $15, with discounts for persons presenting permanent change of station orders. The spaces are open only to SOFA-status personnel and their families. Registration is open at the flea market locations one hour prior to opening. Call MCCS Special Events at DSN 645-5829 for more information.

From staff reports

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