Best Junk Store - 2007
Rubenstein's Dirty Junk Shop
Gordon M. Rubenstein is Supreme Junkmaster of the Ancient Order of the Rusted Stovebolt. Well, he would be if such an organization existed. His Dirty Junk Shop on the Alton riverfront is a riveting place to spend time before you satisfy your monthly Big Elwood on a Stick craving at Fast Eddie's Bon-Air. After 57 years in the scrap-metal salvage business, the 80-year-old Rubenstein has accumulated at least a few tons of junk, most of it metal. Heavy metal. "I used to be able to lift 400-pound tubs into my truck, but now I've got a bad knee," he says. The yard outside his shop is covered with passion-flower vines, cast-iron bathtubs, cast-iron Mesker storefront columns, and cast-iron sinks which he pronounces the old way: zincs. Inside, the shelves are piled with brackets, keyhole plates, doorknobs, coat hooks, wooden soda boxes, wire locker baskets, printer plates, hose nozzles, sconces, waffle irons, water heaters, andirons, double-lined copper candy kettles, copper and brass fire extinguishers, etc. The Junkmaster remembers where each et cetera came from, and in listening to his tales of salvage you glimpse the way life in our area used to be, before everything on Earth was made in China.