1. Archive

Calamity Jane overflows with more than collectibles

Catch her when you can.

Jane Brossard, known around Land O'Lakes as Calamity Jane, sells antiques and collectibles in a former one-room grocery store on U.S. 41, just north of Bell Lake Road.

But this is no 7-Eleven. Shop hours at Calamity Jane change at the proprietor's whim.

That's made clear in a credo atop a display case full of jewelry and gold and silver trinkets:

Open most days about 9 or 10

Occasionally as early as 7, but some days

As late as 12 or 1.

We close about 5:30 or 6 p.m.

Occasionally about 4 or 5, but

Sometimes as late as 11 or 12.

Some days or afternoons, we

Aren't here at all, and lately

I've been here just about all the time,

Except when I'm someplace else,

But I should be here then, too.

Mrs. Brossard, 73, has lived in Land O'Lakes 25 years. She's had the store four years.

"I've been a collector all my life," she said. "Maybe it's a little late in my years to open a store, but it keeps me out of trouble , and I meet so many nice people around here."

Sand in her shoes

A charter member of the Land O'Lakes Chamber of Commerce, she led the effort to buy the building the organization occupies today.

And, as Flapjack Festival trivia whizzes should know, she persuaded Land O'Lakes Butter in Minneapolis to provide the creamy topping for those famous pancakes.

Her shop is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You might catch her other days, if you're lucky. The Illinois native jokes about cutting back to one day a week. Her rambunctiousness keeps a sparkle in her eye.

Mrs. Brossard was born in Clinton, Ill., about 140 miles south of Chicago. She was named after one of her grandfather's two thoroughbred horses.

Her father, a master mechanic for the Illinois Central Railroad, once took her to work at the roundhouse. He took her with him on a test run of an engine and could have been fired for it, she said.

"It was the greatest thrill of my life at the time," she said. "It was marvelous. It was something he never did with my brothers."

When she grew up, she moved to Chicago. Then she traded in wind and snow for fun and sun in the Florida Keys. She ran a sundry shop and coin-operated laundry on Marathon Shores, an island where Guy Lombardo and his family would visit. The Lombardos, she recalled, would buy earrings and imported perfumes.

She would open the canalside shop about 5 a.m., as the deep-sea fishing boats prepared to depart, and sell cigarettes and suntan lotion to the anglers.

Years later, she moved to California and worked for Douglas Aircraft. Her desk sat in a hangar under an airplane wing while the craft was inspected. She handled payroll. She lived in Long Beach, and when the fog cleared she had a mountain view.

She moved back to the Midwest, but eventually, Mrs. Brossard was drawn back to Florida: "Once you get sand in your shoes, you keep coming back."

Calamity Jane christened

She moved from Tampa to Land O'Lakes in 1969. She met Ed, her husband, through a mutual friend.

He's known as Rotten Ed, the nickname he used as a marketing gimmick when he sold appliances in west Pasco. He restores old furniture for the shop. He keeps a rolling pin in his workshop with the words HUSBAND CORRECTOR engraved on it. She gave him the pin; he engraved the words as a joke.

Mrs. Brossard became involved with the chamber when it was still a community civic association. Ron Padgett, former chamber president, christened her Calamity Jane because she took on the chamber's problems and solved them enthusiastically.

"If I hadn't had Jane, I don't know what I would have done," Padgett told the Times. "Anything you asked her to do, she did and did well. She was wrapped up in the chamber of commerce."

"I was always getting my foot into something," Mrs. Brossard said. "It always worked out that they'd give me a job to do, and I wouldn't know it couldn't be done until after it was done."

Her major accomplishment was the acquisition of the chamber's permanent building on U.S. 41, not far from Land O'Lakes High School. The chamber had been renting space at Lake Francisco Plaza at U.S. 41 and N Dale Mabry Highway.

She picked the site because, at the time, it had appeared that development in central Pasco would move north and south along U.S. 41. Instead, it has blossomed along State Road 54.

"We bought it figuring things would go north instead of east and west, but it'll eventually go that way," Mrs. Brossard said.

Her proof: the impending construction of the North Suncoast Parkway and the approval last week of the first phase of a 900-home development about a mile south of the Land O'Lakes jail on U.S. 41.

Contagious collecting

Calamity Jane confesses:

She's not well.

She can't be.

She keeps buying and buying.

"I just collect and collect and it drives Ed nuts. It's a sickness," she said, laughing. "It's definitely contagious and can be hazardous to your health if you get too many things. But the one thing about it is that, even though I spend a lot of money on these antiques, they keep going up in value. You buy new furniture today, it loses value."

Among her latest acquisitions: a sleigh, an Amish butter churn, and a pair of 1910 Pierce Arrow gas lamps.

Her inventory includes a Penny Smoke slot machine, the kind that won you a free pack of cigarettes if you matched three brand names; and a $2,000 porcelain chamber pot, used before indoor toilets were invented.

She seems as unable to turn away strays as she is to pass up a bargain.

"We're animal lovers," Mrs. Brossard said, somewhat apologetically. "I can't stand to see anyone go hungry. I'd feed the world if I could, I imagine."

She cares for six cats _ three at home and three at the shop.

Freeloader, a frosty white medium-hair cat, lives in the house. His comrades, Mooch and Alexander, are both striped yellow and white and live outside. Harley, Sam and Minnie the Moocher all live at the store.

Lately, the cats spend a lot of time in the shade.

Under the huge storage trailer.

The one the Brossards just bought.

To handle Calamity Jane's antique overflow.