Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Junkin' Memories: The Auction Guy!

I moved to Louisville in 1987, the year I graduated from college to attend seminary.  Boy, have things changed since those days!  That was back in day when the seminary had a social work school, women could preach in the chapel, and you could actually take a scripture class that didn't rely solely on biblical literalism as the basis for interpreting scripture.  It's also where Keith and I met.  Make of that what you will.

Back in those days, there was a street a couple of blocks away that was, well, a little bit decayed.  Oh, it was wonderful in its decayedness.  Nowadays, it's all "revitalized" with galleries and restaurants and such.  But in those days, there were a couple of small music shops where you could find just about anything, an awesome used bookstore with a quarter box full of Silver Age comics, a couple of antique stores, and the auction guy.  More on him in a minute.

Now, this is not one of those "things were better in the golden days" kind of posts.  There were a lot of empty storefronts and buildings going to waste, for sure.  It's just that the shops that were there were all small businesses of the sort that are hard to find these days. Thankfully, in the course of revitalization, local businesses seem to have prevailed, and most of the shops on the street are still locally owned and run.  There are still quite a few interesting, quirky business operating as well.

But that's neither here nor there.  I want to talk about the auction guy.

One of the empty storefronts was full of nothing but boxes and piles of junk, to the point that you really couldn't tell what all was actually in there.  Twice a week, the little old guy who owned the space and his wife would open the door and start dragging stuff out onto the sidewalk.  They would work through the afternoon doing this.  At about 6, a small crowd would gather, and he would hold an auction.  There were never more than ten people there, and sometimes less than that.  However, he would carry on with the auction nonetheless.

He'd hold something up in the air and try to start the bidding at five or ten dollars, then keep dropping the starting bid until he ended up selling it for a quarter or fifty cents.  It was kind of amazing to watch and definitely great for shopping.  Everything was great, old, dusty, vintagey junky stuff.  You know, the kind of stuff I bust my ass to find these days.  And this guy was practically giving it away!  I wish I knew then what I know now.

You didn't have to be present to win, either.  If you saw something while he was setting up that you wanted to bid on but could not make the actual auction, you could tell him and he would write it down.  Usually the early bidder would win. I did that one time for an old Beany and Cecil comic when I had to work on auction night.  I got it for a quarter.

One of my friends and I went to just about every auction night and usually bought something.  I can't remember it all now, but I remember getting a rustic looking mirror with a wood frame for 2 bucks (had to fight for that one) and a lot of books for a quarter.  My friend got several cast iron skillets for fifty cents each.

Finally, we went up there one auction night, and he was nowhere to be found.  There was no stuff on the sidewalk, and the building was locked up tight.  We stopped back a couple of other nights, only to find the same thing.  The auction man was gone, taking the awesome bargains with him.

I did see him one more time.  He was set up with a bunch of books at the big flea market at the fairgrounds.  I never saw him again after that, not even at other flea markets.  That was twenty-five years ago, and he was already pretty old at that time.  I would imagine that he has long since passed on.  I wonder whatever happened to all that stuff?  They never even scratched the surface of what was in the building with all of their auctions combined.

Nowadays, that building houses a fitness club.

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