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Monday, October 5, 2020

60 years of Butler memories: Selling it

On The Square
60 Years of Butler Memories
by James Ring


October 2, 2020
Going To Sales

Early memories of life in Butler must always include participation in auction sales, and other outlets for exchanging legal tender for goods, like sidewalk sales and yard sales. As far back I can remember, we always checked out the Community Sale barns on their appointed days. There was the Roy Baker sale barn’s Saturday sale, held in the pavilion at the corner of Nursery and 71 Highway, now part of the Butler R-V football field/sports complex. Co-located with a filling station and diner out by the highway, the pens and bleachers under the tin roof allowed for auctioning off stock to the highest bidder.

We young-ins were more fascinated by the junk sale that preceded the main event. Old tools, household goods, small animals and poultry, bicycles and boxed items—you never knew what might be brought in. If the bids were slow, piles would be lumped together to speed things along, a predecessor of the TV ads that say “but you act now, we’ll throw in…” There were fruit vendors like the banana man, the apple vendors, sweet corn and watermelon sellers. Some of these could be found on the corners of the Butler Square as well, selling their goods out of the back of a pickup or car trunk.

Roy Baker’s brother Oscar eventually opened his own sale barn, just north on the other side of highway where Pitts Realty has its storage barn. I believe it was a Thursday sale. Meanwhile, auctioneer Jack Sivils became a mainstay at Roy Baker’s barn, and he went on his own with a bigger, better facility at the north end of town. Eventually, he was joined by his son-in-law Don Ghere, who expanded and improved the business.

Auctions, of course, were common clean-up events held when persons were moving away or had died and their property was being disposed of. At the end of the day, the cluttered yard would be empty, the cars parked for blocks around would be gone and the resulting money was in hand. Selling out required a lot of preparation, but it was quick and convenient. And a it was a lot of fun for bargain hunters, who often paid more than something was worth when a competitor was bidding on the other side of the sale ring.

Where else could odds-and-ends be sold? At flea markets and antique (junk) stores, of course. Butler has had several come and go, up and down the strip as well as by the Square. On any given week, you might find a rarity or sought-after item on the back shelf at these places. Does anyone remember King Arthur’s Bargain Barn discount/surplus store, first in the old grocery store at the stoplight and later in the former A&P building that’s now the county Health Department?

The spirit of entrepreneurial selling is as old as this country, and it never will go away. Codes and licenses notwithstanding, “what will you give me?” and “what would you take?” between individuals must not be infringed. Let it ever be so.