Early Auctioneers

Shortly after the turn of the century, many settlers took out homesteads in the Elk Point district. They came from the United States, Eastern Canada, the British Isles and from many European nations.   Many of them stayed for the remaining years of their lives, while others decided to leave for one reason or another.  Since their belongings were difficult to move from one place to another many sold their household goods, machinery, livestock, and real estate by public auction before leaving  our district.

Every town or village usually had one or more auctioneers who were capable of conducting auction sales. The auctioneer agreed to sell the farmer's household goods as well as the rest of his belongings to the highest bidder in return for a share of the receipts. The goods to be sold were all listed on a sales bill then widely circulated so that the sale received sufficient advertisement. It was strongly believed that the bigger the crowd the better chance the sale would be a success.

One of Elk Point's first auctioneers was George M. Goben. His sales ad appeared in a 1912 Vermilion Standard and read: 'George M. Goben  Farm and General Auctioneer, Elk Point, Alta.' Another early district auctioneer was Fred E. Van Arnam.  He placed an ad in the 1918 Elk Point Agricultural Fair booklet which read "If you want to buy or sell  A farm or have an auction sale see F. E. Van Arnam, Elk Point, Alta. ‑ I am also the local agent for CPR land.  One of our better known auctioneers was Capt. B.C. Edwards.  Barney, as he was known to all, started his auctioneering trade in Ponoka, Alta., later moving to the Mooswa district (Lindbergh). His business card read: 'Capt. B.C. Edwards, Auctioneer ‑ The Man Who Makes Your Auction Sale A Money Maker." Barney remained in our district for many  years before moving to British Columbia where he, passed away.

Other nearbv auctioneers were W.M. Brunelle, Dan Joyal, Sam Hassam, and J. Victor Lafrance, all from St. Paul.  Checking an old 1920 Vermilion Standard the following auctioneers appeared in the paper's directory: Campbell and Dickinson (Maughan), Wm. Young, A.M. West, and C. Swan. Others closer to home were Ed Caskey, Paul Petrosky, and W.J. Casterton.  They conducted auction sales thoughout our district during the 1930s and on.

All auctioneers had their own little way of trying to hold the interest of the buying public. They were never short of words.  Many kept up a continuous chatter of meaningless words or phrases such as "Abba Dabba Dabba' or 'let's get along now' throughout the sale.

‑Good auctioneers always made the difference between a good sale and a bad one. The more talented auctioneers soon became well known and were in demand, while the others found it difficult to survive and eventually gave up in the auctioneering field.

Many humorous happenings occur at auction sales.  I recall one auctioneer who reminded his audience not to be, afraid to bid openly ‑ he'd tell them when their bidding was too high.  At another auction sale a man and his wife became separated in the crowd and began bidding against each other, running up the cost considerably.

During another sale in progress, the auctioneer was suddenly interrupted by his clerk who whispered something in his ear. The auctioneer then straightened up and made the following announcement. "A gentleman in the crowd lost his pocketbook with $600 in it ‑ he will give $50 to anyone finding it." He no sooner made the announcement than someone in the audience raised his arm and hollered, "I'll give $60!"

The auctioneer, like many other tradesmen, performed a useful service ‑ that of getting top dollar for the person disposing of his real estate, livestock, machinery and household goods.