Monday, August 26, 2013

Storms, Sales, and Spats

Just outside of Indian Head, Pennsylvania along Route 711, there used to be an auction every Saturday night. A man named Ethan Pritts and his wife Hazel bought it and ran it for many years. It was a large wooden building with brown Enisled brick tar paper and a tin roof. At one end was a raised stage and throughout the interior were the fold-up type movie seats and wooden benches to sit on. There was a raised platform where the auctioneer sat.

In the back right corner was a kitchen where Hazel cooked food and sold sodas, candy bars, and bags of chips. On one counter sat a machine that served Lemon-blend. It refrigerated and squirted the drink into a clear plastic dome and fell back down into the bulk of the beverage. The outside would sweat from the heat against the cold dome. The food items they served included hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, and fish sandwiches.
Now the fish sandwiches were to die for. They served two pieces of fish, deep fried to a golden brown on an oversized bun. The portions of the fish stuck out about three inches on both sides of the bun. My mouth is watering even as I share this story. It cost $1.75. Its size was enough that even an adult who ate the sandwich felt full, but as a kid, my stomach was tightly full to feeling overfull. The flavor was so good that I would slowly gorge myself to almost bursting. I couldn’t stop until it was all gone.
At that time, smoking had not been banned and seeing the item for sale was often seen through a smoky haze. A low hum of voices chatting in the audience gave back ground to the auctioneer’s sing song, slurred cadence announcing the present asking price until he called “Last chance. Going, going, Sold.”
Ethan would hit the Strip District in Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon and buy produce that needed some work; cabbage where the outer leaves needed to be removed, onions that had a rotten one in the bag sorted and re-bagged, or fruit that needed sorted to remove the over ripened ones. He would do the sorting and re-bagging Saturday morning so that all would be ready for the sale that evening.
One night sales were slow. It seemed that neither Ethan nor the auctioneer could get the crowd into a bidding frenzy. Nothing was enticing them to bid. They tried interspacing the old and new with the produce and blocks of cheese. The food stuff sold but not at very high prices. Ethan was beside himself as he searched through the items to be sold at the back of the stage. All of a sudden, he wrestled a huge cardboard box about the size that a clothes dryer would be packaged. Pushing it up to beside the auctioneer, he jammed his fist through the top. As he withdrew his hand, he took the microphone from the auctioneer and said, “What am I bid for these?”
His withdrawn hand was filled with ladies nylon panties; all colors and all sizes. There was about ten pair in his clenched fist. He handed the microphone back to the auctioneer. The crowd went crazy. Each handful held different colors and sizes and each handful was bid on separately. They emptied that huge box, one fistful at a time.
The sale went on, bidding improved, and Ethan seemed more relaxed.

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