|I don't know what West Topsham did before 1983 if something caught on fire, but now we have a volunteer fire department. Once a year they have an auction to raise money for more fire equipment and who knows what else. They solicit donations from the local businesses [all five of them] and the locals [all 150]. Then everyone turns out to buy each other's stuff and see who is silly enough to buy theirs. The auction is held in the fire house and you can use the bathrooms in the town hall across the street. There is a small tent out front where you can buy a bag of cookies for a quarter and a roast beef sandwich for seventy-five cents.
|It's a little like Ebay except that you don't have to pay for postage, so something that you get for a dollar -- like these canisters -- really does cost a dollar, assuming you can get it in your car to take home. I saw many things go for a dollar: a weed whacker, a black and white TV, a recliner chair. My own dollar purchases included these canisters and a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner which came with a Polaroid camera at no extra charge. Some things wouldn't even go for a dollar -- the fold out clothesline thing, the beauty salon style hair dryer -- and you wondered if their owners were ashamed, or maybe just psyched because they finally got rid of the damned things. In a place where everything you throw away has to be taken in your car to the dump, the auction is an opportunity for some unloading.
|The big thing these auctions have over online auctions is the boxed lots. The people who donate stuff put it in boxes, and oftentimes these boxes are sold as is. The auctioneer has a bunch of lackeys who are unpacking the boxes and holding things up as fast as he can try to sell them off. When the lots don't sell, they add boxes to them to try to make them more appealing. There is a lot of trading going on outside as people try to get rid of the stuff in their lot they don't want. I got a sleeping pad this way. My boxed lot included: two enamel pans, an enamel basin, an enamel baking pan, one Revere saucepan, two small saucepans, two cookie sheets, some weird thing that assembles somehow but is missing some pieces, a plug-in warming pad, a piece that turns my stovetop into a griddle, four lids [matching, I think], a wooden ashtray and a santa claus candle holder. Two dollars.
|You kind of figure everything is going to work, at least somewhat, because these people are your neighbors. That's why I took a gamble on the paint sprayer [$2]. Then there are some things that clearly are a worthwhile risk, such as this rocking chair [$7.50] and the hundred dollar savings bond I got for $42.50 after a fierce bidding war. The auction lasted about five hours, I left before the very end because I was not interested in the organ that they were saving for last. Every time something wouldn't sell, the auctioneer would say "Hey, this is for the fire department." When something was being severely underbid on he would say "They know where you live, and will remember this when your house catches on fire...."