Saturday, January 22, 2011

Memories

It was the early 70's.

My dad has always been on the lookout for a good deal. On this day he took us to a Potluck auction. I don't know if they still have them, or what they're called now.

Basically, a moving/storage company auctions off unclaimed goods. Some of it is typical, like furniture, but the Potluck part is where they sell off big unopened packing boxes that were never picked up. So you have no idea what you're getting. Every bidder dreams of buying a forgotten box with something valuable in it.

I'd never been to an auction before. It was certainly interesting to watch and listen to. Dad bid on a few items that he didn't win. I vividly remember them dragging a large refrigerator out on stage. After the winning bid had been placed they were rolling it off for the new owner to claim, when suddenly the entire door fell off.

My parents spent time looking over the displayed boxes very carefully. Dad was particularly taken with one box. It was unusually heavy for it's size, and all bound up in tape and twine. It was, as best I remember, roughly 2-3 feet on each side. Across the top, in big letters, it said "TBC".

Anyway, at some point 2 guys carried the TBC box out, and the bidding began. Somewhere in there Dad entered the competition, and after a flurry of bidding, he'd won! My sister and I were excited, and cheered. We had no idea what had happened, except that our dad had won. The box cost $14.83 (including tax). I'd guess in today's terms it would be $50-$60.

It was HEAVY. It took both my parents and a guy pushing a dolly to get it out to the car, and I don't remember if the trunk closed all the way. We got home, and with much pushing and shoving got it into the kitchen.

Mom and Dad got out some knives and hacked their way through the heavy wrapping. We were all excited. It contained...

A Telephone Book Collection.

Yes, someone (who apparently needed a life) had collected phone directories from major cities all over the U.S.: Boston, New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles, and many others. All neatly stacked in the box.

With quiet disappointment, the box was closed and put in the garage.

I'd forgotten all about it a few weeks later, when it was my birthday party. I had a bunch of friends over. We had the usual cake, presents, and games. And as they were getting ready to go my dad offered each kid... a phone directory.

It's been almost 40 years. I don't remember if any of them took one. Or what finally happened to the box.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

there are plenty of mystery auctions on ebay, just go there and search for "mystery box", "mystery envelope", "surprise auction"....

Laura said...

Hahahaha!! That sounded like something that could come straight from the "A Christmas Story" family...

At least he did not proudly display them in the living room window!

The Mother said...

We hired an auction company to help clean out that giant warehouse. They paid me pennies, but at least I didn't have to hire someone to take all that stuff away.

As he picked up various junk, he looked at it and said, "Someone will buy this."

I didn't let him take the 1960s box of iuds. Too gross.

donna said...

Yes they still do. there is a
reality series called Storage Wars.

donna said...

BTW: I have not seen the box/units
go for under a couple of hundred.
Units .. I have seen over a few
thousand.

WV: medness

Lt 3rd year said...

you might like the show Auction Hunters on Spike. the only difference is they bid off an entire storage unit and you only get to see inside it for a min or two.

musicteacher said...

What a great story! I'll bet not many people have paid that much for a bunch of phone books!

kc said...

My dad would have bought the box, too. Come to think of it, he probably would have bought a lot more stuff. He enjoyed going to garage sales and buying stuff to fix, and then having his own garage sale. He was amazingly good at reselling other people's junk, and I'm guessing he could have talked someone into buying those phone books. And embarrassing the life out of my siblings and I in the process.

Anonymous said...

Now there's a reality show like that:

http://www.aetv.com/storage-wars/index.jsp

Tanya said...

Heh-my dad had exactly the same experience. His box contained lead pipe fittings. I've often wondered if the people running the auction just put junk in boxes and let people bid on them...

Anonymous said...

Dear Doctor Grumpy, this may help you. http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe

Li'l Azathoth said...

Did he ever think of selling them as "Pet Phone Books?"

After your birthday party, did people in Boston, New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, LA, etc. start getting prank calls from kids in Grumpytown?

Anonymous said...

Dear other anonymous person up there: you are my hero! I find it slightly disturbing that doctors, that have way longer education that I could ever hope to get, don't use simple grammar rules. Hell, I'm more or less a high school drop-out, (well, barely graduate, then,) and I know how to use it!

(However, I do not know how to be nice.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 2:13pm,

If you're really going to criticize someone's use of apostrophes, you should probably monitor your own use of commas.

Moose said...

Regulars at woot.com, a website that offers one-day-only sales, prize the ever hard to get "Bag of Crap." You pay $1, plus $5 shipping, and you get a mystery box.

The daily sale at woot.com changes at 1am Eastern. For each sale there is a limited number of items (anywhere from 1 to oo), though they do not tell you how many there are, and when they sell out that's it for the day.

Most of the time a "Bag of Crap" sells out within a minute or two. Their last "Bag of Crap" went on sale at 01:00 Eastern 12/25/2010. I managed to get one.

It took two weeks to get here. The box was pretty big. Inside was: A box containing 3 boxes, each holding a gym bag. A small backpack with a PGA logo on it. 2 baseball caps with a PGA logo in it. A bigger gym bag with a PGA logo on it. And a Plantronics bluetooth headset.

Well, I wanted a bag of crap. I GOT A BOX OF CRAP!

ladyk73 said...

So the mystery box became the misery box!

JG said...

There's actually a new reality show on some network (TLC maybe?) about storage units. Units that have gone defunct are kept for a certain amount of time and then gathered together to auction. I guess they give the people like two minutes to look inside and then start the bidding. Seems like fun to me, now if only I had the time or disposable income to get involved in speculative purchasing like that...

dances said...

I paid about a buck and a half for a box like that. I was delighted to get them because my kids used them as building bricks for forts from age four until the impulse to make a fort and move in wore off. By the time they outgrew the fort stage the books were molting, ratty and recycling for phone books was up and running.
It was a great buy. It also inspired my son to give a much younger cousin a refrigerator carton for Christmas, an epic gift well remembered by the kid.

pharmacy chick said...

There is an entire show about this now called "storage wars" its on TruTV and its all about the FIND!

Anonymous said...

My dad was building our house in the early 70s. While he was working on the wiring at one end of the large empty rooms, my mother volunteered to her Altar Society to store the goods for the annual church rummage sale. For two months the annex under construction overflowed with brown bags of clothing and jewelry and old shoes and purses and just about anything that one wanted to get rid of.

Today, I was looking for a book of Asterix written in German today at the public library and came across a book on Yiddish for Dummies, and the first word I saw would describe the stuff in those empty room perfectly: CHOZZERAI, I think.

Lipstick said...

*giggle* very funny. Made me think of the time my family received a very tiny Black Star of India in the mail as a reward for winning some contest. Also totally worthless.

Anonymous said...

The next "This American Life" has a section on these potluck auctions. It was the first time I'd heard of them, and there's a whole culture around them. Pretty fascinating.

Christine said...

My local news website had an article on those sort of auctions today!
http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=178191&catid=188

 
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