Given ongoing difficult financial situation, it seems as though everyone is trying to save money: scanning flyers for sales, buying ‘previously loved’ items from Craigslist, checking for Groupon coupons, and stocking up on clearance items.
Times have been difficult in the past, so the quest for inexpensive alternatives is no new concept.
Local residents once could experience the thrill of a great deal at the Haney-Pitt Meadows Auction Barn.
The barn, which was situated in Hammond where Dewdney Trunk Road meets Lougheed Highway, was first opened in 1945 by Mr. Brown.
Purchased in 1952 by Florence and Ira Wonnacott, the auction barn was the definition of a family run business.
While Florence supervised the barn’s sales, Ira managed the barn, and son Frank acted as the chief auctioneer.
Later on, Frank’s son Glenn and daughter-in-law Jackie participated in the operation of the barn.
Outside the auction barn, customers could pop in to the vegetable stand and pick up ingredients for that night’s dinner.
Inside, people flocked to the small concession stand, which sold hot dogs, coffee and hot chocolate.
While waiting for the auction to begin, customers could study the old cereal boxes and saws that lined the wooden planked walls, or take in the groups of regulars as they settled into the front rows of the auction.
Initially, the auction was primarily an animal auction, selling chickens, cows, pigs and goats to farmers. Livestock sales were quite demanding in terms of keeping up with the standards set out by the provincial department of agriculture. Every animal sold had to be inspected by a veterinarian, which was often Dr. Hopkins, of Maple Ridge Animal Hospital.
“I remember it smelling awful in there,” Monica Brown Baker said of the livestock area.
Monica would frequent the auction on Saturday mornings with her dad and sisters, in order to give mom some quiet time at home.
“I liked listening to the auctioneer, of course,” Monica said. “That was amazing to me.”
As the makeup of the community changed, sales shifted and focused on household goods and miscellaneous merchandise.
“My father loved to go to the Auction Barn for great deals,” remembered Faye Thorp Meek. “One time he came home with a box full of records, 78 speed He was thrilled and opened the box to view the titles, but was surprised when he saw that he had 25 copies of the same record: The Corn Waltz. We all had a good laugh.”
According to Sandy Macdougall, who worked at the barn from 1965-1977, the Haney-Pitt Meadows Auction Barn lasted so many years because it was an honest and fair establishment.
“If a washing machine clunked, I’d plug it in and show them that it clunked.”
The barn was more than a place to find a good deal; it had a community atmosphere.
“It was like the Cheers of auctions, where everybody knew your name,” Sandy suggested.
“It was a social event, where people could talk about good times or bad times. It harkened back to a different time, a time that was more about community. We had more time for each other.”
With the emergence of second-hand stores, the growth of garage sales, and the expansion of livestock auctions in Cloverdale, there was not enough business to justify keeping the auction going.
To the dismay of many, the barn closed down in 1985, and the once bustling building was torn down soon after.
Sandra Borger is a researcher with the Maple Ridge Museum.