There has been an auction at the Southport firehouse every summer since the mid 1960s. In the first years, the auctioneer was Jack Gray, but in the late 1960s Carl Pierce picked up the gavel. He remained in the job until his death in 1993 and, in his honor, the event is now named the Carl C. Pierce Memorial Auction.
Since 1993, Fire Chief Gerry Gamage has run the sale. “I’m not an auctioneer,” he said. “I rattle off some time and I try to describe what things are, but I don’t know the value of things. Sometimes we have husbands and wives bid against each other, sometimes buddies do, and if there’s a youngster bidding I try to discourage the adults from outbidding them. It’s about fun.”
In one of the early years, said Gamage, “They raised about $363 and were grinning from ear to ear. Now we average $20,000 to $22,000.”
All proceeds from the auction and rummage and yard sales go to the fire department. “One year, the town bought the chassis for the tank trucks and the auction paid for the tanks, hose, equipment,” Gamage said. “Over the last 50 years, we’ve raised well over $500,000.”
Donations come in over the summer. People offer items through the rest of the year but the department has nowhere to store them.
For the two months leading up to the sale, the firehouse doors are left open so people can drop off donations. It also helps to raise awareness and excitement. Bigger items such as boats and trucks are parked over the road in the school parking lot. Occasionally a donated boat may be moored in the school pond. Donations are varied and over the years have included a camper, cars, a stuffed black bear, and a picture of Marilyn Monroe. “That created a lot of interest,” said Gamage.
This year’s sale is Saturday, Aug. 17. The rummage sale will open at 6 a.m., the lawn area for outside items at 7 a.m., and the auction gets under way at 9 a.m. Donations are still being accepted and items may be dropped off at the Southport firehouse through Thursday, Aug. 15.