July 24 – 30, 2020Vol. 22, No. 7

The Auction

Old outboard motors, some from auctions, being readied for last year's 4th of July parade.

by Rod Johnson

I think we all know that an auction is an event where items are purchased by bidding against others. The highest bidder becomes the new owner.

As many of you know, the Luckiest Boy collects antique outboard motors. To date the number in the collection is just shy of 50, and we've named it the Antique Outboards of Belgrade. We had plans to quit at 25, but somehow that didn't happen and we are still at it. The old outboards have come from many sources including outright purchases, barn finds and land fill metal scrap heaps. In addition, many have come from good friends and neighbors at no cost, and yes, even auctions. The most recent acquisition is chronicled in the following story.

Our long-time Delray Beach friends Sandra Norton and Jan Hokenson, now living in Shelburne, Vermont, sent us an ad/notification that items from a Lake Placid estate were being auctioned. The owner had been an avid hunting and fishing enthusiast and the items being sold reflected that. Things like antique fishing rods, bows and arrows, and even an unfired Civil War rifle were included.

What had caught their eyes were two small antique outboard motors that might be interesting for the Antique Outboards of Belgrade collection. They offered to send more information and if we wanted them for the collection they would go to the auction and bid on one or both, depending on price and competition. It turns out the motors were in the 2 to 3 horsepower range and were real antiques from the 1930s. The Muncie interested us the most and the collection did not have one. The Evinrudes are more plentiful as many more were produced and we have several of varying sizes. (For the record, we don't collect large outboards, as they are too dammed heavy to handle.)

Auction day arrived in January and the two spirited, white-haired women arrived early and got a good seat in the front row. This was a first for them both, but neither suffers from shyness. They did not go unnoticed by the mostly male arrivals whose quizzical glances showed curiosity and perhaps a little uneasiness. The auctioneer soon called the room to order and started the auction with several items, including a bamboo fly rod, a small kit of dry flies, and a nice wicker creole.

The first outboard, touted as the owner's original fishing motor, was the Muncie 2 horsepower, model A11. Sandra and Jan comfortably and quickly joined the bidding by raising their paddle. After some minor competition the other bidders quickly were quieted when Sandra firmly set the paddle down marking the end of the bidding. The auctioneer hollered, "SOLD," as he pointed a finger to "our ladies."

Soon after, a lunch break was declared and the second outboard motor came up later in the afternoon session. The men seemed more determined about the Evinrude and the bidding was robust. San and Jan smartly let it go to others and with smiles on their faces, left the room to pick up their booty. After wrapping the new baby in a tarp, they loaded into their SUV and took it back to their home. This coming summer the Muncie will be available to see in the Antique Outboards of Belgrade collection. Thank you, Jan and Sandra, for alerting us and for your sporting sense of going to your first auction.

As I started writing this story earlier today, it occurred to me that I have obtained only one other outboard motor at an auction. Oddly enough, it was the motor that started the collection back in 1988. Woodland Camps was having an auction to sell off ancillary camp items such as rocking chairs, old refrigerators, bed frames, and so on. Near the end of the day, an auctioneer's helper lugged a dirty old outboard motor from the rear of the pump house. It was put up for bid and I put $5.00 on it. There were no other bidders and I brought it home. It turned out to be a complete 1925 Johnson 2 horsepower, which still runs today. My friend Ralph cleaned it up and got it running. Doris and I ran it in the 1998 boat parade and this summer will mark its 95th birthday.

So-o-o-o-o, what's the lesson here? Could it be, don't be afraid to raise your paddle at an auction — you never know what you might get!

Hats off to Sandra and Jan for their efforts to make it happen. The Muncie, as a newcomer, will join the Johnson as the oldster. They will reside together for the rest of their days for many folks to see.

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.