Crowd's roar fulfills auctioneer's boyhood dream

December 10, 1992|By Any L. Miller | Any L. Miller,Staff Writer

A dream of fame and fortune hasn't drawn Bruce Witte int the auction business.

Just the roar of the crowd.

"I'm certainly not doing this for the money," said the 40-year-old -- owner of the Golden Gavel in Taylorsville. "I just had a desire to do it."

His new business has yet to garner a paycheck for the family members and few friends who help him run the monthly auctions.

But that does not dampen a desire that started all the way back before high school.

"I've been to auctions ever since I was a kid," said Mr. Witte, as he recalled wandering through estate auctions and traveling far from home with his father.

"We bought most of our farm machinery at auctions."

Farming was not his family's first calling, however. His father, a college professor in Baltimore, moved the family out to the Carroll County countryside when Bruce Witte was about 4.

"My parents bought a farm here and thought it was a pretty good place to raise their kids," he said. "I'm sure glad they did."

Mr. Witte enjoyed the farming business. Upon graduating from South Carroll High in 1970, he took over the 200-acre farm on Davis Road to grow corn, wheat and hay.

Soon after, he started Witte's Truck and Tractor and has been selling and repairing farm equipment for about 20 years.

But the auction bug hadn't let go of Mr. Witte, and he was determined to fulfill the promise he made in his senior yearbook.

"I wrote in my yearbook that I was going to be an auctioneer someday," he said.

So, he took night classes at the Fredericktown School of Auction in Frederick to learn his basic chant.

"There were some schools out West I applied to, but I could

never get the two to three weeks to go," Mr. Witte said, adding that Frederick was the only school to offer night classes. "I was a member of their first class."

From there, he started doing charity auctions, helping the MountAiry Elementary PTA with Christmas sales and being the auctioneer for churches in the area.

He also traveled to people's homes to sell items on location, a practice he continues.

"The worst auction I ever had was a house in Laurel when we

were carrying the furniture out the front door and the breakfast cereal and milk were still on the table," he said.

The home had to be sold to settle a family dispute, and though Mr. Witte felt uncomfortable, he had to do it, he said.

"The sheriff was with me, and if I hadn't done it, somebody else would have," he said. "There were only 20 people there, and 15 of them were members of the family.

"Everything was sold within the family, including the house."

Recalling how his own family had traveled to find equipment, he wanted to help local farmers find items closer to home.

He tried running the auctions at his shop on Davis Road, but found it wasn't allowed under the zoning, Mr. Witte said.

His next stop was renting his current location at the TaylorsvillGun Club on Route 26. After the zoning was approved, he began auctioning items on the second Saturday of every month.

"This is a perfect location," Mr. Witte said of the empty hall next to Beth Shalom. "It's along the road and there is plenty of parking."

Aside from his specialty, farm machinery, Mr. Witte said he takes any kind of item on consignment from glassware to antiques, guns to toys.

"We're going to have a lot of toys and dolls at our next sale [on Saturday]," he said. "We're going to try and help people with their Christmas shopping."

The Golden Gavel is also trying to get a Saturday hay sale going to compete with the one at the livestock auction in Westminster on Tuesday nights.

"Some of the part-time farmers can't come on Tuesday nights," Mr. Witte said. "We're just trying to give them another time when they can come and buy hay."

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