Bidding to Benefit. That’s the theme for this year’s 50th Anniversary celebration of the Annual Auction, or “School Sale,” as it’s known to most folks who are familiar with the event. The success of the Auction over the years could not have been possible without the Lord’s hand directing the hard work of volunteers and the generosity of the donors and bidders. The Auction has become a family tradition, a weekend of fun and a weekend of enjoyable service for many families. Ultimately, the intent of this fundraiser has been to meet the budgeted goal and allow tuition to stay as low as possible for families. In an April 1973 newspaper article board president at the time, John E. Zook, stated, “The total operating budget for the school is $95,000 this year. The tuition paid by the parents covers about 60% of the operating budget. We lean heavily on the proceeds from the annual school sale to make up the balance.” Today, in 2015, the statements made by Mr. Zook still hold true for BMS and the Annual Auction.
The first Auction was held on April 10, 1965 at the Belleville Livestock Barn. The sale only featured donated dairy cattle. The auction continued at the “Sale Barn” from 1965-1975. The Cattle Auction continues to be a major part of the sale every other year. This auction alone in the 1970’s and 1980’s brought an average of $8,100.00. Starting in the 1990’s the Cattle Auction averaged over $20,000.00. In 2013 the Cattle Auction brought in $19,000.00.
An interesting story from the first Annual Auction came from Marvin Peachey, current BMS maintenance director and BMS Class of 1960 graduate. He reported that Herbert King, father to BMS students at the time, donated a young colt and a local dairy farmer, Mark S. Yoder, bought it. Many of the youngsters at the auction wanted it so Mark allowed the children to put their names in a hat and have one name drawn: a winner to receive the colt. Marv’s daughter, Gloria (Peachey) Kauffman’s, ’81, name was drawn. The Peachey’s took the colt home and the family named it “Lucky Star.”
From 1976-1983, the Auction was held at the Mifflin County Youth Park in the exhibit hall known to locals as the “green building.” One of the original leaders of the Auction at that time was Enid Yoder. Enid and her husband John, sent all of their children to BMS until they graduated. She utilized her expertise in cooking, baking and planning to coordinate many of the food functions for the Auction in the early days.
Enid reported that having the Auction at the Youth Park required extra labor to transport kettles, pots, pans, paper products, stoves and all of the items needed to put on the Auction. Enid recalled that they made beef and chicken pot pie complete with thick homemade pot pie noodles in the current conference room of the green building. She said that it was very difficult to keep up with the demand. “People would come with gallon buckets and request them to be filled with pot pie for their take-out dinner!” She remembers “girls” feverishly cooking vegetable and chicken noodle soup over coal-oil stoves. Enid suggested one year that they make fresh hoagies. They certainly made them fresh – they sliced lunch meat on the premises on a meat slicer that was transported from the BMS cafeteria. They sliced the tomatoes and lettuce fresh too!
It was actually Enid’s suggestion that sparked the move from the Mifflin County Youth Park to the BMS gymnasium. When the Auction began in 1969, BMS did not have a large gymnasium to host the event until 1978 when a brand new high school building was constructed. Enid thought the gym would be a wonderful place to house the event. She took her idea to the president of the Board of Trustees at the time, John Zook. He said, “We can move it as long as you have pancakes and sausage for breakfast!” The next year the Auction was at BMS and pancakes and sausage were served for breakfast!
The Auction was a highlight for many families and especially children. Gwen (Yoder) Renno, current parent of four BMS children, food services director at the school and ’96 graduate, recalls, “It was a greatly anticipated event for our family.” Stan Miller who worked as the development director at BMS at one time remarked, “I remember when I took my grandson, Colin Peachey, to the school sale. He was just a little guy. With arms upraised, Colin, appeared to be blessing everyone as he rode around on my shoulders.” Colin is now a senior at BMS.
“I remember children running everywhere!” a former BMS parent recalled. “As a BMS student, a highlight of the school year was going to the School Sale to meet up and socialize with classmates,” one alumnus remembered. She also remembers having water battles behind the high school building and eating herself sick from sweets at the candy stand. Brian Yoder, ’00 graduate, reported, “I remember helping mom (Arlene (Hartzler) Yoder, ’70 graduate) buy the candy and pick out which boxes of baseball cards to buy for the candy stand...then on sale day spending all my money on baseball cards!”
When thinking about the Auction, one cannot leave out the Quilt Auction. This auction is a major drawing point for the event and has been since its inception. In 1978, the total quilt proceeds brought over $2,500.00 with the average price at $225.00. Compare that to the 2012 proceeds of $13,000.00. An article from the County Observer in the early 1970’s states: A 50-patch U.S. quilt with each block embroidered with the official flower and bird of a state will be sold. It was made by Mrs. Ida Kanagy who completed an identical one for the school sale last year. (last year she said “If it brings over $100.00 I will make another one for next year.”) “Since it did sell for over that figure last year, I made a second one. But I’m not talking so loud (the next) time,” she said. The many hours spent in making this quilt was apparent when Mrs. Kanagy said she had worked a half of one day to embroider one of the patches. This particular quilt brought in $246.00 at the 8th annual Auction which was the highest amount yet paid for a quilt at the BMS Auction up to that time.
Many, many talented ladies spent hundreds of hours over the years stitching masterpieces for the school! Each winter they gather in the basement of Valley View Retirement Community’s Oakwood Center to work on the quilts. What a tremendous and humble investment these ladies have made over the years!
Mishaps and last minute arrangements are bound to occur with an event the size of the BMS Auction. Debbie Yoder co-chaired the Auction alongside her husband, Dale, ’79, from 2000-2003 and Shelby Hartzler along with her husband, Rodney, ’93, were co-chairs, both recalled situations that could have turned out negatively, but resulted in everything working out. Debbie recounts, “One year Marie (Peachey) Byler, ’64, was still working in the kitchen. On Friday when we left, we thought everything was taken care of.” She continued, “During the middle of the night, Marie woke up and realized no one had picked up the sausage for the Saturday breakfast. She called Lewis Peachey from AJ Peachey’s Meats to see if Lewis could open the store for her. Lewis did just that. Marie picked the sausage up and took it to the school. It was there in time to be fried for breakfast. She knew what needed to be done, and rather than call someone else, or not worry about it, she took care of the issue.”
Shelby remembers receiving a phone call from former co-chair Dena Stauffer on the Thursday before the Auction reporting that AJ Peachey Meat’s had burnt to the ground during the night. That particular year AJ Peachey’s was going to prepare the BBQ chicken for the Friday evening meal. Shelby said, “By the time Dena called us she had already talked with Bonnie Peachey, who owned Whitehall Store at the time along with her husband, Don, ’78, and arranged for her to order in the chicken. She even had people lined up to prepare it!”
Ann (Renno) Kanagy, ’62, former Auction chair and former BMS superintendent, development director and parent, said, “I recall the first year we sold hot sausage sandwiches. Breakfast was served, but there was so much sausage left, we decided to add hot sausage sandwiches to the lunch menu immediately. We went to Taylor’s IGA and bought a large amount of green peppers and onions to sauté, and then began serving hot sausage sandwiches. From then on we always tried to be certain we had enough sausage to serve with breakfast and also as hot sausage sandwiches.”
Alan, ’81, and Jill (Kauffman) Metzler, ’83, current supporters, Auction sponsors and parents of three BMS graduates, served as co-chairs from 1997-1999 and made arrangements to purchase strawberries from Florida and eventually deliver them to the school by flying them here in Alan’s personal airplane. One particular year there was a mechanical issue with his plane and Alan wasn’t able to make the return flight home, so he rented a large van and drove the strawberries to the school in time for the Auction.
Another important part of the School Sale is the food. Whoopie pies, moon pies, hoagies, hot sausage sandwiches, ice cream, and strawberry pies have always enticed buyers to enjoy good meals and treats. In earlier days, individual freezers of ice cream were made. In 1967 it was reported that 20 freezers of homemade ice cream were sold! Soft serve is now sold and is a big hit. The bake stand in the early years was overflowing with wonderful homemade breads, pies, cookies and other goodies. Today’s auctions feature specialty baked goods by the likes of Enid, Rhoda Byler, Shelby Hartzler, Rachel Swartzentruber, Virginia (Peachey) Renno (’71) and Terri (Zook) Thompson, ’96. Four dozen of Rhoda’s chocolate whoopie pies went for $210.00 in 2013 and two dozen of Enid Yoder’s homemade pecan sticky buns went for $135.00 in the same year!
One year Sadie Byler suggested that fresh strawberry pies be sold. The food committee that year traveled to Harrisburg to a food show and taste tested the pie gel which was going to be used in the pies. The pies were a great addition and continue to have tremendous appeal.
The commitment of volunteers working behind the scenes is invaluable. Irene (Kauffman) Shrock, ’59, worked in the school office as the secretary for decades and is an excellent example of someone serving behind the scenes. She remembers hand writing the bidder numbers with permanent markers, making seating charts and counting all of the money at the conclusions of each auction. When asked what stands out in her mind about this event, Irene replied, “It was amazing to me to see how people came together to get the work done.”
Sallie and the late Merle Yoder were an integral part of this fundraising tradition. Sallie remarked, “We looked forward to helping. Our involvement was really worth it. We enjoyed it a lot.” She added, “Those were the good years.” Today, Merle’s seat is auctioned off at the beginning of the Auction.
Debbie Yoder made similar remarks, “When we served, we were so impressed with the volunteers and their willingness to help. I loved to stand back and watch everyone working and getting along the day of the sale. People knew their jobs, and the sale ran smoothly because they cared about their job and were willing to work.” She continued, “I think that is what we loved the most about being the chairmen, was working with the patrons, getting to know new people and simply working together for the good of the school.”
BMS students have helped in numerous ways over the years too. Often high school students have served breakfast and lunch, worked in the kitchen and served in other areas. Juli (Yoder) Sunderland, ’95, said, “I remember Grandpa Yoder (Arthur) clerking for the auction…we'd run food to him when he was ready to eat…I remember taking him a hot dog several years.” She added, “When we were in elementary we'd make big poster board signs to advertise the foods and drinks for sale.” .” Juli’s sister Gwen Renno, ’95, reported, “When our parents were on the sale committee, we had the “privilege” of coming here at 5:00 in the morning to help get everything ready for Saturday’s big day.”
The Auction is open to the public and has welcomed thousands of community members including folks from the surrounding counties and the local Amish. One community member commented, “I look forward to the Sale each year.” “I come for the food!” another community member added.
Local friend, George Mohler, is always at the Auction. Sallie reminisced about Merle and other friends, like George, who decided to buy the first strawberry pie that was auctioned each year. Merle and George would conspire together about how much each was going to bid and who would end up with the pie. The generosity in this act was a great way to start off the auction, and brought a sense of excitement and amusement to the crowd, especially on a few occasions when other individuals in attendance understood what was happening and decided to make Merle pay just a bit more!
Remarkably, Mark Glick has served as the auctioneer at all 50 of the Auctions! Dale Gibboney helped as an auctioneer for many years until more recently when Brian Glick joined Mark.
Current superintendent, Starla (Byler) Fogleman, ’77, remarked “It was an important social event for me as a child and is still an occasion I look forward to.” She continued, “It’s a significant fundraiser for us here at BMS but is equally important as a celebration of family and friendship. It’s almost like a spring Homecoming!”
Thank you to each volunteer, donor, and bidder for all of your contributions throughout the years! The annual Auction is an event that requires God’s blessing and the hands and hearts of many.