Rushford man is state’s oldest living auctioneer
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 11:46 AM
The Rushford Peterson Valley is home to the oldest living auctioneer in the State of Minnesota, Bertram Boyum, at the age of 98 years old. Boyum was recently recognized at the national convention of the Minnesota State Auctioneer’s Association.
Bertram Boyum of Rushford was honored by the Minnesota State Auctioneer’s Association as the oldest living auctioneer in Minnesota.
“I was called up to the auctioneer’s convention this year. I’m a lifetime member there,” Boyum explained. “They asked if I was coming up. I said, ‘No, I wasn’t planning on it this year.’ They said, ‘We’d like you to come up here.’”
When Boyum arrived, he received his recognition; a recognition that he hadn’t expected.
Boyum began his auctioning career just over 50 years ago in 1966.
Before that, he had spent several years as a farmer before getting into business in 1953 when Boyum began work with Rolling Stone Township Mutual Insurance.
From there, he began to work with realtors. He saw firsthand his compatriots taking part in auctions. “I thought it looked fun and very interesting.”
So, Boyum unofficially tried his hand with auctioneering at the Arendahl Lutheran Church working their bazaars for a few years before his aunt, Helena Agrimson, noted that he might have a knack for being an auctioneer.
“That prod was all I needed,” said Boyum who then attended auctioneer’s school in Mason City, Iowa.
From there, the rest is history as Boyum lived out his true calling. “You get out there, and you’re in charge,” he pointed out.
Boyum also showed a love and respect for how honest auctioneering can be. Auctioneers need to be trustworthy as they need to report fair prices to their clients, prevent theft and work to maximize profit for their clients.
“We have a few thefts now and then (from auction attendees) but never what you would call a problem,” he added.
During his career, Boyum would average 50 auctions per year. Some auctions stood out more than others.
At his first auction near Choice, the auction had to compete with a local funeral. “We like to have a lot of people at an auction… But the funeral would come first, of course,” he said.
The auction ended up having a fair amount show up, despite circumstances.
In a similar fashion, in the late 1970s, Boyum held an auction just north of Hart in freezing weather – 15 degrees below zero with a wind chill factor making it even worse.
“It was cold, and I mean cold… I called the owner the night before and said, ‘We’ll have to cancel that auction,’” Boyum explained.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to cancel!’ We went ahead with the auction. I told them, ‘If you will bid first, I’ll get you out of here in a hurry!”
Boyum moved the auction along quickly selling piece of machinery after piece of machinery. When it came time to auction off the cattle, Boyum moved the group into the barn and sold them from inside the barn.
As Boyum’s career continued, it turned into a family business as his son, Murt, joined him in the early 1970s. At times, the two would do auctions together. Other times, they had their own business to attend to.
But as Boyum’s age caught up with him, he found his legs giving out, and he knew it was time to ease himself out of the auctioning game. By the end of the century, Boyum was done with auctions on a regular basis.
But before this happened, Boyum was inducted into the Minnesota State Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame in 1995.
Now, he is retired but will still perform some “freebies” as Boyum calls them, including the recent auction held at Semcac’s Senior Dining Center on Feb. 14.
“I can still sell. My voice is still good,” Boyum pointed out.
Boyum doesn’t mind doing freebies for places like the Senior Dining Center, which has meant so much to him in recent years.
“One of the things that I treasure is that I can get to senior dining each day. That’s a real plus for the community,” Boyum noted.
Boyum said two questions are asked of him regularly, and he has answered a number of times in his life.
The first is what advice Boyum would give to someone interested in becoming an auctioneer?
“First thing, you develop a nice smooth chant, and you’ve got to be understood. A fast chant is not necessarily a good auctioneer,” said Boyum.
“There’s one thing that really bothers me with today’s auctioneers — you can’t understand them. That’s a disgrace to the auction profession.”
Boyum added that it is important to stay focused when you are conducting an auction.
“When you’re selling, you’ve got to know where you took the last bid, and you have to keep track of who is bidding. It’s a time of real concentration,” he added.
The second question that Boyum gets asked is: What is the strangest item you have ever sold?
“I had a pastor and his wife that had been in Tunisia, and they came back home and brought this birthing chair with them. She died shortly after, which was very unexpected. He went back to Tunisia, and so I held his auction,” began Boyum.
The birthing chair is exactly what it sounds like: a low-to-the-ground chair that a pregnant woman sits in backwards so that she can give birth.
Boyum laughed as he told the story, but reiterated that nothing else came close to the oddity of that particular item.
After nearly five decades, it would be difficult to top that.