By Norwood Walker
Ever wonder where the antique stores in the area get their stock?
Before the days of multi-channel cable television bringing the vicarious experiences of hunting antiques and the drama of bidding wars at auction through shows like American Pickers and Storage Wars, there were live auctions. Where real pickers brought in their finds and set everyday people like you and me off into bidding wars. Combing through antique shops, thrift stores, and yard sales is fun and a good way to find just the right item for just the right price, but they pale in light of the live auction. There is nothing like the thrill of seeing something you just have to have and then realize you are going have to be crafty and bold enough to be able to take it home. No haggling over prices here. Just the steady rhythm of the chant of the auctioneer and the blood pumping through your heart as you realize it might be yours.
The auction is an adventure, never knowing what you might find there and maybe getting it for a steal or having to dig deep and pay much more then you planned or in some cases more than it was really worth. But the fun is in the chase and fellowship, though strained at time, that the trip to the auction house brings. Not just for die hard collectors, or antique shop owners, or bargain hunters, but for anyone who may happen to stumble and wonder why there are so many cars out here in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday night. “Let’s stop and see what is happening.” Then you are hooked.
Most auction houses in North Carolina and Virginia have some things in common, noise, food, friends, and suspense/patience. By the very nature all are loud. When that many people gather (most all draw good crowds) there is always a lot of conversation even once the auction starts. The auctioneer must turn up his volume to be heard above the crowd. There is always food usually hot dogs, hamburgers, and slices of homemade cakes and pies. Auctions usually run for several hours and one must have food to make it through. People usually attend the auctions on a regular basis and friendship develop that may last long after the last gavel. There is a bond, and a concern for each other that grows, almost like family. That is another commonality. Most of the houses in this area are family owned and operated. One has to develop a sense of patience at the auction to endure the suspense of “when are they going to pick up that blue vase I want and how much is it going to cost me?”
The walnut china cabinet, the walnut two board blanket chest, the Cobalt blue Royal Lace pieces, and the Fenton pieces scattered throughout my house, all came from Kent Nelson’s Auction House. Every room has at least one piece that came from there. It became an addiction for me while I was single and a habit that would continue for years first with a wife, and then with two kids. It was a place I made friends that I have kept over the years. It was my first auction house, but definitely not my last. It was a regular Saturday night destination. It opened the door to the “one-time circuit;” Monday night-Norlina, Friday night-Youngsville, but Saturday nights, it was always Kent’s. Later years saw Carolina Auction Gallery, Fernwood, Back in Time, and Winstead’s. Hopefully I get the chance to tell Back in Time and Winstead’s story. But
“I appreciate you offering me the opportunity to give a little background on my Auctioning career.
I started my Auction House in 1967, in an old building I had on my property on Bethel Hill School Road. The building wasn’t very big, but it was a good place to start and to see how it would do. I traveled from up North and bought truckloads of antiques from West Virginia. I also had pickers that would bring items for sale every Saturday night.
The sales went so well, it got to the point I had standing room only, so in 1972 I decided I needed a larger facility to accommodate all of the people and merchandise that was coming to my sales. I built a new 60 by 100 building in front of the old building, and that’s where I held my auctions until 2007 when my wife had MS and cancer. I stopped holding auctions to care for her until she passed away.
I remarried in 2010; my current wife and I still buy items for the auction house, and we have garage sales in the summer months and also we let people know that they can call us and come and shop when they would like. The auction house is completely full of everything from furniture, glassware, and decorative items.
I do donate my time to Bethel Hill Charter School and auction item(s) people donate to be sold to help with the operation of the school. The auction is usually held in April every year and is open to the public. I am one of the oldest Auctioneers in North Carolina my Auction number is 20.
I loved Auctioning, I met so many wonderful people, and made so many wonderful friends over the years, and want to thank all of them for coming to the Auctions and participating for the 40 years that I held the auctions.
Kent has a Facebook page and can be reached through there. It is certainly a place that was responsible for many memories for me and I am sure a lot of others. It brought beautiful things into my home and beautiful memories into my life. Who could ask for more? I certainly never could have gotten that from television.
Norwood Walker has spent much of the last 60 years in a classroom on one side of the desk or the other. Loving to write poetry and stories in high school, his English teacher of 3 years once told him he might become a writer if he overcame his radical period. She is still waiting. He can be reached at norwoodwalker@gmail or Rainbow’s End on Facebook.