Going once, going twice, going on the 55th year of the Prince Rupert Rotary Auction, funding community projects since 1964.
One long-time Rotarian recalled the origins of the auction — in 2017 with former The Northern View reporter Shannon Lough — where auctioneers ran off the list of items — donated by businesses in the community — through radio, then on TV, and volunteers answered ringing corded phones.
In 1965, when John McNish came to Prince Rupert, the Rotary Club was looking for a project and he suggested the auction because he’d seen it in Terrace.
“Usually the Rotary way is you suggest something and you’re chairman the next moment. So I was chairman even though I didn’t know much about it,” he said with a chuckle.
Skeena Broadcasters aired the Rotary Club’s first auction over the radio that year, adding a television broadcast the following years.
“At that time the economy in Prince Rupert was very buoyant. The pulp mill had just expanded, the fish plants were operating. We had a vibrant retail community. The community business professionals, especially retail, got right behind us so we got off to a really good start,” McNish said.
The auction started off in the Crest Hotel, and moved around until it landed in the Lestre Centre of the Arts where the event has been held for the past 15 years.
The live auction would go on for five hours for three nights. There would be two auctioneers presenting item by item. People listening or watching from home would call in. Once they reached the final bidding price, the auctioneer would ring the bell and move onto the next item.
“It finally got to the point when we had to look at another format. It was getting to the point where it was so pressure packed. You were absolutely bagged every night,” said Doug Kydd, a Rotarian who has been an auctioneer for years.
In 2008, a couple Rupert Rotarians travelled to Dawson Creek to learn how their club ran the online auction. The following year, the auction went online.