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Auctioneering was a way of life for Cathcart, family
By ANNA BROWN
BUFFALO - Family members say being an auctioneer was more than just a profession for Col. Carol Cathcart - it was a passion and an enjoyable way of life that often got them all involved.
“He was a hard worker,” said Cathcart's son, Mark. “It seemed like we were either hauling cows, baling hay or doing auctions. He knew everybody. I learned a lot of good lessons. I was fortunate to grow up having him.”
Cathcart, 74, passed away on Dec. 19, 2015. He worked as an auctioneer for 44 years and for most of those years conducted foreclosure auctions for Union County. He operated an auction house at various locations in the county during his career with the last location at the present site on the family farm on Buffalo Creek Ranch Road.
Cathcart was born in Buffalo, one of four children of the late Herbert and Marie Cathcart. His sisters, Sybil Ponder and Cora Lee Snyder, live in Buffalo. His brother, Frank, passed away in 2014.
He and his wife Judy, the former Judy Billings, grew up together in Buffalo. Judy was friends with Cora Lee and often went home with her but Judy said she did not take an immediate romantic interest in Carol.
“Then I started looking at him and I liked what I saw and how nice he was,” she said.
After the couple was married in 1968, Cathcart became interested in auctioneering.
“I had been to auctions before we got married and he grew up going to cow auctions,” Judy said. “Col. (Vernon) Anderson was a big influence in him going to school. He told him to pursue his dreams.”
Cathcart studied a course from Nashville Auction House for over a year, attended school for two weeks and graduated in 1971. Judy said she was proud of the fact that her husband was among the original group who helped develop South Carolina Auctioneer Licensing Law, which required many trips to Columbia for meetings in the late 1970s.
When Joe McMillian retired Cathcart applied to be foreclosure auctioneer. He was approved by the legislative delegation in 1973. He performed his last foreclosure auction in December. His daughter-in-law, Celeste Cathcart - Mark's wife - now has the job. Celeste grew up on a farm in Andrews and enjoyed attending farm equipment sales with her father and grandfather.
From the time they were very small Mark and his sister, Carla Cathcart Champion, began spending their weekends at auctions.
“You grew up in front of people,” Mark said. “You knew people from the auctions. You learned how to get up in front of people and you learned how to work. It was different. A lot of Friday nights you were working instead of playing. There were a lot of Saturdays spent all day doing auctions. You learn how to do business.”
“But we all loved it,” Judy added.
The Cathcarts often told Mark and Carla they would send them to auction school if they were interested. Mark now is planning to get his license. Celeste became licensed several years ago.
Over the years Cathcart conducted countless estate sales, farm equipment sales and other auctions. Judy said he often told her to keep the auction house going if something happened him - “Keep it going; that's my legacy.”
“Carol told everybody we would be back on Jan. 12, after the holidays and after his surgery,” Judy said. “So we did.”
The auction house is open every Friday night at 7:30 p.m. On the second and fourth Saturday of each month a small animal auction is held.
“We sell everything from A to J,” Judy said. “Antiques to Junk. Anything that is legal.”
The Cathcarts said they have enjoyed watching the interesting items that came through the auctions over the years, including items with historical value. Judy recalls one auction at a storage facility where her husband knew there was an item she would not want to encounter - a can of cremated remains - which the owner wanted back and did not want auctioned. As Judy took inventory, Cathcart did not tell her they were there.
“It must have been the second or third night I worked,” she said. “I picked it up and said, 'You know, this is interesting. Here is a can of vegetables and it doesn't have a label on it. I shook it and said, 'Must be dried up.'”
Mark said a New York antiques dealer often brought items for special auctions. One weekend he brought a full-sized horse-drawn sleigh.
“It still had snow in it,” Mark said. “We sold it that night full of New York snow.”
Judy said life has been interesting in an auctioneer family.
“I've loved every minute of it,” she said. “It's been a lot of hard work, hot work.”
Mark jokes that he was close to adulthood before he realized any household furnishings other than appliances could be purchased new - most of the furniture in his parents' home is antique.
The people are what make auctioneering fun, Mark said.
“Really and truly, it's the people,” he said. “You make lifelong friendships. You get to meet people from other places. It's a common interest that brings people together. Most of them get into a routine - that is what they do on Friday night. It's their Friday night entertainment.”
Carla Cathcart Champion said her father is missed.
“My dad was a very gentle man - he cared about everyone,” she said. “He always supported us in each way. He was so proud of his children and grandchildren and great -grandson. He was a man of his word and my backbone. He was also proud of the bakery that my daughter and I opened. He would eat with us on Sundays and while my mom helped us he loved to sit and talk to everyone. He was also the best auctioneer in the world. No one will ever take his place. I loved working the auctions when I could with him. He is greatly missed and I think of him daily and any time we try something new we always say, "what would papa think about this" we appreciate all the love and support that everyone showed us and keep showing us. He was a great man and we all love him dearly.”
(Posted February 8, 2016)