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SPRINGVILLE'S LOVE OF STUFF ALL IN ALL, SPRINGVILLE AUCTION EXEMPLIFIES A SPUR-OF-THE-MOMENT FREE MARKET ECONOMY

The area's busiest single shopping spot on any fine weather Wednesday probably is Gentner's Commission Market, better known as the Springville Auction. Not that poor weather doesn't stop customers.

It's an all-weather market 52 or even the occasional 53 Wednesdays a year

"We have run the auction since July 5, 1939," said Jeanne Fancher, who sold pop at the very first one when she was 10. She even walked with her father around the grounds off Route 39 in the aftermath of the Blizzard of 1977.

"We had no customers that Wednesday," she allowed, "but we were open anyway. Now-a-days, we draw from 800 to 1,000 or more.

It seems like more, though, because from 9 a.m. right through the afternoon, Springville's Main street between Route 219 and Buffalo Street is clogged with bargain shoppers. Some drive pickups and some drive Caddies and BMWs.

After co-founder Raymond Gentner died, his son, William or Billy as he was known, ran it until late in 1996, when he died. Now his widow, Shirley Gentner, is the chief operating officer, a title perhaps too fancy for a country auction.

"My sons, Raymond and Damon, are the managers and my sister-in-law, Jeanne Fancher, is the clerk," she said.

The Springville auction is more than a bargain counter. It's country style show biz. Early in the morning, the show starts when Corey Brown auctions scores of "lots" of other people's discards -- toys, tools, dishes, lawn mowers, lamps, typewriters and things that properly can e called junk.

If the offerings don't go individually, Brown is apt to promote a sale this way: "All right, who'll take the the whole lot?"

"It's amazing to see what some people have collected and trying to get rid of at any price," said one longtime auction goer. "And it's more amazing to see what other people will buy."

It's all the same to the Gentners.

"We get a 25 percent commission." Mrs. Gentner said.

A retired Pennsylvanian is a regular lawnmower customer.

"I buy the mowers for a couple of bucks, take them home, repair and sell them as almost as good as new," the Pennsylvanian said.

The other week, a man was standing beside his truck that clearly had just arrived from a Georgia peach farm with some over-ripe fruit. Although the boxed topside peaches sang with the pinks and yellows that excite people, some were firmer than others.

"Peaches, peaches," he hawked. "Some are good for eating, some for cooking. Three dollars a box. Take 'em while they last."

They were worth the gamble.

But there were good, firm apples and a variety of fresh vegetables and cheeses selling at other stands.

Up on the hill behind the sales barns, hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, clothing, shoes and boots, jewelry, trinkets, gadgets, music, tools, honey and handiwork vendors have stands they rent for the Wednesday show and sell experience. They draw their share of the auction crows.

But a country auction like Springville's is a place where calves, cows, beef, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats and rabbit are brought and sold from mid-morning to well past dark.

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