Paying homage to the Postwide Yard Sale

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Shoppers look for bargains at the 2003 Postwide Yard Sale, known then as the Great American Frontier Yard Sale. Fort Leavenworth Lamp file photo by Staff Sgt. Sheldrick McNeal

Throwback Thursday: 2001 Annual yard sale draws crowd

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Henry/Naval Information Bureau 1018

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the May 3, 2001, issue of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp.

Canoes, quilts, couches and collectible comic cards were just a few of the personal treasures up for grabs at Fort Leavenworth’s annual Great American Yard Sale conducted on post April 28, 2001.

Sunny skies and pleasant temperatures added to a carnival-like atmosphere in which an estimated 23,000 shoppers from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska thronged the fort’s housing areas, searching for bargains.

Special Events Coordinator Ray Spurlock, in his second year of setting up and supervising the sale, said that while shoppers were up, sellers were down. The post issued 666 permits this year, compared to 694 last year. That was good news for the sellers, most of whom are soon-to-be graduates of the Command and General Staff College. The sale is an opportunity for the soldiers and their families to lighten their loads before heading off to duty stations around the world.

Many other post personnel, military and civilian, as well as members of the local community also spread stuff alongside the streets. Spurlock’s own parents, Agnes and retired Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Spurlock, visiting from Guston, Ky., near Fort Knox, were selling their handmade crafts.

“And not doing too bad, either,” their son commented. “People are definitely out here buying.”

Sesame Street’s “Big Bird” was an item on the block. The two-foot tall stuffed toy was snapped up by Christine Hochard of Leavenworth and her daughter Courtney, 13.

“I’ve got a 3-year-old niece, Sara, in Germany, who’s crazy about Big Bird,” Hochard said. “So Big Bird’s going there.”

Her other finds included two snowboards, and a baby gate and backpack baby carrier for her 3-month-old son, Trevor.

Though official sale hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the first cars arrived on post around 4 in the morning, said Master Sgt. DeShanta Powell, post provost sergeant. Bargain hunters were prowling the sale sites by 6 a.m. By first light, they were out in droves. Powell and 27 Military Police provided security, control, assistance and community relations for the sale. Though 28 MPs to 40,000 shoppers, sellers and residents may sound like a lopsided ratio, the small group kept things going smoothly. Powell attributed their success to a good plan for getting the thousands of incoming cars parked properly. The professionalism of her young squad — average age 22-23 — was another factor.

“These are high-caliber troops,” she said. “As you may know, the ‘MP’ of military police also stands for ‘multi-purpose.’”

Prepared for lost children, medical emergencies and even bomb threats, a driver-side mirror knocked off a truck was about the worst the MPs had to deal with.

“On the really positive side, a civilian woman turned in an envelope with $120 inside,” Powell said. “She found it on the ground by a lemonade stand. That was incredibly honest. With cash, it’s usually finders-keepers.”

The MPs will hold the cash in case the owner comes looking.

The soldiers of Company A, 705th MP Battalion, had a different mission at the sale. Set up with two grills near Delaware Village, they busily flipped burgers and dogs to feed hungry shoppers and raise money for unit events.

“We started with 250 burgers and 250 hot dogs,” said Staff Sgt. Alan Harig, squad leader and master burgermeister, as he busily cooked quarter-pounders for a line of starving shoppers. He looked nervously over his shoulder at the crowd.

“They started looking for burgers around 8 a.m.,” Harig said. “It’s about 11 now, and we only have 12 burgers left.”

Near the stand, one satisfied customer, W. L. Mauer of Independence, Mo., wolfed down a quarter-pounder.

“The beef consumption, already exceptional, is greatly enhanced by the ambience of the outdoor environment and the rigors of shopping,” commented Mauer, who worked as a gourmet chef to put himself through school. “In other words, it was a great burger,” he laughed, wiping ketchup off his mustache.

“Bring cash, wear comfortable shoes and drink lots of liquids, is my advice to shoppers,” Spurlock said. “You shouldn’t have a problem with the liquids, since there are plenty of kids set up with drink stands.”

At one stand, Zack Schretzman, 9, sister Olivia, 8 and buddy Bear Boice, 10, offered icy-cold cans of soda and bottles of water from a big blue cooler to the thirsty throngs. Zack and Olivia’s parents are Stacy and Maj. Charles Schretzman. Bear is the son of Majs. Gill and Bill Boice. All three majors are CGSC students.

“The stand was Zack’s idea,” Olivia said, giving credit where credit’s due.

“And a good one!” Bear piped up.

“Mom and Dad helped us decide what to sell,” Zack added, modestly.

Even though the stand hadn’t been open long, the entrepreneurs already collected a wad of cash, held tightly by Olivia. How will they divvy it up? The partners looked uncertainly at one another. Then the interview was interrupted as four customers arrived, seeking to slake their thirst.

The customers were 20-year Fort Leavenworth yard sale veterans Roger and Nancy Burroughs of Smithfield, Mo., and first-timers Janet and Dick Porter from Lenora, Kan. Both couples said they were having a good day. Among their finds were a crystal cake plate.

“I didn’t need it, but I couldn’t resist the price,” Janet Porter admitted.

Her husband was proud of the $5 he paid for an 18-speed bicycle.

“The derailleur is a little bit derailed, but I can fix that,” he said.

Another veteran yard sale couple was Chris and Norine Wilderson of Atchison, Kan. This was their 11th year at the sale. Chris, a musician, recalled his greatest find.

“It was a Nakamichi cassette deck. Five bucks and it was in good shape. All it needed was a new drive belt. I easily replaced the old one. How much new? Five or 600 dollars. Over the years I’ve paid just a few dollars here for sound equipment that would’ve cost thousands retail.”

During his career, Chris has played with musicians including Cab Calloway, Rick Derringer and The Great Fatsby.

This year the Wildersons are on the trail of stuff for their grandchildren.

“This is for Amanda. She’s 4,” Norine said, displaying a pink sleeping gown emblazoned with the image of Cinderella. “The Fischer-Price skates are for our 7-year-old granddaughter, Megan.”

“The bargains are great,” Chris chuckled, “but the truth is, we just like coming here to see the sights.”

“This Nordic Track would look great in the back of your truck,” shouts yard sale seller Maj. Rich Root to the driver of an enormous red pick-up truck cruising slowly past. “Twenty-five dollars takes it away!”

“Thanks, but I’m trying to cut down on exercise,” the driver retorted.

The major and his wife, Dianne, had already sold a microwave, couch and three snow shovels.

“It’s a good Nordic Track,” he says. “We’ve just moved it around one too many times.

“Hey, $20 takes this Nordic Track away!” Root called to another driver, but with the same result.

“I’ll take this racquetball racquet,” a customer says, handing the major cash.

“Welcome to it,” Root replied. “My wife has beaten me too many times with it.”

The customer stared at him.

“At racquetball, I mean,” the major explains with a laugh. “Beaten me at racquetball!”

At the Emergency Operations Center set up in an ambulance at Hancock and Dragoon, Staff Sgt. Kyle A. Jackson coordinates communication with the MPs patrolling the yard sale in 16 golf carts. He’s also in touch with the post MP station. Like both Spurlock and Powell, he commented on how smooth this year’s event is running.

“To be honest, there’s a lot of inconvenience with all the extra people and vehicles,” Jackson said. “But we haven’t had any incidents of yelling or anger.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the public, especially the people who live on post. The MPs are trying to make things as convenient as possible and are doing a good job, but it’s the public’s patience and understanding that’s really helping to keep this event running smooth and safe.”

To read about the upcoming 2022 yard sale, visit https://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/featured/2022/04/28/paying-homage-to-the-postwide-yard-sale-3/

To read a commentary from a buyer, visit https://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/featured/2022/04/28/paying-homage-to-the-postwide-yard-sale-2/

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