Running order: An estate auction reveals a man who could do anything

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, December 11, 2018

CLEVELAND — Close to noon Saturday, auctioneer Greg Wagoner announced it was time for what many in the crowd had been waiting for — the bidding on three vehicles.

“You want to crank it up, Larry?” Wagoner asked. “You want to start with that 1940 Ford?

Larry Shoemaker walked over to the carport holding both a 1940 Ford Coupe and a 1930 Ford Model A Roadster. Also for sale and parked close by was a 1985 Cadillac El Dorado with only 48,000 miles — one of those only-driven-on-Sundays cars.

The Ford Coupe started right up, and Wagoner announced a few more ground rules while the engine kept purring.

The person with the high bid on each car would have to pay a 20 percent deposit that day and come up with the rest of the money by Wednesday. Wagoner was giving them an extra day because of the bad weather forecast for Sunday and Monday.

“They want to sell them,” Wagoner told the crowd, “but they aren’t going to give them away.”

Larry Shoemaker had in mind a reserve on the cars he wanted the bidding to reach or the family would just keep them. Soon, Wagoner started with a bid of $20,000 on the Ford Coupe, received a nod from someone in the throng quickly, and the bids were off and running.

Now and then, when the enthusiasm seemed to be waning, Wagoner shot a glance over to Shoemaker, who signaled the price would have to go higher. The bidding stopped with Howard Terry of Wilkesboro at $32,000.

Wagoner called Shoemaker over, consulted for a moment and announced the Ford was sold.

“I think you bought yourself a car, partner,” Wagoner told Terry. “I had to beat him on the head a bit.”

The cars were among the highlights of a two-day estate auction selling off the belongings of the late Clifford Shoemaker, who died in June at age 87.

Clifford, known around Cleveland as a man who could make or repair anything, lived in one of Cleveland’s statelier homes at the corner of East Main and Academy streets. He and his late wife, Betty, moved here in 1956, and raised their boys, Larry and Jimmy.

Meanwhile, Clifford pursued his passions for bluegrass and country music, church, antique cars, whittling and collecting. He directed the choir at Cleveland Baptist Church for 54 years.

On the job, he was a former service manager for Mooresville Ford, worked at Southern States Feed Mill for 16 years and helped out at Joe Bradford’s car shop in Cleveland.

“He could do anything,” Larry said, ticking off welding, fix-it jobs and whatever needed to be done with a vehicle.

Nineteen years earlier, Clifford had built an exterior elevator for himself, just in anticipation of being older and wanting easier access to the house from the rear.

Clifford also made the outside replica of  the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which served as a light along the back sidewalk. He fashioned the shoe sign near the driveway that welcomed people to “The Shoemakers.”

Over 60-plus years, a house tends to accumulate a lot of stuff, and Larry and his brother thought the best way to clear the two-and-a-half story house and its three-door garage was to have the estate sale.

It can be unsettling and bittersweet. As strangers walk over the grounds and sort through the things to be sold, it sometimes feels like a picking of one’s bones.

Many of the things held, of course, sentimental value to the Shoemakers, enough so that  Jimmy stayed away on the first day of the estate sale.

“I hate it,” said Larry, who works at Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station, “but it’s the only thing we can do.”

As these kinds of sales go, Howie Davis said, this was a good one.

For one it reflected the estate of “an extremely talented individual,” Davis said, but he also listed some high-quality items showcasing the collector Clifford Shoemaker was.

The antique cars were top notch and, thanks to Clifford, in good running shape. He particularly enjoyed driving the 1930 Model A Roadster to the Sunrise Cafe for breakfast.

But there also were antique pedal cars, a collection of railroad lanterns, Model T Ford wrenches, 1/24th scale model cars that Betty used to give him as Christmas presents, rocking chairs, a Zane Grey book set, porcelain dolls, antique radios, clocks, a pot-bellied stove, guitars and an old rope bed.

“I’ve only seen one other one,” Davis said of the rope bed.

The garage, which has a rooster weather vane on top, held all of Clifford’s tools, which also were sold. You name it, he had it — from a motor hoist and shop press to manifolds and carburetors.

There was all manner of music albums, garden implements, out-of-style electronics, golf clubs, gym equipment, pictures and frames, dishware, furniture, hunting clothes, fishing gear, rugs, Bibles, cookbooks and Christmas decorations.

What do you start with on a two-day auction? Wagoner began with a vinegar jar that brought $2.

Veterans of estate auctions in the late fall know to dress warmly, bring blankets and find spots near the burn barrels or propane heaters. Tables are set up to sell coffee and food. Saturday also offered a tent in case of precipitation.

Wagoner opened up a side window on the house to serve as the place where you registered and picked up your bidding number.

Larry Shoemaker stuck to his guns and hung onto his dad’s 1930 Model A and the 1985 Cadillac with low mileage. The bidding didn’t reach the $22,000 minimum he wanted on the Model A or the $10,000 he looked for on the Cadillac.

Howard Terry received a congratulatory kiss from his lady companion after his $32,000 purchase of the Ford Coupe.

“I just like the look of them,” he said later, noting he used to own a 1936 Ford. “I always wanted a 1940 Ford.”

Terry actually had done some advance homework on the Ford Coupe, meeting one day with Larry Shoemaker to take a closer look and putting himself underneath the car.

“I like the lines of it,” Terry said.

Moving on from the cars, Wagoner next attempted to sell Clifford Shoemaker’s John Deere 420 riding lawn mower. Once again, he asked someone to crank it up, to prove it was ready for work.

“He didn’t own anything that did not run,” Wagoner said.

The John Deere roared to life.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or