Sam Johnston, who with his family operates, Farmers Feed and Supply at Sapulpa, became a full fledged “colonel” after he graduated from Sapulpa High School in 1958. No, not in the military but rather at area auction barns and farm sales.
He was an auctioneer.
“A lot of my buddies were going to war (the Korean Conflict),” said Johnson, 77. “I went to auction school in Arkansas.
Kind of reminds one of the popular country music hits of the time, “The Auctioneer Song” by Leroy van Dyke.
“He’d sneak away in the afternoon,
take a little walk and pretty soon
You’d find him at the local auction barn
Well he’d stand and listen carefully
then pretty soon he began to see
How the auctioneer could talk so rapidly
He said, ‘Oh my it’s do or die
I’ve got to learn that auction cry
Gotta make my mark and be an auctioneer’
So he went to school
there grew a man who played it cool
He came back home a full fledged auctioneer.”
That 1956 hit sold 2.5 million records. Hear it yourself below
Asked if the popular song inspired him and reflected any of his own attitude at the time, Johnston answers, “Pretty much all of it.” (Rumor has it that Sam could even sing the song). He practiced the rhythmic craft for 25 years and auctioned a lot of livestock at the Bristow Sale Barn — a family business operated by his father Gilbert. (It was then known as Mid-America Horse Sales. Today it is Mid-American Stockyards operated by brother-in-law Jerry and Sam’s lone sibling Helen Marie Varner).
History has it that the art of auctioneering was a common practice for Civil War Colonels who regularly auctioned off the spoils of war and surplus. However, only officers of the Colonel rank could conduct them, spawning the use of the term “Colonel” by many auctioneers still today. Even after the Civil War, military Colonels traveled to sell surplus goods and seized goods. Auctioneers followed some of the same trails and dressed similar to army Colonels to such an extent that the public began to recognize auctioneers as “Colonel.”