Sept. 25 marked the big auction for Harris Oilfield Construction Ltd., and it was a fitting end for the family owned-and-operated business.
That’s because Doug Harris, the patriarch of the operation, was an enormous fan of auctions throughout his life. He passed away Jan. 7 at the age of 74.
“He loved them. Auctions were his passions, and that’s why I had an auction,” said Bertha Harris, Doug’s widow, at their shop the day after the auction. “It seemed that was the right thing to do – have an auction,” she said.
Bertha recalls frequently going to auctions and kicking the tires with him. “And I would bring them home,” said daughter Janice, who ran the operation for the last 17 years.
Sister Jody Harris stopped in that morning to give her sister a hug before leaving for Lethbridge. “He was very proud,” she said of her father, Doug. “He didn’t put a sticker on a truck until he knew it could represent him. And Dad would never overcharge.”
After Doug had passed away, Bertha said, “We didn’t want to do it anymore. The helmsman was gone. The commander-in-chief was gone.”
Janice recalled a conversation she and Bertha had after her father passed away, where she asked her mother, “Why are you doing this? Just sell it?”
Bertha had replied, “What are you going to do?”
To which Janice said, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll figure it out.”
The decision to have the auction was made in early summer, and they had two months to prepare for the sale. Operations stopped on Sept. 4. The company, which had peaked at 10 to 12 people during the boom years, was down to a handful of people.
The company, which had been in operation for 39 years before Doug’s death, focused on vac, steamer and pressure trucks, as well as a lot of water hauling. Doug liked to have two of everything, so he always had a backup.
Bertha recounted how Doug had a hankering for Western Star Trucks.
One of the trucks sold to Parker Schnabel, one of the stars of the TV reality series Gold Rush. Bertha was quite happy with that, as Doug was a big fan of the show and of Schnabel.
And that was an indication of the interest in the sale. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers conducted the sale. Auctioneer Jason LeBlanc noted how large the presence was online. Indeed, for most of the auction, at least 17,000 people were online, and when the trucks were up for sale, that number was over 20,000. Bertha said roughly 70 per cent of the auction sold locally, and 30 per cent sold online.
She estimated over 250 people came in person. Janice noted the presence of Doug’s coffee row buddies.
“I would like to thank the people that came out to support us – the community coming out and supporting us,” Bertha said.
As for what they’ll do now, Bertha talked about going in different directions. The shop is up for sale or rent.