The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

The title of this post comes from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” back in my younger years. For some reason I associate it with sports pundit Howard Cosell, but Google tells me it was Jim McKay who intoned this every week.

Today is a personal experience reflection about the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale this year–the 51st annual sale held this past Friday evening and Saturday.

Relief-Sale-CoverMy wife, Sue Clemmer Steiner, and I decided we wanted to buy a wall hanging to complement some of the other quilted wall hangings we’ve purchased over the years. We set ourselves a budget and drove out to the sale on Friday night to look at the quilts, get our bidding card and reserve two seats not too far from the front so that we would have a good view of the bidding.

After walking through all the quilts on display, and seeing and talking with many folks we hadn’t seen in a while, we decided on three possibilities.

By far our first choice was a wall hanging pieced and hand quilted by two of Sue’s retired female minister friends. It had a fall theme and colors that would go well in our living room.

Plan B was a wall hanging with a fairly traditional pattern that was machine quilted, but was quite attractive.

There was another interesting wall hanging with striking colors, but it was earlier on the auction list than our first choice, so we decided we’d not bit on it.

After all this careful analysis we stopped for homemade ice cream at one of the food booths before heading home.

The first wall hanging that interested us was about 75th or so on the list, so we didn’t bother to arrive at the relief sale until about 9:30 Saturday morning. We found our seats and settled to watch and wait. The first quilts seemed to be going for lower prices than we remembered in some years, but then things warmed up.

Three spots before the “striking colors” wall hanging came up, a full-sized bed quilt made by women at the Floradale Mennonite Church went for $6250. That seemed to wake the bidders up. Our “striking colors” wall hanging shot past our budget limit quickly, so we congratulated ourselves on our wisdom.

Finally our wall hanging came up. I waved our bidding card when the bidding started at $100. I kept pace until we suddenly were sitting on our maximum bid. But the other bidder kept going to the next level. So we were the disappointed underbidder.

The only consolation was that after the auction’s “feature quilt” sold, twelve lots after the agony of our defeat, the whole crowd stopped to sing “Praise God From Whom All Blessing Flow.”

Then we waited another 18 lots for our “Plan B.” Again I took our bid up to the budget limit, or maybe even one beyond, but again we were outbid.

Wall-HangingSo what to do. Sue went back to look through the items remaining for auction, and found a lap quilt that would help us remember the many cats that had shared our lives for 40 years.

After we had both eaten baked potato lunches carried in from a nearby food booth, we waited for item #168, “Cat Nap” by Dianne Robertson. Finally our lot came up, and our winning bid did not need to approach our budget limit. So we were thrilled.

Before heading home, we stopped and each had a fruit pie with ice cream to celebrate.

We got home in time to hear that the Toronto Blue Jays were winning their fifth straight game.

It was a good relief sale.

How does it compare with your relief sale experience?

One thought on “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

  1. Haven’t been to a sale for awhile, although my Grandma Steinmann used to make quilts for the New Hamburg sale. She had 33 grandchildren and she and “the ladies” made custom quilts for each one of us.

    My favorite account of a Mennonite Relief Sale is by Calvin Trillin, longtime food writer for the New Yorker. In American Fried (pp. 57-59) he recounts his experience at the Morgantown, PA sale:

    “I suppose there must be some other worthy causes in the United States, but the Mennonite relief operation is the only one I’m sure of…..I have just come from the apple-fritter booth, where I observed actual apples being made into the kind of fritters I was forced to have six of — having remembered, after finishing off my first order of three, the remarkable job the Mennonites did on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi after Huriricane Camille.”

    Ross Lynn Bender


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s