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Winning bid: Auctioneer gavels in parade for parents’ 70th anniversary

Joe R. Pyle didn’t have to do any fast-talking when he first put the idea up for bid.

But that’s what he did, because that’s what he does.

“I say parade.”

His parents, Don and Helen, answered with indulgent grins, at first.

That’s because their kid, their only kid, got going.

And when that happened, it was all gavels and green lights for an auctioneer of regional renown who happens to be their offspring.

Just say it was like presiding over an auction for a matching-numbers Corvette – with two guys in the front row and three in the back deciding, all at once, that each wanted it, what with it being classic Detroit rolling iron and all.

Because when it’s your mom and dad’s 70th wedding anniversary (yes, that many) … and COVID decreed that you can’t rent the big hall for the lavish, sit-down meal (they woulda loved that) …and there are all these friends and former customers (they woulda really loved that) itching at the opportunity to offer at least a socially distanced round of applause … well, what’s a guy to do?

“Parade. Yep. Parade.”

Mapped it out quick, he did: It would happen around their place in Mount Morris, just over the state line in Greene County, Pa.

It would take a winding route lined with life-size, photographic cutouts of the still-happy couple at various mileposts in their seven-decade journey.

Heck, Joe could even give out chocolate cupcakes in the shape of a groundhog, since that was the February day in 1951 when his folks motored to Oakland, Md., to take their vows.

And at the end of the route, Don and Helen, safely ensconced in the front seat of their favorite pickup truck, would receive their well-wishers.

When Helen’s reply came, it was with a smile in her voice.

“OK, a parade,” she said. “I’ll be Queen for a day.”

“Hey, why not?” Don seconded.


The hammer dropped, and the parade participants collectively put their vehicles in drive Saturday afternoon.

car line
People wait to meet with Don and Helen Pyle at their 70th anniversary parade Saturday.

Of courtship, cars (and the pie Buster wouldn’t eat)

If you’re an antiques enthusiast, a car guy or someone who enjoys estate sales for their history and treasure, you likely know Joe R. Pyle.

If you have a local cable connection, you definitely know him.

His commercials are all over the place.

There he is, with his trademark Stetson, loud-on-purpose sport coat and the best cowboy boots this side of Bakersfield, wielding the marketing gavel for his company, Joe R. Pyle Complete Auction and Reality Service.

It was his company that handled the sale of the late Mike Puskar’s luxury penthouse apartment in the Wharf District three years ago.

Thank his parents, he said.

From its main offices in Shinnston, Harrison County, the company does auctions all over the region, with a lot of them online these days, out of pandemic necessity.

Helen instilled the drive and confidence, backed up by Don, and his delivery system.

His mom and dad are “intense,” Joe will say, and he means it as a compliment.

“Whatever it is, they’re just gonna keep at it,” he said.

“And they’re gonna do it right.”

They both went to Clay-Battelle High School.

Don’s family had moved to nearby Greene County, by then, but he walked a mile to the bus stop every school day so he could graduate with his classmates.

Helen quickened his step. She was friends with his sister and came to the house for a sleepover one Friday night.

Somebody noticed.

“I guess you could say the romance blossomed,” Don remembered.

“Fell in love,” his bride said.

After high school, they married and set up housekeeping.

A new husband secured a job at a local factory but the employment, given the economic dips and swoops of the day, didn’t always carry a factory wage.

Don, was a wrench-turner from way back, and started flipping cars for extra money.

“He’d buy something for $50, fix it up and sell it for $70,” his son said. “Sometimes, there weren’t groceries if he didn’t sell a car.”

A new wife was getting herself acclimated to organizing and running everything in the house, especially all the budgeting and bill-paying, which came easy.

The kitchen, though, was a challenge for a fledgling cook. One day she baked a pie, which became part of the family lore.

“The crust was so tough, they couldn’t cut into it,” Joe said.

Being frugal, they didn’t want to waste it. So, they tried to give it to Buster, the good-natured canine they got before Joe.  

The pup sniffed it, fixed the couple with a look, and padded off.

“Buster wasn’t having any of it,” Joe said. “That’s funny, because the peach pies my mom makes are legend, now.”

happy anniversary sign
Signs for Don and Helen Pyle 70th anniversary parade on Saturday.

Being a parent, being a son

Don and Helen had been married a few years before Joe came along. They were going to appreciate the blessings of parenthood.

The mother and son went to church together, did the grocery shopping together and logged time in front of the TV together.

The father and son hit every car show in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At least that’s how it seemed.

His dad, by then, was running Don’s Cars, a successful garage and dealership.

At 16, Joe had his own plans. He announced he was going to be a professional auctioneer.

What’d his parents say?

As he’d been telling them that since he was 8, following a car auction in Gibsonia that made a grand impression, he figured it wasn’t very much of a spoiler alert.

“Yeah, I don’t think they were too surprised.”

Besides, other kids made their Matchbox cars race across the kitchen floor and coffee table.

Joe “auctioned” his every day. And he made garages out of Lincoln Logs.

Along the way, he made his parents proud, also.

“Joe’s a character,” Helen said. “Or he can be. He’s a good son. And he’s a good father to his boys.”

“You’ll never outwork him,” Don said.

Still cruisin’ … after all these years

Helen’s 88th birthday was Thursday. Don’s looking forward to his 90th next month.

An auctioneer sends thanks above for the longevity – a going once-going twice, kind of love story, he said, that’s still turning pages in the scrapbooks and photo albums.

“I couldn’t have asked for better parents or better experiences growing up,” Joe said.

“If I could hit the rewind, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Even while isolating from the coronavirus, Don and Helen keep busy.

There are phone calls to make, checking up on the well-being of friends and neighbors, and even forays into cyberspace, via their home computer.

Of course, there are car rides.

Timeless tunes and talk radio. Or, nothing on the radio.

Sometimes, they’ll just listen to the whisper of the wheels on a two-lane, or a no-name stretch that looks like it was unspooled for the benefit of the land – and not the other way around.

“Dad calls it, ‘Taking our drive to nowhere,’ ” their son said.

Even if that’s not quite accurate.

That’s because there’s a whole reason to be – riding shotgun.

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