DALLAS — Seventy years after its inception, the mission of the Back Mountain Memorial Library Auction has held true to its original vision to create a family-fun atmosphere and raise funds to support the facility.
The auction was first organized in 1946 to help support the financially struggling rural library. Today, the facility is still reliant on funds raised by the event, said library director Martha Butler.
“We are very fortunate to have the community’s support,” Butler said.
The library was formed due to a door-to-door fundraising campaign, according to a 1974 book titled, “The Back Mountain Memorial Library Auction.”
In the mid-1940s, the library was financially struggling and a group of women and then-librarian Miriam Lathrop brainstormed on fundraising options.
They first wanted to compile recipes and publish a cookbook. This idea was scrapped by Dallas resident and publisher of The Dallas Post, Howard Risley, according to the book.
The auction idea developed from a letter one of the women received from a friend. The letter described how an auction fundraiser raised nearly $700 for another organization. The women and Risley liked the potential of a community-wide event.
In 1946, the first library auction committee began collecting auction items including household goods, livestock, seeds, manure and lime.
The first auction was held in July 1947 at Risley’s barn, located on Lehman Avenue in Dallas, Butler said.
It was a success, raising $3,000 for the library.
Today, the auction raises about 12 percent of the library’s operating budget and helps the organization continue to offer a variety of community programs plus a growing collection of books, eBooks, DVDs and books on CD, Butler said.
The continuous community support for the library was captured over the years through a series of black and white photographs Butler safeguards.
Photos dated in the late 1950s depict women wearing dresses and high-heeled shoes along with men wearing trousers, shirts and ties all smiling while children eyed up toys or even a puppy being auctioned off.
“It (the auction) is a bit of Americana that continues on today,” Butler said.
The auction was held at Risley’s barn until 1972. At that time, the event was relocated to an area behind the library, located at 69 Main St. in Dallas, Butler said.
That same year the auction was postponed to October due to flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes, she said.
“That year it snowed during the auction,” Butler said.
In 1984, the auction site was moved again to its current location behind the library at 96 Huntsville Road in Dallas, she said.
Every year the auction attracts thousands of people into the Back Mountain to bid on treasures, hunt for a book, enjoy various types of foods and socialization.
“The community support is amazing,” Butler said. “The auction still maintains many elements from 70 years ago.”