Ayr, N.D., town of 17, mourns collector’s passion for antiques at auctionAYR, N.D. - During his lifetime, Keith Johnson was a distributor of Mobil oil. He also gathered things: mostly antique cars, buildings and other vintage merchandise harking back to the early days of American motoring.
By: Dave Olson, INFORUM
AYR, N.D. - During his lifetime, Keith Johnson was a distributor of Mobil oil.
He also gathered things: mostly antique cars, buildings and other vintage merchandise harking back to the early days of American motoring.
On Friday, much of what Johnson amassed was sold on the first day of a two-day estate auction held on property he owned in Ayr.
Area residents were sorry to see Johnson – and his many reminders of a bygone era – go.
“It’s a funeral for Ayr,” said Amy McLeod, who watched the auction with her daughter, Cathy Fraase.
“Ayr was very proud of the collection he built, and he was proud of it, too,” Fraase said of Johnson, of Fargo, who died April 11 at age 90.
Johnson, a member of the North Dakota State Historical Society, had also served as president of Bonanzaville in West Fargo.
The latter is a community built from bits of the past and is in many ways akin to Johnson’s memorial to the past at his former home in Ayr, a town of 17 people, about 50 miles northwest of Fargo, where Friday’s sale began with dozens of vintage cars lined up outside of old shops and other buildings Johnson accumulated over the years.
A barber shop here.
An ice cream parlor there.
Across the way, the old Ayr school.
And everywhere you looked, a red Pegasus, the symbol for Mobil oil.
It seemed anyone you talked to Friday had a story to share about Johnson and his generosity in sharing his treasures with the community.
Cleo Thompson of rural Ayr said when company would come calling, she’d often ask Johnson if they could come over and view his collections.
Johnson was always accommodating, Thompson said.
“He was just a nice guy,” she said.
John Ohnstad shares the same impression.
He met Johnson many years ago at a time when both men suffered a deep loss.
In Ohnstad’s case, it was a daughter. In Johnson’s case, a son.
Ohnstad remembered his friend Friday by purchasing two of his vintage Fords.
One was a 1915 roadster he bought for about $7,500.
The other was a 1937 model for which Ohnstad paid about $16,000.
Ohnstad said he may display the cars at the OK Tire business his family operates in Fargo, adding that his fondness for Ford cars goes back to his high school days, when he purchased a Model T with money he earned working for a farmer who paid him $1 a day.
Looking at all of the cars and other things his friend had acquired, Ohnstad remarked: “Can you imagine one person collecting all this?
“Think of what it cost him to get that caboose in there,” he added, gesturing to a green railroad car that sat nearby on its own spur of track.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555