Written By: Paul Medinger
Bob Brandau will celebrate 40 years in the auctioneering business this year, but he has been an auctioneer much longer than that.
Brandau, 79, of Wilton, made his first sale in the auctioneering business in the early 1950s. He had decided that he wanted to be an auctioneer at a young age after attending sales for his father.
“My dad was a livestock dealer,” Brandau said. “He would send me to auctions to buy cattle for him, and I thought that one day I could do as good of a job as (the auctioneers) could.”
Brandau graduated from Rice Auction School in Mason City, Iowa in 1951 and began to sell at auctions throughout the area. He sold at the Tomah sale barn, Viola, Coon Valley and Wisconsin Dells, among other places. Soon, however, Brandau decided to go into the business for himself.
“One day I had a long sale and coming home I fell asleep driving my truck,” Brandau said. “I took a guy’s mailbox off. That is when I decided that I would go into the business so I didn’t have to travel to all of (the auctions).”
The first sale at Brandau Auctioneering in Kendall was Oct. 29, 1969. Since then, Brandau has an auction every Tuesday, and he has only had to cancel two auctions in 40 years, both times due to snow and ice.
Brandau said that a little bit of everything gets sold at his auctions throughout the year, but he specializes in livestock, in which he also has a business.
Brandau has a son and a daughter that both followed in his footsteps and became auctioneers — Ken Brandau and Mary Jo Hill. Several years ago, Hill started her own business, Brandau-Hill Auctions.
Throughout his over 55 years auctioneering, Brandau has been through many conditions and rarely missed an auction. He remembers a furniture sale years ago when he sold for two days for $15. He also remembers being in the auctioneer box from 10 a.m. until midnight. An urn containing the ashes of a man’s wife was also accidentally sold at an auction. He has sold in the heat, cold, rain and snow as well.
“One time in Norwalk, it didn’t get above zero (degrees) all day,” Brandau said. “I had to tell people that their noses were frozen. When I hit the heat in the house, I couldn’t quit shaking for 15 minutes.”
Brandau said that he has had a lot of good times, and a few bad ones over 40 years in the business. Seldom has he dealt with difficult customers, he said, and he always enjoyed selling the most.
“The best part is the auctioneering,” Brandau said. “I like to see, I like people, and I like working for people.”