Published: August 1, 2017
BELGRADE, MAINE – In February 2017, just a couple of days before his 90th birthday, Arthur Julia passed away. “Ol’ Artie,” as he billed himself on eBay, is believed to have been the oldest practicing auctioneer in New England and perhaps one of the oldest in North America. His final wishes were specifically that his last remembrance not be a formal funeral. No stuffy funeral home or fancy casket. What Arthur wanted was a special Celebration of Life open to all his family, friends, relatives and business associates.
True to his wishes, this is exactly what his children provided. On Sunday, July 16, on the banks of beautiful Great Pond in Belgrade, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the life of this special man. As the celebration revealed, Arthur was an affable and gregarious man and almost every person he met or did business with became a friend.
Arthur came from a large, close-knit French family who worked hard but also played hard together. The Julia family loved a reason to get together and party, whether the occasion was a baptism, graduation or wedding. Throughout his life, the Julia family was renowned for its parties. Arthur’s specific request was that there be good food, ample libation, a great dance band and a good time had by all. That is exactly what happened on July 16. Friends and relatives traveled from all over to attend this special celebration.
A good number of fellow auctioneers and antiques dealers also attended this special party, and there were lots of “Ol’ Artie” stories. Each time the band took a break, a number of people would line up to tell one of their favorite remembrances of Arthur. Arthur’s older son, Jim, was one of the first to share a story. He explained that when his father and mother, Lilla, started the antiques business in 1963, it was entirely different from the business of today. It was particularly challenging in rural Maine.
One special competitor and adversary was an old, one-eyed judge from Bingham, Maine, named Morris Elkins. Elkins bought all manner of household goods, but specialized in glassware. Despite the fact they were in the very rural village of Bingham, he was rather successful. In the beginning, when competing with Morris on estates, Arthur frequently lost out. Each time this happened, Arthur vowed that next time he would beat him. But old Morris was a shrewd and crafty man and that is how he had succeeded.
On one occasion, Arthur received a call about an estate in Skowhegan, Maine. It seemed the owner had a great interest in music boxes and music machines, which filled the house and barn. Arthur had been reasonably successful with these types of items over the years and they were not necessarily the type of items that Morris regularly handled. So after reviewing the collection and submitting his offer, Arthur came home with the greatest of confidence. Arthur was certain that nobody, particularly Judge Elkins, would beat him on this deal. Certainly no one had as much knowledge about current prices for these items and he just knew Judge Elkins would not know how much to pay.
A couple of days had passed and Arthur still had not heard from the family, so he called to find out about his offer. He was blown away to learn that his one-eyed nemesis had beat him out once again. The heirs, who really liked Arthur, confessed that their goal was to generate the greatest amount of money for the family. When Judge Elkins arrived, he told them he would pay them ten percent more than the best offer they got from anyone else. The family told Arthur they felt very sorry, but the judge’s offer generated much more money for them.
Arthur fumed about this for quite some time and vowed that the next time the judge would not get ahead of him. The opportunity came up a few months later and he traveled to Madison, Maine, to look at a real nice estate. The house was filled with antiques. Because the people mentioned they knew Judge Elkins, Arthur knew that the judge would be in the mix. So Arthur proceeded to use the judge’s own technique against him.
Arthur stated, “I presume that your goal is to get the greatest amount of money for the estate?” When they agreed, he went on to tell them that he would not give them an offer immediately but would wait until they received all their offers, which he would top by ten percent. They thought that sounded good so Arthur left once again feeling confident that he defeated his nemesis. A couple of days later, after not hearing from the heirs, he called and was again devastated to learn that the judge had beat him. Arthur asked how they could do that after he offered to give them ten percent more. They explained that Morris, who was a judge for many years and knew the law very well, said that what they were proposing to do with Arthur was illegal. The judge then gave them a strong offer, which they accepted.
Arthur was a great athlete in high school. Later, he worked out at the club regularly and played racquetball up until he was around 86 years of age. All his racquetball adversaries said he was not only a good racquetball player, but he also knew how to play with his opponents’ heads. One evening after three rounds of racquetball, Arthur, who was then in his 60s, was in the locker room changing when a young nephew of his came into the locker room cussing very loudly. It seemed that an opponent he was to play racquetball with that night did not show up. The young man, in his early 20s, was a tremendous athlete and had an attitude.
Arthur said to his nephew that he would play with him. The young man stopped, looked at Arthur who was 40 years his senior, sneered and said, “Play you?” At that point, Arthur laughed and, in earshot of other players, replied loudly, “What is the matter? Are you afraid to play me?” His nephew picked up his racket and proceeded to play him. It was the last time his nephew ever played racquetball against Arthur. Arthur beat him two out of three games. The young man did not even change after the games, but went straight to his car to drive home, humiliated.
By the late 1960s, Arthur and Lilla had expanded their antiques business into an auction company. An Arthur Julia Auction was an event to behold. He was an affable and masterful salesman. His wonderful down-home style was exciting because of its fast pace, but also entertaining because of Arthur’s country humor and continual interaction with the audience. In addition to all of this, Arthur was extremely honest and forthright in everything he did, which earned him a tremendous following and great reputation. He mentored his seven children, many of whom became successful entrepreneurs themselves, with this philosophy.
The first Arthur Julia Auctions were composed of unwanted items that Arthur did not think would sell well at the shop. Eventually, the following he developed and his successes resulted in many people consigning to him. With consignments came a certain type of pressure. In the mid-1970s, Arthur sold his auction business to his son, James D. Julia, who went on to develop an internationally prominent auction company. Arthur then expanded his antiques business with the aid of his younger son, John Julia, and became a specialist in Victorian furniture. Years later, he mentored his son-in-law, Steve Poulin, in the antiques business. The two of them eventually started a small Maine auction company. Arthur assisted with the company until his death.
The food, the music, the setting, the stories and the 300-plus guests that attended made this truly a special Celebration of Life, one of which Arthur would have been immensely proud. Arthur Julia will be missed by all who knew him.
-Submitted by the family
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