NORTH BATTLEFORD - Long-time auctioneer Jason LeBlanc of Estevan is one of the newest members of the Saskatchewan Auctioneers Association's Auction Era Hall of Honour.
LeBlanc was inducted at the association's 50th Anniversary Convention and Annual General Meeting on Jan. 31 at the Western Development Museum in North Battleford.
Also inducted were Barrie Jung of Melfort and Ivan White of North Battleford.
In LeBlanc's bio, it was noted he was born into a hard-working farm family that ran a mixed grain and cattle operation west of Estevan.
Around the age of 12, LeBlanc started working at the local auction mart, starting in the back cleaning corrals, tagging cattle and listening to the auctioneers. While working at the business and attending many purebred cattle auctions, he was intrigued by the sounds of auctioneers Jerry Kenawasher and Otto Streberg, as they had two completely different sounds and ways of selling.
In 1989, when LeBlanc was 18, he was preparing to take a welding course. At the same time, Streberg happened to be in the Estevan Auction Mart promoting the Camrose College of Auctioneering. LeBlanc had never even entertained the idea of becoming an auctioneer until that moment. He went to the college and graduated.
He began his auction career in January 1990, practising daily in his tractor while sorting cattle. He tried to hone his skills while patiently waiting for his first opportunity to get on the mic. That opportunity came later that year in Melville through Stenberg.
"As he came up onto the auction rack with his new cowboy hat and Camrose Auction School jacket that had Auctioneer written on the sleeve, Jason was handed the microphone for the very first time."
His first item was an unused John Deere portable kerosene/diesel forced air heater that many people in the crowd wanted and was valued for $1,200. It went for $100. It was the only item LeBlanc sold that day.
He took auctioneering gigs for charities that paid dividens when Bob Goud, a good family friend and local auctioneer, noticed LeBlanc and asked him to help out on many household and farm auctions. LeBlanc was paid $40 a day. But he was let go the following year, and gently encouraged to start up on his own so that LeBlanc could give other auctioneers in the southeast some good competition.
LeBlanc booked his first sale for June 22, 1991 with Tenold Farm Equipment and they allowed him to take consignment items. Del Godman, a local printer in Estevan, agreed to print posters at no cost until LeBlanc was up and running, but only if LeBlanc would help make the posters
Needing an auction licence and a business name, LeBlanc Auction Service was born and LeBlanc became the youngest licensed and bonded auctioneer in Canada. Many family and friends helped out with the sale.
Competition was tough, but he would help other auction companies when needed and they did the same for him.
LeBlanc married Sherrill Bossaer from North Battleford in 1997 and she started helping with auctions as a clerk, proofreading posters and working many farm, household and antique sales in the sale-day office. She switched gears and ran the Estevan office after their first daughter Megan was born. They had two other children, Marci and Gracie, and Sherrill LeBlanc stepped aside after Gracie's birth.
"LeBlanc Auction Service started out with farm, household and antique auctions, and had a regular weekly consignment sale every Thursday night. Jason briefly sold cars for the Canadian Auction Group, but that was short-lived as he couldn’t ignore his love for agriculture equipment and the farming community," his bio stated.
"LeBlanc Auction Service started small, but quickly grew to conducting up to two farm auctions per day in April, June and October, plus Jason sold commercial livestock auctions three days a week in the farm off-season."
The company had a lot of talented people work for them over the years, too.
In 2004, the LeBlancs and LeBlanc Auction Service officially join Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, becoming the first Saskatchewan agricultural auction company acquisition for Ritchie Bros. LeBlanc worked diligently and put in many long hours as regional sales manager for Saskatchewan and Manitoba and as an auctioneer, while Sherrill worked full time as office manager in Estevan.
LeBlanc stepped down from the regional manager position and continued on as an auctioneer until 2019, when he sold his last sale on Dec. 13, 2019.
"Jason feels he has been so fortunate to have been in this business during a time that started with no cell phone, no fax machines, no internet, no enclosed toppers, no office trailers, etc. He has lived through the advancements in this industry," the bio stated.
LeBlanc said he was "humbled and honoured" to be inducted in front of so many auctioneers who helped transition many farmers' lives into retirement.
"You also become a bit of a counsellor and a marriage advisor and a bunch of things going on with an auctioneer. When I stood up there and I saw the people that were in there [the Hall of Honour] before, you realized how important they were in their communities," said LeBlanc.
It was a very nice celebration, with lots of past acquaintances, friends, fellow auctioneers and competitors in attendance. A slide-show presentation had photos from throughout LeBlanc's career.
He also knows the other people he was inducted with. LeBlanc pointed out Jung had an empire of an auction company and employed many people. When LeBlanc was getting started, he attended many of White's auctions and learned a lot through White's quick wit, humour and ability to conduct an auction sale.
LeBlanc said he misses auctioneering but not how it's done in today's world.
"They're all online, and it's just a different way of doing it. Do I miss it? Yes, I miss it daily. I never had a bad day at an auction sale, but I don't miss the way it is now."
LeBlanc said there are many who helped him, including Godman and John Empey for their support early in his career when he didn't have any money. Howard Symons helped him get a licence and a bond, allowing him to do something he loved and build a business. Jumbo Panteluk was the one who introduced LeBlanc Auction Service to Dave Ritchie with Ritchie Bros.
His family helped him all the way through, he said, and it proved to be a wonderful run for him.
"I didn't do it by myself. I happened to be the guy on the mic," said LeBlanc.