Movie memorabilia sale becomes double memorial **Auctioneer had heart attack at drive-in. His son takes up gavel.

Author: Matt Birkbeck

Source: The Morning Call, Apr 12, 2009

Auctioneer David Green's quick rat-a-tat sliced through the raindrops at Becky's Drive-In on Saturday, driving up prices on everything from old film equipment to coffee mugs.

And while David moved quickly from one sale to another, and his mother, Beatrice, sat off to the side registering buyers on a computer, it was clear the event wasn't routine.

One week earlier at Becky's off Route 248 in Berlinsville, family patriarch Herman Green suffered a fatal heart attack just minutes after selling off old coins as part of the auction of Becky's own memorabilia.

"He just sat down and was trying to get his breath," said Cindy Deppe, whose family has owned Becky's since 1946. "I said "are you OK?' and he said he just had to rest."

An ambulance came and took the 71-year-old auctioneer to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, but it was too late, and the distinct voice heard in this region for nearly 50 years was forever quieted.

"He passed away doing what he loved," said Beatrice. "What else could we hope for?"

And so, a week later, the Green family returned to continue the Becky's auction, which had been postponed. And the crowd huddled under a large canopy in the dismal weather to bid on a host of items from Becky's heyday, including popcorn and juice machines.

Like the Green family, the owners of Becky's have kept their business alive for decades.

William "Becky" Beck opened the drive-in theater in 1946. A film buff who showed movies at local firehouses, Beck kept his business open in good times and bad, even resorting to showing adult films in the 1970s just to keep the cars coming and projectors spinning. His children, who took over the business just before Beck died in 1987, brought the families back.

The animated hit "Monsters vs. Aliens" and action movie "Fast and Furious," for instance, will be shown on Becky's two screens when it opens for its 63rd year next weekend.

"It's a family enterprise," said Deppe, one of Beck's four children. "We all have other jobs, but we keep this business going."

But before opening, and with both parents deceased, it was time to clear out some of the memorabilia and personal items that had been collected for more than six decades.

Aside from the gold, shotguns, clothing, books, posters and dozens of other items typically found at auctions, there was a treasure trove of movie house memorabilia. Tony Melillo of Bangor was waiting for the film equipment, especially the small projectors. Someone else asked if the old popcorn machine still worked.

A few people, like Bob Heimbecker of Allentown, milled around Beatrice wishing to pay their respects.

Heimbecker told Beatrice he once put in an absentee bid of $2,800 for a tractor at an auction her husband was running. When the bids came in lower than expected, Heimbecker got more than the tractor.

"I won, and Herman Green sent me back a check for $700," he said. "That's how honest he was."



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