Director of EWU’s surplus sales retires after spending 28-years with the university
The smiling face with the gray handlebar moustache who greets some by name and friendly kidding to others who visit the Eastern Washington University surplus sales locks the doors one final time Friday, may. 24.
Floyd Cloke, the man who has coordinated the sales at the old Cheney Safeway for the past 17 years ends his 28-year EWU career. Cloke started out at the university working in dining services, then custodial, shipping and receiving.
Changes in life’s direction kept Cloke at Eastern following his graduation in 1979 and when that detour ends he gets more time to devote to volunteer work with his church, the Boy Scouts and officiating track and cross country.
When Steven Jordan assumed the role of university president, Cloke moved into dispensing of virtually everything under the sun, moon and stars at EWU that was deemed to have outlived its usefulness, or use-by date.
The department has moved around under Cloke’s watch from Isle Hall, to the EWU shop area and now to the former market.
After all this time, what will the Leavenworth, Wash. native miss? “Probably some of the people and some I probably won’t miss as much,” he said. Cloke, 65, said he is cut out the same bolt of cloth as are his uncles, and dad.
This past Monday the sale site was quiet, except for an occasional curious visitor, or someone picking up the items they purchased or successfully bid on during last week’s sale.
Cloke knows many people who stop by to find bargains of items like computers, file cabinets, books and such by their first name. Others, like jumbled boxes of electrical parts, an odd piece of office machinery, not so well.
Cloke’s job was to organize items he and his student assistants receive from the university. “What we try to do is put as much back on campus as possible, and where needed,” he said.
“If they need a bookcase they get in contact with us,” Cloke said. “We try to put back on campus where we can.”
The items that make it into the sales are what do not go back on campus, Cloke explained. “That includes something they have too many of, or are not going to use,” he said.
At any one time there can be hundreds – if not thousands – of items on shelves, bins and boxes, but a couple stand out for Cloke. A claw-foot bathtub came out of Louise Anderson Hall and has a new life as a planter, Cloke thinks.
He paused and remembered, “I sold the world.” That being an immense globe that spun and which Cloke thought came out of the former Spokane Center.
How big was it? “I’m talking big, we’re talking huge; I sold the world and watched it go down the road,” Cloke said, adding it went to a person who deals in movie props.
Cloke went into the service and upon discharge worked in a local mill. Seeing the writing on the wall that this was not a good career path, he later attended nearby Wenatchee Valley Junior College on the GI Bill before coming to EWU in 1976.
“I started out to become a teacher,” he said talking about his BA in English. “I can live with this,” he said of his decision not to teach.
But even after all these years working behind the scenes selling the stuff others no longer want, Cloke is still unsure if he might have taken the path his degree paved. “I still may not have been a teacher,” he said. “I don’t know for sure.”
Coming out of Eastern, and before he went to work for the university, Cloke worked at the old Savage House Pizza Parlor.
“I was given charge of this and got it squared away,” Cloke said of the surplus department. “It was a challenge only because they had people doing the job that weren’t earmarked for it.”
When he started in the position it took time to find out how to conduct business legally – and successfully. “It took time to go through all the regs (regulations), following what we’re supposed to; it just took time.”
Cloke thinks it was his organizational skills that made the program a success.
Having spent his childhood traveling across much of the country, there are few, if any places he wishes to return to in retirement.
More time with family, especially his six grandchildren, will take up time Cloke does not devote to his volunteer endeavors. “I’m not going to rust,” he said.
Will he have a tear in his eye when he locks the old store doors one last time?
“Probably not, I’ll be dancing out the door,” Cloke said. “I’ve already got my jig down, I’m leaving a pair of shows at the door.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.