I am one of the diminishing generation of children who grew up during World War II, and 1945 was a year I will not forget.
Let me explain: I was 10 years old when World War II came to an end on Sept. 5. I was going to enter the fourth grade at Grace Street School with Miss Nancy Snow as my teacher. She was no stranger to me as I delivered the Sunday newspaper at her home on Pleasant Street.
It was also my first year of spending time at our family store, Economy's Fruit, helping store manager Earl Cook as much as I could. Sept. 5 also meant that my three older brothers, who were in the service, would soon be coming home.
I spent a lot of free time at Economy's Fruit as store manager Earl Cook took a likening to me and started teaching me “store work.” Even to the point were he put an empty beer box behind the soda fountain to teach me how to operate the fountain, how to dip ice cream cones to make a milkshake. I became Rockland's youngest soda jerk.
When Christmas of 1945 came, rationing was over. The store had more food items to sell. The soda fountain had more than the standard four ice creams and real ice cream bars and sandwiches. Dixie Cups, real Lem-n Blennd. Coca Cola fountain drink where Cherry Coke was a favorite. Bottles of Coke, Pepsi, Orange Crush. Hires Root Beer became available. We always made room for our local soda bottlers, Pendletons, Haverners and Clark Beverages, who had limits of supply during the war.
Earl had popular cigarettes back in the store like Lucky Strikes, Chesterfields, Camels, Pall Mall, Old Gold, Kools, and White Owl, King Edward and El Producto cigars became available.
And talk about candies! Along with our local St. Clair and Allen candy products and for the first time in three years, Schrafts chocolates and chocolate-covered cherries were back. We never realized how the war effort limited popular supplies and goods to local merchants.
Economy's Fruit had made Christmas baskets since 1921. My father and uncle started making Christmas baskets at the suggestion of the late Louis Marcus, who had helped them move from their first store location next to the Park Theater to across the street to a remodeled house at 9 Park St. With added items and fruits to sell in the new location, Economy's Fruit became the first Rockland store to make Christmas fruit baskets. Not only did they make them, but also delivered to homes and the Knox Hospital.
When the war started there was no delivery during the years 1941 to 1944. So in 1945, Earl, with the help of a 10-year-old boy, started taking orders for up to 25 baskets. With a sign in the window, it did not take to long to get orders.
What I did not know, Earl had planned this endeavor in early November to make sure he would have enough fruit. Bananas in November were green and not ripe. So Earl put the green bananas in a bag and had them stored in a warm place to make sure the bananas would ripen to yellow. One ripened banana in each basket. Along with an orange, grapefruit, candy and nuts. Earl had arranged delivery of the baskets. Once the war was over fresh fruits from the south became available to Rockland stores.
On Dec. 12, my brother James came home from the Navy. It was a complete surprise; he arrived in a cab, duffel bag on his shoulder and in his Navy uniform. It just so happened my sister, Virginia, my mother and I were home when he came in the front door and yelled: “Surprise!”
With kisses and hugs, we greeted him, for we had not seen him for almost three years. After he started into the living room, he said, “Where is the Christmas tree?"
My sister said we did not have one and had not had one for the past three years because it was just the three of us. My older sister Margaret had moved to live with my uncle after a family dispute with my mother.
With hands on his hips, James said, "Well Terry, old boy, we are going out in the morning and get ourselves a Christmas tree."
So the next morning Jim and I, with my sled and ax, went up to Thomaston Street, where the industrial park is now, and got us an 8-foot tree. We took it home, and the three of us decorated the tree. My mother had saved the decorations for the tree, but no lights. James said, we are going shopping tomorrow to get more decorations. So we did. After a trip to Woolworths, we came home with Christmas lights and ornaments and decorated the tree. I stared in wonder when the tree was decorated and could not wait until Christmas morning to open the few presents for me.
A few days before Christmas, we received a letter from our brother, Christy, who was in the Marines. His unit, the 6th Marines was on the verge of invading Japan when the war with Japan came to an end. The 6th Marine Division was sent to China to guard Japanese prisoners, who would be sent back to Japan. Christy did not come home until spring 1946, and he took over ownership of Economy's Fruit.
The best present came from my older brother, Richard, who was in a U.S. Veterans hospital in France recovering from battle wounds he received during the Battle of the Bulge. In an envelope addressed to me was a shoulder patch of the U.S. Army. It was a yellow patch with the number one colored in red, with a note from him saying: “I thought you would like to have this Army patch as remembrance of my service in the U.S. Army.
The year 1945 was and always will be a very special memory for me.
P.S. I received a model airplane from Santa on Christmas 1945.
Terry Economy was born in Rockland. He graduated from Rockland High School and has had a long career in broadcasting, and is a member of the Maine Broadcasters Hall of Fame.