Clothing for Men and Boys.

A phrase that comes back to us from a time gone by. It also was a way we Men and Boys grew up in Rockland. There was a culture created by two clothing stores on Main Street:

Coffins and Gregory’s.

You and your dad pretty much shopped at one or the other. You were Gregory’s or you were Coffins. The styles were not all that different, but they carried different brands. In high school the brands told your affiliation. Gregory’s sold Lee jeans and Coffins sold Levi jeans.

The style maven in the Billington family was my father’s mother, Grammy Karl. In the early 1900s she was a milliner in Boston (she made women’s hats). A seamstress all her life, Grammy Karl made all her own clothes and NEVER wore slacks. She always wore a vivid dress with matching costume jewelry and high heels like Winola Cooper.

She came to Rockland in the late 1940s when she married the Superintendent of Mail at the old Rockland Post Office, Donald Karl. I have pictures of Don Karl rowing a boat on Megunticook lake in a necktie.

Grammy Karl chose Gregory’s. And so it was for me.

My clothes came from Bob Gregory’s store where Carol Wixson took care of me. From the time I was a young boy, Grammy Karl would take me in and oversee me getting outfitted.

The atmosphere was sort of formal but not stuffy or uncomfortable. As I grew older and joined the Boy Scouts, I got all my uniforms there. It was a Gregory’s exclusive!

Down the street, at first in the Thorndike Building and later where the Grasshopper Shop is now, was Coffins. Their logo was a clipper ship with billowing sails on it. It was the idea of owner Lev Coffin. His vision was a ship bringing clothes to Rockland.

His son Larry and right-hand man Albert Overlock were fixtures on Main Street. In high school Dave Libby, The Courier-Gazette’s longtime newspaper ad salesman, worked there. Dave is a quintessential Coffins man. His style is timeless and always put together, even when he is wearing a pair of jeans.

Coffins outlasted Gregory’s into the 1990s and I began shopping there.

It was then that men’s clothing stores lost their toehold on the market. We Men and Boys moved on to JC Penney.

JC Penney was neither Gregory’s nor Coffins, but we could get the basics of what we grew up wearing: Levi jeans, Docker casual pants and shirts with collars.

Penney offered very little service but low prices. Then that went away too.

When I see my contemporaries these days, there is no telling where they got their clothes. You can ask them. There will be many different answers. But here is the real question:

Are you Coffins or are you Gregory’s?

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Don Karl on Megunticook Lake.