Beer service to St. George

By Terry Economy | Mar 26, 2011
Courtesy of: Rockland Historical Society

From the 1930s to right before World War II, Economy's Fruit had a delivery truck that would deliver fruit and produce on a weekly basis to the communities of South Thomaston, St. George, Tenants Harbor,  Port Clyde and Spruce Head. No deliveries were made from 1942 to 1946.

In the spring of 1947, Economy's Fruit bought a brand new Dodge delivery van to start up the delivery services to the those communities. My stepbrother and Economy Fruits owner, Christy Demetri, had a false floor installed in the truck that would hold cases of beer. During that period, beer and ale was sold only in Rockland and not in towns to which we provided service. And selling beer and ale from a truck was against the law.

I remember our first delivery run of that era. Ken Conway, an employee of Economy's Fruit became the driver of the truck. Ken could speak Finnish and Swedish as the population of our delivery communities had many Finnish and Swedish families. The granite quarries of St. George employed many workers of Finnish and Swedish descent. Ken's understanding of the languages made selling a lot easier.

About a month before the start of our delivery service, Economy's Fruit posted a weekly ad in our local paper, Courier Gazette, and had a sign made up for a bulletin notice at the store to announce the service. The response was amazing; enough so, that Ken Conway thought two trips weekly was going to be needed instead of the once-a-week plan.

The items available for the delivery truck included fruit, such as bananas, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, apples, peaches, plums, and cantaloupes. Also included were secondary items, such as cigarettes, cigars, snuff, candy bars and boxes of chocolate cherries, a favorite seller.

Then, of course, there was a full layer of beer and ale cans in the false floor of the truck, and not advertised.

That summer, as a 12-year-old, it was fun to ride and help the Economy delivery truck. Ken Conway took a liking to me and nicknamed me "Flash" because at times I didn't move as fast as he requested. I got to know the area and the people the two years the store offered the summer delivery service. What happened as time went on, once word got out that we had beer and ale, there were more calls from customers for beer and ale rather than fruit. Being against the law and before we got caught, we discontinued the beer and ale service,  and you can guess what happened. We could not sell enough fruit and secondary items to make the service profitable and the Economy's Fruit delivery service came to an end in the fall of 1948.

Now this story has a happy ending. Sixty years later, for reasons that I will not indulge, my wife and I moved to St. George. Every once in a while, I will meet an elderly person or people in the St George, Tenants Harbor, Port Clyde area at a civic or social function. Once they hear or see my name, they will say "I remember the Economy Fruit delivery service to the area."

And I would say, with a smile "I was the little boy in the truck."

This story is written in the memory of Ken Conway who became a very dear friend during my adult years.

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.

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