Narragansett beer wagon

By Terry Economy | Feb 26, 2015

It was 1943, World War II was upon us and the citizens of Rockland were becoming accustomed to that dirty word "rationing."

Certain food items were rationed in our grocery stores, and gasoline was rationed in several ways. The everyday regular driver of an automobile was allowed a certain amount of gasoline a week. Commercial businesses were allowed more to get their goods and services delivered. It seems in either case, there was not enough gasoline available, except for the black market, which we won't get into in this writing, to satisfy every driving need.

So people looked to other means of transportion, buses, trains, and the horse.

Even during World War II, business was very competitive, especially in the delivery business. One such business was the Rockland wholesale beer distributor. Eastern Inc., started a unique idea that was popular 50 years ago, the horse and wagon.

And this is how I got introduced to the Narragansett beer wagon and my lifelong friend, John Brown.

A new neighbor, Leo LaCroix, was the manager of Eastern Inc., and in his spare time he would play catch with me in our driveway at 9 Prescott St. During one of these sessions, he said that his company just received a beer wagon and two new horses to start deliveries in Rockland.

He had just hired a driver named John Brown and would I be interested in taking a ride sometime. Well, you can imagine the thrill of an 8-year-old to have a ride on a wagon driven by two beautifull draught horses. A few days later, Leo LaCroix and I vistited the stable on Winter Street to see the new wagon and horses.

And there he introduced the new driver, John Brown. Here was this large gray-haired man wearing a western-style hat with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile as long as Penobscot Bay. It seems he knew me by way of our family store, Economy's Fruit, on Park Street. And he said, "So this is the little Economy boy that I have heard about from your older brothers," as he lifted me up on the seat of the wagon.

We rode up Winter Street a short ways to Eastern Inc., where the wagon was to be loaded with cases of beer for a delivery run. The wagon could hold about 50 cases of beer, six cases to a tier. The large horses, silver with brown colors, were named Buster and Billyboy and were well mannered. When John said "whoa" they stopped and when he yelled "go" with a crack of the whip in the air, the horses would start.

Once loaded we rode up Winter Street and headed south down the cobblestones of  Main Street to our first stop at Anastasio's store. It was quite common during those days that store personel would help the driver to unload and the novelty to pat the horses while doing so. Because of gas rationing, there was not too much auto traffic, so the wagon could double-park in front of the stores if parking spaces were not available. After our first stop, we crossed Park Street to the front of Oxton's stores where in one stop John Brown could deliver both to Oxton's and Flint's market.

I felt great sitting on the wagon seat and starring up and down Main Street, not knowing how my behind would feel on conclusion of our deliveries. Our next beer stops on Main Street where Treenier's Market, A & P Store, Glendennings Market, Jack Green's and then we stopped at my cousin's store, Naum and Adams. There both Vasker Naum and Spiro Adams came out of the store and shouted to John and pointed to me. "Who you got there?" they asked, with smiles on their faces.

This stop was a good excuse to have one of Naum and Adams' famous milkshakes. And again, a delivery was made next door to George Stevens Groceries. Our final stops were at Ducan's market on Main Street and then we headed down Cresent Street to Fuller's Market. Afterwards the Narragansett Beer wagon went down Ocean Street, Main Street and up Park Street to Economy's Fruit. There I got off with John Brown's help when Earl Cook, the manager of Economy's during the war, came out to help with our final delivery and asked if I had a good ride. As I went over and started to pat both Buster's and Billyboy's nose, Earl wanted to know why I was rubbing my behind.

The Narragansett beer wagon went on for another two years with John Brown as the driver until the war ended. Yes, I had several rides during that period to other parts of Rockland. John Brown came to work at Economy's Fruit in 1946 and was employed there until 1960. He became my special mentor until 1982 when he passed away.


Fictional story about the Narraganett beer wagon

Rockland Post News

June 14, 1944

An attempted robbery of the Narragansett Beer Wagon was averted yesterday afternoon on upper Maverick Street, Rockland, when a 9-year-old companion riding the beer wagon with driver John Brown outwitted the robbers with his BB gun.

According to Knox County Sherriff Earl Ludwig, two masked men driving a Model T pickup truck stopped the beer wagon during the late afternoon hour.

One of the robbers appeared to have a handgun and shouted to the driver, John Brown, to pull over and stop. Abbiding by his order, John Brown stopped and pulled over to the side of the road, while the pickup truck started to back up behind the wagon. The robber, pointing his gun to John Brown, said, "this is a robbery. We want your beer."

During the conversation, the other robber got out of his pickup truck and shouted "What kind of beer are you delivering?" When John Brown shouted back, "Narragansett," his young companion, Terry Economy, was grabbing his BB rifle. When the other robber shouted, "We don't like Narragansett, we only drink Budweiser!" Both robbers turned and headed back to their Model T pickup truck.

One started to mumble, "Jeepers, it is getting pretty bad when a young kid with a BB gun has to guard a wagon full of Narragansett." And they drove away.

Comments (1)
Posted by: William Pease | Feb 26, 2015 12:23

Wow, Terry, best column yet!

"with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile as long as Penobscot Bay"--absolutely brilliant, wonderful writing.

The fictional story about the Narragansett beer wagon attempted robbery was good fun, too. I'll bet the BB gun you were toting was a genuine Red Ryder BB gun. Hope so. I've still got one on the wall down in my shop that was given to me a couple of years ago by my wife's brother, Bob, who died just recently. Shows you what a great kind of guy he was, doesn't it?

Many thanks, Terry. Keep the columns coming and turn them into a book some day.

Bill Pease,

Lancaster, PA (but still a Rocklander in my heart)

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