Remembering John Brown

By Terry Economy | Aug 08, 2013

In the fall of 1947, family friend and part-time employee John Brown started to work at Economy's Fruit full-time.

He had been employed at Eastern Distributors for many years as a beverage delivery driver and decided at age 50, that a less strenuous job would be better for his health. I had known John for many years and always was very fond of his friendly and humorous personality. During the seven years that I was at Economy's Fruit working with John Brown became a real life learning adventure.

John had never married and I guess he saw me like a grandson. He became my mentor through those years and our relationship continued for many years until his death the early '80s. He followed my career very closely, and during my years with Radio Station, WRKD, we would have regular contact and a occasional lunch.

As a successful broadcaster, John would always smile at me and said it was hard to believe that a little young, snorty kid behind the soda fountain at Economy's Fruit, turned out to become what I was. And I would always smile back at him and shake his hand and would say "without your help and friendship, I wouldn't have become a 'Radio Man,'" as he would call me.

Let's go back to the early days of my association with John Brown at Economy's Fruit.

It seems John knew everyone in Rockland. And he called our customers as Mrs or Mr. and he reminded me to do the same. He taught me to always smile and the customer was always right. There were lessons like how to add and subtract in my mind, wear a clean shirt under my apron, and lessons in marketing.

For example: We had a fruit stand in front to the store during spring and summer and we would feature Washington State apples. One job he gave me was to polish the apples before we would put them on the fruit stand. As I was polishing, he would look over my shoulder to make sure I was doing a good job. I made a comment to him that I thought it was a waste of time. He immediately grabbed a apple from my hand and said "waste of time? Let's play a game. We will put two boxes of apples on the fruit stand. One box will be the polished ones and the other box will be the apples unpolished and today we will watch which apples the customers will buy."

Well, you know what apples sold? All the polished ones.

The taste test: John would remind me when the customers would inquire about the fruit I was to say with a smile...if it was a grapefruit or melon, "just great; I had one for breakfast." If it was grapes or cherries, I would pick a couple and give them to the customer and say "here taste for yourself."

How to hustle: Give the customers more then they ask for. If it was a half pound, give them a pound, if it was six eggs, give them a dozen. John would say 70 percent of the time, the customer would take the larger quantity.

And there were "Lessons in Life," as he would call it. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had full-time teacher. I got bored in high school and colllege, because many of the subjects I was learning, I already knew.

And there were times for laughs and jokes he would play on me. Like hiding my bicycle behind the store. The best joke he played on me, which I didn't think it was funny:

There was a chewing tobacco called Apple. I asked John why was it called apple. He said it had a apple flavor. Well I had to find out for myself. When he wasn't looking, I grabbed a square of apple chewing tobacco, opened it and bit off a piece. John came up to me in the process, and I said it didn't taste like apple. With a smile, he said "keep on chewing and it will." Oh, did I get sick and had to vomit. It was the only time in my life that I tried chewing tobacco and I was only 12 or 13 years old at that time.

As I grew older, I was always "Pal" to him. And our relationship grew stronger.

After I graduated from Husson College, one day John inquired what I thought about college and the education I received. I looked at him with a grin, and said "not as good as the seven years I spent with you at Economy's Fruit. With a hug from him, he said " you had a good teacher."

I have never forgotten those words.

— Written in memory of a true lifelong friend.





Comments (2)
Posted by: Ragna Weaver | Aug 10, 2013 06:11

Love this article. We need more stories like this.


Posted by: William Pease | Aug 08, 2013 14:57

Wonderful story,Terry, old friend.

Of course, I remember the Economy Fruit Store well. It was always important for my mother to stop there and then my father would want to stop at Naum & Adams just a block away for the newspaper or something else--smokes, maybe. But I've searched the crannies of my mind over and over and I cannot remember John Brown at Economy's. Do you have a photo of him to add to the story that might bring him to mind for me?

If  you don't, that's o.k., because your warm words of memory bring him to life with a realism that not even a photo could match. Beautifully written, Terry.

Many thanks for the heart-felt story, and belated congratulations to you on a fine career and your membership in the Maine Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

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