HALLOWELL — For Robert Somes, Jr., change is bittersweet.

“Ask anyone who was around 40 or 50 years ago about Somes Used Cars, and most people would know the name,” he said. “It’s quite likely they bought a car there.”

Over the last few months, the properties owned by his parents, Robert K. Somes Sr. and Elizabeth Somes, otherwise known as Bob and Betty, have been put up for sale and are now mostly sold.

For nearly five decades, the older Somes sold used cars and a host of other things — televisions, radios, appliances, boats, outboard motors and snowmobiles — from the family’s 11 Water St. property, and when he died, his wife continued to sell used cars for 10 more years in partnership with one of her sons.

That property, which started as a modest house on the Hallowell-Augusta municipal line and grew into the building that was home to all the enterprises the Someses took on, is going from one car dealer to another, Quirk Ford, which has completed renovations to its own property just to the north, and has added the strip of land and building to its own property.

“We wanted to make sure no one else owned it,” Jack Quirk said, adding that it’s too soon to say how the land will be used.

Although the building is now cleared out, it was for a time a time capsule of the business history of Bob and Betty and their many interests, stored downstairs where the business was; the family lived upstairs.

Brenda Engel, Bob and Betty’s younger daughter, said people would stop by just to talk, and chat about whatever the Someses were selling; often those people would end up being customers.

“The family had a lot of history there,” Quirk said. “It would have been a gold mine for ‘American Pickers.'”

Quirk saw stored bicycles, sleds, baseball cards, games and all kinds of equipment, the same types of things that the pickers on the History Channel’s Americana reality show often buy.

“They had a lot of unique items,” he said.

Robert Somes Jr. said old posters, repair manuals and signs were among the items.

“There were posters for Mercury outboards,” he said. “He was big on outboards, snowmobiles, boats — he had a franchise for all of these. There were repair manuals, a lot of signs.”

Engel said there were lots of baseball cards.

“My mother was interested in cars and selling cars,” she said. “But she was really into NASCAR. She collected the die-cut cars. And she collected baseball cards. I counted — because someone was interested — 950 boxes of baseball cards, and they had 5,000 cards in each box.”

Her father loved the Hallowell parades, entering a 1932 Mack fire engine or Sno-Jet snowmobiles set up in the bed of a pickup truck.

Whatever Bob did, the family did as well. Betty answered phones and worked alongside her husband, Engel said, and all the children had jobs to help out in the office or in the garage.

When Bob died in 1996, his obituary mentioned his life and business and brought to light maybe the most interesting thing in a lifetime of interesting things about Bob Somes. As a Seabee in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he is credited with being “the only man in the armed services or Seabees to capture a Japanese soldier with a monkey wrench.”

All of that is gone now — the cars, the sign and the equipment, sold at auction, given to Goodwill or distributed among family members.

What’s left are the mementos, boxes of photos and the memories of people across the region.

“Today, people hear our name and they comment about their first bike purchase or first Sno-jet snowmobile, and they still own it,” Engel said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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