The republication of 1938 and 1939 pages from the Winthrop Advertiser gives us a great look back to the good ol’ days.

A 1991 edition of the Advertiser included 12 pages of ads and information from the old editions, including some wonderful stories and interviews with people who lived in Winthrop in 1938.

At the top of the front page of the 1938 edition was an ad for Wilson’s Dollar Store, where my dad worked and eventually became a part-owner. I started working at Wilson’s when I was 10.

The ad offered cards, two for 5 cents. The sign for cents was used, but it isn’t on my computer, probably because you can’t buy anything for 5 cents today. They also offered extra fine hose for 25 cents.

Hannaford’s Drug Store advertised a 1 cent sale that included two tubes of toothpaste for 26 cents. The IGA offered a long list of products for less than 50 cents, including boneless sirloin roast for 34 cents.

I recognized many names in the ads, including Norcross, Harriman, Maxwell and Roberts.


On page 5 was a full-page Wilson’s ad including a pound of Christmas candy for 15 cents, pajamas for 69 cents, flannel shirts for 79 cents, and kids’ books or a game of bingo for 10 cents. Yup, these were the good ol’ days.

The stories were marvelous. I loved the interview of Esther McNamara by Bette McNaughton. Esther talked about growing up in Winthrop, including sliding right down the Main Street, “as there was not much traffic to watch out for and the whole neighborhood had lots of fun together.” Sounds just like my High and Lambert streets kids’ group, although we sledded down High Street, not Main Street.

Esther and her husband, Dick, opened McNamara’s restaurant in a beautiful Main Street home, and that was the place to eat throughout my childhood.

Esther also started working when she was a kid. “We all worked,” she said. “There was lots to do and everyone had to help.” She recalled getting paid $3 per week. Wow — she was rich.

By age 12, I had three jobs. Kids today don’t have those opportunities, and that’s a shame.

Esther told a funny story of Dick when he was in the service, landing his plane in California and noticing another plane with “McNamara’s Gang” written on its side. When he asked a young man about the name, he told Dick he and his three friends grew up in Waterville and would go to Winthrop to dance at Island Park and eat at McNamara’s restaurant — “at another place you probably have never heard of.”


“We called ourselves ‘McNamara’s Gang,'” said the young man. Dick held out his hand and said, “I’m McNamara.”

I especially enjoyed two interviews by Evelyn Potter. One was with Arlene Harris, who was a telephone switchboard operator at a time when you dialed the operator and told her whom you wanted to call. When I was in high school, Manchester still had that phone system, which allowed you to listen to anyone’s call if they were on your shared line.

There’s an old joke about this. “Question: Have you ever done any public speaking? Answer: Only once, when I proposed to a girl over the phone.”

There was a section called “Winadettes,” which was sort of a political commentary. The column complained because “in 19 years (1915-1934) we had an increase in State expenses of nearly seventeen million dollars — pretty close to a million dollars a year … And the state has gone into debt besides.

“It surely signifies in the past few years the people of Maine have sent some terrible poor business men into our Capitol building, men who have been paying out more money than they have been taking in — but still, it was not their money they were spending.

“No one wants these State expenses to increase one million dollars a year. Yet these representatives go right into session each year and vote more money — more taxes — more hardships on their home people.

“It is time some men were sent to Augusta with a little more business judgment; men with a little humane feeling for taxpayers; men who represent the views of the people in their districts.”

I guess women were not part of the Legislature back then. No wonder things were so messed up.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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