AUBURN — It's been years since the Marshall's Pop Corn stand popped a kernel.
Once a regular sight in downtown Auburn, the modified 1930 Ford Model A Roadster dispensed fresh, hot popcorn and nuts until 1975 when owner Robert Marshall retired.
Since then, the truck and its handmade wooden stand wound up in storage at Auburn's Hasty Gym.
Now, developer George Schott is making an offer to buy the stand and bring it back to some of its former glory. He's offered to buy it from the city for $3,000, fix it up and get it popping again.
"It's just sitting in a warehouse right now, gathering dust," Schott said. "I want to bring it back to the public eye again."
The catch, however, is that he'd move it to Main Street in Lewiston.
"I have a building on Main Street, where I have a lot of collectible stuff," Schott said. "I think it would be neat to have it up there. I'm thinking of fixing it up, get it running and make it available for people to see."
That's out of the question, said City Councilor Leroy Walker, the former city recreation superintendent and the last person to drive the wagon.
"I'm not in favor of selling any part of the history of the city of Auburn to anybody," Walker said. "I think we should preserve it, and it should stay in the hands of the city. I'm not in favor of selling it — even if we were offered $3 million, we shouldn't sell it."
Councilors are scheduled to discuss the popcorn stand at their 5:30 p.m. workshop Monday. They could also vote to allow Schott to buy the wagon at their regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
Arthur F. Marshall debuted his first mobile popcorn stand in 1906. He later upgraded from a two-wheeled pushcart to a four-wheeled cart and later to a 1920 Ford Model T. He built a wooden stand and attached it to the back of the truck and later moved the stand to the 1930 Ford.
He was a fixture in front of Auburn Hall until 1928 when he moved across Court Street to the sidewalk in front of the Androscoggin County Courthouse. He continued there until he died in 1971.
His nephew Robert Marshall continued the business until 1975, when he retired. He donated the truck to the Auburn Historical Society, which donated it to the city's Recreation Department.
Walker, then parks foreman, helped refurbish the truck. The city took six weeks to repair the truck, debuting it at the Franco-American Festival in 1985.
"We used to have it in all the parades and bring it out for fundraisers for youth hockey," Walker said. "It was a great thing. People came out to see it."
Walker said he last drove it in 1995.
"It's pretty old," Walker said. "The mechanical brakes are not that great and so you don't want to drive it. But we got around that by putting it in a trailer and pulling it through the parade. We could do that again, trailer it, and bring it out."
Ravi Sharma, Auburn's Recreation Department director, said the truck has since fallen into disrepair.
Walker said he'd rather see the city fix it up and press it back into service.
"Without too much work, it could be put back into use again," Walker said. "We could trailer it and pop the popcorn in electric poppers. People would come out for it, just to see it."
Lewiston Daily Sun, July 20, 1985