It’s an absolute certainty that the memories we will revive in this column are going to miss many of your favorites. We’re talking about the candy stores, ice cream parlors, soda fountains, hamburger and hot dog drive-ins and so many more of those local hot spots that featured fun and friendship along with the food.

Let’s be clear about this point. These are not long-gone features of another generation. There are new and popular versions of many places similar to those we knew in the past, and they delight their loyal customers of today just as much as the places some older folks like to recall.

For starters, let’s talk about candy, and about Cora Gowell, the Candy Lady of Peppermint Corner at Lisbon Falls. To residents of that locality, her story is well-known, and her fame spanned the United States. An article by Eloise Jordan in a June 1950 edition of the Lewiston Journal Magazine Section told how Cora’s candies were prized by purchasers far and wide. Miss Gowell’s collection of letters praising her product attested to that.

“Dear Candy Lady,” wrote Frank Whitbeck, director of studio advertising for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Culver City, California. “Your candy arrived. I opened it, many people have sampled it, and they all thought it was wonderful.” He then listed names of numerous friends who wanted to place orders, and ended by saying, “If this is too much of an imposition, I’m sorry and if you’ll tell me, it won’t happen again.”

Miss Gowell began making her candy in 1925, with the slogan “Home Made in a Maine Home” lettered on every box. The slogan was suggested to her by the wife of Maine Governor Owen Brewster, and she promptly adopted it to go with her logo of pine cones circling her initials, CMG.

She sold the confections herself to local customers and by mail-order. She ran the whole business and all of the candy-making herself. Her front window served for advertising, and local people looked there for a sign that might read “Chocolates,” or, occasionally, “No Chocolates.”

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At one time, she sent samples to a man who ran a candy stand at the LaFayette Hotel in Portland.

“That was the only time I have ever sold my candy through another agent,” she said.

It could be assumed that Peppermint Corner was named because of The Candy Lady, but that name predated her by many years.

“Nearly a century ago, a man whose name is now forgotten was making and selling peppermints in a little shack located in the heater piece where the road leads off from the Lewiston-Lisbon highway for Sabattus.” A heater piece is an old Yankee term for a triangular plot of land found at road intersections.

Miss Gowell delighted in sending her candy to servicemen during World War II. Local friends and family members of “the boys overseas” would bring empty tin coffee and shortening cans for packing the chocolates for the long trip. The Candy Lady said she fondly remembered many of those boys coming to her door with a nickel or five pennies to buy molasses kisses or Needhams.

Speaking of Needhams, that square of coconut and potato filling under a chocolate shell, has special memories for many area residents. They will remember Seavey’s Needhams, made by John S. Seavey of Auburn. A Kresge’s Department Store newspaper ad of 1954 said, “Seavey’s Needhams, 47 cents per pound. You know they’re fresh because they’re made right here in Auburn.”

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He also founded Seavey’s Store at Court Street and Minot Avenue until that highway was widened. My wife, Judy, worked there in her high school days, and its old-fashioned ice cream fountain is one of her fond memories.

Seavey sold Seavey’s Sweets Co. in 1960 to Roger Stearns, president of Lou-Rod Candy Co. of Lewiston, and the Needhams are still made and sold under that name.

That transition probably could not have happened without the talent and dedication of Alcide Marcotte. He had been making candy for 56 years, 30 of them with John Seavey, and he continued his work with the new firm.

Local candy history is not complete without mention of Mary’s Candy Shop on Main Street, Lewiston, where all kinds of marvelous confections were made for 74 years. It was founded in 1933 by Mary and James Lafkiotes. Roger Allen bought and ran the business for its final 14 years, selling it in 2007.

These accounts of candy-making are sure to stimulate lots of taste buds.

And that’s just to start the candy discussion. How about Italian sandwiches? Remember Pop’s on Main Street, Auburn? Cooper’s Restaurant? Sim’s lobster rolls?

Many former L-A residents return for visits, and they MUST have the things they can’t find anywhere else. Sam’s Italian sandwiches, red hot dogs, chocolate doughnuts and Labadie’s whoopie pies.

Lots of the old places are still around, including Taber’s by Lake Auburn, Val’s Drive-in and Luiggi’s Pizzeria. Go back for the memories, but try the new places, too. They will garner their fans for nostalgia years from now.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to [email protected]


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