Joe’s Journal

Everything old is new again

Ramblings from an old scribbler
Wed, 08/28/2019 - 8:00am

I guess it is the latest thing. You know, Amazon, Walmart, and others are now delivering groceries to customer’s homes.

All you have to do is, well, you can look it up for yourself if you are interested. But it is not a new idea.

About 40 years ago, a pair of fascinating women set up a grocery shopping service in the Boothbay region. One of them was the late Lois Barge, who made her mark on our community and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Boothbay Region Land Trust.

The other was her pal, Lola O’Byrne, an elegant woman born Delores de Hoyos Turner. She is now 91.

I sat down with her last week to find out how it worked and why it began in the first place. She told me about their shopping service and a lot more.

“Lois came to my door in 1980. She was working as a census taker. I asked her in, and we became great friends,” said Lola. “At the time, she said Boothbay had grocery stores, but no big supermarket. Lois suggested we shop for our friends.”

They formed a little company called Viva Maine and put the word out. It was a hit. “We would get a list from our customers, drive to Bath to shop. We would buy the groceries, including produce, drive back to Boothbay and deliver.”

They charged 10% of the bill.

Today, one of her old customers still thinks it was a bargain because they saved money by avoiding the temptation to make impulse purchases.

Lola, who came from a well off family in Mexico, said she told her mother they were buying groceries for clients, and she was surprised.

“You are doing what?” she asked. Lola told her that was right. “We are buying groceries for clients, but we are doing it in a Mercedes Benz.” They did it for a year or so until a large market moved in. After that, the two women  delivered food to shut-ins.

The fact that Lola would partner with another well off woman to buy and deliver groceries for clients is just one interesting aspect in the life of a most interesting woman.

Her story begins in New York City’s Forest Hills neighborhood where her parents lived. Father was a successful businessman representing the Mexican railroads. When she was 8, the family moved to Mexico City, lived in an apartment, and she had to learn Spanish.

Her parents sent her across the border to San Antonio, for high school. There she got her first taste of discrimination. “I told them I was born in NYC, but I had a Mexican father. I always heard the little voices belittling me. The experience troubled her, and she convinced her parents to let her come home to finish her schooling. She stayed there, grew up, married, and raised a family.

In March 1979, after a divorce, she sold her home in Mexico and had no long term plan when she visited friends who lived on Southport.

“I woke up, looked out the window at Cozy Harbor, and it was snowing. I remember it was beautiful and quiet. I still remember the quiet. It was the sound of silence,” she said.

“Mexico was not quiet, and I was looking for a place where it was quiet.”

She explained it is a third world country, where you need a lot of money to have space and silence. And, you have to have a wall surrounding your large space.

“The very next day, I went out, found a home in Tallwood and bought it,” she said. “In Mexico, there are no trees and no water. Here, I had trees and water. And we have great beauty. In 40 years of living here, I have never wanted anything else.”

Lola was initially attracted by the scenery and the landscape. But she soon found more. She found a community of friends. Unfortunately, one of her dear friends, Laddie Drucker, left us in 2017. “We would play golf three days a week,” she said.

For Lola, the big attraction is the quality of life. “It is the people — people who say please and thank you. It is civilized. I always feel safe.”

By contrast, she said she always had to pay a bribe for services in her former home. Not so in Maine.

At 91, she is still a gracious, stylish woman with a sharp mind and sharper political opinions. Her old pals have passed on, and she says she has acquired a new set of buddies.

But unlike many of us, she is no slave to the internet. Instead, she gets her news from the major newspapers and magazines.

“You know, I didn’t expect to grow old here, but I am blessed to have done so.”