Reader’s Digest used to have a feature called “My Most Unforgettable Character.” C’mon, we all used to read it.
I would have nominated Brad Drawbridge for my entry. Brad, who once ran Megunticook Corner Market with his fabulous wife, Susan, passed away April 4. When I bought my first house 1,000 years ago (I think it cost $12,500), I had the great and good fortune of landing in Camden’s “Millville” next to Megunticook Corner Market, next to Brad and Sue.
They immediately took over the neighborhood “where the river meets Washington Street.” She knew everyone’s name and loved every child in a 10-mile radius, including mine. He manned the meat section and had a story and a joke all day long. He was the most relentlessly positive person I ever met. He was someone you liked to run into, even if it was only for a moment.
I loved Megunticook Corner Market, because they let you charge, until payday. They never complained when the bill went on and on and just got bigger. It was great, running over just before closing to get more cookies and ice cream. As Walter Griffin used to say, this was on “the wrong side of Route 1” in Camden, where the real people lived. It was just up from the woolen mill but right next to the tannery. When you woke up Sunday morning, there was a regular crew drinking vanilla in a junk car in the parking lot.
Brad’s obit noted that the store “featured sagging floorboards, broken windows and a family of skunks under the crawlspace under the meat room. Not being able to pass up such a good deal, they bought the store and relocated their family in April 1971. It became the center of a wonderful community of neighbors and friends, a place where you could buy penny candy, pick up a recipe from Sue and a story from Brad, hear the latest news from the guys at the meat counter and charge your groceries if you were a little short of cash that week.”
I think my kids liked Brad and Sue better than anyone in my house, but then again, they had penny candy. My kids ended up with three sets of doting grandparents.
When I returned from Boston one winter weekend to find that the ancient “pot burner” furnace had died, we went to the store to warm up. A neighbor, without a word, drove off, then returned with an industrial space heater to warm up the tiny house. That was Jeff Weymouth, a regular customer at the store. That was Megunticook Corner.
Brad served in the Navy then went to Leland Powers School of Radio, where he met Susan, the love of his life. They were married from 1955 until her death in 2007. Theirs was one of the greatest love stories I have come across.
In the obituary assumedly penned by his delightful children, it was said that “Brad will always be associated with good times and laughter, but he was at his finest during the sad period of his wife’s last illness. He cared for Sue with courage and steadfast, loving kindness until her death.”
Brad had a story for every occasion. When I walked by that meat case and said, “Your meat is turning black,” he said, “Don’t stand there, buy something.” When Camden Police Chief Albert Smith told Brad that he had solved a recent store burglary by getting the bad guy’s registration number, Brad deadpanned, “That’s my mother’s car.” Naturally, the store was a roaring success with Brad and Sue working 100 hours a week. When they tore down the old building to make room for the fancy replacement, I was taking pictures for the Bangor Daily News. Something seemed to be moving in the rubble. “Charge customer,” Brad said while supervising the project.
Plans for a memorial service are incomplete. But the family requested in lieu of flowers, that you toast Brad and Sue (scotch or Manhattan preferred) and make a donation to the Searsmont Library.
Emmet Meara lives in Camden in blissful retirement after working as a reporter for the BDN in Rockland for 30 years.