2013-11-08 / Community

A Window on the Past

Memories are fond of Hillside Red & White Market
By Craig Skelton
South Portland Historical

The area had more than one Red & White Market, but Hillside Red & White holds many memories for area residents. (Courtesy photo) The area had more than one Red & White Market, but Hillside Red & White holds many memories for area residents. (Courtesy photo) Eddie Mardigan was a tall, imposing gentleman – a man I really looked up to, at least when I was 5 years old. I remember him behind the counter in that store at the bottom of Meeting House Hill. My mother would fill her shopping cart with various grocery items as I followed her wheeling through the checkered aisles of the Hillside Red & White. Among the many businesses that occupied that location, it is perhaps better known for The House of Weddings and is now the home of the frequented Cherished Possessions.

The most fascinating thing I remember at the Red & White at 185 Cottage Road is the conveyor belt at the checkout counter. It probably wasn’t the first of its kind in the greater Portland area yet something in my memory always takes me back to that checkout at the Red & White.

There was only one checkout counter at the market, that I remember, and the belt we loaded the groceries on couldn’t have been any longer than four or five feet in length. It was magic, I tell you. Mr. Mardigan would flip a switch and the groceries were dragged away from us to where he would punch buttons on a big old cash register and then whisk away the stuff toward the bagger.

The gumball machine was the next best thing there and I would beg for a penny to plunk into the machine just to see the gum slide out. That’s not entirely true since I loved to chew gum. It must have been some other kid I saw shaking the gum machine in hopes of getting three Chicklet pieces, because I remember looking over my shoulder to make sure Mr. Mardigan was busy with the next customer before I grabbed the big glass ball to tousle it once or twice in hopes of getting a third piece.

George Stanley started the original Hillside Market in the late 1930s and sold to Sooren Mardigan in the 1940s. Sooren operated the store as the Hillside Red & White Market into the 1960s until his death in 1962. Eddie took over the business upon his father’s death and the business continued into the mid-1970s when smaller markets lost out to larger supermarkets.

Although this was not the only Red & White Market in town, I don’t have such vivid memories at the one more commonly known as the Cape Red & White other than the inside of each store was very much alike. That market was farther up Cottage Road, just beyond the Portland Players theater. The folks who now dine there at Pom’s Thai Restaurant may not be aware of the grocery store that occupied the building from the 1940s until 1970. The Cape Red & White, like the Hillside Red & White, could not compete with the new “super” stores.

Guest columnist Craig Skelton is a member of South Portland Historical Society.

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