The media coverage of family friction involving the owners of the Market Basket supermarket empire sent me back in the Time Tunnel to the mid-1960s, maybe 1965, when the Ford Mustang was the sports car of the moment (the model had been unveiled at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City, Flushing Meadow, Mets-town with a new Shea Stadium). I was growing up in an up-and-coming suburban neighborhood in Dracut at the far end of Hildreth Street. Two houses away lived George Lacourse, a young manager of the Demoulas market (“More for Your Dollar”) at the Sunrise Shopping Center on Bridge Street in Dracut, just over the line from the Lowell neighborhood of Centralville. George was an energetic guy who, with his wife, Gert, had a bunch of kids—and their home and yard constituted the nerve center of our cluster of ranch houses at Hildreth and Janice Ave. The Lacourses had a large yard with an above-ground pool with a deck, and George had bought an adjoining lot to build a tennis court (with lights), which was simply amazing in those days. A couple of times the tennis court was decorated with lanterns and flowers for luau nights. At one of those parties a local rock and roll band played “Louie Louie” and “Wipe Out”—each about five times. The Lacourses’ yard backed up to an expanse of woods that stretched all the way to Colburn Avenue, which offered limitless opportunities for frontier exploring.
George seemed to have a great rapport with his employees at Demoulas. The young guys working for him, especially, would drop by the house on weekends or evenings. One scene that stayed in my head is that of a couple of guys pulling up in new sports cars. My recollection is that George had one of the first Mustangs, maybe a red convertible, when the car was the hottest product on the road. Or maybe it was young Bill Marsden from the store who had the sports car. Marsden and Lacourse in a way looked like the two actors in the TV series “Route 66,” Martin Milner and George Maharis, who ran around the country in a Corvette. George L. was dark-haired like Maharis, and Marsden was lighter like Milner. All the guys were standing in the driveway admiring the vehicles, and the kids watched everything. With their cool cars, tennis rackets, and girlfriends or young families, those guys were enjoying life.
My memory is fuzzy on the particulars, but I have a strong sense of the mood of the scene. It was all about being modern. Everyone was looking ahead. Astronauts were being launched into space. All the fathers and some of the mothers had jobs. Another neighbor worked at Raytheon Missile Systems (forget for a moment that he had built a fallout shelter in his basement after the Cuban crisis). The neighborhood was loaded with kids, most of us in families in which the parents had bought their first houses, leaving the old parishes of Lowell. The big supermarket on Bridge Street was a sign that Dracut was growing. One branch of the Demoulas family lived in Dracut. I went to high school with a daughter and son of the co-founder, George. They drove snowmobiles in the State Forest in the winter. It was a time of promise and possibility and potential. The successful Demoulas business contributed to our sense that our place, Greater Lowell, was moving forward. Guys like George Lacourse had caught a wave, and he made room for some of us on the ride.