April 08, 2020

Shotgun wedding Maine couple finds romance in nostalgia at Windsor general store

All right, it wasn’t the wedding that Essie Fraser dreamed of as a little girl.

Her groom, Russ Anglen wore bib overalls and a straw hat, and was tied up and pulled to the ceremony behind a hay wagon. Her father held a shotgun on Anglen, just to make sure.

The wedding scene was not a charming white church behind a picket fence, or a windswept meadow, under an October sun.

It was the parking lot of Hussey’s General Store in Windsor, under one of the most famous signs in Maine, which advertises “guns, wedding gowns and cold beer.” It was a special way for Anglen and Fraser to celebrate the 84th anniversary of their mutual employer.

“Hey, anyone can have a church wedding,” Anglen said, following the parking lot nuptials. “We figured it would give the store a little publicity.”

Anglen started working at the store five years ago, met Fraser and cupid took care of the rest. Since the store sells shotguns and wedding gowns and the famous sign sits outside, the idea germinated. “It started as a joke,” said the bride, dodging pickup trucks after the ceremony.

“It wasn’t on my agenda. I would guess that this is a first for Hussey’s. I am a country girl and I decided it was the best way to do it,” she said.

Best man Jason Pelletier, clad in a T-shirt for the occasion, said “I didn’t ever expect anything like this. This was the first shotgun wedding for me, but I would expect it won’t be the last, living in Windsor.”

The groom was admittedly nervous with a shotgun pointed at him,”I hoped that he wouldn’t shoot me,” he said. The weapon was wielded by the bride’s father, George Baker.

At 84, Elwin Hussey thought he had seen it all at his Route 32 location. But a shotgun wedding in his parking lot was “something different.”

After all, Hussey’s does sell everything from shotguns to wedding gowns, as everyone knows that ever drove past the intersection of Routes 105 and 32.

Hussey is now the keeper of the legend, a second-generation Hussey who was born in 1923, the very year that his father, Harland B. Hussey, opened the first store a few feet away from the current location.

Windsor was incorporated in 1809 as New Waterford, then Malta, then Gerry, before adopting the current name in 1822. By 1923, the town supported country stores at Windsor Corner, Four Corners. South Windsor, Windsorville and Tyler’s Corner.

Now, there is only one.

When the Windsor Corner store burned in 1923, Harland Hussey was peddling Durant And Stars automobiles. He wisely abandoned that venture and opened a general store.

He told the Kennebec Journal in 1953 that “supplies in the horse-and-buggy days were shipped in by rail, either to Augusta or Wiscasset, or by the old narrow gauge railway to York’s Corner a mile and a half away. Horses hauled the supplies from these points and winter-going usually presented difficulties. The refrigerator and ice chests had to be packed with ice each day.”

According to a local history, in 1917, competitor C. I. York was selling shirts for 50 cents, pants for $2, sweaters for $1, braces for 25 cents, rubber boots for $1 and handkerchiefs for a nickel. The prices probably did not change much before the opening of Hussey’s.

As the merchandise selection grew, so did the store with numerous additions over the years. The current store is more than 30,000 square feet.

Harland started in the store, running the register, at age 8 or 9. “I have been there ever since, except for my three years in the navy,” he said after the wedding. Now he “only” works on Saturdays, helping out new store manager Bill Richer.

He can remember “the good old days” when six gallons of gasoline cost $1.

He still gets a kick out of the “wedding gown” sign, which started as an accident. Then the store workers noticed more and more drivers stopping to take pictures of it. The sign was once featured in Reader’s Digest magazine.

That sign is nothing, said the Reverend Janice Hisler, who conducted the Saturday shotgun celebration. “When they started selling hunting licenses, they put up a sign that said “We got Lice.'”

Rev. Hisler said when she was hired for the wedding, she spent $140 for a new dress. “When I heard what they were wearing, I brought it back,” she said.

At 86, Hussey said he will retire “when I get old.” He plans to make the 90th anniversary of Hussey’s, which will also be his 90th birthday.

A history of the town, titled ” Good Land and Fine Country, but Poor Roads” pays honors to the store.

“This is not to say that the fame of Hussey’s General Store is confined within the borders of the state of Maine, because that is not the case.”

Especially with that unique sign that advertises “wedding gowns, guns and beer.”

Emmet Meara can be reached at emmetmeara@msn.com.

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