The Graham family legacy - Part two

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After serving in World War II, Gordon Graham, a native of Parker’s Cove; and his wife, Edna (nee Rafuse), a native of New Ross; moved to a house on West Main Street in Berwick. Gordon went to work for his brother-in-law, Henry Larsen, where he learned the meat trade in a short period of time.

The later Graham enterprise was not a competition, but a complement to the meat industry, and Gordon rented space in Henry’s plant to accommodate his business, started in 1946 with a new GM half-ton delivery truck. Within a year, they required larger accommodations and, in 1947, they moved into a much larger home and property on East Cottage Street. This was the site of a business that would continue with great success over the next 33 years.

With a second truck - and then a third truck - on the road six days a week, the handsome yellow trucks and the excellent quality of meat, combined with reasonable prices, steadily drew a large patronage from Kentville to Greenwood - and beyond. Serving their customers door-to-door with locally-grown beef, pork, lamb and their own home-raised poultry, the Graham family and their employees developed a personal relationship with customers, requiring a versatile staff. The driver was much more than a skilled worker in the meat trade, and not only anticipated the customer’s needs, but took great pride in keeping the customers happy. The drivers were responsible for a meticulously clean and shiny truck, and, of course, record-keeping. The Grahams feel they owe much of their success to a good number of hard-working and loyal employees over the years. No doubt much of the inspiration to do a great job was due to considerate employers.

In 1958, the growing business underwent expansions, with a fourth truck on the road and the addition of a new brick building at the back of the property that would include three walk-in refrigeration rooms of approximately 300 square feet each. Production accommodated the smaller enterprises, but also went wholesale on a large scale, curing meat and providing some notably large companies from Martock to Bridgetown with their products.

In November of 1963, the Graham family became the proprietors of the Red & White store on Commercial Street in Berwick, with their son, Denton, as acting manager. With six to eight employees, everything from bacon and picnic ham to sausage and headcheeses were popular, but the Grahams became especially famous for their mincemeat. Using her mother’s recipe, the first batch of mincemeat was made on the kitchen stove by Edna. Eventually, the G.L. Graham Company Ltd., which included both sons - Denton and Wendell, were making upwards of six tons of mincemeat per week that sold as far away as Halifax and Yarmouth. The business had problems getting dehydrated apples when Nova Scotia’s last evaporator closed but, with the help of Dr. Robert Stark of the Kentville Research Station, dehydrated apples were imported from Italy.

The company came to an end in 1978 when Edna and Gordon were ready to retire. Their sons chose other employment, wholly supported by their parents.

Every Christmas, though, this close knit family of now four generations, comes together and celebrates the past and the present with another pot of Edna’s home-made mincemeat.

Organizations: Red & White, G.L. Graham Company, Kentville Research Station

Geographic location: Berwick, Parker, New Ross West Main Street East Cottage Street Kentville Martock Bridgetown Commercial Street Halifax Yarmouth Nova Scotia Italy

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