Musings of an Old Furniture Rep…“Arms” and “Legs”

Year ago I traveled Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont as an independent furniture rep. I would say from the early 70’s to the late 90’s… It wasn’t exactly the best territory, but the customers were friendly, the scenery was beautiful, and home base of Portsmouth, New Hampshire was convenient. I was never going to get rich, but I made a decent living and, to be honest, I didn’t work too hard. I took a lot of time off.

Generally, if I made the trip faithfully (particularly in some of the more out of the way locations), I would get an order. My problem was I was easily distracted. I would drive along the highway listening to books on tape. I especially liked the English readers and seafaring stories such as the Patrick O’Brian series

Oftentimes, I would envision myself on an old Man-o-War plying the Southern Seas. In fact, it’s fair to say that, calling on the stores became a distraction from my routine. I spent a lot of time visiting museums, boatyards, and just about anything else I could find to do. I suppose it suited me. I was on the open road and not stuck in an office leaning over a desk

Twice a year, I would make the trek to northern Maine to “the county”: Aroostook County at the top of Maine on the Canadian border. Now that was a ride from Portsmouth!

By the way, in case you haven’t heard, Maine has a lot of characters and I have a lot of stories to tell. One good thing about Maine and the people of Maine is that, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. They don’t care if you’re black or brown, white, pink or blue, gay or straight…whatever. They keep to themselves.

Anyway, the trip to “the county” was about a six hour trip and I felt like I was on a freight train. When I finally reached the area, the first stop was Houlton, Maine. Oddly enough, there were about eight stores to call on from Houlton Maine through Presque Isle and Madawaska and all the way up to Fort Kent at the very tip. It was hard to muster up the ambition to make this trip, but once I did, every dealer would give me an order, and generally a nice one.

One of the most colorful stops was in Fort Kent, Maine. I had one customer, Nadeau Furniture. I called on this store for about 15 years. There were two owners: the Lavie brothers who were both in their late 50’s or early 60’s. They each had a nickname; one was “Arms” and the other was “Legs”.

I always wondered why everyone called them Arms and Legs. Finally, during one trip I asked the manager (I think his name was Steve), “Steve why do they call Arms ‘Arms’ and Legs ‘Legs’?” Steve replied, “I have no idea. I have worked here for fifteen years and I often wondered that myself.” (Remember what I told you about people in Maine). “Well Steve,” I said, “I am going to ask him.” Steve and the two drivers watched me approach Arms with anticipation. “Arms” I said. Arms cut me off, “Give me 10 minutes so I can finish up with this customer.” I waited patiently then approached Arms again. “Arms, why do they call you ‘Arms’ and why do they call your brother ‘Legs’?”

“Richard, I am 61 years old and I have been called ‘Arms’ since I was in high school. In fact, many people don’t even know my real name. It’s simple. When we were in high school, my brother ‘Legs’ was a track star and he had very muscular legs so everyone called him ‘Legs’ and because they called him ‘Legs,’ I ended up being called ‘Arms’”.

Awww, life on the road! Sometimes I really miss it.

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