March 4, 2010

Carleton Wilson, 93, known as the 'hot dog man'


— By

Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK — Carleton R. Wilson was known around town as the ''hot dog man.''

''He just absolutely loved selling hot dogs,'' said his daughter Kathy Wilson.

Mr. Wilson died Sunday. He was 93.

''He was an interesting fellow, had a sharp mind right until the end. He had a wonderful memory and stories to go with it,'' his daughter said.

Mr. Wilson was born in the Brunswick area and raised on a farm. His family raised dairy cows, but his daughter said that polio at age 20 prevented him from keeping up with the farm work.

In 1938, his daughter said, he bought the hot dog stand known as the Duck-Inn and became known for selling hot dogs, which at the time sold for 5 cents.

''He'd tell us the story of how during the war he had to drive to Portland to pick up the hot dogs and then come back and sell them. When he ran out, that was it for the day,'' his daughter said.

During the nearly 60 years he ran the Duck-Inn, his wife and children helped out, she said. He expanded with a couple of lunch vans that drove around town, selling food at various work sites.

His daughter Elizabeth Wilson remembers starting work at the Duck-Inn when she was a freshman in high school and spending summers working the concessions that her father's company provided at Bowdoin's summer music theater.

''He was so well known around town, people would come up to us all the time saying it was their favorite restaurant,'' Kathy Wilson said, laughing because it was all of ''maybe 15 feet long by 6 feet wide.''

She remembers helping her father by cutting napkins in half to get twice as many out of a stack to put the hot dogs on for customers.

''He always knew how to squeeze a penny,'' she said.

When he wasn't working, she said, he still had a passion for farm life and rides in the country.

She said his mother took him to the Topsham Fair the year he was born, and the only fair he missed after that was the year it wasn't held because of World War II.

''He loved to see the cows,'' she said, adding that they had a hot dog stand at the fair for years.

''He was a character,'' she said. ''He related with everybody, treated everybody the same and had respect for everyone. Not an ounce of discrimination.''

She said a variety of customers frequented the Duck-Inn, from lawyers in business suits to men picking up the trash, but ''they were all the same to him.''

After retiring in 1993, Elizabeth Wilson said, her father lived on his own, with help from her for the past 10 years.

''We left his truck in the front yard, and he'd go out and sit in it for a couple of hours when it was nice. We called it his sun room. He'd read the paper and count the cars going by on the street,'' she said.

''He was quite a fellow. He used to carry pictures around of the farm, and he'd haul out his pictures and he talked slow but he remembered everything,'' Kathy Wilson said.

''He loved telling his stories and showing everybody his pictures,'' Elizabeth Wilson said. ''He'd tell us stories of how it used to be.''

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:


Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

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