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Remembering Gamble-Robinson

Croner reminisces about former Estherville business

June 20, 2014
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville News

If you remember Tex-Sun grapefruit or Snoboy peaches, more than likely you remember when Gamble-Robinson was a staple of the Estherville business community.

Howard Croner, fresh back from World War II where he served with distinction on a B-17 bomber crew, worked at Gamble-Robinson from 1946-48. He started by loading bananas in the banana rooms in the basement. He would gas the bananas that came on a stalk, cutting them off with a curved knife. He said gassing helped with the ripening process.

"Otherwise they're green as grass when they come in," Croner said. Once in a while someone would run into a tarantula.

Croner's experience with the company went even further back than working there, though. It seems that when he was but a whipper snapper and Claude Griffith was warehouse foreman, young Howard and his friends would snatch one of the watermelons on the dock. Claude would then give chase - but never catch then.

"And I ended up marrying his daughter," Howard said.

Showing off was among the young bucks was part of the job too. In between loading trucks they would practice putting 100-pound baskets of producer on their shoulders.

Gamble-Robinson had 400 warehouses nationwide - on the coast they had Pacific fruit and Produce.

Later, Howard drove a delivery truck 60-70 hours a week - no overtime, of course. He was given a new Mack semi to drive, complete with sanders in front of the duals. He would drop off groceries at stores and cafes, going to Pocahontas and Primghar and all points in between.

And he got pretty good. Howard could back the semi with just four or five inches to each side.

He later was salesman for the city of Estherville. Sales meetings consisted of going through prices.

He still remembers the box counts - oranges 250 and apples 113, 125 or 138 depending on the size of the box. And seed potatoes would come in in 100-pound sacks. The warehouse carried coffee beans - real coffee beans. And on the north end of the building was Sanders Ice Cream.

"It was hard work," said Croner. "But you worked hard and you played hard."



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