My friend Jan Whitaker wrote me with a bit of Raymond's trivia that I did not know and hope you will all enjoy reading.
In 1998 Robert C. Schaye, who had served as president for the once great Boston institution, died and in his Boston Globe obituary a bit of trivia was found and recently located by Jan.
Raymond's department store was a fixture in downtown Boston for 100 years. Its spokesman was "Uncle Eph," a bewhiskered top-hatted swamp yankee with an eye for a bargain and a problem with spelling.
Every year, with much fanfare (and advance publicity), "Uncle Eph" arrived at South Station and was led to the store by a marching band to celebrate "originashun day," the anniversary of the opening of the store.
In 1872, the year of the Great Boston Fire that destroyed much of the downtown shopping district, George J. Raymond pitched a tent downtown and sold an assortment of hats he bought at a fire sale. His family-operated store soon became a permanent fixture on Washington Street. At one time Raymond's also operated outlets in Dedham, Lynn, Malden, Quincy, and Waltham. The firm filed for bankruptcy in 1972 and closed shortly thereafter.
According to Boston legend (and a story published in the Globe on May 12, 1957) Uncle Eph first arrived on the scene many years ago, when Frank Dorr, the general manager of Raymond's, received a letter postmarked Slatersville, R.I., and addressed: "The Big Mogul at Raymond's Where U Bot Th' Hat.'
The letter was from the Rev. Harvey B. Eastman of the Congregational Church in Slatersville, and related in familiar language and abysmal spelling how the preacher had been sending away for many years for Raymond's merchandise.
"After `awl these years," he wrote, `thot I'd set right down and write you how awl-danged pleased Ida' been with your guds and th' way they guv me years uf long wear."
To show his appreciation, The Reverend, "Uncle Eph," was coming to Boston Town to make a "speshul" trip to see Raymonds and thank 'em.
Mr. Dorr knew an opportunity for good publicity when he saw one. He met Eph with a marching band when his train arrived at South Station and thus was born a Boston tradition.
And now I present a few examples of 1920's adverts from a few Boston papers which showed Unkle Eph and his unique spellings. The adverts in the 1920's were large and almost always a full page. Each contained a message from dear old Unkle Eph to fill us in on the goings on in his special world. Lessons to be learned and values to be found in the patchwork of buildings that made up the famous Raymond's Department Store on the corner of Washington and Franklin Streets. I will also repost a photo from the last days of Raymond's in this location before it was torn down to make way for the new BIG Woolworth's of the late 60's.
Thanks Jan! Enjoy!
ps...."Unkle Eph" always spelled his name this way. The Globe just had to fix it:-)