A place to recall and celebrate the wonderful stores of a Downtown Boston now alive only in our memories

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Some Fun Raymond's Trivia

Hello All!

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:-)


Jim said...

This was nostalgic to an almost heart-wrenching extent, Charles.

My grandfather got a great kick out of Unkle Eph and the Raymond's ads. He pointed them out to me, with delight, when I was a small child, and gave me painless and entertaining lessons on good grammar and spelling (as well as how much fun bad grammar and spelling could be!) So, I always had a soft spot in my heart for Raymond's, and was sorrier than most when it became no more.

Thanks for another great post!

Charles Boston said...

Thanks so Much, Jim!!!!!

Eastman said...

Uncle Eph was my grandfather. He was just as funny in person as he was in print. He had seven children and sixteen grandchildren. They were/are all very good looking and successful. He was a popular public speaker and had his own radio show on Saturday morning.

He died in 1957 at the age of 76, of complications of Parkinson's disease. There's a portrait of him in his church and I have a marvelous pen and ink drawing of him as Uncle Eph. It's unsigned and I wonder if anyone out there knows who did that drawing. It looks just like him--not the characature that was printed on the boxes and bags.

Thanks for this wonderful trip down memory lane.

Ali said...

George J Raymond was my great grandfather. How we loved to hear about "Raymonds" and I can remember my mother getting her fur coat from Raymonds. GJ, as he was referrd to in the family, was our family rascal for his multiple marriages, and why not he was a handsome soul. Thank you for your thoughts. I am printing them out for his grand-daughter, my mother, who will be 95 this October.

Ali said...

George J Raymond was my great-grandfather. GJ, as he was known to the family, was a handsome man and quite a rascal from the family stories. We were privileged to be invited to a Sudbury MA Historical society meeting which was about GJ Raymond, his "farm" in Sudbury and his generosity to his employees. I am printing this all out for GJ's grand-daughter, my mother who is 95 years young this October. Thanks for the memories

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Cary said...

I notice a statement that Raymond's closed after 100 years, but my photo ( https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200859567637999&set=a.1851603416346.2097205.1428579877&type=1&relevant_count=5# )from 1971 clearly says 101st year. I don't know what year the store actually closed, however - only that the sign still remained.