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

Friday 9 July 2010

Boston Celebrates the Bicentennial and Boston Yellow Pages of Years Gone By

Hello, My Fellow Retro Boston Lovers!
I start another update with a big Thank You to Bruce!!
Bruce is a serious collector of information and other memorabilia from USA department stores and what a great collection it is!!
He was kind enough to share some scans from his copy of "Boston 200: Official Bicentennial Guide Book". This guide was published in 1975 and was available to the public for several years thereafter. Bruce was given his on a trip to Boston in 1978.
The ads for the last four BIG Boston department stores are classic!!
Each is proud to able to share in the festive Bicentennial celebration that is about to grip Boston and the nation as a whole.
The period from the spring of 1975 through the summer of 1976 was amazing for the City of Boston.
The tourists flocked in and the city seemed to be more crowded than I ever recalled seeing it so far in my young life.
The Freedom Trail was revamped and new signs all over Boston helped the many visitors get around the city with ease. Some MBTA buses and a few select Green Line trolley cars had Bicentennial themes painted all over their sides and the multimedia slide show, "Where's Boston?" began to be shown in various locations around the city.
The festive spirit was everywhere and for the remaining BIG stores of Downtown Boston, it was the last time they saw such crowds fill their street floors. By the time Bruce got his copy of the book in the summer of 1978, RH Stearn's and Gilchrist's were both sadly out of business...but their wonderful ads remained in place.
I love the way Gilchrist's calls itself the "first" Boston department store...it only beat Jordan Marsh by about nine years....but we all like to be the "first":-)

I also share with you a selection of Boston Yellow Pages ads from the 1950's to the 1970's. These ads are also classic because they contain store logos and slogans that each of the BIG stores was using at the time the ad was published.
Note the way RH White's goes from praising the "updated" flagship store in Boston in 1956 and then in 1957 it's... Goodbye Boston, Hello Suburbs!
RH White's did try to update the aging building on Washington Street in the 1950's, the ad proudly states they have fast escalators and bright lighting...but this attempt at dressing up did not stop them from closing shop in Boston and heading out to the suburbs. The historic building only had short term uses and sat empty most of the time until it was lost to the wrecker's ball in the mid- 1970's.

Thank you Bruce for the Bicentennial goodies!!
Now please enjoy this selection of Boston ads from the past!!



Denholms said...

This is so great! I remember the RH Whites in Worcester. The building is still there.... I also remember the old Jordan Marsh. That was my first job in Visual. That entrance was so beautiful and classic New England.

Some Assembly Required said...

My first job was washing dishes in the restaurant at Jordan Marsh in the Warwick Mall, summer of '79.

Does anyone know where the store in Malden was located? I'm just curious since I live not far from Malden Center now...

Ron Newman said...

The same Bicentennial guidebook contains many other ads for now-vanished stores, restaurants, and banks. I'm e-mailing you scans of its ads for Kennedy's, Woolworth, Zayre, Brigham's, and Howard Johnson's, as well as (still-existing) Shreve Crump & Low.

Let me know if you want the bank ads or any others.

A Lovely Inconsequence said...

Every Saturday each winter, my two Aunts (one is still living at age 95)would take me to Filenes Basement. 1974-79. We would take the bus from Newton Corner, a short ride on a Saturday.

The first thing I would notice is the scent of hotdogs in FB. We ate every Saturday standing up at one of the hotdog stands scattered about the basement. We always bought clothes, etc. in the basement and then headed upstairs to see what was new.

As I got older, I loved to cruise the cosmetic aisles without my aunts and became friendly with many of the salesgirls. My teenage heart was entranced with their chic clothes and finely made up faces. One young lady who use to sell Clinique makeup was upset one day because she had just returned from Ruggles Pizza where she had lunch and her handbag was stolen from under her seat. Filenes made sure she had money for the train home and called the police for her. It seemed as though they took good care of their employees. The entrances to Filenes were always windy from the double doors and the doors were very heavy in winter and crowded. I loved the handbag department where there was always someone to help you choose a chic bag, pulling them down from the lighted shelves and taking the stuffing out. It was a great place to shop, full of wonderful feminine items, real designer clothing in the basement at low prices, and the great hotdogs and ice cold Diet Coke in paper cups.

A Lovely Inconsequence said...

Also, my grandfather was the general manager of Filene's Basement in the 50-60's. I use to love going to visit him in his office in the basement. Every Christmas, I received a large wrapped cardboard box filled with things he chose for me during the year. A sheepskin coat one year, riding jodpurs that I hated, leather handbags when I was a teen, stirrup pants, silk shirts, etc. He had a very nice secretary and he would ask her to take me to pick something out. I could tell she adored him.

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