|McDevitt's Men Shop circa 1940|
From Joanne McDevitt
March 19, 2013
McDevitt's Men Shop started as a dry goods store near May Street on McMillan known as J.A. McDevitt and Sons. They Moved to 933 East McMillan Street and operated only as a men's haberdashery from then on. When Morris furniture moved out of the Paramount Building, McDevitt's moved in and stayed there for many years running a successful business and actually supporting all the families in one way or another. The original business was started by James A. McDevitt (Dad's grandfather) and Joseph Aloysiius McDevitt (Dad's father). There were 6 brothers: Joe, Jim,Kenny (also known as Thomas) Leo, Lawrence and Robert and one sister Margaret. Due to a war injury, Kenny never worked in the new store and Jim only worked there a short time after his brother (your grandfather, Joe) died, as he had a career in the army followed by a job at Underwood Typewriter Company. Later Paul Hennies (Madeleine's husband) worked there and as you know your Dad worked there for for 17 years.
In the 1930's Peebles Corner was a busy shopping district and it catered to the people in Walnut Hills and Hyde Park. Besides McDevitt's Men Shop the corner included, Pollyana Hats, Guenther Dry Goods, Graeters, Paramount Theater, Orpheum Theater, both featured vaudeville shows, movies and in the summer rooftop movies (due to no air conditioning), Woolworth's Five and Dime Store where music sheets were sold and a pianist and a singer (sometimes your grandfather John P. Sheehan) were paid to perform to sell sheet music. (Remember no CD's ITunes etc.)There was also a Smokeshed across from the store and sometimes operated by your great aunts Alice and Clara (Marian's mother and aunt). You could buy tobacco, a newspaper and maybe place a little bet there as well. There were no credit cards but you could have a charge account in the stores and they thrived on service. At McDevitt's they would make alterations for free, wrap your purchases, walk you to the front door and open it for you as you exited, and they delivered! One time a customer George Rhode phoned to ask for a collar button (it was a little button to attach the collar to a shirt, costing ten cents). Your dad drove it from Walnut Hills to Newtown! (Of course gas was probably only twenty five cents a gallon).
The store prospered for years and while no one got rich they benefited from a good work ethic, strong family ties and a deep respect and love for each other. As a result they were able to buy homes, educate their children, enjoy the good times and support each other in the not so good times including the Great Depression (one week the store only made $100. Out of that they had to pay the rent and divide the rest for each brothers salary). The business and the family also survived the flood of 1937. During those dark days they depended on daylight due to no electricity and sold out of black shirts because people could not do laundry and they could wear black shirts for a couple of days. Not to mention personal tragedies. But the family stuck together and enjoyed big celebrations and smaller ones. But a favorite memory of Dads is going to grandma and grandpa McDevitt's house on May Street on Sundays after Mass and early dinner for homemade applesauce and ice cream from Graeters with his mother, dad, Madeleine, Helen and Ann. At one time there were 19 cousins at these happy gatherings.
But due to a changing neighborhood, transportation choices, shopping Malls and finally the riots in Walnut Hills the business could not survive. McDevitt's Men Store closed. We've had great role models, have much to live up to and as Father Larry once said we all can stand tall on the shoulders of those that went before us.