Jimmy Durante Visits Jamaica Plain

This picture of Jimmy Durante and his entourage at Hanlon’s Shoe Store in Jamaica Plain was taken in 1958. Durante was a regular at Blinstub’s in South Boston and was in town for a performance. Myles McCabe (Alice Hanlon McCabe’s husband) was friendly with a Boston Herald photographer who took the picture of Durante’s visit to the Jamaica Plain store. The photograph now hangs in the Hanover Hanlon store. The photograph shows Edward E. Hanlon fitting Mr. Durante. In the background, Mr. Hanlon’s son, Edward, is finding shoes for other members of the band. Durante was a frequent vistor to Boston where he would perform in downtown clubs. During one visit, Durante asked where the best place was to buy shoes in Boston and was directed to Hanlon’s Shoes on Centre St. in Jamaica Plain. Mr. Durante purchased five pairs of shoes on that first visit to Hanlon’s and returned on a number of occasions to make additional purchases.

Edward E. Hanlon was a lawyer married to Mary (Becherer) Hanlon living on Lochstead Ave. in Jamaica Plain and eventually Wren St. in West Roxbury with his seven children – Mary (Shannon), Alice (McCabe), Joan (Walsh), Edward, Thomas, George, and Jack. He started in the shoe business by opening a store at South Station called Colt Shoe Company with two partners. The Depression forced the closing of the store. In the early 1930s, Mr. Hanlon opened a mail order shoe business on the corner of Centre St. and Seaverns Ave. in Jamaica Plain. The store was called Edwards after his first son.

Customers of the mail order business would outline their foot on a piece of cardboard and send it to the store allowing Hanlon to determine the size and fulfill the order. The reputation for quality and comfort of the shoes Mr. Hanlon sold garnered orders from across the country. Among his most loyal customers were United States Postal Service letter carriers.

In the mid-1940s, the store moved across the street to the corner of Centre St. and Burroughs St. over C.B. Roger’s Pharmacy and the name of the store was changed to Hanlon’s. Six of the seven Hanlon children operated successful shoe businesses under the Hanlon name. At one time Hanlon stores operated in Braintree, Burlington, Cambridge, Falmouth, Hyannis, Jamaica Plain, Lexington, Malden, Norwell, Norwood, Quincy, Saugus, Sudbury, Waltham, West Roxbury, and Worcester. Stores operated under the Hanlon’s name continue to operate as of 2007 in Hyannis, Hanover, and Braintree. Over the years, most of the Hanlon stores have closed due to the challenge posed by lower-priced imports. Many of the forty-three Hanlon grandchildren have worked in the business throughout their lives.  In 2004, the Hyannis Hanlon’s Shoe Store was sold to the store manager which marks the first time that a Hanlon’s store was not owned by a relative of Mr. Hanlon himself.