Ralph Beattie [1925-2015], grandson of the founder of H. W. Beattie & Sons Jewelers on Euclid Avenue, discusses the history of the family business, particularly in the time after he joined the business in 1948 following his war service. Beattie also recalls memories of occasional shopping trips downtown as a child living on a farm in the 1930s. He reflects on prominent businesses on Euclid Avenue, including jewelry stores, and the decline of the Playhouse Square area after its theaters closed in the late 1960s. [Poor sound quality]
Beattie, Ralph (interviewee)
Wagner, Meghan (interviewer)
"Ralph Beattie interview, 05 April 2005" (2005). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 304018.
Ralph Beattie [00:00:00] Oh, it was 120 years old, so it was established back in 1884, about the spot where the Terminal Tower now stands.
Meghan Wagner [00:00:12] Oh, so it moved locations then?
Ralph Beattie [00:00:14] The locations have changed, yeah.
Meghan Wagner [00:00:15] Okay, so how long have you guys been on Euclid?
Ralph Beattie [00:00:19] Well, that picture of the lobby there that you see right through there with all the flowers and things, that's from this store here, oh, in 1932. But we originally changed from the Terminal Tower where the Arcade is built, between Euclid and Superior, about 1900. We moved there. So our first store that we had for any length of time was in there in the Arcade. And William McKinley had his one of his inauguration balls in that Arcade, one of the first covered shopping malls in the country. So the Arcade is quite remarkable.
Meghan Wagner [00:01:18] So how long have you been working here at this location?
Ralph Beattie [00:01:11] Well, I came there to work in 1948 after service in World War II and college and that kind of thing. And so I've been there ever since, and I didn't really want to come.
Meghan Wagner [00:01:27] (laughs) What was it like then on Euclid Avenue as a child? Do you remember anything?
Ralph Beattie [00:01:35] Oh, yes. Oh, I should say so. We lived on a farm, and so we didn't come downtown very often. I think my dad had a dentist, so I came down to the dentist, downtown here. And so I didn't see very much of it, but when we came downtown, the streets were crowded, and it was just lots of people on the streets, and coming downtown was always very special. When you came downtown, you dressed up. When the women came downtown, they wore gloves and a hat. And when I came downtown, boy, you wore clean clothes and probably even put on a tie. (laughs) And I remember Dad saying, When you come downtown, you want to stand up straight and look people in the eye, and you handle yourself a particular way when you're downtown because it was special in downtown.
Meghan Wagner [00:02:36] What was the holiday season like downtown?
Ralph Beattie [00:02:39] Oh, well, the holiday season was just wild. Yeah, the streets were very, very crowded at holiday time. [audio malfunction] had a lot of essential things going on because it's [audio malfunction] and Sterling-Lindner-Davis right up the street. Sterling's had this huge, live Sterling Christmas tree that they would move in the day after Thanksgiving, and this huge truck would come down Euclid Avenue about midnight, and we would be finishing and decorating our store, and we'd see them bring that big tree. So, you know, we'd come down and see [audio malfunction] and you could shop at so many of the stores [audio malfunction] we used to clean rings free of charge, and in those days, [audio malfunction] a couple of hours to do, and they'd drop their rings off and [audio malfunction] lots of places to go and shop. Well, today, you've got to clean them right away. There's people working. Well, what do I do? Well, you know, [audio malfunction] and so now, we do it right away, so there's one thing that's improved [audio malfunction] by this—really, I guess we always [audio malfunction] oh, I'm sure they did, yes. I'm sure that there's a lot of them [audio malfunction] and then, of course, they had movie nights. That's when you came to the movies. I mean, once [audio malfunction] and I can remember when, after I first came to work, Gone With The Wind came, and there were people lined up all the way around the corner, getting tickets to go and see Gone With The Wind. And these movie theaters had magnificent lobbies. They were just beautiful, beautiful places to come. So, you know, it was very special to see a movie, that's be the atmosphere.
Meghan Wagner [00:05:00] I think that the atmosphere is very interesting. I mean, so many people just being there.
Ralph Beattie [00:05:05] Sure. And right after I came to work, the Cleveland baseball team, you know, they won the pennant and then the World Series. We were sentimental about that. But anyway, we stayed down one night to decorate the store and decorate the window for the homecoming of the team. They had to play a playoff game in Boston. And they had a parade down Euclid Avenue, and you couldn't get by on the street there were so many people. That was terribly exciting to have that kind of a thing happen. And so that's a very early memory that you don't forget.
Meghan Wagner [00:05:48] Were there parades often on Euclid Avenue?
Ralph Beattie [00:05:50] Oh, yes, pretty much parades were the Saint Patrick's Day parade and the Thanksgiving Day parade. Are still down Euclid Avenue, so—
Meghan Wagner [00:06:00] Do you think there were more parades back then than they do nowadays? So I'm seeing lots of pictures of old parades that's—
Ralph Beattie [00:06:07] Why, I guess so. I can remember lots more parades, but the parades were a bigger item then. St. Patrick's Day gets a pretty good turnout, even today. But there are some of the parades that don't really do as well, and that's a worry because you like to see people turn out for whatever parade they have on. But yes, they have a lot of attention to parades. And that was a pretty special kind of a time.
Meghan Wagner [00:06:43] So who were your customers over the years? Did you have all walks of life coming in here, or was it more [??? inaudible 00:06:49]?
Ralph Beattie [00:06:50] Well, we have all walks of life that would come in here. Our business essentially was engagement ring visits, and we just had lots of young people that would come in. And then the whole front window would be set up with various kinds of engagement rings for people to see. So yes, we had a lot of people that came in. Lot of people that came from out of town. They would come in for a shopping weekend, and they would stay at The Statler and go to Halle's and Sterling's, and back down here, on the road, there were lots of ladies shops back there. When I first got married, I found a lady to run the shop. It was peck and peck. And then she was very good, and she was young, and so she could advise me about getting things for my wife, and it was nice to have somebody that you—you know, I—whatever I got, I'd know she'd like. So people would do that kind of shopping. And they would come in here and be able to go to the department stores as well. So those would be generally older people, middle-aged people, and probably more affluent people who would buy some of the bigger things. But the engagement ring business was also the real standard of all business. But that's the thing that has changed some with all the retail stores moving to the suburbs. It's hard to get young people to come downtown, even though you've got a good name, but it's easy to go to the mall or easy to do this. So that's—like I said, that's changed somewhat. That makes us do what we're doing.
Meghan Wagner [00:08:45] It does bring me to another question as to whether that—but the store does have an impressive legacy for being here so long. And what do you think has made this store and family different so it could stay downtown when everyone else has left?
Ralph Beattie [00:09:00] Well, people know where we are, and over the years, you see, we've built a pretty good customer list. And that would be one of the things that's changed in the last twenty years, would be the engagement ring business has not been quite as much of our whole percentage. And but the people who have grown up and they have a tenth anniversary or twelfth anniversary or twenty-fifth anniversary and a fiftieth anniversary, well, they want to go to Beattie's to get something, and so they'll make the trip downtown. And in order to foster that and to promote it, we do a lot more service kind of things. I've gone to Sandusky to take something to somebody because they just couldn't get in. And they were having a fiftieth anniversary and We don't drive anymore; Mr. Beattie, could you help us out? Yeah, I'll come. So you do that kind of a thing.
[00:10:06] But we've always been very careful to be very approachable when people do come into the store. And our problem is it is a very elegant store, and it's getting people over the threshold. It's a little bit of a problem. If you have a real elegant store, people look at it and Oh, that must be pretty high price, I don't know what I want to go in there or not. But if they come in and find out that they're greeted warmly and you take time to explain what they need to know and give them a good experience, why, they'll feel comfortable doing it. So my grandfather used to say, when I came to work, You got to be careful and don't judge people by what they wear, you know, what they look like, when they come in. We had people that were farmers who came in in boots and stuff. And gee, they'd spend $10,000. If you just kind of shut them off, you wouldn't have the opportunity to take care of them. So you take care of everybody when they come in. And another thing, all the things that people bring in to you to have repaired, to have looked at and so on. People are very careful about leaving kind of thing to get those things done. They just don't know whether they're going to be taken care of or not. So we promote that idea of trust and take care of things no matter what problem they've got. You find a way to take care of it because everything they bring in to you, whether it's important or not, it's their treasure, and boy, you be careful of it because you don't want anything to happen to it. And they've trusted you to take care of it. So that trust part of the thing is something that worked very well for us, and we're very respectful of it and work at it all the time. Still working on it. But that's just it; it's a way of life. So some people—and we do a lot of delivery, of picking up. And you got a problem with your watch, you bought it and it's not working just now, we'll come get it. And you do that. I don't think everybody does that kind of thing.
Meghan Wagner [00:12:27] That's what I was going to say. I think that's maybe one of the reasons why this business has survived so long.
Ralph Beattie [00:12:31] Right.
Meghan Wagner [00:12:32] And then not a lot of businesses are here.
Ralph Beattie [00:12:34] Oh, sure.
Meghan Wagner [00:12:35] [??? inaudible 00:12:35].
Ralph Beattie [00:12:36] Yeah. Well, the reason we're doing what we're doing now is going to put this corridor down Euclid Avenue, and we're just not real sure whether that's going to make a real improvement or not. I think, in the long run, it probably will. But when they put this in—and they start it out by University Circle. It's supposed to go all the way down to the square. When they get to tearing things up right in this section, they'll be almost a year or two. Like, people won't even be able to get in to us. We can't survive that kind of a thing. You got to be able to have people get in here. And indeed, several years ago, when the Sylvan Theater—where the garage is where that big theater was. And we've never had a particular problem. People came, and you let them take care of themselves. But you would hear, every now and then, somebody was just out of sorts. They'd had to park way around the block somewhere and pay fifteen dollars for parking. By the time they go in there, they were so edgeways and cross that they didn't do any business. So we made arrangements with the garage to have parking, really, for the last five or six years. We advertised free parking as much as we advertised diamonds. You got to let people know. It's easy. You set up—you take up all that kind of thing. So those are some of the things you do to keep the business going.
Meghan Wagner [00:14:17] What kind of relationship did your family's store have with other retailers in the area?
Ralph Beattie [00:14:24] I think, well, we had a good relationship with people at Halle's and Sterling's and the theater next door. Although, right in between the theater was Klein's cigar store for many, many years. My father and uncles all smoked cigars, so they did a lot of business next door. Mr. Klein came in and did business here. So yeah, we had a good relationship with other stores. And indeed, back in the early days, there were several real fine jewelry stores downtown. And be—had good relationships with them. Webb C. Ball was right straight across the street, but they closed really soon after I came to work, which was in the '50s. So that's been gone a long time. That clock that's over there that you see standing up, you don't pay much attention because they don't have it running now, but that was the Webb C. Ball clock.
Meghan Wagner [00:15:26] Oh, okay. I wondered about that.
Ralph Beattie [00:15:28] They were very, very big in clocks and things. And they were a little different from our store because they had silver and china and all objects. And on the second floor, they had a painting gallery. You know, I wasn't over there very much. I wish I'd seen that painting gallery because I guess it was really quite a wonderful thing. And then Cowell and Hubbard up on the corner of Thirteenth Street was a big jewelry store. And we used to say to people, Well, you know, if you're going to do some shopping for your engagement ring, if you go over to Webb C. Ball or up to Cowell and Hubbard, what they tell you—we think you should do business here, but whatever they tell you will be right. You can trust them. Trustworthy. So we had a good relationship with the other stores, yeah.
Meghan Wagner [00:16:24] And sort of the other question I have is in the early '20s, the idea of developers was to turn Euclid Avenue into kind of the Fifth Avenue, like in New York City, like, this, you know, eloquent retail district. Do you think, at any point, that was successful?
Ralph Beattie [00:16:41] Oh, I would say so. Of course, I can't tell you about the very—I wasn't here, but you see, we had the store in the Arcade. And my grandfather had three sons that came into the business, and they promptly went off to World War Two, and my dad was taken out of school to come into work because he had to help then. Well, then after the war, the brothers said, You know, to really improve and promote our business, we really need to be up on Euclid Avenue, rather than here. So, yes, I don't know if this Fifth Avenue, but it was approaching that kind of thing, that it was very, very busy. And all those stores that I've mentioned were very active. They did a big business. My sister got out of college. She took home economics, and she was the dietitian at Halle's Tea Room, so she worked across the street downtown there for many years. And it was a wonderful place to go. But yes, I would have to say that, at least at one time, it was really a very, very busy place until the suburbs started to draw people away.
Meghan Wagner [00:18:08] So you think that was the major reason for the decline of the retail area?
Ralph Beattie [00:18:12] I think that's a big part of it. Oh, yes, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. People just—the suburbs grew, and it made it convenient for them to have stores out there, and people—the retailers—the developers that saw it encouraged people to come out there, and so it's a mishmash of a kind of a thing. It's convenient, but even the shopping centers, sometimes today, there's too many of them, and they have trouble existing, so—
Meghan Wagner [00:18:50] Right. So what—I guess I want to talk about suburbanization, but what else happened with downtown, probably in the '60s and '70s, that made some of the retailers leave? Can you think of anything else?
Ralph Beattie [00:19:06] I—yes. Gosh, that's a pretty broad question to add anything to that. I think things certainly go up and down. First, it's the movie theaters, and then all of the places where they would have a whole complex, and then you could see ten different movies. I think that had a draw away because the big theaters aren't—they have one feature and that was it. And then, when all these movie theaters came up that would have ten different screens, the place to go, well, it was kind of convenient for people so they liked that kind of thing. I'm sure that made some difference.
Meghan Wagner [00:20:05] Yes. Can I ask what the relationship with the entertain—because we're right next to Playhouse Square—
Ralph Beattie [00:20:10] I'm sure.
Meghan Wagner [00:20:10]—so entertainment. That was struggling throughout the '60s.
Ralph Beattie [00:20:15] Well, during that time, yes, it was struggling through the '60s and '70s and in there. I think there were a couple of people who were very instrumental in preserving that, not only—got involved. And so Playhouse Square is one bright spot in downtown today. My only complaint about that is it's a little too far away for us to attract people as we would like it to do. So that's one of those things, but that's good. And then the sports teams have opened up new facilities, Jacobs Field and Gund Arena and the new Browns stadium down on the lakefront. They, too, are helpful, but it's the retail stores that you—you don't have people that come down for that kind of a thing, and how to get that reinvigorated, that's a real problem.
Meghan Wagner [00:21:21] So yeah, talking about your connection with Playhouse Square and the Public Square, do you see any consistency in Euclid Avenue with this whole corridor project? What we were talking about earlier?
Ralph Beattie [00:21:33] Yeah, I think that's an attempt to make it more attractive, but—
Meghan Wagner [00:21:40] A better question would be what do you think characterizes Euclid Avenue from Public Square to East Cleveland? Is there anything you can think of?
Ralph Beattie [00:21:50] What characterizes it? Well, right now, it would be emptiness. It would be—I—just to be very frank, it's not real fun to hike down to the Square anymore. And I like to get out of the public library. Well, it's okay, but it's just not a real pleasant place to go across all these dusty, empty stores to get there. And there's nothing in between. Used to have lots of shopping things to do all the way down and all the men's stores, and they had the restaurants. You know, we had Stouffer's and Clark's and Bill's. And wow, the calamari. Such wonderful restaurants, and they've all gone, too. I think part of it is working on it, but it's a difficult thing to get people to live downtown. You know, which comes first, the stores or the people to buy in the stores? You gotta have both. And I think they're living in apartments and things to have them downtown. But if you have apartments, you're gonna have to have the restaurants and the stores and things for people to use. And, for instance, Halle's closed. Well, they're not going to, all of a sudden, open up down there with all the work it would be to get all those departments going. There's nobody down here. You gotta get people to come downtown. So that's a challenge, yeah.
Meghan Wagner [00:23:21] Do you think that people—more people used to live downtown than there do now? Or has—
Ralph Beattie [00:23:27] Well, there used to be more homes on Euclid Avenue, for example. Part of your study, which I'm sure will talk about, you know, Millionaire's Row. But then they had the people living out there. They had the stores downtown. Those two things were together, and those things all began to escape to the suburbs. Well, then people didn't, for a long time, live downtown. And then even the hotels, some of them, closed up. But I'm not—which is kind of too bad. But, yeah, that's—they just—there aren't as many places downtown to live. And then the neighborhood has changed. I'm sure there's a good deal left. The schools changed then. The city schools certainly don't do as well as they used to do, but there's a great effort to try and bring them back, but it's a job. That's a real challenge. But when something does go downhill, well, to bring it back up—whew—that's a real effort. And I'd sure like to see that happen. The schools are important.
Meghan Wagner [00:24:48] And you were talking about restaurants. I've got a little interest in that.
Ralph Beattie [00:24:52] I see.
Meghan Wagner [00:24:53] What do you remember best about places like Stouffer's and Halle's.
Ralph Beattie [00:24:57] Oh, oh, they was just good places to eat. They were—I think my two favorite places would have been the Colonnade, which was buffet-type restaurant, and they had wonderful food. It was just terrific. And they had one up here in—it was up this way, and there was one in the Leader Building down here, and they—you know, they were very busy. All those—just after that, when people came to those stores, Stouffer's just had a big thing going. They were the very nice place to go and eat. And they had three or four of them, all down here. So there was quite a lot of them. And there was kind of a counter. And the restaurant at Clark's had—and they had a place out on Shaker Square as well, but the downtown one was the real breadwinner. It was the important one. And then, back—just right back of Euclid Avenue here, they were—it was a tavern, which was a very fine, very upscale, and then a higher price to the place. It was very well patronized. And there were Fisher Arms [phonetic], oh, two or three restaurants that were right back here, very close to Euclid Avenue. Those are the main ones that I remember. And, of course, we had—what was it?—Huffman's [phonetic] ice cream store across, and Hough Bakery. Hough Bakery, everybody went to Hough Bakery. Oh, the baked goods they had were just wonderful. So—and I covered the eating stuff enough, I think?
Meghan Wagner [00:26:49] Oh, I was just—so do you remember any—was memorable stories or customers or—you want to talk about?
Ralph Beattie [00:27:04] Well, I—we had a load of—we had lots of interesting customers that have come into the store. There was kind of a famous woman who was kind of slippery; Cassie Chadwick. I don't know if you've heard that name or not, but you can find things about her that have been—before. She was—she pulled a few scams in the town, and she, I think, came into the jewelry store of my grandfather's at one time, and I want to say that there was some problem that she was going to—she gave him a hundred-dollar bill, and I don't think anybody would have enough change in those days for that kind of thing. It was a pretty small repair that she was getting repaired. I can't remember how she handled that, but he managed to go next door or somewhere or other and get the change and get it taken care of so that she didn't get away with anything there.
[00:28:14] And we also had a practice here at our store where we—at a jewelry store, you need to give receipts. When people give you something, you give them the receipt. And my grandfather did that sort of thing. But we were working very hard on this trust business at that time, and there was quite a influential and wealthy lady who came in and left a very important piece of jewelry that needed some repair. And so my grandfather gave her her receipt, and she took it and entered the doorway kind of down by Euclid Avenue in those days, and I guess she got in the car and took it out to her home, which was further out on Euclid Avenue. Well, somehow or other, she must not have gotten that receipt carefully put away in her purse, because about three or four days later, a fellow about the status of a bum came in and handed my grandfather this receipt and said he was here to pick up this piece of jewelry. And my grandfather knew exactly what it was and who owned it, and he could just see what was happening there. And I'm sure the story has been embellished, but I'm told that my grandfather tore up that receipt, and he said, Now this doesn't belong to you and this is the last receipt we're going to give. So from that time on, we simply had people sign the back of the package when they left it, and when they pick it up, sign again.
[00:29:45] Now, typically, people ask for receipts and things, and we still do that same thing. They sign when they leave it and sign when they pick it up. And we don't have any receipts to give, but I do—once in a while, I'll get out a business card and write down, I've got your piece of jewelry on such-and-such a date. And so they feel more comfortable about it. But our whole system from then on was that way, and you have to have a lot of trust if you could leave something and not get a receipt for it. Mr. Beattie, why you haven't given me anything; I've given—you've got my jewelry and my signature. That's right; that's the way we do it. And I can hear my grandfather telling somebody, If you don't trust us, don't leave it. Well, they usually would leave with us. He was the Mr. Beattie there.
[00:30:33] And when I first came to work, there were several advertising people and business people, lawyers and things, who would come into the store, and there was another young man who went to work at [00:30:44 audio break 00:30:58] Yes, yes. Yeah. We were fresh new faces in here, as I say, and we would be here in the lobby and always, when customers came in, you got right out there, and you never knew whether it somebody for advertising or what, but you took care of them courteously. And these—several of them—there were a couple of them that were particularly adept at this. They would come in, and they would look at us and say, Is—and looking back at the back—Is there anybody here today? I'd like to talk to someone. We used to say, Well, we're here; what can we do? Oh, no, but it was just you're young, and they didn't think you knew anything, and so they wanted to see one of the principal people at the store. I like to laugh about that now because now I'm Mr. Beattie, and they come in and very solicitous and so (laughs) I certainly like to think about those young people. And when my daughter comes in, she's had that same thing happen to her. Well, they would like to talk to somebody while they're here. Can you talk to me? No. (laughs) That's just the way it is. So those are some of the experiences that you have when you're waiting on the public.
Meghan Wagner [00:32:15] So I've got some questions. What's your best memory of being on Euclid? The best—what did you take from it?
Ralph Beattie [00:32:25] The best memory? Oh, dear. Well, I think probably the tradition of very, very fine things. And the appreciation finally that people do come, and that's why they come, because they want fine things. There are lots of places they can go, but we've kept our standards on the kind of things we carry up, and we don't sell everything. But a lot of people come here and get something that's very good, and it's worth what they pay for it, and it's a people kind of a thing. And I think all the tradition. The thing I would miss the most would be the people Because, you see, you're seeing a bit of their happy time of life. They're coming in either for engagement ring or they're coming in for a special occasion, at Christmastime, or they're coming for an anniversary, which may be very sentimental and important to them. And this is where you meet them and when you talk to them. Sometimes people will be engagement ring, and you don't see them for thirty years. And then, they come back, and Mr. Beattie, I've—I mean, you sold me my engagement ring, and I—we've got a thirtieth anniversary, and I thought I'm going to get my wife something else. They'll come in and sit down, and they'll look at some things. And it's a pleasant experience to see them at a time like that. So those are the things that certainly mean the most to me. And I've made lots of friendships through the people that's come in. I've watched some people grow up. Come in as young kids, just barely up to the counter there, and then come in with their folks later on, when they're—probably sixteenth birthday, and maybe come in to get an engagement ring. And see, they'll come in here as middle-age and elderly people. So you've got to keep young, so (laughs) we can talk to these people. And we work pretty well at it. So yeah, been a great experience. And we have a great team here. The people that work here, when they come here—all these people have been here, that you see in here, have all been here a long time. Even the younger people have been here, ten, fifteen, twenty years. That's pretty good. And so must like what they do and feel good about what they with people. And there's some satisfaction in that.
Meghan Wagner [00:35:09] So it does feel good, I think, when people are at the best times of their lives when they—
Ralph Beattie [00:35:14] Sure, sure. It's a happiness business, as somebody said. Yeah, it is.
Meghan Wagner [00:35:19] It's a nice way of spending one's life.
Ralph Beattie [00:35:21] Sure. Sure.
Meghan Wagner [00:35:24] All right. That's pretty much what I've got now.
Ralph Beattie [00:35:31] Can I—all right, I really didn't want to come to work here when it started. Oh, well, I'd gone to Ohio Wesleyan to college, and the business course that they recommended I take was okay, but I wasn't real crazy about my business courses. I enjoyed the theater department and the speech department. So when they had a play, I would try out for it, and I got to where to where I enjoyed that a great deal. And after we finished school, I'd done all this theater work, but I'd never taken any courses. And so this friend of mine who was also interested, we thought, Well, what we'd like to do would be to—when we graduated—go out to California and enroll in the Pasadena Playhouse, and we'd become actors. That's what we'd really like to do. Well, we planned to do this, but something happened. He couldn't get away, and so he said, Ralph, I gotta straighten out some things here and so have to wait.
[00:36:48] And as I told you, we lived out on the farm, and so I was kind of doing the farming out there and hadn't come downtown much. And my dad knew that I wasn't very crazy about the jewelry business because they drove in from Chagrin Falls. And they had a seven-passenger car because all our sales people, most of them lived out there. So every day, they started in 1907 driving back and forth to downtown Cleveland. Well, they've got in this car, drove downtown. It was full of cigar smoke and discussion of politics and all that kind of thing. (laughs) And I just didn't care much for it. But they need a little help, and my dad said, I know you're not very interested in the business, but we really need your help this summertime. Suppose you could come down and help us out for a week or two before you go and get ready to go? So I came downtown and worked and didn't like it, just—I didn't know whether or not it was just—but I had to get out of that smoke-filled car.
[00:38:02] But I had a girl at Ohio Wesleyan that I liked, and she lived up in Detroit, and I got to going up there to see her, and we didn't have very much of a relationship, but we managed to build one. And this friend of mine finally never could get away. And so I hated it first, but grew to like it a little better and a little better, and now, I like it very much. So I just stayed, and I married the girl.
Meghan Wagner [00:38:38] (laughs) I was going to ask.
Ralph Beattie [00:38:38] Yeah, I married the girl, and she's still always a good influence. She's my tennis partner.
Meghan Wagner [00:38:45] Tennis?
Ralph Beattie [00:38:46] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, oh yeah. I'm just so excited. Yeah, we tennis and swim, and I run and do theater.
Meghan Wagner [00:38:54] And still do the theater?
Ralph Beattie [00:38:55] Oh, the theater. Well, that worked very nice there. They had a little theater out in Chagrin, and I found, really, you could have that as an avocation. And I think the first seven years we were married, we pretty well lived at the theater. She wasn't interested in drama, but she had to get interested and go along with it because that's what I like to do, so we participated in a little theater and then finally got to directing the plays and just it was a great thing to do. And then, I was able to get into it in this business a little because we went on and did these talks to schools and Rotary Clubs and women's clubs and garden clubs on jewels. And then we did, you know, our probably signature, all these loose stone pictures. These are all loose gemstones. And you see them on the wall here, but you know, they're on a pad, and these loose stones are poured out on the pad, and they move them around to make a picture. And you don't dare bump it, and you have to take the picture up over the—or take the photograph up over the picture of the gemstone design. But we started doing these in 1916, and my father did these for seventy years, took these pictures every two weeks, put them in. And those are the same gemstones. They're not stones that we use to sell. We'll have them when we're through here, and I hope my sister will, once in a while, have a chance to do one of those because they're really a terrific thing. That's what people come by and look at in the window. We haven't done one for probably the last couple of months while the sale has been on, but there are pictures of them out in the window. And we really didn't take pictures of them for the first sixty years. And then my father got to be ninety years, and he said, You know, it'd be kind of nice to have some pictures of these things that he's done for years and years and years. So then we began to, every couple of weeks, take a picture. And so we decided we'd better have some out here where people could see.
Meghan Wagner [00:41:06] Do you sell them? So they're not for sale?
Ralph Beattie [00:41:08] Oh, no, they're not for sale. They're just—my grandfather had another store, really. My grandfather was in business in the Arcade, and my grandmother was a very good businesswoman. She said, Now, Hugh, if you're gonna be in the gem business and that's what you want to promote, why not some loose gems in the window people for see? Oh, he was not very patient. But anyway, apparently, a gem dealer from India came through, and he had a lot of things that they weren't—he sold gemstones for the jewelry business to use, but he a lot of these little stones that his cutters would cut and they were odd shapes. Couldn't use them in a piece of jewelry very well, but they were good color and they probably were pretty cheap, even in those days, back around 1900. So my grandfather, at my grandmother's behest, bought a bunch of these little stones, rubies, sapphires, turquoise. They're the same ones that he got in 1900 that we still use. And then, we didn't sell those. We'd just use it for the front window. But anyway, he was pretty impatient and didn't have time to do this kind of thing, but they did it for a while, kind of.
[00:42:30] And the two older boys weren't helping my grandfather. They just went off to World War I. They took my father out of school. He was in junior high, I guess, and my grandfather said, Well, I need help downtown. So they took him out of school, and that was the happiest day, I think, of his life. He wasn't a very good student, and he was so glad to get out of school. But he was pretty quiet. He didn't talk to people too much, so when he came down to the store, they figured out what to do with him. My grandmother said, Milton, take those stones and do something with them and see if you can't take some kind of a picture. They had no idea whether he had any talent at all. Well, he was very talented, it turned out. And he made all these pictures, and—
Meghan Wagner [00:43:19] He made all of them?
Ralph Beattie [00:43:20] Oh, yeah. Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. All the stones.
Meghan Wagner [00:43:22] You never made any of them?
Ralph Beattie [00:43:23] No. (laughs) Gosh, only—the worst thing I can do is to have to get him to work on that stuff. He'd get cross-eyed. He would do it back in that back room there, and that light, when you sit there for about four hours—I mean, it'd take him two days to put these together. And then, you carried very gingerly out and set it in the front window because if you'd bump it, he got two more days of work to do because they're just laying loose there. The rubies in those cardinals up there are about 2,000 little tiny rubies. They're all just pushed together so that you get that red effect. And the rubies you see anywhere here, they're the same ones. And yeah, they're beautiful kinds of things, and he would take pictures, for instance, out of the Audubon bird book and do one in January. That's what he would do. Then, when he got to February, he'd do—I guess we don't have the Valentine out here, do we? Or do we? Huh? I think she took it out. We had it down here. And then, he'd go to the springtime or early summer, and he'd put in the butterfly in turquoise. And then, we had the Olympics, and I think my sister did that one. Yeah, and he passed away in 1998. He was ninety-eight years old and working every day and doing these designs.
[00:44:47] But my sister does them now. And so she put that one in for the Olympics that were in Sydney, Australia, I guess, in 2000. And then, as you see, we put things in for the Indians, you know, well by—this back in 1993 or '94, when then, all of a sudden, they got to be pretty good. Well, before that, they'd been bums for about twenty years, and we were all baseball fans, but you just got so tired of losing all the time that it was terrible. Yeah. When we started to win, better do something, and so we put that design in for the Indians, and it was a job to put in, too. Oh, dear. But anyway, the—and that one, we left in all summer. I was—that was just one of those things that the town was so pumped up about that kind of thing. And you know, you did have kind of rejuvenation of downtown when some of those sports teams do very well. That was always very helpful. So, you know, that's the story of those designs, for all the various kinds, and now, you see, we did finally put one in for the Browns, too. But they've gone through kind of a sad period (laughs) here as well. But yeah, that's our signature is that picture in the front window that we did for seventy years. And so that would be us on Euclid Avenue. Well, there, you've got your stories. Yeah, I think you've heard enough stories.
Meghan Wagner [00:46:26] I was going to ask you about—
Ralph Beattie [00:46:29] Oh, gosh, I don't know. It's—
Meghan Wagner [00:46:32] Well, I'll take whatever you can—
Ralph Beattie [00:46:33] Well, it may be [??? inaudible 00:46:34] well, I think we've covered most of these pretty well.
Meghan Wagner [00:46:43] I do like it in here; I think it's so beautiful. I do, too, just—
Ralph Beattie [00:46:47] Well, the little rooms and this way of doing business, to take people into the little rooms, is a little different. Nobody else does it quite this way. I kinda think everybody else uses antique furniture for showcases. It's a little different. And it's kind of an atmosphere that you don't see any place else. And that clock that you hear out there, that—I think he rang the buzzer there. But the clock rang here a few minutes ago. But it's—that was my grandfather's wedding present to my grandmother, and they decided, when he passed away, well, they should have it down here. So it rings every hour. Rings every fifteen minutes, as a matter of fact, and then bongs the hour. And it's kind of a nice atmosphere to have in the store here.
Meghan Wagner [00:47:44] Well, I think it's lovely in here. My grandpa came in here last week and so—
Ralph Beattie [00:47:49] Oh, I see. You thought it was pretty cool, too. Well, good. That's what we like—how we like people to feel about it.
Meghan Wagner [00:47:58] I was very excited about it.
Ralph Beattie [00:47:59] Yeah.
Meghan Wagner [00:48:00] I already told my friends, I'm like, [??? inaudible 00:48:02] dad's going to walk in with a—
Ralph Beattie [00:48:04] Sure.
Meghan Wagner [00:48:04]—[??? inaudible 00:48:04] or—
Ralph Beattie [00:48:05] Oh, yeah, I should say so. Yeah, yeah.
Meghan Wagner [00:48:12] Thank you very much—
Ralph Beattie [00:48:13] Well, you're very welcome.
Meghan Wagner [00:48:14]—for taking time out of your day to talk to us.
Ralph Beattie [00:48:15] You bet. Oh, we like talking about this. That's what we like to talk about. So we're proud to give you the story and hope that it's helpful to your project. Yeah.
Meghan Wagner [00:48:26] It should be. Yeah, no, it's very—it's so interesting to me, the history.
Ralph Beattie [00:48:31] Sure. Sure. Well, I hope we covered enough so that it'll be helpful to your professor and that you get the proper credit for it.
Meghan Wagner [00:48:42] It should be. [??? inaudible 00:48:45].
Ralph Beattie [00:48:48] Yeah, you'll probably [audio break] one of the first—oh, we're recording? Okay. Okay. Well this is a story about Grandmother Beattie and her three sons. They had the three boys, and they live out on the farm. And there was a particular occasion she wanted to illustrate to the three boys that they really ought to stick together because they'd be able to accomplish things and their strength when they stick together. So she had the boys bring her some sticks out of the woods. And then she took one of sticks, and she broke it in half. And she said, You see how easily I can break the stick when I have just one stick? But she said, Now, watch; when I put these three together, look, I can't break it. So it's—the illustration is you should stick together, and you will accomplish a great deal more and, you'll find strength in helping each other to be successful in life. So she emphasized the idea of sticking together, and so they stuck together in the store all their lives. I guess they got the message. There you go.
Meghan Wagner [00:50:02] All right. Thank you.
Ralph Beattie [00:50:03] Okay.
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