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Ellis The Rim Man

Posted by Jim Botticelli  August 1, 2013 12:05 AM

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                                                   Photo by Ginger Gillette Kent

                                                             He's A Rebel

     Moe Ellis might have never been any good because he never ever did what he should. At least as an adolescent. He should not have gotten into a fight with a teacher as a 16 year old high school student growing up in the South End. He should not have gotten expelled, terminating his public school education and closing himself off from other options. But life is full of shoulds and even fuller of should nots.  It was 1917 and automobiles were the device of the day. The ground floor beckoned and the kid decided to get in on the act. Dumping his newspaper hawking business, Moe Ellis began selling car parts to the public when his baby Ellis, Inc. was born on Moe Ellis' 17th birthday.

                                                            Inside The Rim

     Starting on Columbus Av in the South End, and moving to Automobile Row, Ellis eventually purchased a three-story building at 1001 Commonwealth Av, Allston. In 1962 and for nearly 40 more years he proclaimed his existence to the public with a giant sign that read "Ellis The Rim Man". Towering over 60 feet above the roof, the famous three-sided sign could be seen from all angles and caused many a Greater Bostonian to ponder the slogan's significance.
"My God! Have you seen that sign? Did he mean to say it that way? Is he nuts?" typify the reactions heard around Dirty Old Boston to Moe's marketing strategy. The sign became more widely known as it appeared on screen, first in 1968's Thomas Crown Affair, later on TV's Spenser For Hire. Out of towners could even see it from the Pike once the extension came through.

                                        Cars Drove By With The Boomin' System

      Early on radios were a big accessory, first AM, later AM/FM. Rear seat speakers, an early novelty item also held sway for a spell. AC units were hot but eventually these accessories became standard issue in most automobiles so Moe's son Edward Ellis, who had taken over in 1983, turned his attention to truckers who bought accessories like customized wheels more easily than car owners. Along came the Boomin' System and Ellis, Inc. was right there with the goods. We all know and love the sound of eardrum puncturing basslines spilling from cars piloted by oblivious young men and Ellis the Rim Man cashed in on that action big time for which DOB thanks him profusely.

                                                          The Legacy Lives

Edward Ellis retired in 2001, shuttering the shop forever, Today the Media and Technology Charter School (MATCH) occupies the space. No massive sign sits on the roof announcing the presence of the school. No gimmicks or fancy accessories are for sale. No one is laughing or gasping at the school's humdrum name. There IS one legacy of Moe Ellis that remains. Students still cannot get into fights with teachers. But even if they do, there can only be one Ellis the Rim Man.

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Ciao for Now.....JB
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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