Public wooden eagle finds a private perch
The wooden eagle on the side of Jeff Perkins’ woodshed may look familiar.
For many years, the gold-painted eagle at the top of the sign at the Esersky's Hardware Store was as well known a part of the community as the store, which supplied everything from screws and nails to wood stoves, providing them for the community and many places beyond.
The eagle is brother to the gilded eagle in City Hall. Both were created by Ed Boggis, a retired Vermont State Prison guard who achieved fame late in life through his carvings of wooden cigar-store Indians. Boggis didn’t just do the Indians, but a buyer for the Abercrombie and Fitch clothing chain discovered them and commissioned, in the end, over 1,000 of them. Other work by Boggis, who passed away in 2013, can be found on eBay and in antique and auction houses, but also in the hands of collectors.
When the eagle sign was placed next to the front door of Esersky's, Jeff Perkins was barely out of high school. In 1981 he started working part time at the hardware store after school at the store on the corner of Union and Main streets, and then when he graduated, he stayed on. He remembers his former boss, Ray Evans, getting Boggis to do the sign with the eagle.
“It was a great place to work,” said Perkins. “It wasn’t just working behind the counter in the store, but Albert [Pfister] and I went all around Vermont and New Hampshire installing stoves. As a young guy, I learned a lot from Albert.
“You’d meet all kinds of people,” he said. “To this day I still run into old customers.”
Ray Evans, who co-owned the store with his wife, Loretta, and Perkins and Pfister were the only full time employees. “Every Christmas we went to a nice place for dinner. We were more like family than just people who worked together,” said Perkins.
Pfister continued working at Esersky's until he retired, but he and Perkins still get together a couple times a year for coffee. The store closed in 2016 after a period under a new owner and at a different location on Pleasant Street, and Ray Evans passed away in 2007. Perkins became a police officer; he works for the Lebanon police department.
“The stressful job that I have now, it’s a far cry from those days,” said Perkins.
The store’s contents were sold at auction, but it was never clear what happened to the sign. Then one day last fall, one of Perkins’ co-workers gave him a tip: the Esersky's sign with the eagle was being sold on Craigslist.
Perkins jumped on the tip and brought the sign home shortly afterward. The lettering was faded, green stuff was growing on the eagle, and the top of the sign was cracked. Using a lot of his hardware-store knowhow, he restored it over this past winter.
Now, the sign graces the side of his woodshed, a reminder of good times past. “Loretta still lives in town,” he said. “I called her up and told her about the sign, and she was pretty excited.”
-- GLYNIS HART