Being a shoeshine boy

Shoes have changed a lot over the years and so has the price. Back in my days of youth, a pair of shoes cost five dollars. I don’t imagine any of you have bought any five dollars shoes lately. Shoes either had leather or rubber soles and heels. Composition materials were being used about that time as well. Tennis shoes, as they were called way back when, were for the gym floor only.

One of my many after high school jobs was working in a shoe repair shop. I don’t think there are any around anymore. The one in Seymour is gone. There must be some around somewhere. It seems no one repairs shoes anymore. You just buy new ones, even dress shoes.

I mainly polished the shoes after the cobbler had repaired them. I did grind heels sometimes. The shop had a long rotating axle with several pieces of equipment spinning at the same time. When the cobbler nailed on the heels, they would be larger than the shoe heel. I would use the grinding wheel and get them down to size. The cobbler would usually finish them up.

One thing, which would appear ridiculous to us today, was chairs with an enclosure around them. This would be for the ladies to remove their shoes while being repaired. Heaven forbid, that a lady would bare her feet in public.

I was also the shoeshine boy. We had the shoe shinning chair which was high up with stands for the customer to place their feet. That put the shoes at a comfortable height for the shoeshine boy to work on them. I would first wash the shoes and then apply the polish. Of course, I would pop the rag as I shined them. It was the thing to do if you were a shoeshine boy. Then you would apply the stain around the heels and soles. I don’t remember how much I made; I think maybe a dime. I don’t think the idea of leaving a tip had been introduced back then.

And how much did I make at after school jobs you ask? Well, you must consider that a nickel was the going rate for purchasing about anything. So, a quarter an hour was big money. Yes, times have changed and so has this shoeshine boy.

Don Hill is a resident of Seymour and has served as a volunteer at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts for more than a quarter of a century. Send comments to [email protected]. Send comments to [email protected]