Shoe Shine Boy


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During the years from nine to 12, I used to be a shoe shine boy. I would strap a shoe shine box over my shoulder and hawk shoe shines all day on Saturdays and until 12 noon on Sundays. At 10 cents a shine, I could make about a dollar and a half per day. The money was turned in at home, and I was given 50 cents for the movies on Sundays. Admission to the movies was 20 cents, and the balance was used for hot dogs and sodas.

The movie house was called the Terminal Theatre and was located on Park Place and Raymond Boulevard, next door to the Public Service Building.

It was a weekly ritual for us kids to go to the theatre because of the cowboy serials they showed. I remember the endings were always the same. They would always end at the part where it was a matter of life or death for the hero. We had to wait until the following week to find out whether or not the hero would be saved. So it was the same thing the next week: the movie serial, the hot dogs, soda, peanuts, whatever we desired.

The shoe shine business was pretty good. There was a local tavern or men's club on almost every corner on Fleming Avenue. We would walk by and see someone who needed a good shoe shine and we would approach them, and if they were in the mood, they would say "Ok, shine them up, boy." Off we would go and shine them up. Afterward, we'd collect our money and hustle on down the street to the next customer.

There were quite a few shoe shine boys, all working the same area up and down Fleming Avenue. All of us were trying to make a half a dollar, a dollar, whatever. We had to hustle.

I remember my dad had two shoe shining chairs in his shoe repair shop. They were good looking chairs, and we did quite a business shining shoes. Customers would come in for shoe repair and would get their shoes polished.

I did most of the shoe shining work, and if I wasn't there, he would do it. Of course, the price was still the same. We used to have a fairly large clientele of men and women coming in for a shoeshine. We would limit ourselves to black and tan shoes only, or maybe white. But we couldn't shine anything like the colors they have today. So we limited ourselves to those three colors. If anyone wanted their shoes dyed a different color, we were able to accommodate them also.