The Last "Shoe Shine Boy"

The "Good Ole Days"

Parents today, as they have all through history, had a nasty habit of telling their kids just how hard things were when they grew up. I’m sure you heard this from your parents. “Well, when I was your age we didn’t have it as easy as you kids do today!” And then they’ll proceed to tell about how they had to walk ten miles uphill in snow to school…both ways.

My father told me numerous times about how poor southern people were in his youth and how most days he’d just stick a cold baked potato in his pocket and head for school. Other days he might get a cold biscuit. Forgive me, but the last time I looked at his physique he hadn’t appeared to have suffered much due to his meager diet.

So, I’m not going to be like my parents and tell today’s adolescents how much tougher I had it. Yeah, Right! Face, it the baby boomers may not have had it as rough as their fathers and mothers did, but kids today certainly have more advantages then we did.

Think about it! We actually had to write things out in longhand, sloppy penmanship and all. There were no computer office programs to do things up in a nice neat little package for us. No calculators to help with math home work or cell phones. When we wanted to speak to friends we actually had to do it face to face. Shocking, isn’t it?

And even more unthinkable was we weren’t handed an allowance for doing things normally expected of any child such as cleaning up your room or helping out around the house. If we wanted money we were expected to earn it ourselves.


The first “job” I ever received pay for was one Dad helped set me up in when I was about ten years old. It was the shoe shine business.

He explained that’s how he’d earned money as a kid. He would take his shoe shine box of supplies and go to the bus station, train depot or a busy street corner and set up shop.

However, I didn’t have a shoe shine box. Dad wasn’t going to let me off that easy though…he built me one. It was a pretty nifty little contraption having a foot stand customers could rest their foot on while you shined and buffed their shoes to a high gloss. The foot rest was attached to a lid which opened up as a storage compartment to stow your gear. I was all set.


There were no bus or train stations nearby or busy street corners for that matter, so I was reduced to knocking on doors and asking neighbors if they had shoes to shine. But soon, I got to be known as “The Shoe Shine Boy” around the community and my business grew. I no longer had to knock on doors. People were calling me and setting up appointments. I even had to hire a friend to help out part time.

I didn’t get rich, but I never lacked for things I really wanted. When I hit my teens I dropped the shoe shine business and graduated into bigger things like mowing lawns or shoveling snow.

It took a while but I finally learned Dad wasn’t being cheap by not giving me an allowance. He had learned the value of a dollar the good old fashioned way.

He passed that lesson on to me. It was his way of saying how much he loved me.


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Comments 2 comments

SmilesDoc profile image

SmilesDoc 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

I enjoyed this. Very nostalgic.

Nice how you recognize and have emulated your father's appreciation for an honest day's work.

Wish I could get my son's to make that connection!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

'Walked 10 miles uphill in the snow...BOTH ways..' Well, now that is a feat!!! Is the cold potato in his pocket the same potato that was hot hot hot and placed under the covers to warm the sheets?

All kidding aside, John, this is a great memoir! I specially love that your father helped you set up your business by providing your shoe shine kit...guess what? I love and collect unusual vintage and antique items and...I have one of those; actually, I have two..one of natural wood, the other has been painted.

the lessons learned from a wise father, passed on to a good son are invaluable! What a lovely story, John..and I can't help but envy you your childhood which certainly seems to be idylic (except having to be apart from your mother when she was ill but, then...well, there's that bear story about the fabulous Grandfather!..which makes up for missing mom).

Love this one, too, John...on to the next link and I thank you so much for providing these for me to enjoy your great and personal stories!!! ALL UPS!

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