Shoe Shine Man

by Jule Spohn


I've had plenty a pair of shoes shined by the "shoe shine men" over the years and I always loved to watch these guys work. Of course, some are BETTER than others. Some of these guys you can tell really love their work. It is a pleasure to just sit there and watch them transform your dirty old shoes into what they should really look like. The really "good" guys can snap that shoe shine rag until it almost sings. They can get a "musical beat" going and as they snap their rag you can really feel it right down to your toes. And, oh yeah, I can still remember when they'd "tap" your foot to let you know when they are finished with that shoe.

Now that I know where Mr. Coleman is on Bergen Street I might just stop by there the next time I'm over in that area. Now that I'm retired I mostly wear sneakers but I may just put on a pair of shoes just to watch Mr. Coleman work his shoe shine magic.

I can still remember that there was a section down at Penn Station where they had a number of shoe shine chairs which you would step up onto and read your morning newspaper or just sit there and watch the crowd go by, and also another spot down in the Wall Street area right along the fence in front of Trinity Cathedral on Broadway. I can also remember the little shoe repair shop in my apartment building on South Orange Avenue and 12th Street. There you would step inside of a little booth and wait for your shoes to be repaired or shined. I can still picture the little old Italian "cobbler" with his large leather apron on. I've forgotten his name over the years but I still have a photo of the front of his shop with an advertisement in the window for Olympic Park and the "Cat's Paw" advertising sign next to it. I've always loved the smell of walking into a shoe shine store and listening to the sounds of the machines that were cutting the soles and heels to fit your shoes. I don't think that many people use shoe shine stores very much today. I think that most people just go out and buy a new pair of shoes instead of getting their old pair "soled or heeled". I can still feel how good it felt to have a new sole or heel put on your pair of shoes.

I still have my shoe shine box with the iron foot holder on top of it in my closet. My 27 year old nephew was over here the other day when I was getting something out of that closet and he said that he had never seen a shoe shine box before. He wanted to know why that iron foot holder on top of it was so narrow. I told him that "one size fits all." LOL!!!

There have always been two types of guys who can bring an immediate smile to my face - the shoe shine man and the tap dancers. I love to watch both of them work their magic with their shoes and feet.

How about you guys. I bet some of you used to "hit the ginmills" shinning shoes for a quarter or so. Let's hear some of those stories.


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