November 6, 2001
During a lull at choir practice the other night, someone brought up the subject of shoe repair shops that served Perry customers years ago. We used to have several of them, including four situated around the Perry square. Now, to the best of my knowledge, there are none. Maybe shoes last longer than they once did.
The shops that some of us remember are the ones that were doing business in the early 1940s. They were Davis Shoe Shop on the north side of the square, operated by Elmer Davis at 630 Delaware, where May Drilling Inc. is now located, although the address has changed to 639 Delaware; the East Side Boot and Shoe Shop, operated by William Stopp on the east side of the square at 306 Sixth street, now the home of Ace’s High; the Perry Shoe Shop, operated by Ernest Gregory on the south side of the square at 640 Cedar street, where the Security Finance office is now located; and the City Shoe Shop, operated by A.W. Christansen in the north half of 309 Seventh street, in a building now occupied by the Perry Senior Citizens Center. Years ago, when the shoe shop was in the north half, Mr. Christiansen’s son-in-law, George McManess, had a barber shop right next door in the south half at what was then called 309A Seventh street.
Think of it. Four repair shops were needed around the square in 1940 to keep Perry citizens well shod. And the operators of those shops supported families of various sizes with the income from those businesses. Now there are none on the square. Others have come and gone through the years, but most of us remember the four named above.
Maybe the repair shops flourished because of the Great Depression that was still raging as we entered the 1940s. It was less expensive to have a pair of shoes half-soled at the repair shop instead of paying $5 or so for a new pair of shoes at Kraemer’s, J.C. Penney’s, the Famous or Zorba’s Department Store. Still better, at McLellan’s Dime Store or Jack Smith’s Variety Store you could buy a do-it-yourself home repair kit with rubber cement, an applicator and scuffer, plus a rubber half-sole and instructions for use, all for about a quarter.
Today the repair shops, department stores and the five- and ten-cent stores are all gone from Perry. Still, I don’t hear of any folks around here inserting cardboard in their shoes, as some used to do, to extend their usable life. When a pair of shoes springs a leak, we go out of town to buy new ones. Parents with growing kids know the routine all too well.
Those vanished shoe repair shops, along with the Mom and Pop grocery stores and some other businesses, are just another sign of the changing times in Perry and throughout the land.