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Growing Up on 5th Street - "The Shoe Shop"

By Butch Hurford

Before I get to the shoe shop story, I will tell you about swimming in the White River. The river is about 5 blocks from 5th st. There was a sand bar they called “Near Hole”. The older boys and girls swam there in the afternoon, so Annie and I slipped off and went there one morning. We couldn’t swim very well. All we could do was dog paddle! When Mama found out we were there and she walked all the way down to the river and whipped my butt all the way home!!!

My grandfather who I called PaPa opened a shoe repair shop in the late 30s. Almost everyone in those days and years to come had their shoes repaired. I was already spending a lot of time up town, but mostly playing around Main St. Every store owner knew me as “that Nelson boy”! One day I was over on 3rd st. about three blocks from the shoe shop. I saw a bunch of boys playing football. The referee was Bro. Byrom, the Baptist preacher. I hid behind a tree and watched them until they quit and went into the church. The next day I was uptown when someone told me Bro. Byrom was looking for me. When he found me he told me they needed one more boy to play football. He told me to be at the church at 4:00 Wednesday. It was a youth group called the Royal Ambassadors. I joined the church and was a member for many years.

Years later I was walking by that tree and realized that was where Bro. Byrom saw me that day watching the boys play.

"Papa" Nelson - Hurford Collection

My first job at the shoe shop was going to the back alleys to pick up whiskey and wine bottles. I brought the bottles back to the shoe shop. Back in those days there wasn’t any fancy boots. They were work shoes or leather boots. My PaPa got neatsfoot oil in 5 gal cans. After cleaning the bottles I would fill them with oil. We sold the half pints for 25 cents and pints for 40 cents. As I got older I would work all day on Saturday. In those days the people that lived in the country would bring their kids shoes in on Saturday. When I got to the shop there would be a pile of shoes. I would repair the heel counters that were mashed down, sew the tongues in and you guessed it, a shine for them too!! Years later I moved the shoe shop to the back of Caldwell’s Furniture. When the store burned the shop did also and that was the end of the shoe shop.

Grandmother Nelson

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