shoeshine parlor

The business of shoes.

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Shoeshine box, shoe horn, brush and polish. Oliver N. Freeman Round House and Museum, photograph at digitalnc.com.

Until recent decades, most people owned only one or two pairs of shoes, and keeping them clean and in good condition required the regular services of shoemakers, repairmen and bootblacks. Here are some of the many men who plied this trade in Wilson.

  • Henry Adkinson — in the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Adkinson is listed as the proprietor of H. Adkinson & Son, shoemakers and watchmakers, at 524 East Nash. He lived at 640 East Green. Later directories list Adkinson’s business at 521 and 522 East Nash. By 1925, Henry and Mary Adkinson lived at 115 Narroway.
  • Baltimore Shoe Repair Shop — as listed in the 1925 city directory, this business was at 420 East Nash and Cutt Davis and James Mack were its proprietors.
  • Barefoot, Herbert — in the 1925 city directory, Barefoot is listed as a shoe polisher at 512 East Nash, residing at Smith near Pettigrew.
  • Barnes, Douglass — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1013 East Nash Street, owned and valued at $3000, taxi chauffeur Jake Barnes, 56; wife Effie, 32; and children Douglass, 20, shoeshop cobbler, Waylone, 19, taxi chauffeur, Eva, 16, Mattie, 13, and Nellie, 10.
  • Barnes, Redmond, Jr. — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1116 East Nash Street, Mary Barnes, 33, who taught at Healthy Plains Grade School; her widowed mother Jenettie Barnes, 62; brothers Redman, 22, a shoe repairer at Rex Shoe Shop [a white-owned shop downtown], and John, 19, a tobacco factory laborer; brother-in-law Doll Speight, 26, apartment elevator operator; sister Lula, 23, and their daughters Letrice, 2, and Bettie, 8 months.
  • Battle, George — in the 1925 city directory, Battle is listed as a shoe polisher at 513 East Nash, residing at East Green near Pender.
  • Blue Ribbon Electric Repair Shop — in the 1920 city directory, Henry Adkinson was proprietor of this shoe repair shop at 522 East Nash.
  • Brooks, Leslie — Leslie Brooks died 12 October 1918 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1881 in Wilson County to Dave Brooks and Henrietta Peacock; worked as a shoemaker; was single; and was buried in Brooks cemetery. Jno. Williams was informant.
  • Bullard, John — in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Bullard is listed as the proprietor of the Hub Shoe Shine Parlor at 503 East Nash. Bullard lived at 703 East Vance.
  • Burnette, William E. — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Burnette is listed as a shoemaker working at 420 East Nash Street and living at 406 Bank[s].
  • Bynum, Curley B. — proprietor of Master Shoe Shine Parlor, 1946.
  • Cox, Elijah — in the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: shoemaker Elijah Cox, 66; wife Patience, 65; and children (or grandchildren) Jerry, 11, Clara, 5, and Patience Cox, 3. Cox claimed $150 real estate.
  • Davis, Cutt — see Baltimore Shoe Shop.
  • Farmer, George, Jr. — in the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Geo jr. (c) shoe shiner h 1200 Queen.
  • Floyd, Ambrose — In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1214 Washington Street, owned and valued at $1800, shoe shop and taxi owner Ambrose Floyd, 39; wife Mattie, 39, cleaner; and children Mattelene, 17, James, 18, Ernest, 15, and Hattie, 12.
  • Fogg, Joseph –– in the 1860 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County, listed as a 50 year-old shoemaker in the household of Edwin Eatmon, bootmaker.
  • Gaddy, John — in the 1930 Wilson city directory, Moses is listed as a shoe repairer at 400 Stantonsburg Street.
  • Haskins, Thomas — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.
  • Hill, Moses — shoemaker, 1890. See also.

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Wilson Mirror, 14 October 1891.

  • Hines, Shady — in the 1916 directory, Hines is listed as a bootblack at 416 East Nash Street.
  • Holley, Clarence V. — Clarence Holley died 4 May 1964 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1919 in Bertie County to William Holley and Molly Smallwood; operated a shoeshine parlor; and lived at 300 North East Street. Informant was Elma Holley.
  • Johnson, Jake — in the 1922 city directory, listed as proprietor of the Busy Bee Shoe Shine Parlor at 513 East Nash.
  • Johnson, Leander A. — in the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Johnson is listed as a shoemaker working at 512 East Nash Street and living at 606 Robinson [Roberson] Street. In the 1920 city directory, he is a shoemaker at 518 East Nash and lived on East near Nash Street. In the 1922 directory, “Lee” Johnson is listed as working at 517 East Nash and living at 209 South East.
  • Jones, A. Wilson — in the 1880 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Wilson Jones, 22, shoemaker.
  • Jones, Henry — in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Henry Jones, 55; wife Milly, 50; and sons Morris, 19, a bakery worker, and Wilson, 11.
  • Joyner, George H. — listed in the 1920 Wilson city directory as the proprietor of Southern Shoe Repair Shop at 532 East Nash.
  • Leach, Patrick — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Patrick Henry Leach, 61, and wife Lavinea, 56. Leach reported that he was born in Mississippi to North Carolina-born parents.
  • Lupe, Peter
  • Mack, James — See Baltimore Shoe Shop.
  • Merritt, Lee

Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1921.

  • Moses, Oliver — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Moses is listed as a shoe shiner at 515 East Nash. He lived at 524 East Nash, rear.
  • Moore, John H. — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Moore is listed as a shoemaker working at 420 East Nash Street and living at 406 Bank[s]. In the 1916 city directory, he is working at 513 East Nash and loving at 1007 East Nash. In the 1922 city directory, his business address was 511 East Nash.
  • Moore, Ozzie — In 1944, Ozzie Moore registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 1 September 1926 in Wilson; resided at 1113 Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was his father, J.H. Moore; and was employed by J.H. Moore at 517 East Nash Street, Wilson.
  • Moore, Starlon — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Moore is listed as a shoemaker working at 526 East Nash Street and living at 701 South Spring Street.
  • Moore, Wade M. — in the 1947 city directory, Moore Wade M (c; Eliz O; Wade’s Shoe Shop) h 1001 Faison
  • Perry, Ruffin — in the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Perry is listed as a shoemaker at Stantonsburg Road near Rountree Avenue.
  • Reaves, Mack — in the 1930 Wilson city directory, Reaves is listed as a shoe shiner at 569 East Nash.
  • Rountree, Peter — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: shoemaker Peter Rountree, 76, wife Lucinda, 53, daughter Sarah Bowser, 32, son-in-law Burt L. Bowser, 36, grandsons Russell, 9, Astor B., 3, and Thomas F., 1, stepdaughters (?) Manda L., 18, and Rosa E. Rountree, 14.
  • Simms, Eddie B. — Simms died 17 July 1924. Per his death certificate,he was born 3 August 1904 in Wilson to Ed Mitchell and Frances Simms; was single; lived at 610 Manchester Street; worked as a shoeshiner; and “drowned while in the act of swimming accidentally.” Informant was Millie Simms.
  • Tabron, William — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 700 East Vance Street, rented for $16/month, barber Henry Tabron, 37; wife Mattie B., 39, laundress; and children William, 15, shoe shop laborer, Edmonia, 14, Bill S., 11, Berkly, 9, and Donald, 7.
  • Thompson, Edwin — in the 1928 Wilson city directory, Thompson is listed as a shoe shiner at 569 East Nash.
  • Wiley, Bud — in the 1912 city directory, Wiley is listed as a bootblack at 407 East Nash.
  • Word, Fleming — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Word (Ward?) is listed as a shoemaker working at 407 East Nash Street and living at 108 Wiggins.

Hugh T. Ransom Sr. and John A. Gaston were briefly partners in a Nash Street barbershop that catered to a white clientele. Barbershops often offered shoeshine services. Wilson Advance, 30 January 1890.

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Shoe shops at 515, 519, 521 and 529 East Nash Street, as shown on the 1922 Sanborn insurance map of Wilson. City directories for the same year show cobblers at 511 and 513 East Nash Street as well.

Master Shoe Shine Parlor.

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Color was a monthly entertainment news magazine targeted to an African-American audience. Wilson Daily Times, 6 April 1946.

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Wilson Daily Times, 8 March 1949.

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In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Gay Street, plumbing shop laborer Cooper Bynum, 47; wife Annie, 33; and children Ruth, 12, house servant, Joe, 9, Curley, 8, Lucy, 5, Phebia, 3, and Floyd, 9 months.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 511 Narroway, widow Annie Bynum, 47, and children Ruth, 23, Joseph, 17, Curley C., 16, Feedy, 14, Lucy, 15, and Lizzie M., 7.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 East Street, rented for $20/month, widow Annie Bynum, 48, cook; children Joseph, 21, grocery store delivery boy, Curley, plumber, 20, Lucy, 19, cook, Feba, 18, cook, and Lizzie, 16; and granddaughter Annie, 4.

Lizzie Bynum died 16 April 1932 of pulmonary tuberculosis. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1909 to Cooper and Emma Woodard Bynum, both born in Edgecombe County; was a student; and the family resided at 208 North East Street. Curley Bynum was informant.

On 25 January 1933, Curley Bynum, 22, son of Cooper and Wen Ann Bynum, married Pearl Emanuel, 20, daughter of M.P. and Pattie Emanuel, in Wilson.

In 1942, Curley Bynum registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was 25 December 1902 in Wilson; resided at 109 North East Street; his contact was Febie Bynum, 109 North East; and he worked as a plumbers helper for Mr. Singletary, Gov. Camp, Holiridge [Holly Ridge], N.C.

Pearl Bynum died 21 November 1949 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1910 in South Carolina to Pertis and Pattie Emanuel; was married; lived at 102 North Pender; and worked as a domestic and clerk. Informant was Curly Bynum.

On 27 June 1955, Curley Bynum, 54, of 511 East Green Street, son of Cooper Bynum and Annie Woodard Bynum, married Martha Dawes, 48, of 508 Smith Street, daughter of Arthur Grooms and Minnie Skeeters Grooms, in Wilson.

Curly Bynum died 9 January 1965 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 December 1901 in Wilson County to Cooper Bynum and Annie Woodard; lived at 810 East Vance Street; and had worked as a laborer.

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In an interview in February 2019, Samuel C. Lathan, who grew up in the 500 block of East Nash Street, recalled that Curley Bynum’s shoeshine parlor had twenty “legs,” i.e. ten stands. In the 1930s, seven or eight boys worked for Bynum, charging 15 cents a shine. The boys turned over their earnings to Pearl Bynum, who issued them a ticket for each shine. On Saturday evening, they cashed out, taking home seven cents for each ticket.