My Great Grandfather, William Taraczkozy, was a shoemaker by trade. He learned the trade in Budapest, Hungary, from his father. He taught his sons (including my Pawpaw Alex) the trade and kept the family tradition going.
While researching my genealogy, I realized I had access to newspaper archives. There, I found the newspaper article below (scan of the article is at the bottom of this blog) in the Beckley Post Herald (Beckly, WV). It was dated Friday, February 26, 1943. Because it was hard to read and a tad bit blurry, I typed it out for easier reference.
Shoe Rationing Proves Trying to Most – But It’s a Real Boon to Shoemakers
BY BOBBIE WITT
At last the shoe repairmen have “come into their own,” according to Alex Taraczkozy, of the Beckley Shoe Shop, who is “about to see daylight” since the “run” on shoe shops began the day after shoe rationing was announced.
Alex’s views are shared by Mike Verde, of the People’s Shoe Shop, where the shoes have been brought in and stacked by the hundreds until yesterday. Mike exclaimed disgustedly, “Too much!”
Mrs Gieshe, of the Service Shoe Shop, exclaimed, “It’s a pickle nowadays about shoes. A month ago we sat twiddling our thumbs. Now we are begging folks to be kind to the shoemaker. They’re harder to get than the new shoes.”
And so it goes. Mrs Gieshe reports that she took in over 300 pairs last Saturday night to begin work on Monday morning, while before 30 pairs would have been considered a lot. Her shop has repaired already over 300 pairs and has 600 or more stacked up, which she hopes to get rid of before others come in.
Mrs Gieshe urged that the public “to keep the relics which they have been dragging out of the attics because some of the shoes are even molded and too old to spend money on or to use good leather on.”
Skilled workers are hard to find, she reports, because not just anyone can sit down and put a sole on a shoe. She reports plenty of material on hand for the next six months and “after that we may all be going barefoot, but if it’s the style we won’t mind.”
“Even some of the most intelligent people in town come in and sit down and say ‘Fix my shoes right now.’ “ she reports. It is impossible to do better than to get the shoes out in a week, she declared.
Mike Verde, who was so busy one afternoon that he forgot to hand a lady her mended shoes until she waited a considerable time, exclaimed, “I’ve had to take on extra help, and even my wife is here. I can’t get home before 2 o’clock in the morning and she just came here to see me.”
Mike has three women and four men working for him now, and shoes are piled by the hundreds, some of them dated three weeks hence for delivery.
All the shops are open until 11 o’clock and after, they reported, and Alex Taraczkozy, who “grew up in his father’s shoe shop” explained that he works until he gets too tire to move, sometimes until after midnight.
Alex said that some of his customers get impatient, and “we always have to humor them a little.” He reports that shortage of help is his biggest problem but Jim Bill Sparacino, a lad of 13 years, has been working as an apprentice for the past six months. “He’s too young to be hired,” Alex said, “but he’s been a great help to my wife who waits on customers and runs the sewing machine.”
:The rush hit us just right though,” Alex laughed, “because there’s not been a chance since last war, with shoes selling in stores for 98 cents a pair. While we can’t afford to half-sole them for less than $1.50 a pair.”
Alex had had to cut out shoe shinning altogether because of shortage of help, and Mrs Gieshe reported that her shoe-shine boy had gone to the post office at 1 p.m. and had not returned at 3 p.m. “Independent, they are.” She smiled.
Alex reported selling 50 pairs of second hand shoes on the first day after rationing started. He had only eight pairs left on his shelves, out of 150 pairs he had accumulated over the years from persons who failed to call for them in the specified time.
“Floating customers,” which Aex described as “persons who go first to one shop and then to another” have increased, although he tries to take care of his “regulars” first.
Shoemaking A Tradition
Shoemaking is a tradition in the family of Taraczkozy. Alex’s father, who dies a year ago, learned the trade as a boy in Budapest, Hungary. The elder Taraczkozy had repaired shoes in Beckley for the past 30 years and “All of us worked in the shop,” Alex explained. “Dad was the first shoemaker in Beckley, I suppose,” he said. “He liked the work, and I like it all right, but it has been hard since the others went to the war.”
Alex’s brothers, Joe, Steve and Frank, have all had a turn in the shop, he said, and reported that Joe is now in Panama, Steve in Norfolk in the Navy, and Frank in the army in the West. “So you see,” he said, “I have to carry on.” He expects another helper to arrive this week, and he “could use at least two more.”
Al the shoe repairmen begged that the public give them time to catch up instead of piling shoes in on them to lie for days without being touched.
Even shoe polish has experienced a “run, and Tim, of Tim’s Shoe Shine parlor, reports that more people are having their shoes shined these day in order to preserve them.
“Shoe shines pick up 25 per cent in good weather,” Tim explained, “and even the ladies have started coming in for shines in order to save their shoes.”