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The story of Smylie Shoe Repair. By
On return from Army service in WWII, my father opened a shoe repair shop at the corner of Smylie Road and Whitaker Ave. He fixed shoes, dyed accessories, made indestructible 'Ho Chi Minh sandals', built custom lifts, and fashioned backup-weapon-hiding boot heels for law enforcement officers for 29 years.
I'm proud to be Joe's daughter.
Dad built, painted and put up the big Smylie Shoe Repair sign above the front windows. He distributed bright red cardboard signs imprinted SMYLIE, to be posted in residential windows when work was needed. We scanned the neighborhood streets each AM, stopping where we saw the signs to pick up shoes, belts, and handbags for repair. No matter how small the job, Dad insisted on making every item look like new, then redelivered them, a level of service now unimaginable.
Dad worked hard to feed his family, often through the night. He sometimes slept on the floor behind the shop counter, too tired to climb the stairs to our tiny apartment.
A boy came into the shop, having ruined new shoes and afraid his parents would be angry. Dad repaired the boy's shoes, made them look like new. "How much do I owe?" the boy asked. Dad looked the boy in the eye. "How much do you have?" Digging in his pocket, the boy brought forth 35?. "35? - That's exactly how much", Dad said.
Along with the nearby butcher, barber, tailor, drugstore, Muchnick's variety shop, and Polin's (another Joe) luncheonette, Dad's shop was a community anchor business for nearly three decades. Sadly, on my last visit to Philly, nothing remained.
Dad mistakenly referred to himself as a small man. In reality, he was a giant, a man who gave greatly. He lifted his children up on his shoulders and showed us how to reach through education. No man could give more.
Eventually too tired to continue, Dad sold the shop. I kept one of his old shoemaker hammers, now held together with electrical tape, and a faded red cardboard SMYLIE sign.
Dad and Mom are long gone. My brother and I, in compromised health, have retired and reluctantly ended our serious aviation avocation.
Genetics suggest that we'll see Mom and Dad soon. Children of the Neighborhood, kindly remember Joe, who built Smylie Shoe Repair from nothing with two broken, scarred bare hands. That'll please him.