When I was a kid, I remember my dad telling me how he was always amazed and slightly jealous of the men in Lufkin who were able to have their shoes shined in the train station or barber shop. This would have been East Texas in the depression of the 1930’s, and times would have been tough. Growing up in a loving home, but not a wealthy one, he always shined his own shoes with the discarded polish cans he found at the neighborhood barber shop. He taught me how he could extend the life out of a can of polish by simply adding a few drops of warm water to it. By doing this, he could get another month’s worth of shine out of most cans. A stint in the Marine Corps during the war reaffirmed that he knew how to polish boots and shoes.
He told me that he longed for the day when he was wealthy enough to have someone else shine his shoes, even if it was just once or twice. It’s strange the quirky goals we set for ourselves, that we rarely share with others. He said that only on a few occasions in his life did he pay someone else to put a polish on his wingtips. He didn’t have the money when he got married, as he was trying to save money for his honeymoon. The night before the wedding, he polished his rented wedding shoes, as he said they weren't shiny enough.
He splurged when his first child was born, and had a fine polish put on them in the lobby of the hospital. He did it again when he was the head basketball coach at Lubbock High when they won State in ‘51. That was followed by two other memorable third-party shines, one when each of his other two children were born. I’m sure there were a few other shines during those times in between, but probably not many.
Today, I still usually polish my own shoes. Dad taught me the tricks of the trade and I can do a pretty mean shine. On occasion, however, I will be in the right mood in an airport somewhere, or after a successful project is secured, or when my wife or one of my children has an unexpected accomplishment, and I will put down a few dollars and sit down and have my shoes or boots polished…..feeling incredibly guilty about it the whole time, but realizing that every so often in a man’s life….. he owes himself a good shine. I find that it is often the little things that make me smile the most. I guess others are able to buy cars, ranches, or planes after major accomplishment. Me, I think I’ll stick with a five-minute shoe shine in an airport somewhere. For me, its enough.