So I saw this and thought:
- What is a bootblack?
- Sounds racist.
As it turns out, “bootblacks” were probably what you think they were–someone who polishes boots and shoes–and they came in every color.
Here is a cute little fella earning his keep. Good thing he has knee socks on.
This kiddo looks pleased as punch to be doing child labor. It’s better than school.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the term. Have you read Ragged Dick?
This Union Station “model bootblack” was schmancified up with two chairs and all-weather cover.
In a state full of bootwearers, I don’t recall ever having seen anyone get his shoes shined, perhaps because people have no pride in personal appearance anymore, or they have no disposable income. It must be a more urban venture. I guess it’s honest work. It seems less degrading than offering your body to a stranger for money, and some places allow that. There are better ways to earn a dollar on your knees, and bootblacking is one. In fact, ICS Learning Systems should get on this asap. It’s got to be more lucrative than TV/VCR repair.
In any event, bootblacking is alive and well. Okay, alive and ailing. But like a person free to choose his own health insurance, a few of them still exist.