April 10, 2002 - Shine and a Smile

It's a vanishing piece of Americana -- the shoeshine stand. But there is one man who still practices the ancient art, and loves every minute of it.

"When there's a shine on your shoes, there's a melody in your heart." That's what the old song says. And with a can of polish and a cotton cloth, Charles James can play a symphony on your Florsheims. "To me it is an art," he says. "It takes artistic skills to do that. I really have fun doing it."

Pete Rizzo is a regular customer who comes in about three times a week. "It sounds silly," says Pete, "But it's therapeutic. I read the paper and get a good conversation. Somebody will talk with me about what's going on in the city. He shines Mark Emmert's shoes and Nick Saban's shoes, politicians' shoes. Next thing, you know stuff about the government that nobody else knows and LSU that nobody else knows."

Charles says he picked up the shoeshine habit and skill in the military. When he got back to civilian life, he just couldn't put them down. "I get the satisfaction out of it when a person steps up here and his shoes look kind of bad, then when they step down, they say it's a great job. It really makes me feel good."

No spit, no rag-popping hand jive -- that's for the movies. For your shoes, there's Charles James. Charles works in the Militello shoe shop at Coursey and Sherwood Forest. There are shoeshine stands in all three Militello shops.