TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1400 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
FORUM
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

The $50,000 Shoeshine

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

Lee Ferguson, one of East Texas' last shoeshine artists, is giving $50,000 shines these days in a place you'd never expect to get your boots polished.

Ferguson, who once practiced his art at the Fredonia Hotel in Nacogdoches, is shining shoes at First Bank & Trust, which opened a new bank on University Drive last year.

The unlikely combination of shining shoes and banking came about when David Draper, the Nacogdoches bank's president, asked Ferguson to set up his stand in the bank and give free shines to customers.

Draper put Ferguson on the bank's payroll and during the bank's working hours Ferguson plies his trade on the shoes of any customer who wants a shine.

It isn't uncommon for customers to come into the bank, sign up for $50,000 certificates of deposit, climb in Ferguson's chair, and tell him: "Well, this shine you're giving just cost me $50,000."

Draper, who calls Ferguson "the best public relations man I ever had," admits the idea of installing a shoeshine artist in his bank lobby wasn't original with him. "Actually, Arthur Temple (the Diboll philanthropist who owns a chunk of the bank company's stock) suggested the idea after having a shine in another bank he owns."

Ferguson's shoeshine skills come naturally. He was one of 12 children of Houston Ferguson, an Alabama-born barber who put his four boys, including Lee, to work in his Nacogdoches shop shining shoes.

"Daddy wanted to make sure we understood the importance of working, so he made sure we learned it very early in life," said Ferguson.

Ferguson retired after a 25-year career with a Nacogdoches manufacturing plant in the mid-1990s, and began shining shoes again to stay busy.

Ferguson and his wife Esther are strong workers in their church, where Esther regularly sings as a soloist. Every time she does, Lee's eyes fill with tears. "Lee gets real emotional about Esther's singing," said Draper.

Ferguson feels just as strongly about his shines and frets over the nature of the shines passed out by younger, big city shinemen.

"It seems like most shoeshine folks today just want to rub on a little polish, slap a rag on your shoes, and get you out of the chair," he said. "A lot of them don't take pride in what they do."

In Nacogdoches, Ferguson labors 10 to 15 minutes on a shine. While his shines are free, he seldom finishes working on a pair of shoes or boots without a generous tip from his customers, even from those who don't leave with a $50,000 shine.

All Things Historical APRIL 8-14, 2001 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published by permission.
(Bob Bowman is a former president of the East Texas Historical Association and the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore.)
 
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS
Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South |
West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | State Parks | Rivers | Lakes | Drives | Maps | LODGING

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII |
History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books | MEXICO
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators |
Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Corner Stones | Pitted Dates |
Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS
TEXAS HOTELS | Hotels | Cars | Air | Cruises | USA


Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Links
Contributors | Staff | About Us | Contact TE |
TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE
HOME
Website Content Copyright 1998-2006. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: June 10, 2006