TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1500 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

THE BOOTBLACK KING

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

It has been thirty years since Charlie Castle died, but they still talk about him in Lufkin.

Charlie was a legend, a black man who, according to many East Texans in the fifties, delivered the best shoe shine in Texas.

When Charlie died at the age of 53 in 1960, it signaled the beginning of the end of an era when men went to barber shops to get their shoes shined. Charlie was an institution who worked in Lufkin's downtown Palace Barber Shop, an institution that has also passed.

Charlie got two bits for a mirror-finish shoeshine, but he also gave a chuckle, a smile, and a comment about his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. When the Dodgers deserted Ebbets Field for the lure of the West Coast, he took it as a personal disaster. But his Dodger loyalty never faltered. By the time they won the World Series in 1959, Charlie had forgiven them for leaving Brooklyn.

Charlie shined shoes in the back of the Palace Barber Shop for 24 years, but he once told a customer he had been shining shoes since he was a kid growing up at Pollok in Angelina County. "That's mostly all I've done, but I've tried to do it the best way I could," he said. Someone once asked Charlie if he ever shined the shoes of anyone famous. "Sure," he grinned broadly, "every day...everybody who gets a shine here is famous to ol' Charlie."

Charlie's clientele included doctors, lawyers, and business owners -- among them Lufkin's most prominent men. Most said they came to him not just for the shine, but for his touch of humor and his smile. Every Christmas Charlie received hundreds of dollars in special tips of $5 and $10 from his customers.

Stories about Charlie were legendary. While putting the finish on a customer's shoes, he usually sprinkled a few drops of water on the leather. The water, he told the customer, came from Bodan Creek and carried a special power for bringing out the luster of shoe leather.

An unopposed politician once came into the Palace for one of Charlie's shines. "You want my vote?" Charlie asked him. "Nope," said the politician, "I don't think I'll need it. I'm unopposed."

A few days later, the politician found himself with a serious opponent, and visited the Palace again, this time for a haircut. Charlie sized him up, wandered over to the barber's chair, and chuckled: "Now, tell me again how you don't want my vote."

Charlie once joked to a newspaperman: "When I die, I want to see my death notice on your sports page."

Charlie would have been pleased if he could have seen his obituary. Only a few columns away from the major league standings with his beloved Dodgers, on Page 5 of the Lufkin Daily News, was Charlie Castle's death notice.

All Things Historical
November 19-25, 2000
Published by permission.
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Bob Bowman, a former president of the East Texas Historical Association, is the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore.)

More People
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 | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS | FORUM

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 1998-2007. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: January 29, 2007