The Old Wooden Shoeshine Box

 

Back in 2005, I was searching for a shoeshine box for my husband. I know that it’s a nutty gift, but I found all his shoe polish, old rags, and brush in a nasty, zip lock bag. He would get it out and polish and buff his shoes on occasion. He was taught to take care of his shoes, his car, his clothes, all his belongings.

I had fond memories of this wooden shoe box that belonged to my dad. My dad’s wooden shoe box contained all the supplies needed to make your leather shoes look like new, and a footrest to buff, on top of the box. I loved that box – it was a part of my dad’s life, like his army dog tags in his cedar box on the dresser from the 1940s, where he was deployed to Japan and served as military police, and his hand-tied fishing hooks that I still have from his fly-fishing days.

My husband reminisced about a similar shoeshine box that his dad bought him from a drugstore when he was ten. His dad showed him how to care for his shoes and it contained buffers, polishing rags, a brush and several colors of polishing paste. I was determined to find a similar box as a birthday gift.

One day, I went to an antique/beach shop to search for something close, with my mother-in-law. It was a huge place, filled with vintage lace, McCoy vases, solid oak dressers and round mirrors, with compartments for makeup, lingerie and stockings, and paint-by-number paintings going for $50! There were baskets of beautiful shells, Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments, Tiffany lamps, estate jewelry, and Depression glass. I combed every inch of the place with no luck.

Just as we were leaving, I spotted an old wooden shoeshine box. I opened it. Someone had glued old war ads in it. The war ads read as follows: “Save Freedom of Speech – Buy War Bonds,” “Corn – Food of the Nation – Serve Some at Every Meal,” “The Spirit of the Red Cross,” and “I Want You – at the nearest Army Recruit Station.”

I was very drawn to this wooden box. It contained old brushes, even the dried-up original polish, and buffing cloths. I felt like I struck gold! Perfect! I scooped it up. This is exactly what I was looking for. But something else more amazing caught my attention. A leather container within the box containing a brush, had the name Smith written on it. I hollered to my mother-in-law, “Come here!”

I showed her the shoeshine box that I had been searching everywhere high and low, for my husband’s birthday. Her mouth dropped open. She told me she had put my husband’s old shoe box into a yard sale a couple of years back, hence the name Smith. Someone purchased it, and it found its way into this huge shop and caught my attention.

Just moments before, I was frustrated, about to leave this store with no purchase. I discovered that this old wooden shoe box was indeed, the very box that my father-in-law purchased decades ago for my husband at age 10. I bought it for 20 dollars and presented it to him, to everyone’s amazement, especially my beloved father-in-law, who has since passed, and my husband. I actually had shoe brushes that my husband had given me from that kit, going back 26 years when we were married, that I handed over to complete the kit. Miracles do happen! He used that kit to polish his shoes this past weekend.

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  1. doulalady Member
    doulalady
    @doulalady

    We didn’t have a shoe box when I was growing up, but every Saturday my Father polished nine pairs of shoes on the stone windowsill outside our living room; all ready for Sunday Mass. Meanwhile we were all getting baths to look spick-and-span ourselves.

    • #1
  2. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    doulalady (View Comment):
    We didn’t have a shoe box when I was growing up, but every Saturday my Father polished nine pairs of shoes on the stone windowsill outside our living room; all ready for Sunday Mass. Meanwhile we were all getting baths to look spick-and-span ourselves.

    what a lovely picture!

    • #2
  3. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    I’ve got a shoebox identical to the photo. My father gave it to me when I was a newlywed.

    We will celebrate our 41st anniversary next month.

    • #3
  4. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    How wonderful to find it!

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    There are no coincidences in life.

    • #5
  6. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @BobW

    That’s just like the one in my closet. I can’t remember the circumstances around getting it but it probably obtained it around the time I  needed to have shined shoes for my job. That places it around 50 years old. Don’t have much use for it any more, wearing sandals or running/walking shoes mostly. On occasion when I need to use it I dig it out from the back of the closet. It and the brushes still do a good job.

    • #6
  7. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Bob W (View Comment):
    That’s just like the one in my closet. I can’t remember the circumstances around getting it but it probably obtained it around the time I needed to have shined shoes for my job. That places it around 50 years old. Don’t have much use for it any more, wearing sandals or running/walking shoes mostly. On occasion when I need to use it I dig it out from the back of the closet. It and the brushes still do a good job.

    Try putting it in a yard sale and see what happens….

    • #7
  8. PHCheese Member
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I had one exactly like it for years. I must have lost it in one of my moves. It would be at least 60 years old.

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin Coolidge
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Songwriter (View Comment):
    I’ve got a shoebox identical to the photo.

    My grandfather had one identical to the photo. Now I’m wondering if it’s still around somewhere!

     

    • #9
  10. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    We had one nearly identical (except WWII stickers) when I was growing up.  I have no idea what happened to it.

    • #10
  11. barbara lydick Member
    barbara lydick
    @barbaralydick

    Arahant (View Comment):
    There are no coincidences in life.

    One would have to consider the veracity of this after reading your piece, FSC.  It’s truly a miracle that you found it.  Talk about a perfect gift for your husband.  Hope he was as excited to receive it as we were learning that you found it.

    • #11
  12. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    What a terrific story!! I love when cool things like that happen. It’s just a little gift from God that you weren’t expecting. What a fine thing to be able to share it with the Dad that had chosen it so many years ago. I love it!

    • #12
  13. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    barbara lydick (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    There are no coincidences in life.

    One would have to consider the veracity of this after reading your piece, FSC. It’s truly a miracle that you found it. Talk about a perfect gift for your husband. Hope he was as excited to receive it as we were learning that you found it.

    They couldn’t believe it – neither could I – what are the odds? I don’t even see them for sale anywhere nowadays…

    • #13
  14. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Cow Girl (View Comment):
    What a terrific story!! I love when cool things like that happen. It’s just a little gift from God that you weren’t expecting. What a fine thing to be able to share it with the Dad that had chosen it so many years ago. I love it!

    Me too – I really miss my father-in-law – a real Southern gentleman who liked nice, well kept shoes!!

    • #14
  15. Purrl Member
    Purrl
    @Purrl

    Not about a shoe box, but decades ago I bought a ceramic tea set in a gift shop. A platter, teapot, sugar & creamer. Over time, the creamer was broken, I moved several times, and eventually just didn’t have room for it. I handed it over to my mom and she sold the remaining parts on eBay.

    Fast forward 10-ish years, I’ve moved to my family’s new home town, and I’m shopping with my sister-in-law at an “antiques mall” in town. I spotted a tea set that looked *exactly* like the one my mom sold for me on eBay. Still loved the look, and now lived in a house with a place to put it, so I decided to buy it. There was a platter, a teapot, and a sugar bowl…no creamer.

    What were the odds? Kept it for a few more years, until a couple of rambunctious kittens destroyed the teapot and sugar bowl (still have the platter). It always amazed me that tea set managed to find it’s way back to me, and your story was a wonderful reminder. Thank you!

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    They couldn’t believe it – neither could I – what are the odds? I don’t even see them for sale anywhere nowadays…

    Just go to Amazon and search for “Shoeshine Kit.”

    • #16
  17. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Front Seat Cat: Miracles do happen!

    Oh thank you for sharing this heart-warming story.   It makes me happy just imagining the happiness you two are sharing over this recovered precious kit.

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Purrl (View Comment):
    Not about a shoe box, but decades ago I bought a ceramic tea set in a gift shop. A platter, teapot, sugar & creamer. Over time, the creamer was broken, I moved several times, and eventually just didn’t have room for it. I handed it over to my mom and she sold the remaining parts on eBay.

    Fast forward 10-ish years, I’ve moved to my family’s new home town, and I’m shopping with my sister-in-law at an “antiques mall” in town. I spotted a tea set that looked *exactly* like the one my mom sold for me on eBay. Still loved the look, and now lived in a house with a place to put it, so I decided to buy it. There was a platter, a teapot, and a sugar bowl…no creamer.

    What were the odds? Kept it for a few more years, until a couple of rambunctious kittens destroyed the teapot and sugar bowl (still have the platter). It always amazed me that tea set managed to find it’s way back to me, and your story was a wonderful reminder. Thank you!

    The same thing happened to me. When I lived in MA I found an antique cake plate with 4 serving plates, cream with little orange flowers and gold rimmed.  I bought it and love it.  We moved to FL and one day we were puttering around in a tea and cake shop that had vintage tea cups for sale. My aunt said hey, don’t you have a set like this? There was 3 cups and saucers, a creamer and sugar container. I snapped it up and added it. I’ve never seen another piece since anywhere. Strange, but fun!

    • #18
  19. Kim K. Member
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    We inherited one of these from my husband’s grandfather. It’s in a closet somewhere. I’ll have to get it out and appreciate it more!

    My mom was the Saturday night shoe shine person in our house. We kids had to collect all the “Sunday” shoes and bring them to her for some polish and a buff (as if they got scuffed from being in the closet all week since the last weekend’s church service!) Now my kids wear Converse to church.

    • #19
  20. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Very cool.  Thanks for sharing.

    • #20
  21. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    They still make them like that.  I have one only five years old that I bought at a shoe repair store in town.  Same design.  Yours is better, of course.

    • #21
  22. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Great story.  This is what my father’s kit looked like.

    • #22
  23. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    EB (View Comment):
    Great story. This is what my father’s kit looked like.

    Very fancy!  Love it – the first one I’ve ever seen with 2 speeds of polishing!

    • #23

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