The Shaw family bought the shoe store in Mill Street, Stirling, in 1967 and ran it for over 30 years.
THE STORY OF A SHOE STORE
The Shaw Family bought the shoe shop on Mill Street, Stirling in 1967 from William Cairns and when they closed they donated many artifacts to the Hastings County Museum of Agricultural Heritage. These artifacts are displayed in the shoe shop in Heritage Village. The shoe shop in Mill Street was originally opened by Mr. and Mrs. George Reynolds in 1908. George Reynolds ran a shoe repair business and his wife and daughters ran the store.
“We all went there together," said Wayne Shaw. "It was a four way partnership between Milton and Edna Shaw, and Wayne and Helen Shaw. Bill Cairns had bought it as a shoe store. He was the shoe repair man. The Cairns sold shoes rather than making them. Their son Ted was a saddle maker and he worked out in a tack shop at the back. He moved his business to a new building on the corner of Front Street and John Street. Harness maker and museum volunteer Glen Floud worked there.
When asked why they thought of shoes and if they knew anything about shoes, Helen Shaw said, “No, not a thing. Wayne’s mother did. She used to work in Eaton’s shoe department in Belleville. She was the only one who had any idea about what your should do with shoes other than wear them.”
“Yes, we came straight off the farm at Ivanhoe," said Wayne Shaw. “That is where we farmed out there. We were just interested in getting off the farm and we were wanting something to do. The real estate guy suggested we buy a shoe store because it was for sale.”
Their farm was east of the general store in Ivanhoe on Slab street. “We had two farms,” said Wayne. “It was where the Hastings County Farm Show was a few years ago. That was our farm between Slab Street and Kerby Road. It was certainly a change from dairying to shoes.”
“Wayne was the only real farmer as his dad worked on the rail road," said Helen Shaw. “I worked in an office in Belleville and his mom worked the shoe department at Eaton's.
Sales men come round selling shoes in those days. “The manufacturers all had a sales person or most of them did," said Wayne Shaw. “They would come round with their suit cases and pile the shoes on the chairs and you walked along and picked out the shoes you wanted.
"Twice we went to Toronto to a shoe show and that was all,” said Helen Shaw. “That told you which companies you wanted to deal with. We went to see who had what, but we didn’t order any there. We still waited for the sales men to come around, spring and fall.”
“We tried to keep a lot of Canadian makers,” said Wayne. “A lot were made in China. We had shoes made in Brazil. They were all good leather shoes. We had men’s shoes from Czechoslovakia, which were basically Bata shoes. We sold Hart and Dash with good leather soles, We sold Ritchie. We sold Sisman Work boots.
Helen Shaw described how H. Brown from Montreal made Gorilla boots. These were big work boots with steel toes. At one time, it was just an ordinary, little farmer's work boot and then Hydro had to have steel toes and Bell Telephone had to have all safety boots. It was getting bigger and bigger with what they had to have.
"Our rubber footwear came from Minor Rubber Company and Kaufman and they were Canadian made," said Helen. "We would order our rubber boots from Quebec. Lambiere sold rubber boots. We also sold rubber boots from Czechoslavakia."
"In the last year or so a lot of Canadian companies had gone," said Wayne Shaw
Now you can still buy a slipper called Foam Tread, which was what Kaufman made but they are not made now. They are probably made in China. (Kaufman Footwear, formerly the Kaufman Rubber Company made shoes in Kitchener. They made Sorel Boots.)
"Now everything is made over there" said Wayne.
"When we went there to start with we sold a lot of kids’ shoes," said Helen. "Before we left we were not selling hardly anything for children. We were not even ordering kids shoes. Payless and Walmart could sell them so much cheaper. It wasn’t worth our while keeping them."
When asked if they saw a change in quality they said, Canadian companies made shoes that fit well. Italy and Brazil made shoes that fit well, because they were leather. You get to the vinyl stuff and it does not. It is not the same. They don’t wear well.
"My daughter does not buy anything but leather," said Helen. "She was brought up wearing leather.
“I gave a pair of little black button boots to Edith Ray. They belonged to an old man who lived in Stirling called Harper Rollins. (He was born around 1882.) They have pride of place. They had a little button hooks that went with them, and they would be very old."
The Rollins were some relation to the Shaws and when we went to the shoe store Harper Rollins gave these shoes to Wayne’s mom. He said he thought we should have them because he had no family to leave them to, so they stayed in the store. They were in the safe in the store for years and years.
In the Shoe Shore in Heritage Village there are children's shoes popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
"Savage made the white and brown boots for kids with soft soles," said Helen Shaw. "There were the boots for kids at one time. They were also made in black and brown Oxfords. An Oxford is just a little brown lace shoe. These were white with soft soles and the bigger sizes got a firmer sole, The baby ones had a soft leather soles and the bigger ones had a rubbery soles. There are a lot of them in the store in Heritage Village. They must be 40 -50 years old. We were in business for 38 years and they were on the market before that."
"Shoes are much more throwaway nowadays," said Wayne Shaw. "If you get vinyl shoes they can’t be repaired. It is pretty much like everything else. It’s a throwaway society."