Do you remember…Dago’s Shoe Shine Parlor?
Dago Pearce became such a fixture at his old location that the Sapulpa Historical Society honored him with a replica of his shop, which can be seen on 114 E. Lee Street.
There was a time, long ago, that people actually had their shoes shined as a part of their daily routine. Contrast that to today’s society in which most people (myself included) wear athletic shoes most of the time. Back in those days getting your shoes shined was something that people did on a regular basis. The person shining the shoes was an integral part of their life, just like their barber or bartender. People would read the newspaper or hear the latest gossip while having their shoes shined. One such person, here in Sapulpa, was a local icon on North Main street for many decades, that person was Dago Pearce.
His establishment was in a small section of City Drug (now Brown Insurance) facing Main Street. From dawn to Dusk 5 days a week, Dago was ready to shine your shoes and tell of the latest happenings in this fair city. Doctors, lawyers, Judges, business owners, and yes a few shady characters, had their shoes shined at Dago’s. Dago did more than shine shines, he would dye them and put half soles on them, Back in those days, People wore leather shoes that were expensive, and instead of throwing them away, one would get new soles put on them or get them dyed if they were scuffed, up as opposed to our throw-away- society in which we now live.
One of Dago’s humorous stories was about the Oklahoma tax Commission field agent who walked into his parlor and asked him why he was not collecting sales tax. Dago replied that he just shined shoes and repaired them, he did not sell anything. The field agent curtly said,” What about these shoelaces, you sell shoelaces don’t you?” Dago replied, “no, I give them away when I charge somebody to put them on the shoes”. The field agent left, a little agitated.
Some of the stories Dago told were not so lighthearted. He once told a story about walking down an alley on North main, when he was much younger. He saw a fellow running down the alley screaming because he had hot tar all over him. He was a Chinese restaurateur who had the audacity to marry his redheaded waitress. For this, he was tarred and subsequently died.
Dago reminisced about Pretty Boy Floyd shooting craps at the St. James Hotel (which is now American Heritage parking lot and drive).
He spoke of Eddie Cantor performing at the Opera House. In more modern times, he witnessed an altercation between two women in cars sitting at the light on Main Street. The woman in the second car got out and opened the driver’s door of the first car, pulled the woman out, and started beatings her up. Apparently, the woman in the second car was a union worker at one of the local glass plants and the woman in the first car was a scab (a temporary worker hired during a strike).
Dago always had a smile on his face and treated everyone like royalty. He was always known as the Mayor of Main Street, a few years ago, The Mayor and City Council issued a proclamation naming him “the official Mayor of Main Street”. He retired in 1992 and passed away in December of 1993. Another in a long line of mom and pop business that gave very personal service and brightened everyone’s day.
About the Author
Long-time Sapulpa resident, Charles Betzler, followed his father, Charlie, into the radio and TV repair business. At age 9, he fixed his first broken radio and his first love is vintage audio equipment. In his 50 + years of technical work, graduation from OSUIT, and years of Continuing Education, Charles, in his capacity as Emergency Management Director of nearby city, designed the Emergency Operations Center, and the radio-activation system for the sirens. In his long career, he has repaired every type of consumer electronics from black-and-white TVs to the latest lap-top.