Frank Booker is retiring!
It was a shoe cobbler named Jacob Aull who set up shop in the village during the 1830s who is credited with sparking growth of the hamlet we call Waverly today, including deeding a lot to Huntingdon Land Company to build old Waverly Town Hall. The pioneering working immigrant Jacob Aull comes to mind when thinking about how much service Frank Booker has provided us for almost fifty years at the corner of Calvin and Greenmount.
Hack’s Shoe Repair at 3410 Greenmount is closing January 31, 2012. Frank has been there since 1968 commuting back and forth from his home in West Baltimore by public transportation. Hack’s has been in Waverly since 1922 when Simon Hack opened shop near his home and began walking back and forth to work each day. That was 3 years after the 33rd Street green medium stripped boulevard was cut through to be followed by the arrival of Boulevard Theatre and Venable Stadium when street cars still outpaced automobiles. Oil had yet to replace gas in home heating. Folks got ice delivered to put in boxes for refrigeration.
After graduating from the old Carver High School in 1955, Frank began to work his trade until going into the Army between 1960 until 1964 when he was stationed in Korea and France. After leaving the Armed Services he got a job with an Italian shoe maker on Poplar Grove until he died and then up York Road above Govans with a guy named Ernie Collins. He always worked for men he became friends with and he developed a close friendship with Simon Hack before he came down to Waverly.
One day Frank got a call from Simon’s brother saying Simon had been killed in an accident crossing Greenmount Avenue on his way to work. Frank was asked to come down and take over the shop and learned that Simon Hack and his family were actually giving Frank that business. Since then Frank has served customers on Greenmount Avenue. That was before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
He has seen a lot of merchants come and go, buildings and properties change hands and businesses open and close. The building and loans that helped folks finance their homes are gone. The trolley cars have been replaced with buses. Despite many changes that have occurred over all of these years, beginning with the civil disturbances in 1968 and including the departure of the Colts and Orioles, Frank Booker has kept shop and provided loyal service. He always liked his customers, his landlord and the neighborhood of Waverly. He is also sorry he was not able to find a good shoe maker interested in replacing him; but poor health has required he retire. I have one his old business cards on which there is a little picture of two men’s arms as they are shaking hands. Frank remains someone whose word was his bond and for whom a handshake was a binding contract.
He won’t be lonely, though. Frank has been married to his wife Evelyn for 40 years. They own their own home in West Baltimore. He is proud of his 3 children who have all graduated from college. His son is a chemical engineer. One daughter works at a travel agency and the other one works at Johns Hopkins. His retirement will give him more time to spend with his two grandchildren who are twin girls. Frank says he had a “great run” and those of us who have known or met him will miss him. Herman Heyn said of Frank “over the years I visited Mr. Booker's shop maybe a half dozen. times. Besides knowing he would always do a superb job on my shoes, chatting with him was always a pleasure. Also, the mementos on the shop's wall were interesting to peruse.”
Mary Pat Clarke is preparing a city resolution to recognize Frank's long service to customers and the community.