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1897-1912: Evolution of a Shoe Shine Parlor

Sepia Saturday 587 and the Genealogy Blog Party. Thirteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

The previous post chronicled the 1906-1917 Gloversville, N.Y., shoe shine careers of Michael and Vincenzo “Jimmy” Del Negro — the brothers of my maternal Italian second great-grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio.
Tools of the shoeshine trade. Photo: Pixabay

I wondered what more I could learn about the Del Negro brothers’ various work locations, which were listed in the Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directories. So I turned once more to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the next phase of their story.

Evolution of a shoe shine parlor

Michael Del Negro moved to Gloversville, N.Y., in the late 1800s — buying property in 1896 from his sister and her husband Antonio Curcio and moving in with the Curcio family by 1900.

By 1909, he was the proprietor of Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor at 12 N. Main Street — with a commercial listing under Boot Blacking in the Gloversville-Johnstown City Directory.[1]Gloversville, New York, City Directory, 1909, p. 385. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line accessed 9 Aug. 2021]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Which made me wonder: what was the evolution of his shoe shining parlor?

In 1897, a Cigar Store operated at 12 N. Fulton St in Gloversville, N.Y., a small yellow wedge labeled Cigars on the lower left of this map. By 1909, Michael Del Negro operated Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor from that location. What was the evolution of his parlor? Source: Library of Congress/Sanborn Map

The detail above — from an 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville — shows that when Uncle Mike arrived in town, a cigar store operated at 12 N. Fulton St., the future premises his shoeshine parlor.

The tiny building labeled “Cigars” was a one-story, wedge-shaped wooden structure (yellow on the map) with a slate/tin roof in a long line of stores near the Kasson Opera House.

Uncle Mike builds his career

On the 1902 Sanborn map of Gloversville, the 12 N. Main St. building still housed a cigar store. However, on the 1907 map (see detail below) “Shoe Shining” was added to “Cigars” at that location — the same address Uncle Mike gave as his place of employment in the 1906 Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory. The “x” indicates the tiny building then had a shingle roof.
In 1907, 12 N. Main St. offered Shoe Shining and Cigars as shown in this detail from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville, N.Y. Michael Del Negro gave this as his work address in a 1906 city directory. Image: Library of Congress/Sanborn Maps

A shoe parlor of his own

Fast forward another five years and the cigar store is gone. The 1912 Sanborn map of Gloversville shows “Boot Black” as the sole business operating from 12 N. Main Street (below) — the address listed as Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor in the 1909 Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory.
By 1912, 12 N. Main St. was exclusively a Boot Black parlor as shown in this detail from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville, N.Y. Michael Del Negro listed “Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor” at this address in a 1909 city directory. Image: Library of Congress/Sanborn Map

Not only that, but the neighborhood had improved. A fireproof bank with a clock dome had been constructed at the corner of E. Fulton St. and N. Main St., two doors down from Uncle Mike’s parlor — which undoubtedly added some foot traffic to his shop. And the shoe shine parlor had a black dot, indicating a composite roof.

Alas, the building that housed Uncle Mike’s shoe shine parlor at 12 N. Main St. has not survived — but many of the surrounding buildings have. In the next post, we’ll take a look at the once bustling Gloversville neighborhood that made shoe shining a successful career — including for Uncle Jimmy, who shined shoes at various other locations.

Up next: Modern and vintage photos of the Del Negro brothers’ workplaces. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants. Then visit the September 2021 Genealogy Blog Party: What You Learned to check out the skills genealogy bloggers have shared.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.


1 Gloversville, New York, City Directory, 1909, p. 385. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line accessed 9 Aug. 2021]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Junior Prom: My awkward first date #AtoZChallenge

J is for Junior Prom: My awkward first date. Tenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

When I started classes at Maine-Endwell Junior High in 1963 — we Hooper Schoolers merged with the other elementary kids from Homer Brink across town. This brought new experiences — like changing classes and many teachers — along with new friendships that have lasted to this day.

But best of all were the monthly dances in the school gym, where we teens learned to socialize. That’s where some of my crushes developed — on boys and on dancing itself. I never missed a school dance, they were that much fun!

So much fun, that when Junior Prom rolled around in 1965, I really wanted to go. The problem was, you had to have a date — and at 15, I did not have a boyfriend or even a close enough male pal who could escort me. to be asked

Then, boys were still expected to ask girls to the prom, and girls were supposed to wait/hope to be asked. The popular girls easily lined up dates — but as Prom Night drew closer, my dilemma seemed impossible.

Then one day after social studies, a classmate walked over to my desk — I’ll call him Guillaume (his French-class name) — and quickly asked me to go to the prom with him. I was so surprised, I blurted out “l’ll let you know” — and he blushed and walked away.

I’d known Guillaume since Hooper School. Although he was smart and a good classmate, I’d never had a crush on him — so he wouldn’t have been my choice for prom date. But our teacher, who’d overheard the exchange, thought I should give him a chance.

“Of course you’re going to tell him yes, aren’t you?” he asked. So in the end, that’s what I did — and that’s how I ended up on my awkward first date. out the rules

In many ways, the early teens are an embarrassing time when you try to figure out the rules of life and where you fit in — all while being buffeted about by myriad pressures. Attending Junior Prom on my first real date was a prime example.

To begin with, I was the only one on my street going to Junior Prom that year. So news of my date spread up and down our block of 50-odd kids, assuring a large, raucous audience would be milling around our front lawn on the big night. Yikes!

Then there were the unfamiliar rules for formal dances. I’d need to get a new dress and shoes, have my hair pinned and sprayed into a updo by the hairdresser mom across the street, and buy a boutonniere for Guillaume — who was sure to bring me a corsage. This was all too much when I was used to flying solo at more casual school dances.

Prom night arrives

Yet to be at the Junior Prom, I went through it all. The hooting of the neighbor kids when I stepped out the front door with a corsage at my wrist. The car ride to the Junior High in the back seat with Guillaume (his mother at the wheel). The arrival at the dance, where everyone was paired up.

But then an odd thing happened. Although we were supposed to be in couples, at the prom everyone gravitated to their usual cliques — and it felt like a regular dance. The girls admired each others’ dresses while the boys fell into their own groups — and most of the dance songs were fast and freestyle, with nobody really sticking to their date.

The only truly awkward moment was the requisite couples slow dance — when Guillaume and I danced close, even though we’d never spent time together outside of class. And with that, the prom was over.

When Guillaume’s mom arrived to drive us home, she asked if we’d like to stop off for hamburgers or something on the way. But I begged off, since we were going to my grandparents’ house early the next day.

And after they dropped me off, I realized that even though I definitely had no sparks with Guillaume, I’d had a pretty good time at the Junior Prom — and I was glad I’d listened to that teacher and said yes.

Up next,  K is for Kents and the creek. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Bidding farewell to Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau…and series recap

Sepia Saturday 548Eighteenth and final in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

When my dad first told me about his Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau, who died at age 33 in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, he didn’t know any details.

“Well, it makes sense that the family wouldn’t talk about it,” I observed. “It must have been such a shock.”

“Oh, the family talked about Albert and what happened to him all the time,” Dad said. “I just can’t remember anything specific.” Dad was born six years after Albert died,  so what he knew came from family oral history.

An elder brother remembered

Yet the place first-born son Albert (b. 1885) held in the Charboneau family  of Dolgeville, N.Y., was acknowledged in loving acts by his three younger brothers — both during his lifetime and after.

Albert Barney Charboneau (1885-1918) looking dapper in Dolgeville, N.Y. (undated). Scan by Molly Charboneau

My paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau (b. 1888) was the next brother in line after Uncle Albert. And when his first son (my dad’s oldest brother) was born in 1911, he named him Owen Albert. Owen was for the maiden name of his wife Mary Frances Owen and Albert was for his oldest brother.

The next Charboneau brother Orville Nile “Tom” (b. 1892) missed Albert’s 1918  funeral because he was serving on coastal defense during WWI. On 25 Oct. 1920, Uncle Tom married his first wife Lena — and when their son was born in 1922 they named him Albert Bernard Charboneau (who went by Bud) in honor of his late uncle.

Dolgeville Masons Lodge 796 photos of brothers Albert Barney Charboneau (in 1918) and George Dewey Charboneau (in 1930). The lighting was bad and the photos were behind glass, so this photo is not the best. But Uncle Albert is at upper left and Uncle Dewey is at lower right on the memorial wall to past lodge leaders. Photo by Molly Charboneau

George Dewey Charboneau (b. 1899), the youngest, paid his own unique tribute to his oldest brother. Like Albert, he became active in the Dolgeville Masons and worked his way up to Worshipful Master of the lodge — the same post his brother Albert held in 1918, the year he died.

Today, the brothers’ photographs hang near one another on Lodge 796’s memorial wall to past leaders.

Bidding farewell to Uncle Albert

And this year was my turn to honor my childless Granduncle Albert by chronicling his life and its untimely end during the 1918 influenza pandemic — and by letting his experience 102 years ago inform those of us going through the coronavirus pandemic today.

Molly’s Canopy will run a brief epilogue to his story, exploring the life of his widow Annie (Miller) Charboneau.

But for now, in tribute to Albert Barney “Bert” Charboneau, here in chronological sequence are the other posts in this series. Comments are still open on the later posts.

Intro and Albert’s childhood

Albert’s work, family and fraternal life

Albert and the Charboneau brothers in WWI

Albert succumbs in the 1918 influenza

Up next: The widowhood of Annie (Miller) Charboneau. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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