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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 26:  Eby's Shoe Repair Shop

Located on Water Street, just south of the public square, is Eby's Shoe Repair Shop, which today is the oldest privately owned business in Thurmont. It is operated by Hugh Eby and his son James.

Mr. Eby was born in Sabillasville, Maryland in 1884 and worked as a carpenter before entering his present trade. As a carpenter he was called upon to help build the Maryland Tuberculosis Sanitarium, known today as the Victor Cullen Hospital.

Mr. Eby often tells with delight, his first day of work on the sanitarium job. On this day, June 10, 1907, he inscribed his name, together with the date and place of his birth, on a piece of slate which was attached to the cornerstone of the building.

The carpenter trade, failing to provide an adequate income for his family, led Mr. Eby to seek employment elsewhere. In 1912 he went into the shoe repair business, having picked up the trade on his own. Five years later, in 1917, Eby and his family moved to Thurmont and he opened his shoe repair shop in the basement of the Thurmont Bank which today is occupied by Miller's Barber Shop.

In 1923, Mr. Eby built a shop of his own on a lot next to his home on Water Street and thus began his long career of providing a valuable service to the community and surrounding area.

Today, Mr. Eby operates the only shoe repair shop in the north-ern end of the county; the nearest one being located in Frederick, some sixteen miles away. This provides him with plenty of work to keep him busy six days a week. His skill and fine workmanship has gained for him the reputation of a first-rate shoe repairman.

Although his methods are not the most modern, they serve their purpose and get the job done. One thing that is really different about his methods of repairing is the manner in which he makes

his patterns from the old sole. These are made from paper, a method which he believes produces a more perfect shape. Most repair-men put the old sole on a piece of leather and trace the pattern directly onto the leather itself.

In 1967 Mr. Eby celebrated his 55th anniversary as a shoe repairman and at the age of 83 years old, he has no intention of giving up the business. He is in good health and enjoys his work very much. Mr. Eby and his business has become an important part in the community.

Over the years he has learned all phases of the shoe repair business, and blames the scarcity of shops of this nature, on cheap shoes. People throw away their shoes when they are in need of repair, and just go out and buy a new pair.

This little repair shop in Thurmont serves St. Joseph's College as well as Mt. St. Mary's College. During the summer months Mr Eby notices a slack period, but this is because most of the children in the community go without shoes. This is compensated for by the work which he received from Camp Greentop. The Maryland League for Crippled Children operates a summer camp in the near-by Catoctin Mountains and all repair work on the children's shoes are brought to Mr. Eby for quick and dependable service.

Besides his regular job of repairing shoes, Mr. Eby spends a lot of his time on a hobby tinkering with clocks. This he does during the evening hours when the shoe shop is closed.

Through the years this little shop on Water Street has turned out thousands of repair jobs. Prices have changed occasionally, but only to cover the rising cost of materials and leather.

Chapter Index | Chapter 27: Memorial Park

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