A Friendship Built on Shining Shoes

In the corner of the new H.W. Hutchison Stockyard Event Center sits two hardworking men, eager to shine your boots. Joe Joe and George Douglas, two close friends and coworkers have been shining shoes together since nearly 1975. Joe Joe, a native of west Texas, moved to the Denver area in 1961 and has resided here ever since. Soon after moving, Joe Joe met Douglas and the two became friends.

The history behind shoe shining goes back to the 19th century in Hong Kong. Joe Joe notes, “Shoe shining was a tradition for those around me that was carried on throughout the years, and I got started in 1975 under a friend named Mr. Lee Walker.” Once Douglas and Joe Joe became friends, Douglas was taught how to shine shoes and the two have worked together often since. “This kind of work is good,” Douglas says, “It gives me something to do since I’m retired and I like to keep busy.”

The National Western Stock Show has hosted Joe Joe since 1975 and eventually brought on Douglass in the business. It was one of the first stock shows Joe Joe learned the trade at and mentioned, “I remember I got started down in the old building that used to be in the old stockyards.” The two fondly remember the work they did in the old yards, but are enthusiastic to have a new facility to set up shop in.

This line of work is a historical piece of livestock shows for the two as they previously would travel to stock shows and shine boots all over the Midwest. This job also allows Joe Joe and Douglas to meet a variety of people and hearing their life stories, one of their favorite aspects of their job. The dynamic duo love to work at the National Western because of the respect exhibitors and spectators show for their line of work. Joe Joe specifically loves the cattle dogs that stop by their booth and the longhorns that fill the yards during certain days of the stock show. Shoes to shine however can often be scarce. “Some days are good and very busy,” Douglas notes, “Some are slow, but shining shoes is one of the best side hustles I’ve found.”

Joe Joe and Douglas will be in the H.W. Hutchison Stockyard Event Center ready to shine your leather shoes for the duration of the National Western Stock Show. Be sure to stop by their set up, bring your cattle dog and swap some stories with these two hardworking men.

By Becca Paine, 2022 NWSS Media Scholar