DeLaPortes has been selling shoes on Market Street for over six decades | Story


On Tuesday morning February 13, 1912, a fire broke out on the roof of Levering Hospital, setting off the fire bell atop the nearby Market Street station and signaling fire horses, driven by FM Gay, to d ‘go into action.

While skilled labor and equipment were on site within minutes, a lack of water pressure was blamed for allowing the fire to spiral out of control. Under the supervision of Miss Maude Landis, the patients had to be evacuated to neighboring residences. Despite brave efforts, $15,000 in damage was done to the nine-year-old structure.

Watching the scene from across the street would have been, among others, Julius DeLaPorte, 44, a tinsmith by trade, and his business partner, Edward M. Porter, 75. They each lived nearby on South Arch Street, and together they ran a thrift store and shoe repair business at 229 (soon to be renumbered 1805) Market.

Over the next year, Edward M. Porter would pass into eternity, and Julius DeLaPorte would move into a brand new iron building just two doors east of their old storefront, numbered 1801 Market. There he would remain in business for the next two decades, until his death on Monday, January 2, 1933.

Upon his death, Julius’ 37-year-old son, John C. DeLaPorte, stepped forward to run what had been converted during World War I into a shoe store and repair shop. And when his sons, in turn, turned 12 during World War II, they too learned basic business skills alongside their father.

So goes the age-old tradition of fathers and sons. John C. DeLaPorte Jr., born in 1935, just two years after his grandfather died, is now nearly 87 years old. His parents, of course, are long gone, as is his younger brother, Daniel. But what remains vivid in his memory are the sights and sounds of that long-gone block of Market Street, now paved like a parking lot adjacent to Eugene Field School.

business block

There were six buildings in all, starting from the Eugene Field School playground and heading west to the corner of South Arch Street, all on the south side of Market.

“The buildings are always there in my mind,” John DeLaPorte Jr. said this week in a phone interview from his Wisconsin home.

Sanborn’s 1913 fire prevention map shows a two-story frame building at 1733 Market, operated in 1916 as a grocery store by Rowan C. and Margaret Jackson.

The next building to the west was a pharmacy at 1735 Market, operated by Marvel B. and Bertha White.

Next is the Tin Shop (later Shoe Shop) owned in 1916 by Julius DeLaPorte, a cobbler, and later his son John C. The address was 1801 Market.

A small, one-story office building was next, at 1803 Market. George E. Wickersham had a barber shop there in 1916.

And to the west of the 1803 market were two older buildings. In 1805 Mrs. Carrie I. Zerbest had a restaurant, and next to it in 1916, at the southeast corner of Market and South Arch, August Lohmier had a saloon at 1807 Market.

(From the 1920s, the 1805 Market was home to Purity Ice Cream Parlor, operated by Eaver R. Kraus, and mentioned in last week’s story, “The ice cream man.”)

His father’s assistant

John C. Delaporte Jr., turned 12 during World War II, and then started helping out at the shoe store.

What he remembers best about the old building is the basement.

“First of all, the basement was completely in the ground, the walls were in the ground. It was extremely dark there, just a few dim light bulbs. when we got a load of shoes, we would throw the big boxes in the basement, and when we had a good number, we would pull them out and take them to the back of the store, where we shared a hearth with the grocery store at side.

“In that dark, dark basement, there was, in the furthest corner, a toilet that was just on the floor, not in a separate room, but just sitting there. Instead of toilet paper, there was had a big cardboard box as high as a toilet seat, filled with tissues, which you used when you needed them.

“One day this guy who worked for my dad was over there sitting on the toilet. When he was done, he reached into the box to grab a handkerchief. There was a big rat in that box. When he reached out to grab a handkerchief, the rat jumped out of the box and ran on his bare legs.

“My dad kept rat traps there,” John DeLaPorte continued. “Upstairs, there was a big transom in the showroom floor. You could hear everything going on downstairs. It was quite common, we were selling shoes and we could hear “ rattling” coming from the basement. We knew another rat had met its death. I was like, ‘Am I going to be the one to lift this rat and throw it into the fire pit?’ »

South Arch Street

Over the years, a number of DeLaPorte family members have lived and done business near Market Street. The first was August DeLaPorte (b. c. 1821), a stonemason working near Broadway and Maple in 1879. Born in France, he settled in Hannibal’s West End, living with his wife, Margaret, at 101 London Street (later renamed South Arch.) Among their children: Julius, Helena, Leon, Ester and George.

Julius and his wife, Adelia, also took up residence on London Street, later renamed and renumbered 321 South Arch. Their children included Helen, Rose, George, John, Lorine and Gladys.

John C. DeLaPorte and his wife, Vivian, raised their two sons, John Jr. and Daniel, in another part of town at 333 Magnolia, but throughout his life, John Sr., worked at the store family shoe store at 1801 Market St. .

Working class customers

The DeLaPorte shoe store remained in business until the early 1980s. “The customers were the working class, as opposed to the white-collar class,” said John DeLaPorte Jr.. “We would sell mid-priced shoes to lower, and lots of shoes to the nurses who worked across the street at the hospital. We had a large black trade and a lot of farmers bought work shoes. We have sold a lot of children’s shoes. In addition, there was a shoe repair shop, and at the back, in a separate room, they sold second-hand shoes. People would come and buy a few pairs and dad would give them a little for their decent, wearable shoes, fifty cents or a dollar. In yellow pencil, he wrote the price on the bottom of the sole.

“During World War II, work shoes were hard to come by. The best leather went to the armed forces and the civilian population received inferior leather.

“Farmers had particular problems; the manure would eat away at the leather of the shoe.

“My dad went out to St. Louis a few times a year, that’s where the big shoe companies were headquartered. Buying trips, going into showrooms, they treated my dad like a king. Once my dad bought a bunch of used combat boots; we took them home in the car in burlap sacks. The news got to the farmers as fast as he could. Eventually, my father received some reports from farmers; there was a dent in the end of a boot and a farmer found money stuffed inside; another guy found a toe himself. Where are these shoes from? GIs killed in action and their boots reused…”

Note: In 1913, at the time of the Levering Hospital fire, Hannibal had 11 full-time paid firefighters and two part-time firefighters. There were nine horses located in three fire stations. Horses at Market Street station were housed in stalls at the rear of the building.

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as a cornerstone in the founding of this region. Books available at Amazon.co.uk by this author include, but are not limited to: “The Notorious Madam Shaw”, “Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri”, and “The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870”. She can be contacted at [email protected] Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com

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