Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Enid Justin, Texas lady Bootmaker

Enid Justin was a boot making legend. Yes, her boots were a factory made boot, but when she was running the show, the quality was the best of that type.

She was born in a bootmaking family, her father being H. J. "Daddy Joe" Justin, founder of Justin Boots. She started working in the Nocona Texas shop when she was a small girl, mostly filling envelopes and other clerical work. When she dropped out of school at the age of 15, she started to work at the factory, stitching tops. She married in 1915, at the age of 23. Her husband, telegraph operator Julius Stelzer, started out an illustrious career in bootmaking after the wedding, working for "Daddy Joe." He became top-notched in assembling factory production boots. In 1918, Enid lost her baby daughter, Anna Jo, and her father. In 1925, her brothers, who operated Justin Boots, decided to move the factory to Fort Worth. Enid, believing that "Daddy Joe" would have never left his beloved Nocona Texas, declined the move and decided to start a new boot company in Nocona.

Imagine a woman back in the 1920s, starting a company usually run by men, and whose customers were a majority of men, cowboys, ranchers, oil men, roughnecks, and businessmen. She did it, and did quite well. She expanded her business, moved to a larger plant in Nocona, and eventually additional plants in Vernon, and Gainesville. She did it, even after two divorces, and the loss of her only child. Even though she was divorced and childless, she gave her heart and opened her pocketbook to her beloved town. She donated money to city parks and girls and boys Little League programs. She continued on, slowing down in the late 1970s after health issues. She merged her company with Justin Industries in 1981, with a promise that Nocona Boots would stay in her beloved Nocona Texas until she passed away in 1990. In 1999, Justin closed the Nocona plant, and moved operations to El Paso, TX.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

RIP Boots Reitzel

I got word yesterday that a guy I consider a friend passed away unexpectedly. I have known Boots Reitzel aka TucsonBoots for ten years. I never met him in person, but emailed him regularly, and talked over the phone several times. I first heard of Boots early in my boot collecting "career" through the Internet. Boots, along with Jennifer June, was one of the pioneers of cowboy boot information on the Internet in the late 1990s. He had a website in where he discussed cowboy boots, and sold cowboy boots that he obtained through his travels. I agreed with most, if not all, of his "Boot Talk," especially when he discussed the poorer and poorer quality of factory boots, especially the "Big Three." He was one of the early proponents of buying good vintage (pre-Urban Cowboy) boots, or going the custom/handmade route. He was right on the money.

I bought several pair of boots from him, including two pairs of Paul Bond boots that I treasure. He always was a fair and square dealer, if you didn't like something, he did what was fair to make you happy. Most of the boots that he sold, I did not care for, mostly cause they were high heeled and underslung, extremely sharp toe, and not toe flowers/wrinkles.

I waited regularly for his updates, especially his "Boot Talk" updates. He had a lot of good things to say about the custom shops, nothing good to say about the sloppy work coming from the major factories.

He was a great American, and a conservative who believed in all the is good and unique about America, and not what is going on now.

I don't know what took Boots from us, other than it was natural causes. I knew that he had some recent health issues, but none that I knew of that were life threatening. He was found by a friend after Christmas. I just hope that he died in his sleep, dreaming about good cowboy boots, and the Western Lifestyle.
Good bye my friend. I'll miss you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Family Trees of Bootmakers

As someone who enjoys the history of bootmakers, I am always fascinated by the family tree of H.J. “Daddy Joe” Justin. Not only did his daughter, Enid, start Nocona Boots, and his sons continue Justin Boots, but some of his unrelated employees continued his work as they started their own bootmaking careers. His connections to subsequent boot companies/shops are remarkable and are current even today.

C. G. “Gus” Blucher worked at Justin Boots for 27 years, first in Spanish Fort, and later in Nocona TX, under Daddy Joe. Along side Gus was Archer LaForce, related to Daddy Joe by marriage (HJ’s wife’s mother was a LaForce from near Lipan TX). In 1915, Gus and Archer decided to start out on their own and move to Cheyenne Wyoming to start Blucher Boots. After a few cold winters, Gus and Archer moved to Olathe Kansas, to continue the shop in a warmer climate with a larger available workforce. Archer later went to Tucson AZ, and formed Western Boot Company. Blucher died in 1932.

Jay Griffith worked at Western Boot Company before WWII. Paul Bond bought Western Boot Company several decades ago (1950s?). Jay wound up working for Blucher Boots in the early 1980s, hiring James “Smitty” Smith, who now owns Blucher Boots. Jay also hired Ray Dorwart and Lisa Sorrell, each having their present bootshops.

Enid Justin, who worked with her father “Daddy Joe” until she married Julius Stelzer in 1915, started Nocona Boots in 1925 when the Justin brothers decided to leave Nocona for a larger town. Enid and Julius, who also worked along side “Daddy Joe” ran Nocona Boots until their divorce in 1934.

Julius moved to nearby Henrietta TX, and along with a local bootmaker, Carl Olsen, and started Olsen-Stelzer Boot Company in 1934.

Enid remarried a Robert Whitman in 1940. Robert was not in the boot business, but Enid had him work around the Nocona Boots factory. They divorced in 1945, and with the little bootmaking that Robert picked up at Nocona, and along with businessmen, started the Whitbern Boot Company in Wichita Falls TX. That shop closed after a few years.

There is probably more to this convoluted story that I will find in the future.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tex Robin, My Friend and Great Bootmaker

Tex Robin made these boots for me. He also entered them in the Boots and Saddlemaker's Round Up Boot Contest that is held every year in Wichita Falls, TX. They placed tied for Master's Class, which is very rare and most of the time is a popularity contest based on the amount of students one bootmaker may have. That's another issue.....

Back to Tex. He doesn't have a song about him, he doesn't have a video, and he doesn't have have a lot of famous people knocking on his door.

He doesn't need it.

He is just as good as any bootmaker alive or dead. There never has been anyone better.

Yes, I may be biased because we are friends, but look at these boots and name me a better bootmaker.

Thanks Tex.

More Proof That The World Is Going to Hell......

ROY ROGERS-DALE EVANS MUSEUM IS CLOSING, BUT THE LEGACY WILL CONTINUE Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum Closing Its Doors In December; Live Shows with Roy Rogers Jr. and the High Riders with Dustin Roy Rogers To Continue
BRANSON, MISSOURI. October 5, 2009 - After six seasons in Branson, the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum announced today that it will close its doors in December. The Rogers family wants to thank Roy and Dale's fans for the many wonderful years that the Museum has enjoyed since its opening in California in 1967. However, declining attendance and an uncertain economy have caused the family to make the extremely difficult decision to close the Museum doors. And as Roy Rogers himself told Roy Jr., "If the Museum starts costing you money, then liquidate everything and move on."
Says Roy Rogers Jr., "The artifacts in the Museum are from Roy and Dale's lifetime together, but even when these artifacts are gone, our memories of Roy and Dale will live on forever. Nothing can ever take those away. We encourage everyone to visit theMuseum during the next few months and re-live the great memories that Roy and Dale gave them and celebrate their lives." As for the live shows that currently are performed at the Museum, Roy Rogers Jr. also announced today that his company, Golden Stallion, which owns and produces the shows, will be looking for a new location in the Branson area. "Next season, we hope to see you at our new location, where Roy and Dale's legacy will continue through our live shows." Rogers continues, "We have developed a great love for Branson and the theatre community here, and look forward to many more years as a part of it."The legacy and spirit of Roy and Dale live on through Roy Rogers Jr. and the rest of the family, in whom they instilled their deep family values. Roy Rogers Jr. and his band will continue the legacy that Roy and Dale started as they continue to perform the cowboy music that they loved so well. Details about the new venue for Roy Rogers Jr. and his band, with Dustin Roy Rogers,will be released in the near future.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Future of Custom Bootmaking

I have been worried over the future of custom bootmaking for the last few years. It seems that the tradition of custom bootmaking being passed down from father to son, or family to family is slowly ending. Now a days it seems that if someone is interested in being a bootmaker, he or she takes a 2-3 week course , opens up a shop, and puts out their sign and starts taking orders. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" That sounds all fine and dandy, until their first few customers are just experiements. Don't get me wrong, I am all for the American Dream of being your own boss.

There is no apprenticeship program, or not much of one, in the USA.

I have sympathy for the people who graduate from these 2-3 week classes, or the Green County Bootmaking School in Okmulgee for not having someone who will "season" them to the trade of bootmaking. But right now, I don't know of any bootmakers who can afford a novice to come in for this seasoning. It costs to have a novice work for you in the industry, not just in pay or benefits, but materials and screw-ups.

What is the answer, well I don't have one. How about you?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I learned the terrible, sad news last night that my favorite author - western novelist Elmer Kelton, passed away Saturday morning. I've read all of his books, some twice. I meet him several years ago when they put in the Texas Trail of Fame in the Fort Worth Stockyards. There will never be another one like him.