John DeLaporte Sr., left, owner of the DeLaporte Shoe Store at 1801 Market St., works with his nephew, Ray DeLaporte. CONTRIBUTED
DeLaPorte Shoe store was located at 1801 Market St., Hannibal, Mo., during the 1940s and 1950s. CONTRIBUTED
This photo, taken by Otis Howell for the Courier-Post in 1957, shows the east side of the buildings facing Market Street, Hannibal, Mo. Located in one of those buildings was DeLaPorte Shoe Store. At right is a portion of the Eugene Field School playground.
Note: Bev Darr of the Hannibal Courier-Post staff interviewed J.C. DeLaporte in 2011, regarding his father's shoe store on Market Street, Hannibal, Mo., during the 1940s and 1950. The story was published in the Hannibal Courier-Post Feb. 16, 2011.
John (J.C.) DeLaporte of Marathon, Wis., while sharing photos and memories of his dad's shoe store at 1801 Market St. in Hannibal, reported his dad (John DeLa-porte Sr.) was nicknamed a foot doctor, for helping people with foot problems.
J.C. said family's shoe store was open for more than 40 years, including the 1930s through the 1950s, when "there were no foot doctors in Hannibal. With Levering Hospital across the street, many (nurses and other hospital employees) had foot problems with being on their feet. My dad sold Dr. Scholl's arch supports, callous pads and about everything Dr. Scholl's made. My dad had a reputation as a foot doctor."
Although Hannibal had some downtown shoe stores, they sold more to white collar professionals, J.C. said, while "we sold moderately-priced shoes. Our customers were more the blue collar working man. We sold a lot of work shoes."
J.C. and his brother, (the late) Dan DeLaporte, sold shoes every Saturday as teen-agers in the 1940s and 1950s. J.C. remembers "the most expensive shoes we had were men's for $7 or $8 a pair, women's, $5 or $6, and kids, $2 or $3." Nearly all the shoes were made of leather. The store sold one brand of hightop sneakers for kids.
"Dad was in business during the Depression," J.C. added. "Many people were out of work, but his business was exceptionally good during that particular time of our history."
His dad was "quite old" when he sold the store to a woman, J.C. reported. She eventually closed the store and opened a new store in the new Huck Finn Shopping Center."
Long after that a fire started in the building and "half a block burned down," he said.
Shoes may have been made at local factories
Some of the shoes sold at DeLaporte's may have been made at the local shoe factories, which were thriving at that time, but they were purchased in St. Louis, J.C. said. "St. Louis was the shoe capital of the United States, and my dad would go there once or twice a year on shoe buying trips. International Shoe and other large companies had headquarters there, and he would order shoes for the year" from their showrooms.
Also, "shoe salesmen would come in with samples, and he would buy shoes through them, too."
Used shoes also were sold in St. Louis, and DeLaporte's sold them in a small room, he said. "There were some very small companies, mom and pop operations that sold used shoes to the shoe stores. We would haul them home in gunny sacks." And sometimes, "Hannibalians would come in and trade an old pair in."
Shoe repair was an important part of the local store, with Raymond DeLaporte, his dad's nephew, providing that service for many years.
John DeLaporte also helped in unusual circumstances, he said, such as during a rare ice storm one year. "Everything was covered with ice for a week or two and people were having a hard time walking around. On Market there was a tin shop, and my dad went down there and had these guys with tin presses make a bunch of ice cleats you could tie on your shoes with shoestrings. We sold a ton of ice cleats until the ice melted."
His dad "was a man who didn't have a lot of education," J.C. said, "but he was a person who was always thinking ahead of the curve. He was just a very nice man, too."
J.C.'s mother, the former Vivian O'Daniel of Monroe City, was a registered nurse who had worked as a surgical nurse in St. Louis, but she did not work outside the home in Hannibal, he said. "She took care of my brother and I."
J.C.'s wife, the former Phyllis Moore, is the daughter of John Moore of Hannibal, who was in the insurance and real estate business for many years.
Both J.C. and his wife attended local Catholic schools and graduated from McCooey High School, in 1952 and 1953, respectively.
J.C. did not sell shoes after graduating from Mizzou in 1956, but he remained in retail business for many years. For 15 years he had a position with Macy's department store in Kansas City, and for another 15 years he was with H.C. Prange Co. in Wisconsin. In about 1950 J.C. left the retail field and for 15 years was with Equitable Insurance.
Throughout his career, he had opportunity to use the experiences he gained as a teen-ager, working in his dad's shoe store, he said, where "I learned a lot."