Shoes make the man

Published 9:12 am Friday, March 21, 2008

Three years after the war ended, Linder found his way to Tryon. In 1949, he began working for Myrtle Tucker, who owned the Tryon Shoe Hospital in town. And 72 years later at age 88, Linder is still open for business in a small shop behind his house in Landrum.

Linder, who will be 89 this summer, began working as a shoe cobbler at age 17 in the worst years of the Great Depression. He took a job with a man in Cowpens, making $1.25 per week while he was in school. At the time, he said, he had no particular interest in mending shoes. Times were just hard and he needed to make some money during the Depression.

&dquo;It was just a job,&dquo; he said. &dquo;Then I guess I got interested in it.&dquo;

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That interest has turned into a life&squo;s work. Linder has mended shoes as well as other things like pocketbooks, leather jackets and other valuables that people have cared enough about to drop in his hands.

In 1938, at age 19, he opened his own shoe store in Cowpens and in 1949, he moved to Tryon. Seven years after moving to Tryon, he bought out Tucker and turned the Tryon Shoe Hospital into Linder&squo;s Shoe Service.

He then moved up the street into the area where Owen&squo;s Pharmacy is located in 1967.

Then in 1979, he opened his little shop behind his home off of Rutherford Rd. in Landrum. A carpenter from Greer built the tiny shop and Linder helped build the inside.

He&squo;s still using the same cash register that he&squo;s owned for 60 years. He still wears the same apron that his wife, Aileen, made him 15 years ago.

Even a lot of the customers&bsp; have been the same through the years.

Janet Cowan, 46, remembers a leather jacket she loved when she was growing up that Linder patched for her many times. The pockets were always tearing in her jacket and Linder would fix them for a small fee, she said.

Janet wasn&squo;t the only one in her family for whom Linder worked. He repaired shoes for her father, James, and his father John before him. The Cowans have gone to Linder for work on generations of shoes.

&dquo;(He gives) wonderful service,&dquo; James Cowan said. &dquo;We&squo;ve been friends and he&squo;s been fixing shoes for us for a long time.&dquo;

But it isn&squo;t just the excellent service that has kept the Cowans coming back to Linder for shoe repairs, Janet said.

&dquo;There&squo;s no finer man than Henry,&dquo; she said. &dquo;He&squo;ll ask you about all your family and all your kids. He&squo;s just a pleasure.&dquo;

And that&squo;s the part of the job that Linder loves best. It isn&squo;t just the fine craftsmanship that he offers every customer that walks through his door. It&squo;s the people that have kept him happy in the shoe business for 72 years, he said ‐ it&squo;s the souls that walk on the soles.

&dquo;I&squo;ve got the nicest customers in the world in Tryon and Landrum,&dquo; he said.

In fact, he said, while his business hasn&squo;t brought him a tremendous wealth, he&squo;s gotten wealthy in other ways.

&dquo;I&squo;ve made more friends than I&squo;ve made money, I imagine,&dquo; he said.

He tried to retire when he was 72, he said, but the boredom crept in and he couldn&squo;t deal with it. So he opened his shop back up and continued to mend the shoes of some of his most loyal customers and even some new faces that find their way into his shop.

There have been some shoes that he regrettably couldn&squo;t fix, according to Linder. Every now and then someone will bring in shoes
that their dogs have chewed up, he said.

&dquo;I just handed them back to them,&dquo; he said. &dquo;They figured they couldn&squo;t be fixed, too.They just wanted a second opinion.&dquo;

But nowadays, he finds more and more shoes that can&squo;t be repaired, he said.

&dquo;Shoes look the same more or less, but a lot of them you can&squo;t fix,&dquo; he said. &dquo;It&squo;s a throw-away generation now. They want you to throw away and buy new ones.&dquo;

If it can be repaired, however, Linder will fix it. And whether it&squo;s broken shoes or torn pockets in a leather jacket or just a bad day, Linder will meet everyone the same way ‐ with a big smile and some good conversation.