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Slow shoe shine at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

Don Chamberlin III, from St. Louis, gets a shoe shine from Theodore Wilson at a shine station in the main terminal of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. "He's only my third customer since 4:45 this morning" said Wilson who has worked shining shoes at Lambert on and off off 33 years. Photo By David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Like telephone booths and drive-in movie theaters, shoeshine stands have largely disappeared from much of the American landscape.

In some settings, however, ditching a suit, tie and shiny shoes for more casual wear is not an option.

After a lengthy absence from the Missouri Capitol, the opportunity to get a spit shine on their wing tips and cowboy boots could return for the politicians and lobbyists who populate the marble-lined building for half the year.

In a presentation last month, freshman Rep. Vic Allred told members of the Missouri State Capitol Commission that he wants to bring back a shoeshine stand for the next legislative session.

“The inspiration for me is pretty simple: I need my shoes shined,” Allred said.

Allred, a restaurateur from Parkville, told the panel he would donate the stand if he gets permission for his plan to go forward.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Allred said.

Allred envisions the standbeing open for a half day on Monday and then six to seven hours on Tuesday and Wednesday. Presumably, lawmakers wouldn’t need a shoeshine on Thursday as they are exiting the building to return to their districts.

The stand would be staffed by developmentally disabled workers from Day Solutions, an independently owned and operated work training center for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The center is in Jefferson City.

“It’s going to give a lot of developmentally disabled adults an opportunity to work,” Allred said.

Tiffany Burns, executive director of Day Solutions Foundation, said the stand would help her clients refine their motor skills and give them job training and social skills.

“I think that the service will be highly utilized,” Burns said.

For a suggested donation of $7 for shoes and $8 for boots, lawmakers could either go to the stand Monday through Wednesday or have their shoes collected for an over-the-weekend shine.

Burns said she expects three or four clients of Day Solutions Foundation will be involved in the program, which hasn’t been attempted previously by the organization.

Although shoeshine stands are not as common as they once were, Burns said she believes there is a need in places where people are dressed in formal attire for business.

“I think there actually is a huge need for them,” Burns said.

State capitol buildings have long had shoeshine operations. In Illinois, a shoeshiner was allowed to collect shoes on the House floor, shine them and then return them to their owners.

While that happened, it was not uncommon to see lawmakers debating legislation in their stocking feet.

A decision on Allred’s proposal is likely to come later this summer. Among the considerations is where the stand would be located and whether a contract could be worked out between the state and Day Solutions.

Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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