In 1939, the average wage for a shoe salesman was about $60 a month and Boston was the center of America’s shoe manufacturing industry. Many shoepeople had fallen on hard times due to the loss of jobs during the Depression. On Wednesdays, which were leather days, many working salesmen got together and literally passed a hat in order to contribute to a pot of money they would use to support those out of work salesmen in need. Although they competed with each other professionally, personally they were united in helping their community.
Realizing that the passing of the hat was not a sustainable way to provide financial assistance, the group, including A.A. Bloom, Abe Borkowitz, Morris Rosenston and Al Schachat, decided to create an organization that would anonymously provide aid to shoepeople in need. Abe Shapiro, President of the Gold Seal Rubber Company, and owner of a building housing over 300 shoe companies at 210 Lincoln Street in Boston, gave a $500 gift to create the organization, as well as office space at 210 Lincoln Street to centralize their operations. It was then that Two Ten and the basis for its name was born.
Realizing they needed more capital to continue to grow, fundraising activities began. The first golf outing took place at the Kernwood Country Club on August 17, 1939. The first annual banquet was held at Boston’s Statler Hotel with more than 1,000 industry members in attendance.
World War II
With business slow and many shoemen overseas, the “Two Ten Associates,” as they were formally known, had the opportunity to support members of the footwear community serving our country abroad. From making a plea for gas and oil conservation, to sending notes and writing kits to active servicemen, Two Ten was involved in the war effort. In 1944, the Two Ten Associates embarked on a specific fundraising campaign to purchase a mobile canteen. This canteen was then donated to the American Red Cross who used the canteen to distribute food and beverages to embarking and debarking servicemen at the Boston Port. A letter from the Red Cross stated, “Our records show that your vehicle participated in carrying to the Port 3,030,336 doughnuts, 973,282 cups of coffee, 786,222 bottles of milk; to say nothing of the 133,200 servings of fruit juice, 79,528 servings of ice cream and 68,576 sandwiches.”
After the war, the Two Ten Associates started receiving requests for financial assistance from across the nation. Having been a mostly volunteer group since its charter almost 10 years prior, the Two Ten Associates hired their first full-time associate, shoe salesman Fred Bloom, to organize its expansion. Creating regional chairmen to oversee activities in cities like New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles helped increase the number of shoepeople around the country involved in Two Ten assisting their fellow shoepeople in need.
The Scholarship Program
For 30 years, Two Ten focused its efforts on fundraising, national expansion and providing financial and emotional support to members of the footwear community in need. In the 1960s, it became clear that more and more people in the footwear industry were sending their children to college and with the country in a recession and tuition bills growing, funding a child’s college education was becoming a primary concern. In 1969, Two Ten created its scholarship program and awarded $38,000 in scholarships during its first year. Seventeen students from eight states received scholarship awards to assist in paying for their education.