May 22, 2017 - Charles Hughes' Shoe Shop was a Timpson fixture for over half a century. Although he did all the repair work one normally associates with a shoe shop, he also created beautiful hand-tooled western-style belts, purses, Bible covers, wallets, and holsters. Timpson Areal Genealogical and Heritage Society members and guests remembered Mr. Hughes at their May meeting on Wednesday and viewed a display of two long tables full of his work, loaned by local residents.
A life-long citizen of Timpson, Mr. Hughes was born in 1928 to Edgar and Peggy Hughes and attended Timpson schools, where he excelled. Although he was an Honor Roll student, he found his calling in the third grade when his teacher, Mrs. Mack Taylor, had their class do a project on leather work. Charles loved it and continued working with leather and creating things for friends and family members until his graduation from THS, near the top of his class, in 1946. His leather working skills had improved to the point that he was employed by Riddlehoover Shoe Repair of Timpson after graduation.
He and his brother Bowden opened their own shop in 1953, Hughes Brothers Shoe Shop. Charles was drafted into the Army the next year and sent to Korea. Upon learning of his shoe repair skills, the Army put him to work doing that while he was in Korea. He returned to Timpson after being discharged in 1956 and re-entered the shoe repair business. Soon Hughes' Shoe Shop was the only shoe shop in town.
Over the years, word of Charles Hughes' skill in creating leather goods which were functional, durable, and beautiful spread. His items, all taylor-made for the customer, were much admired and prized. His craftsmanship was so unique that it was immediately recognizable to those familiar with it. Kenneth Ramsey, who loaned two belts and a wallet for the exhibit, says that he was standing behind a man at Bill Williams' Steak House in Houston many years ago when Ken noticed the man's belt. Almost certain that it was a Charles Hughes creation, he couldn't resist asking the man where he got it. “Charles Hughes up in Timpson made it for me.” was the reply. Hughes did not mark his creations until towards the end of his career. That mark can be seen in the accompanying photos. NFL Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell commissioned Hughes to make some things for him and an autographed picture of Campbell hung on Hughes' shop wall until it closed. Hughes also did work for Oiler coach Bum Phillips and quarterback Kenny Stabler.
Suffering from failing health, Charles Hughes closed his shop in 2004 and by 2006 he was living in a nursing home. He died in 2009 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery next to his wife, Thelma.
Most people hope to be remembered after they are gone, leaving some sort of legacy behind. Charles Hughes did just that. His beautiful creations were treasured by their owners while he was alive but they are even more so today since there will be no more of them. An example is the belt Charles made for Jill Hailey's late husband, Billy, which was on display. Like Charles Hughes, Bill Hailey has passed on, but the beautiful belt with “Hailey” tooled on the back is now a family heirloom to be passed on to their son. TAGHS wishes to thank Jill and Kenneth, as well as Hal Horton, John De Lamar, Craig Ballard, J.T. Rhodes, Martha Wheeler, and Caddell Stephenson for their generosity in loaning their Charles Hughes items for display.
TAGHS meets the third Wednesday of each month at 2PM in the meeting room of the Timpson Public Library on the corner of Austin and Bremond Streets. The public is invited.