(Note: Baringer Shoe Shop was located in the building that Shear Perfection is in today at 237 South Main Street, Pine Island.)
Laurence Baringer was born in 1908 in Winger, Minnesota. He was the fourth son in a family of five boys. His father worked for the railroad in Winger helping in the construction connecting the U.S. railroad to the Canadian railroad. Later, Laurence’s father took a job working for the railroad in Red Wing, Minnesota and moved his young family there. His father died when Laurence was three years old. His mother raised five sons in Red Wing.
When Laurence was in his early teens, he left Red Wing to work on a ranch for relatives in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He came back to Red Wing and took a job at the Red Wing Shoe Company working as a machinist and then as a foreman for twenty-one years. During World War II Laurence was exempt from the service because the Red Wing Shoe Company was making combat boots for the Armed Forces.
In 1932, Laurence married Grace Engeldinger and they had one son, Larry.
While Laurence was working for the shoe company, he became friends with Willard Marsh from Pine Island who owned a harness and shoe store. Willard wanted to sell his store and convinced Laurence and Grace to purchase his business. They moved to Pine Island in 1943.
The sidewalks were very high and some horse hitches were still in place in 1943. The hitches completely disappeared in the 1950’s along with the high sidewalks.
There was a train known as the Doodle Bug that connected Pine Island to Red Wing. Grace and Larry traveled back and forth on the train to visit in Red Wing. With the train connection, it didn’t seem like they had moved very far away from family and friends.
Baringers lived above the dry cleaners for five years until they built their home in 1948. Larry remembers watching the Cheese Festival parade from the upstairs windows. (Note: Dry cleaners was where Fangman’s Surveying is located today.)
Laurence enjoyed being a storeowner. During the first years in the store, there was a lot of horse harness work. There was a huge tank of oil in the back of the store that was used for oiling the harnesses. The harnesses were scraped with a piece of glass and put in the oil tank to soften them up. It was very hard work. Laurence also made new harnesses. During grain harvesting, binder canvass repair took up most of the time. When the farmers would break down in the field, they needed canvas repair quickly as they were in a hurry to get back into the field to get their crop harvested. It took about two weeks of long days and weekends to keep everyone going.
As the years went by horses were replaced with tractors so harnesses were no longer needed. The repairing of shoes was a large part of the business. People repaired shoes often as it was cheaper than buying a new pair. Laurence expanded into selling Red Wing shoes, boots and work clothes. He also repaired check protector machines for Cliff Mondale. (Cliff sold and serviced check protectors.) Laurence liked to make things work. He was always a machinist at heart. In his spare time he also liked to refinish clocks. He would set and scrape the clocks for hours and they were beautiful when he was done.
Laurence loved to visit with the farmers when they came in. The farmers would tell him where they lived, all about their land, what they were planting and doing. Many evenings after work the Baringers would take drives into the countryside and find the farms that he had been told about. In time, Laurence knew where most of the farms were.
Laurence also enjoyed all of the different shop owners on Main Street. They all had certain routines that they followed. In the morning, Laurence would always stop at Reiter’s grocery store to buy cigarettes for the day. He would meet Art Mahler, they would exchange greetings with Ed and Harold Reiter and talk about the news of the day. As he walked down the street to his shop the storeowners would greet each other.
Laurence was active in the business community, helping with the Cheese Festival and any other event that the town merchants planned.
The stores were open six days and one night a week. Different nights were tried in order to serve the public. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights were tried but Saturday night seemed to be the best.
There was always a school band concert in the summer on Main Street. People would buy popcorn from the Popcorn Stand, walk around and visit with friends. Many would sit in their cars and toot their horns in appreciation for the band music.
In the middle of the 1950’s the cold war with Russia was a great fear for everyone. It was the time of bomb shelters and putting away extra food if it was needed later. There was a hut by the football field that was used to watch for low flying planes. Laurence volunteered to take his turn to watch for planes. Someone in the community said that they thought this was quite silly and a great waste of time and he was going to sit by the footbridge and watch for submarines coming up the Zumbro River. The airplane watch hut didn’t last very long.
Grace and Larry also worked in the store. Grace helped with selling shoes and work clothes and would relieve Laurence so he could have a break. Larry also helped his father. He would especially help during binder canvas time, during the rush to get the farmers back into the fields. Larry graduated from high school in 1952 and continued to work with his dad for the next three years.
Laurence died in 1962 at the age of 54. He had operated the Baringer Shoe Shop for nineteen years. Grace passed away in 2000.
Larry and Jeanine Baringer currently live in the Pine Island area. They have two grown children, Amy and Tim.
Larry retired from IBM after 33 years as a System Analyst. Jeanine also retired after 20 years at the Van Horn Library.
Thank you to Larry and Jeanine for sharing their family story.
(Printed in the Pine Island Area Historical Society Newsletter – April 2006)