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The Seattle Times | Pacific Northwest
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Now & Then Paul Dorpat

The Shoes Fit

When Swedish immigrant George Swanson Sr. moved his shoe repair from downtown to Wallingford in 1946 he counted seven cobblers in the neighborhood. Sixty years later the shop's motto — "If George can't fix 'em, skip 'em" — seems certified. His is the only cobbler still cutting it on 45th Street, Wallingford's main drag.

The historical interior view is easily dated by the Norman Rockwell calendar on the back wall. It shows January, 1950. From the middle of the scene George Sr. peers above a counter-top sign that is still in the shop and even in place, although now half hidden beneath a higher counter. Ten years more and George Sr. passed the business on to George Jr., here left of center, allowing "grandpa" to retire to a corner of the shop and concentrate on handcrafting the traditional wooden clogs he first learned to make as a teenager in Sweden. Grandma Hannah Swanson is on the right.

Now George Jr.'s son, Danny, and his sister, Patty Mayhle, do the cobbling while protecting the shop from unwanted glitz. They appear in the "now" with Danny's 12-year-old daughter, Hannah (standing on a stool) and 15-year-old son, Daniel, to the right.

A visit to 2305 N. 45th St. (next to Al's neighborhood tavern) begins at the window with its permanent exhibit of cobbler artifacts collected by the three generations of Swansons. Inside, the collection continues throughout the shop to such a depth as to seem archeological. Swanson's is one of the "stations" on my own personal "Wallingford walk," and I visit the shop almost daily.

"Washington Then and Now," the new book by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.

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