October 8, 2012 9:55:06 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
Chances are, nobody knows downtown Columbus better than Floyd Acron.
Acron, who will turn 78 next week, has worked in downtown Columbus for nearly 60 years. He got his first job at the Straight 8 Cafe on Main Street as a dishwasher in 1954. After eight years there, he landed a job with Ernie Sisson's Shoe Store on Fifth Street, a position he acquired thanks to a bit of chicanery.
"I was waiting out back and Mr. Sisson -- he used to smoke all the time -- came up to me and asked what I wanted,'' Acron recounts with a twinkle in his eye. "I told him I wanted a job. Now there was a lady in the store who said a size 10 1/2 shoe was too small but a size 11 was too big. Mr. Sisson said, 'If you sell this lady a pair of shoes, I'll give you a job.'
"I had been playing dice the night before and won a little bit of money. I took a $20 bill and put it in the toe of the 10 1/2 shoe so she could see what I was doing. She tried it on and said, 'Good God Almighty, this shoe is too small!' So I told her, 'I'll be right back' and I went to get the size 11."
As he had with the 10 1/2 shoes, Acron had stuffed the toes of the 11s.
Sure enough, the woman felt the paper in the toes of the new shoes and assumed they were $20 bills.
"She tried them on and said 'This is my shoe! That's my size!' She wore those shoes out of the store.''
Acron admitted no pangs of conscience about the incident.
"I did what I had to do to get a job," says Acron, who worked for Sisson for eight years.
When Sisson sold his shoe store to Atwell Andrews in 1963, Acron stayed on, working for Andrews for 20 years until the store closed. House of Tux moved into the building in 1984 and Acron began working for owner Danny Lollar. When the Lollars sold House of Tux to The Bride and Groom owners Blaine and Corie Walters, Acron began working for them as well.
Acron's recollections of working downtown during the era of segregation are benign.
"In those days, we didn't pay a thing like that no attention,'' he says. "People just went in the store and bought what they wanted.''
To make a little extra money, the young father said he became a loan shark of sorts.
"We got paid every Thursday,'' Acron says. "I asked to be paid every two weeks. So I would loan them $1 and charge them 25 cents on the dollar. They paid me off every Thursday.
"They thought I had a bankroll!"
While Acron proved adept at many things, he confesses there are some things he could never do, mainly because of his temperament.
"My attitude is, I don't believe the customer is always right,'' Acron confesses. "I couldn't own a business. I couldn't be a school teacher, either."
Now approaching 60 years of working downtown, Acron does admit to getting a little nostalgic from time to time.
"Things just change,'' he says. "I just sit around and think how it used to be downtown. A lot of people see me walking down the street. They don't know me. You can't look at a person and tell how they feel."
Acron is proud of his work history but insists there is more to his life story than just his work.
Born and raised in Columbus, Acron went to Union Academy High School before he began working downtown.
He later married and fathered five boys.
He puffs his chest out with pride when talking about his sons -- Paul, Charles, Melvin, David and Ronald.
Acron reaches in his wallet and eagerly shows off pictures of his five boys and their children.
"They call me every weekend," he says, smiling.
Acron is proud that three of his sons chose to serve in the military, a distinction he almost earned himself. In fact, he was actually in the military -- for a few minutes, at least.
"At the time, I didn't mind going,'' Acron says. "We thought it was just a play thing. So we went and got on the bus. A lady comes on the bus and said, 'If you're over 26 and married, you don't have to go.' So I got off the bus. Now, I wish I had served."
It's probably one of Acron's few regrets.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.