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Keyser had its own Uncle Sam years ago – WV News

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Updated: June 5, 2022 @ 9:53 am
This ad for Calemine’s Patriotic Shoe Shop, taken from an old Mineral Daily News Tribune, featured Calemine dressed as Uncle Sam.

This ad for Calemine’s Patriotic Shoe Shop, taken from an old Mineral Daily News Tribune, featured Calemine dressed as Uncle Sam.
KEYSER, W.Va. (WV News) – Who was “Uncle Sam” in Keyser for many years? It was Domenick Calemine.
Domenick came to the United States from Italy in 1902 but did not reach Keyser until 1904. He was employed by the B&O Railroad. Due to suffering a badly crushed leg, however, his railroad service was limited, so he opened his first shoe repair shop in 1912.
It was called Calemine’s Patriotic Shoe Shop.
For several years, Domenick dressed up as “Uncle Sam” and sold more Liberty Bonds in Keyser than anyone else. He participated in parades in a decorated automobile and appeared in minstrel shows for many years.
During World War II times, he made it a point to be at the local B&O station to bid groups of draftees farewell as they left to serve their country. Service men during World War II were able to get free shoeshines at Domenick’s place of business.
In 1930, Domenick told a Keyser paper reporter, “In appreciation. Twenty-six years ago, Aug. 26,1904, I landed in Keyser, a poor immigrant Italian boy, no knowledge of America’s language, laws, or customs. With the help of the good people of Keyser, I soon was able to pick up quite a little of the things that help to make one a useful citizen.”
Domenick had four sons: Guerino “Reno” Calemine, Carlos Calemine, Orlando Calemine, and Julio Calemine.
Domenick retired from his shoe shop business in 1955, turning the operation over to his son, Reno. Even after recuperating from a leg amputation at age 80, Domenick continued to spend a half day working at the shop.
He did not let a leg amputation stop his work as “Uncle Sam” either. I can vividly remember seeing Domenick marching down Main and Armstrong streets dressed as “Uncle Sam,” even with his wooden leg.
He died at age 84. His son Reno carried on the shoe shop business until his death at 90 years young. I still remember seeing Reno riding his bike to and from the shop every day.
Even though the Calemine’s shoe shop building sits empty today, there are many memories of the men who made the place more than a shoeshine shop. Their patriotic spirit and welcoming nature made everyone feel part of their family, no matter where you encountered them.
I have fond memories of “Uncle Sam” and all his family did to make Keyser an even better place to live and work.

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