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In Print: On News Stands Now


by Tumbleweed Smith

Some folks in Nocona called the other day and said they wanted a copy of an interview I did with Enid Justin back in 1979. I went to my archives and listened to the complete 42-minute interview. I had forgotten what a fascinating lady she was. Her daddy started the Justin Boot Company in 1879 at Spanish Fort, where cowboys crossed the Red River while driving cattle to northern markets. He came to Texas from Indiana because he didn’t like the business his father was in: cigar making.

When the railroad got to Nocona, he moved the boot shop there. In 1925 his two sons moved the Justin Boot Company to Fort Worth. Enid didn’t want to leave Nocona so she borrowed $5,000 and started the Nocona Boot Company. The half dozen employees turned out about 5 or 6 pairs of boots a week. Enid made sales trips to neighboring cities in her Model T. Eventually her company grew into one of the top 4 boot-making companies in the country, with 450 employees turning out 1,350 pairs of boots a day.

Enid was a character. She once staged a Pony Express Ride from Nocona to San Francisco and organized a Texas Week on the French Riviera. Celebrities wore her boots. When George Burns and Gracie Allen came to Texas, they invited her to their suite. On a trip to Europe, some Vatican guards showed up at her hotel and told her the Pope wanted to see her. She told me he was very nice.

For years she was known as the only woman boot maker and received write-ups in magazines and newspapers. She was often interviewed on radio and TV. Once she was in a TV studio and just as she was about to start a live interview a goat started chewing on her skirt. The goat owner pulled it away. Enid told the owner, “You should have let it go. It would have made great TV. I would have told the goat I was going to use its hide for a pair of boots.”

She once heard about a boy with amnesia in Oregon who was wearing a pair of Nocona boots. She called the chief of police in the city where the victim was and through the serial number in the boot was able to get the boy back to his parents.

Enid loved to dance. Her daddy often had dances in the home. On her brother’s 21st birthday there was a big dance in the Justin home. When 12-year old Enid went to school the next day she was suspended from school for 3 weeks for dancing. She never went back to school. Instead, she helped her father in the boot business.

Enid started Singsongs on Saturday nights for her employees. Soon people from town started coming. Loud speakers were installed all over town. Sometimes people traveling through would pull off the highway and join in. The first lady of boot making died in 1990 at the age of 97 and the Nocona boot company moved to

El Paso in 1999. Cavender’s Larry Mahan brand of boots is still made by hand in Nocona.

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