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"The Amazing Race of Storytelling": Search for story leads to man believed to be Savannah’s last shoe shiner

In a new “CBS Mornings” series, lead national correspondent David Begnaud was surprised with a last-minute plane ticket, embarking on a challenge to find a story within 48 hours of arriving at his destination. The Amazing Race of Storytelling” began in Savannah, Georgia, where he met Wilbert Boyce.

Wilbert Boyce, believed to be Savannah’s last shoe shiner, has decided to retire — marking the end of an era for Boyce and his vanishing craft.

The 78-year-old had been shining shoes at the Barber Pole, a barber shop in Savannah, for 25 years and was still working until just recently. Boyce said he had chosen to retire after realizing his arthritis took a toll on his ability to walk and work, prompting him to call it a day.

His job had evolved over the years, with fewer customers seeking shoe shines. But Boyce’s dedication to his craft remained unwavering.

“A man ain’t saying nothing if he gets up and gets dressed and his shoes ain’t shined,” he said, laughing.

CBS News found Boyce through Stratton Leopold, the 80-year-old owner of Leopold’s Ice Cream, which was founded in 1919. Leopold said Boyce was someone we needed to meet — and we found him on a bench outside the Barber Pole.

Boyce discovered his passion for shoe shining at the age of 15 in his hometown of Decatur, Illinois, long before moving to Savannah.

“I walked by one day and saw the shoe shine stand. And I came in and asked if anybody was shining shoes. Wasn’t nobody shining the shoes. So, he gave me the job,” Boyce said.

Decades later, the job looked different. Boyce spent a lot more time sitting and waiting than he did polishing. Some days, he didn’t see a single customer.

But even as the need for shoe shining has declined in recent years with a shift to more casual attire, Boyce has had loyal customers over the years, including Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. The mayor said he is part of the “$100 club,” a group of customers who pay $100 a year for unlimited shines.

The club was Johnson’s initiative to support Boyce.

“At the end of the day, these shoes look a whole lot better than they did when I came in here,” Johnson said after a shoe shining.

While Savannah may no longer have the legendary shoe shiner, Boyce was proud of his life’s work and the craft he honed.

“I’m the best. The greatest of all time, the G-O-A-T,” Boyce said, laughing.

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