San Diego Hysterical Society



Shoe Shine Sammy

by Bart Simon


Sammy Ash was the legendary shoe shine boy of lower Broadway. One Spring day in 1935 he shined 253 pairs of shoes and won a scholarship to Harvard Business School.

Sammy Ash, shines his way to Harvard
- Sammy shines on Broadway -

Joseph Coronado was still building his own business empire when he struck up a conversation with Sammy during a shoe shine. Sammy's usual sidewalk spot was located less than 200 yards from Coronado's office street entrance.

Coronado was impressed when Sammy said "I bet I will shine my way up to where you are one day." Coronado, a serious gambling man, took the lad's bravado as a literal bet and shook his hand on it.

The measured distance from where they stood to the Coronado Financial office doors was 506 feet. The bet was that if Sammy could shine 253 pairs of shoes in one day, Coronado would pay Sammy's way to Coronado's alma mater Harvard.

Crowds of business men lined the street on the appointed day to help Sammy win the bet. Police on horse back had to be called in to keep order. From sunrise to sunset Sammy spit & shined his way up the street, finishing 20 minutes before dark. 17 years later Sammy's Ash Land & Oil Co. bought out Coronado Financial in a friendly take-over.


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