Steve Szirotnyak: Good Neighbor

Colony TheatreI Know This Guy...

I work with a fellow named Greg Shoemaker. He’s a good writer and probably should be added to the blog rotation, but he’ll politely chastise me for mentioning that. He’s very busy creating graphics. Since Greg doesn’t have a profile on the Metzgers “Our Team” page, I’d like to provide you with a sketch of my own.

Greg has been with the company since 1984 when it was Type House, putting him very near the top of the list of Our Longest-Serving Employees Whose Last Name Is Not (Nor Has Ever Been) Metzger, a list that takes up more horizontal space than vertical. Prior to joining Metzgers, Greg spent several years doing ads and other layout work for the downtown Toledo Lasalle’s store. He’s mentioned how difficult it was to walk past Morrow’s Nut House (located in that same block of Adams Street and since demolished) without being drawn inside by the aroma of freshly-roasted confections.

Morrows-Nut-House
Morrow’s Nut House façade (courtesy of T-LCPL) 

Back in the Day

Greg remembers a lot of quaint scenarios like that, and he describes them with simple eloquence. We don’t socialize outside of work, so most of the conversations we do have are necessarily brief, but since we’re both local history buffs and for the most part lifelong Toledoans, there’s often some fond memory being discussed.

Shoemaker lives in an older part of West Toledo that was at the very edge of a rapidly expanding city when his house was originally constructed; my wife and I likewise, in a house about three quarters of a mile (or a decade and a half) further removed from what was then a bustling city center. Greg recalls frequenting vanished neighborhood spots like the bowling alley at The Colony outdoor mall, a few blocks from where he now resides with his longtime companion Darlene and their rescued racing Greyhounds. Whenever I encounter a piece of local trivia or an old Toledo photo I think might be of particular interest to him, I pass it along.

Colony at night, 1973 (courtesy of T-LCPL)
Colony at night, 1973 (courtesy of T-LCPL) 

Smooth and Mellow

To the best of my knowledge, Greg is the only other employee at Metzgers whose appreciation for “modern jazz” of the post-WWII era equals or exceeds mine. We marvel at the digital riches made available by Fantasy Records’ consolidation of the Fantasy, Debut, Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary catalogs. It’s a nearly endless source of delight, easily accessed on the job. However, we both have old phonographs at home as well, for playing vinyl and shellac; it’s nice to work in close proximity to someone who shares a certain “practical nostalgia.”

Jazz Records
“Real gone, man!"

THAT Was a Surprise!

One day, about a year ago, in the course of conversation Shoemaker made an offhand reference to Godzilla (as I’m sure we all have at one time or another, strange as that seems). Though I’m neither a true science-fiction fan nor film fanzine aficionado, at that moment I just happened to recall a certain low-circulation, locally-produced publication I’d purchased once in the early 1980s and had subsequently lost with other items in a basement flood. And so I found myself asking whether Greg had ever heard of this Japanese Fantasy Film Journal, and for a split second, Greg looked thoroughly perplexed. I soon learned why.

As it turns out, Mr. Shoemaker—founder, chief writer and publisher of said Journal—is generally regarded as the first person anywhere to produce an entire publication devoted primarily to what the rest of us refer to as “the Japanese monster movie genre,” dating back to his first mimeographed, eight-page issue of JFFJ released in 1968! A website recently referred to him as “the Godfather of Godzilla fandom.” Every so often Greg will travel to a convention somewhere to receive an award for his pioneering contributions, but back here at Metzgers he rarely mentions the topic at all, and if I hadn’t asked the right question during that conversation a year ago I probably still wouldn’t know about all of this. I’ve since located and purchased a few of the more “recent” issues of JFFJ (publication ceased in 1983), and I even asked Greg to sign for me the 1981 #13 that replaces the one I lost in the flood.

The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal
The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal

The half-dozen or so co-workers to whom I’ve related Greg’s story in detail have been in awe. He’ll be mildly annoyed that I’ve written all of this, but I really thought he deserved hometown accolades beyond the thanks our customers have been passing his way for the past 28 years. He’s an incredibly talented designer and he’s the retiring kind of person (no pun intended) who would continue to quietly ply his considerable craft from a tiny office in exchange for a polite acknowledgement from time to time, but I’m not letting him off that easily: Spotlight on Mr. Greg Shoemaker!

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