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A sign in the window reads:

"I will heel you.

"I will save your sole.

"I will even dye for you."

The thousands upon thousands of people having been served by Dickson's Shoe Shop in Orangeburg know the sign well.

And they regularly pause for what else there is to see among the merchandise and unique creations at the iconic downtown business.

Many things have changed but the Dicksons fixing shoes and just about anything leather or related has not.

Though she had retired from active duty, matriarch Althaea Metts Dickson, known to family and friends as "Teat" and to many shoe shop customers as "Mom," was the face of the business from as far back as the 1960s. She was always a presence in the store now run by her sons. That will remain even with her death on Feb. 17 at age 86.

The Branchville native's story is one of family.

"I hear other mothers comment that they would love it if just one of their children would stop by for a visit sometime. I don't have that problem," Mrs. Dickson said during an interview for Mother's Day in 1995. "I raised them, and now I get to be with them continually. I have lunch with them, or at least some of them, six days a week.

"I don't think any other mother has had the benefits I've had. My sons look out for me."

At the shoe shop, Mrs. Dickson worked daily with as many as three of her four sons. All have been involved at one time or another with the family business of repairing shoes.

"The boys were pretty much raised in the shop. They started shining shoes when they were 9 or 10. And as they got older, they learned how to run the machinery and do the different repairs and dyeing," Mrs. Dickson said.

She was not only mother -- she was boss.

"For the most part, we all get along well. I don't fuss. I respect their private lives and don't interfere with their decisions. I respect them as individuals," Mrs. Dickson said. "I can walk in the front door and say `good morning' and tell who's going to have a good day and who's going to have a bad day. If someone is having a bad day, we give each other room and try to respect each other.

"There are some drawbacks in anything or anywhere you work, but if a problem arises here, we put our heads together to solve it."

Who wouldn't want her for a boss?

As remarkable as the story of family working together for decades may be to many, the Dicksons did not shy away from each other after work hours.

"All my sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren and one of my sisters spend the night with me every Christmas Eve," Mrs. Dickson said in the 1995 interview.

"We get up and have a big breakfast and see what Santa has brought. On Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Raylrode Daze weekend, we get together. "

Mrs. Dickson said simply, "I am blessed."

And Orangeburg was blessed by her presence across decades. Her legacy lives with her sons and Dickson's Shoe Shop.

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