NEWS AND NOTES
International Horeshoeing Hall Of Fame Bob Skradzio died on February 19 at the age of 79. He will be laid to rest on February 25.
Bob Skradzio (born Bob Kradzinski) is survived by his wife Aleen and three daughters Colleen, Kathy, Cheryl and son Bob, Jr., along with seven grandchildren.
At the request of the family a memorial fund is being set up in Bob's name. The fund is intended as a scholarship fund for the education of young farriers, as well as an emergency fund for a farrier in a time of distress. Check back for more details concerning "The Bob Skradzio Memorial Fund."
"In the true Skradzio style, he shod his last horse just day's before he was beckoned to an higher calling," says friend and fellow Hall Of Famer Dave Duckett.
Below is a 2004 edition of "Frankly Speaking" that features Bob Skradzio discussing his early career.
Like most farriers, Bob Skradzio remembers when he worked on his first horse. But it wasn’t in the typical rural setting of farm, ranch or stable. It was in a shop near the rail yards of Philadelphia during the years during World War II.
Skradzio remembers hanging around that shop, watching and learning.
“Finally, I said to the shoer, ‘You want me to pull those shoes off for you?’ ” he recalls. “He looked at me over his glasses and said, ‘Give it a try.’ I was just 14.“
That was over 60 years ago. The International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame member from Ambler, Pa., shared some memories from those years with attendees at a seminar held recently at Tufts University.
A Different Time
It was a different era, one in which a horse wasn’t a rare sight on the streets of America’s cities. Ponies and horses drew carts that Skradzio remembers as “the delivery trucks of the city.”
“We didn’t have department stores,” he says. “You’d have peddlers and hucksters driving the streets in wagons. One would have brooms, brushes, mops; wagons full of fresh fish. Vegetables. Milk. There were junk men and moving men. They all used wagons, and we shod the horses.”
Shops charged $3.50 for a set of shoes and the work was done quickly and efficiently.
“You worked in the fire or you worked under the horse,” Skradzio says. “We didn’t make shoes. We didn’t have time. You got to the shop in the morning and there might be eight horses tied up there. I never straightened up all day.”
The shoeing wasn’t fancy.
“They were shod for economy,” he says. “They had to make a profit. These were working horses.”
And work those horses did — long, hard hours.
“Coal horses would pull wagons all over the city all through the winter, all day long,” he says. “Sometimes those horses liked being shod. They got to come inside the shop and warm up. They got to rest.”
Things changed after the war. The type of horseshoeing shops where Skradzio had gotten his start began closing as trucks and delivery vans replaced peddlers’ wagons and the working horse became a rarity.
A Shifting Market
“More and more, the client became the person of wealth,” Skradzio says. “They were the people who could afford to pay $8 to have their horse shod.”
Skradzio says whenever he’d start worrying about the future of the horseshoeing business, he’d remember what he’d been told by another farrier.
“He told me, ‘Rich people will be feeding horses when poor people are starving in the streets,’” he recalls.
Besides, he says, it was too late to change careers.
“When you get bit by the horse bug, there’s nothing you can do,” he says. “It’s part of your life.”