"He had a red nose and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly." While originally applied to one S. Claus, these lines also serve well to describe another revered wintertime wizard, one P. Limmer of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts--Peter Limmer, Meister Schumacher.
Limmer ski boots, approaching in their field the status of Louisville Sluggers in baseball, have brought respect and renown to Peter and his boot-making family. The Limmer boots are definitely a family affair; his wife and two sons work along with him in the production of these eagerly-sought downhill delights. Working as a team, Peter, his wife, and his sons, Peter Jr. and Francis, yearly turn over 100 pairs of handmade ski boots, spending the rest of their working time on his equally famous one-piece walking shoes and climbing boots.
More Than a Bootmaker
But more than just a bootmaker, Peter Limmer is a skiing institution, and his shop a hangout for the optimistic amateurs who look for snow in October, and the inscrutable professionals, who may do so but don't show it.
Shoe and bootmaking is a Limmer family tradition. Both Peter's and his wife's fathers were shoemakers, and the present family boasts innumerable shoemaking uncles. He was one of twelve brothers and two unfortunate sisters. Unfortunate, because they cost the family 200 marks and considerable fame.
"In Bavaria," says Peter, "the king used to give 100 marks to a family that had seven boys born in a row. Also, the king would be godfather of the seventh boy. My mother had six sons, and when the seventh was coming, they thought it would be a boy, but it turned out to be a girl. So papa said, 'Well mama, I guess we have to try again.'" Unfortunately, the second try resulted in a similar buildup, and a similar let down.
His training in Fachenburg, Bavaria, started at the age of nine, when after school chores in his father's shop were in order. These chores were good experience in more than shoemaking. Rushing the growler for his father, Peter found it expeditions to slip off a hit of the beer that might otherwise have spilled in transit. "In a family of fourteen, anyhow, there never was enough milk for everybody."
"A Little in the Woods"
Peter's apprenticeship was interrupted by his induction into the German Army in the first World War. Sent to the Eastern front, he was captured by the Russians and spent three years in various prison camps. At one time, he was in a road gang building a railroad in the Caucasus. "It was very hard work," Peter reminisces, "and I wondered why I should work there if I could never ride on that train. I noticed the guard wasn't looking, so I just moved a little in the woods. Then a little more. It took them three months to fine me again."
After a war Peter's lift was a mixture of shoe and boot making and visits to nearby Roseheim where he courted his wife, alias Mama, alias The Boss. (She denies the last titles). In 1921 Peter was awarded his Meisterbrief and became one of the youngest master shoemakers in Bavaria. But bringing up two children in inflation-ridden Germany was too much of a job on shoemaker's money, so Peter decided, in 1924, to emigrate to the United States where one of his sisters lived.
He worked for a short while in a Boston shoe factory. But then "we saw this empty store," Mama explains, "and a German we met said we should start for ourselves because we had no money and couldn't lose any. So we borrowed $43 to pay the rent on the house and the store and started repairing shoes."
Early financial problems were great, according to both Peter and Mama. "When I got to America, I had $5.50," recalls Peter, "and when I paid the express for my trunk I didn't have anything." Peter, who spoke no English them, went on in the shoe repair business, and gradually turned his trade to bigger and better things. To the shoe repair business was soon added that of shoemaking. The Limmers showed a sample pair of ski boots around, but in 1924 there weren't many skiers in America.
Jump on the Toes
But in 1929 "a fellow named Wolf, and one named Livermore, and one named Wheelright came around and saw the ski boots. These follows saw the box toe and jumped on it to see if it would bend in. But you could run a truck over those toes and they wouldn't cave in, so they bought the boots." At the point the Limmer ski boot business started.