Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fellow Sociologist and Great Neighbor -- Peter Bug

Image from Washington Post
The Washington Post recently had an article about our great neighbor and fellow Ward 6 sociologist, John "Peter Bug" Matthews. He has been teaching shoe repair in Spingarn High School, and his program is being moved to the newly reopened Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School. Many Arthur Capper Public Housing residents went to Phelps, where they learned shoe repair and other vocational skills decades ago. 

The article focused on his work teaching shoe repair, but this Destiny-Pride, Inc. interview examines his contributions to DC more broadly. As I discussed before, here are some items particularly relevant to this blog:
  • Mr. Matthews is a fifth generation DC resident, an alumnus of Tyler Elementary School, and a great community organizer. 
  • Mr. Matthews has a degree in sociology and anthropology from Federal City College, which opened its doors in 1968 and later became part of UDC.
  • Mr. Matthews worked alongside his college friend Carroll "Skeezie" Payne helping kids at Potomac Gardens and at Tyler. As part of the Roving Leaders Program, they sought to engage at-risk youth in constructive activities. This 1989 Post article talks about Potomac Gardens children spending "large chunks of their time visiting with Carroll (Skeezie) Payne, a city housing worker who has become an ex-officio grandfather to many of the youngsters in the project." Mr. Matthews did a lot of work organizing residents of Potomac Gardens, Arthur Capper, and other public housing in Ward 6.
  • Mr. Matthews nearly founded a shoe manufacturing company for Timberland in the area, which only required matching funds that the DC government failed to provide. The failure of this project "was one of the tragedies of the dream that we thought we were going to fulfill." 
He and his colleagues at Peter Bug Shoe Repair Academy (at 13th and E St SE) can repair any kind of shoe, even shoes that you thought could never be repaired. Also, their shop is so pleasant. You might also make it in time to get some BBQ right off the grill. Bring your shoes to Peter Bug!


  1. One of the joys of living near the corner of 13th & E, Peter Bug's hang, is that sometimes, on a summer evening, the men there will sing in harmony. It hasn't happened in a while but hopefully, it will again soon.

  2. This is wonderful. Yes, men's singing groups were quite the tradition on the hill. Our neighbor Terry Huff got his start singing at 15th and Independence.

  3. Peterbug joins a small group of people honored by his community - by having a street named after him while he's still alive. You may have heard of the right way and the wrong way, well now you're hearing about the "Peterbug Matthews Way".


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