Today my daughter was complaining about the heels on her new boots wearing out. They don’t make anything like they used to. It took her a long time to find a pair she liked and now they weren’t even going to last throughout the winter. Then it occurred to me that there was a shoemaker/repair store where I used to live. The old man in there used to take care of all the shoes in my family as I was growing up. Every new pair of shoes found its way there to have taps placed on the toe an heel so the shoes would last longer. The shoemaker repaired the heels and soles of many of my father’s shoes over the years. As we got closer to the location of the store, I saw it wasn’t there any more. Well, that wasn’t a big surprise, but it was disappointing. The art of repairing shoes is old world and doesn’t fit in with our wasteful mentality of throwing everything out after a little wear or if it is out of style. Suddenly, my husband announces that he remembers seeing a shoe repair place in our neighborhood a few blocks from our house.
My daughter and I enter the store, the boots still on her feet. It was like stepping into a time machine and being sent back in time 150 years. Everywhere you looked there are old, used shoes and up on the wall were the famous “orange” tickets you get when you drop a pair off a pair of shoes for repair. Overhead we see a sign, shoes repaired while you wait. The old man comes out and asks if he can help us. He is definitely an immigrant from some European country. A very old radio is blasting news in a foreign language. I tell my daughter to take off her boot and show him the worn and damaged heel. He points to the sole and with a look of disgust says, this is too thin! I take a look and see it is far too thin and with a few more wears will probably have a hole in it. For $22 he will fix both heels and both soles. I agree and we wait while he takes both boots to the back to work on them for 30 minutes. Out he comes with the finished boots and just as I remembered the other shoemaker doing, he turns both boots over for us to examine the quality of his craftsmanship. They are better than new now. But still, it irks me that they had to be repaired so soon and they weren’t worth the money she paid for them.
I had forgotten about that little store we visited years ago. It’s too bad that this shoe repairing craft will soon be extinct. There will no longer be shoe repair shops with little old men, with foreign accents, who bring old shoes back to life. I was glad my daughter got to see the inside of his store and hear my stories of the past. It was a little glimpse for her into the world from where my parents and I came many years ago.