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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • VINTAGE ALASKA, c. 1920s

Sole Proprietor: 1938

Sole Proprietor: 1938

New York, 1938. "Shoe repair establishment on East 63rd Street." Medium format acetate negative by Sheldon Dick for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

 

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Kudos to cobblers!

and tailors, and computer repair-persons. And everybody who keeps things functioning and not going to the dump.

Catching New Heels

When I was a lad and hadn't outgrown my shoes a trip to the cobbler was made when the heels ran down. Mom always made sure I got some new Cat's Paw brand heels. The cobbler was a master craftsman long ago.

Wings on his heels

I wonder if there's a canary or a budgie in the birdcage; I can't really tell. If so, I'll wager it was permanently high from the fumes even though it never flew out of that tiny cage. Maybe the open door helped with ventilation in clement weather.

As others have commented, I can smell that place from eighty-plus years away. We have a tiny cobbler shop in our town. The proprietor is a curmudgeon but works wonders with leather; recently he fixed the zipper on my beloved leather cross-body bag and made it better than new. Kudos to cobblers.

A photographic memory

Although it was many decades ago, for me this photo recalls the mixture of leather, glue and polish scents and the sounds of grinding and buffing I remember from Eckstein's Shoe Repair on Main Street in my home town.

They are still in business and at the same address, too!

Fewer and fewer

I reached my maximum foot size a good five years before attaining my adult height, so my shoes could be repaired by the time I was 12 without fear that I would outgrow them in a month or two. Replacement heels, half soles, and other cobbler's measures kept the sturdy products of Endicott and Johnson City in service until the uppers themselves disintegrated and forced my mother and me back to a shoe store. (And yes, to the X-ray machine that permitted victim, victim's mother, and salesman to ensure that there was plenty of room to wiggle one's toes; aside from feet that still glow in the dark, no ill effects).

Now, even three figure shoes seem to be made of paper-thin hides and few are cost-effective to repair, even if one can find a repair shop handy to one's residence or work. In many places, it's easier to find replacement wicks for kerosene lamps than a craftsman who can put new soles on Junior's brogans.

Now, I think I'll go outside and yell at a cloud!

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