Monday, August 26, 2013

those guys that fixed shoes

By now most of you know my dad had polio.  I've written about him here enough.  He lived almost his entire life with braces on both legs.  Dad wore mostly Windsor shoes.  They had to be made to attach to his steel braces.  For a long time the braces were strapped to his legs with little belt-like straps.  In later years the braces were secured with Velcro rather than those little belt buckles.  They were quicker to get on.  He always had to have help getting them on and off and the beginning and end of each day.

If the braces had to be repaired, Dad would often make an overnight trip to Chattanooga where a company there would repair them while dad, mother and myself would kick around town until the repairs were made.  Dad would wear his old back-up leg braces when his good ones were in the shop.  The area dad liked going to shop was a flat area where we didn't have much trouble manipulating his manual wheelchair.  We all enjoyed those trips.  We'd make sure we'd eat at Sportsman's Barbeque and the Baskin Robbins while on Brainerd every trip up there.  It was a trip mind you, so if the trip could be avoided by getting certain repairs locally ~ dad would opt for local.

Every now and then his shoe(s) would need attention.  We'd head to a  local cobbler for that.  There were two in town that I remember in the 1960's and 70's.  There was a little storefront on Wall Street in Alabama City.  There was also Reynold's shoe repair shop on Hoke Street in East Gadsden.  Back then both places looked very much alike.  I don't remember the names of either place, or where they were located exactly.

When I learned to drive I became the family errand boy.  I remember being sent to the shoe shop on Wall Street on several occasions.  Each time I was instructed to deliver the shoe(s) and wait for the repair. Each time my mother had called ahead to tell the repairmen the trouble with Dad's sole.  I can't think of those places without remembering the wonderful thick smell.  Both places were one and the same to me.  Both smelled of leather and glue.  Both establishments were filled with cool old tools that seemed ancient, with interesting machinery that I had no idea how they were operated.  I rarely just sat there.  I would stand and look at those skilled old craftsmen apply their trade.  Those old gents had a young audience with me.

Today I have a good many shoes.  If a pair wears out, I go to a store and buy a new pair. I've never had a need to have a shoe repaired.  If anything ever happened to my nice Windsors, I don't know of anywhere in these parts that I could take them.  I know there are shops around somewhere.   I personally haven't seen one in decades.  Then again, I haven't been looking. 

I'd like to go in one again, watch someone work who knows what he's doing.

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