Wednesday 29 October 2014

Bright’s Shoe Repair

My parents grew up with parents that lived during the depression and consequently they learned the value of a dollar saved. What that meant for me was a lecture anytime I asked for money to buy candy. It meant that I would wear the clothes that my brother grew out of and when a hole would appear in my pants, they were patched. Our shoes would have extra life added to them when the shoemaker put on either hard rubber or steel “cleats” on the heel and toes.
The rubber ones were okay, but the steel ones were very slippery on tile floors but made me feel like Fred Astair. If the sole wore out, we would take the shoes in and have a new one put on. It was much cheaper to put a sole on rather than buy a new pair of shoes. It was also much easier than breaking a new pair of leather shoes in.
When I was working at the Post Office, I found a pair of shoes that were just perfect for the spring/summer/fall. They were black, leather, lace ups with an oil resistant, thick sole which were light enough for walking and heavy enough to let the dogs know you meant business. By the end of the season, they would be pretty much worn down and once the snow started to fall and I switched to boots, I would take them into the shoe repair guy and have new soles and heels put on them for the coming spring. I always took them to Bright’s Shoe Repair which was located at my local plaza. A week or so after dropping them off, I would pick them up, pay $15 or $20 and have what amounted to a new pair of shoes. He would shine them and add dye to blend the new rubber with the old. They had an odd blend of new and old shoe smell to them.
Eventually, he couldn’t add a new sole any more and I would have to buy a new pair of shoes every five or six years. I had been doing this for about twenty years when it became impossible to find my shoes any more. I guess they didn’t fit the current fashion sense. The price of shoes had also come way down due to cheap foreign imports. Canada stopped putting tariffs on imported shoes which effectively killed the home grown shoe market, putting thousands of people out of jobs. I switched to light hikers at work and although they couldn’t be repaired, they were light and lasted a couple of years.

I stopped going to Bright’s just because there was nothing he could do for me. Louise would take in a leather purse to be repaired every now and then, but you couldn’t say that we were very good customers. Just about eight or ten years ago, I noticed that the shoe repair was closed due to illness. When I asked around, it turned out that the old guy had a pretty serious heart attack. He came back to work a couple of months later, but when I walked by he never did look very healthy.

I guess all of his customers were like Louise and I, it was cheaper to buy new than to repair the old. Well, today when I was walking past the shop, it was virtually empty, just a few boxes here and there. Mr. Bright was loading the last plastic bin on a dolly to take to his car I suppose. He has earned a restful retirement, but I can’t help but think he would rather keep working if there was work to be had. He is a victim of cheap Asian shoes and cheap Canadian consumers that would rather buy new than have the old shoes repaired.

The shoe repair shop is disappearing like the milkman, payphone, the ice wagon, the bread man, the knife sharpeners and soon the postman. Progress I suppose…


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