Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Industrialists Vs. The Cobblers -- Part 3

[This could very well be my last "The Industrialists Vs. The Cobblers" post. I probably didn't need to write it, but I sincerely believe that any series ought to have at least three installments.]

One of the place to see the cobbler's work, how they plied their trade, back in the days when it was a matter of ply and demand, is to visit an old time museum.

Of course most of the old time shoes have been discarded from people's homes. Way back when they weren't "old time" shoes yet, nobody had any sentimental (or collector's) value attached to them. They'd wear out to the point that the sole would be flapping and your feet would hang out the bottom. By the time they worked up to your knee you were tired of them, and so out they'd go.

I remember Grandma used to put the old worn out shoes under the posts of beds to keep the beds from working their way across the room. Why a bed would be moving around the room if all you did was slept in it would be anyone's guess. But since new family members were periodically born, it could've been that they were doing more than sleeping.

Then we had all the world wars of the 20th century, and along with them the "drives," getting all the old rags, bottles, and shoe leather for the war effort. So that was where a lot of our old time cobbled shoes went. They're floating around the Pacific Ocean somewhere, or maybe they're buried in Europe, like under the boot of Italy.

Anyone with any patriotism at all gladly sent their old shoes to war and would not withhold as much as a sneaker. But there were a few who were unpatriotic, who kept their shoes, or maybe they were too lazy to look for them when the call went out. So their shoes were the ones that remained, with a small percentage of these eventually finding their way to museums. Think about that, if it wasn't for these few deadbeats, we wouldn't have museums today!

Anyway, to see the old time shoes, the ones the cobblers came up with way back in the day, you go to a museum. And you see the way it was, no two pair of shoes the same. And they had some really quaint styles back then, because a cobbler might get up in a bad mood one day and just make a bunch of tiny tight shoes, like for women. Or he might be going through a 'wood period' and make them out of wood!

To make a pair of shoes back then was a real experience. They'd start out with a piece of leather that looked like a pizza crust, always in a weird shape, kind of like an elephant ear. Then he'd mark out the places where the holes would be, the laces, the stitching, the little slot for the penny if they were penny-loafers, and so forth.

It'd be interesting, I think, to have been a cobbler. I can imagine myself coming up with some innovations, like little pouches of polish built in, connected to a model car motor and the laces. Then when you tied your shoes they'd automatically polish themselves! It wouldn't entirely put shoe polish guys out of business, because they could provide a filling station service for the pouches, and, going the whole nine yards, rotate your shoes for you every 50 miles.

But the industrial powers came along and took away all this heritage, and that's what we're lamenting.

Let's say we had another world war today, and we needed to send our old shoes. They'd never make it, being made out of plastic and some kind of cork board. Even the 'wooden' shoes are made out of that particulate stuff that Walmart uses to make their furniture. Peel off the veneer and the whole thing falls apart like Cream of Wheat! So the industrialists are making us less safe if we were to have a war.

A lot of the "progress" we've made ... really sucks.

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