Museum talk

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Articles from Jack Smith's Show repair shop.

Those of a certain age remember when they only had two pair of shoes - one pair for everyday wear and one pair for Sunday. When the sole became worn, you had them repaired.

I'm sure that every town had a shoe repair shop and Monette was no exception. We had Jasper "Jack" Smith. He had a little shop in front of the theater, then later moved next to where the library is located now. Finally he moved the repair shop to his home on Hogan Street.

Buffalo Island Museum has a corner dedicated to this man and his shop which is a vital part of Monette's history. There is his old bench, tools used to repair the shoes, heel taps, and a most unusual chair. It is said that Mr. Smith made the chair with its twisted wires and wooden seat. He must have had a humorous side because he put boot heels at the bottom of the legs.

Jack Smith would put a new sole or heel on your worn shoes or boots, add taps to the heels, fix your broken purse strap or belt, mend that broken bridle, and re-sew just about anything made of leather. He died in 1989.

The first shoes were made over 40,000 years ago. They were probably nothing more than a piece of plaited grass strapped to the feet. Man needed to protect his feet from the rocks and burning sand. Sandals were the most common footwear in early civilization and were made of a single piece of rawhide that enveloped the foot for warmth and protection.

Shoes changed throughout the ages and became more of a fashion statement than feet protection. Pointed shoes were fashionable in the eleventh to fifteenth centuries. In the sixteenth century in Europe, heels on shoes were always colored red. Six-inch-high heels were worn by the upper class in the seventeenth century, but a servant had to be on each side of the wearer to hold the person up.

Did you know there was no difference between the left and right shoe until the nineteenth century?

Every town had a shoemaker until the mid 1800s, who usually was also the shoe repair man. In 1845 the shoe industry had its first machine which pounded the sole leather. The next year, the sewing machine was invented. The shoemakers began to be replaced with shoe factories.

The cheap vinyl and plastic shoes held together with glue that we have today has almost made the shoe repair man obsolete. In the 1950s there were over 80,000 shoe repair shops in the United States. Now there are less than 7500. Today when our shoes wear out, we just buy another pair. But if you bought a three hundred dollar pair of shoes, you might want to see if you can find a shoe repair man.

Buffalo Island Museum has been closed during the winter months. We re-opened April 4. Hours are 1-4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free. For more information, pictures, and to enter our monthly "guess the artifact" game, check out the museum's Facebook page.

Note: picture ....from Jack Smith's Shoe repair shop

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