Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Treasures From the Past

Today I'll start off by telling you a little bit about my grandfather--this is my dad's dad. Grandpa was a small, Italian guy with a loud voice, hair sticking out of his ears, and gnarled, callused hands. Grandma was a plump, Italian gal who loved to cook for her husband and her four sons. Both of their parents immigrated to America. Like many first generation Americans, I think both English and their parents' native language was spoken at home, so my grandparents both had slight accents and could speak some Italian--I suspect, though, that it was mostly swear words! My grandfather worked all of his life as a shoe repairman. When I was very young, I vaguely remember his little shop downtown. He drove a huge salmon pink Cadillac with tail fins--boy was he proud of that baby! When he "retired," he closed his shop and moved all of his equipment into his garage where he continued to repair shoes for several years. I remember the sound of the machine running and the smell of grease and hot rubber. I couldn't tell you what the machine was precisely, but I recall a long metal rod that rotated and had various wheels, discs, and brushes attached to it; the machine did things like buff, polish, and grind. We weren't allowed in the garage when the machine was on--it wasn't safe for us kids. And when the machine wasn't on, more than likely the garage was locked up, so we rarely got to see everything up close. I also recall my grandpa had an industrial treadle sewing machine for stitching leather shoes--I don't know what happened to that, but I wish I did! At one time my mom wanted it, but when my grandfather finally retired for good, I think it was either sold with his other equipment or given to another relative.

When I would occasionally stay with my grandparents, I remember customers would come by to drop off and pick up shoes. Most of my grandpa's loyal customers consisted of other members of the Italian American community and priests and nuns from the Catholic church. Back then nuns still wore full habits. My only exposure to religion having been occasional visits to the Episcopal church, the sight of those nuns walking up the driveway, bringing their shoes for my grandpa to fix, made quite an impression on me.

So why am I telling you all this about my grandfather? Well, when he finally retired for good, my mom asked him for a pair of ladies boots he'd displayed in the window of his storefront for years. The story goes that a woman had brought her shoes in for repair and never returned for them. My mom asked Grandpa for those boots, and I remember she was as excited about receiving them as I am with the Featherweight! The boots were white leather, and my mom didn't like the color, although she loved the style and age of them. One day, she spray painted them gold and eventually displayed them in a decorative basket. Now those gold boots belong to me.

Here's the thing, though. I'm not a metallic kind of gal. I like the boots a lot, but the gold is a little much. So what I'm wondering is, what can I do to change that or tone it down? Do any of you have any ideas? Although the gold paint hasn't made them too stiff or cracked, I think another coat of anything might ruin them. I'm wondering whether I could take some brown shoe polish and rub it in to tone down that gold. Any ideas you might have would be greatly appreciated!

I've spent most of the evening trying to catch up on blog reading--my list has grown long lately! It seems like no one posts for DAAAAAAYZ and then all of a sudden, everyone has a new post for me to read! LOL! I didn't have enough time to leave comments, but I hope to get back to visit again soon! Happy quilting!


Carole said...

If you could find a cobbler, s/he would be able to change the colour for you. Unfortunately, in a "disposable" society, they are few and far in between. You definately do not want to use regular paint. A specialized shoe shoe dye would be ideal. Good luck with those boots! They are nice! I can see myself wearing those but in black! What a lot of fun goodies you received!

Connie said...

I can't offer advice on how to change the color, but I wanted to stop by to say what a unique find your have there. I notice how narrow they are made as were most or all shoes many years ago. Feet must have been narrower then, do you think? In fact, all clothing seemed to have been made with slimmer & narrower cuts. I am wondering how you are going to display the boots? any ideas yet?