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Before they’re gone forever

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1. The town cobbler

This very special little shop is a cultural jewel located in a precinct dominated by greasy spoons and purveyors of cheap imported junk.

Owned and operated by a skilled artisan it has miraculously survived the commercial cannibalism of corporate-owned shopping malls and the proliferation of pretend-cobbler kiosks within them.

Theo’s Shoe Hospital is crammed full of all sorts of interesting leatherworking paraphernalia such as glues, brushes and polishes as well as handbags, watchbands, gun and secateur pouches, dancing and orthopaedic shoes.

In this country which is riding high on the wave of throwaway consumerism, my town, at least for the time being, remains enriched by the daily sounds of a genuine working cobbler and the evocative aromas of his trade.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

2. The Cairns bulk sugar terminal

Opened in 1964 on the banks of Trinity Inlet these enormous sheds have a capacity of 234,000 tonnes of raw sugar.
The facility enabled 30,000 tonne cargo ships to be loaded within 24 hours when previously it took gangs of men weeks to load the same amount of cane sugar packed in jute bags.

It’s future is uncertain.

Several supplying sugar mills have closed down either because of urban sprawl consuming cane-growing land, or mill owners engaging in what they term “corporate and management restructuring”…….a commercially more acceptable way of saying “screw the cane growers, we can make bigger profits elsewhere”.

The Australian Government can also share some of the blame because of it’s appalling indifference to the fate of farmers and the future food security of our nation.
( Ref;   Australia;  The primary industry trollop.)

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

3.  The small town motor garage.

A single picture can bring back a rush of memories.

For this kid who grew up in the 1950’s they include hand-pumping petrol into the glass measuring chamber on top of the bowser before opening the tap to gravity-feed it into the fuel tank of my parent’s Humber Hawk car.

The mechanic/owner, always dressed in grease-smudged green overalls, refueled every car, checked fluid levels and tyre pressures and cleaned the windscreen whilst dispensing all we needed to know about town gossip, road conditions, weather forecasts and football scores.


Just occasionally I begin to feel a little bit nostalgic.

About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

13 responses »

  1. It was damned hard finding a shoe shop for some favorite old ones that could walk no farther without medical help.

    Reviews warned about the family who ran it but I tried them anyway… They did “okay” fixing 2 pair for 50 USD. I thought it were train robbery til I remembered how much I loved those shoes!

    I can’t recommend them but it feels good in my soul (pun intended) to know a family business–esp

    • ack phone cut off my ramble…

      That they still exist in a world like today’s! We grew our own sugar Cain but there were no more mills (wheels) so we didn’t do it the same as Papa. They would “pay” the mill by leaving the molasses (which the miller then sold to ppl who didn’t grow sugar cane).

      • Your phone has no shame cutting you off mid-ramble…..thanks for coming back to complete it. We have had shoes repaired at this shop and the quality of workmanship is excellent and prices reasonable.
        He also sold me some glue (made in the USA) called Shoe Goo to do my own repairs when the sole parts company with the upper part of the shoe. It’s magic.

        Thanks also for the sugar cane story…..interesting and sensible way of doing business.

  2. I still miss so many of the family-owned shops that are gone from town even since I was raising my kids. I get very nostalgic about them, too!

    • There is still one old-fashioned “menswear” shop left too. Most of the others closed their doors soon after outfits like Target opened up here. Oh, and a couple of original men’s barber shops…..most hairdressers these days serve both men and women.

  3. It’s hard to find shoe repair shops out here in Cali as well, for the same reasons you mention, GOF. Sadly, it often costs more to fix a worn-out pair of shoes than buy a new pair. When the zippers fell off my younger daughter’s much-loved boots however, she asked if I could find a cheap shop for her. Dad—hard-nosed, penny-pinching Dad, of course!—took me to a tiny, hole-in-the-wall shop, run by a Chinese man who learned his trade in Hong Kong. For $50 he sewed on the zippers and reinforced the seams, replaced a grommet that had fallen off one boot, and polished them up to look new. My daughter was ecstatic, especially since the repair shop in San Francisco told her the boots were a lost cause. I was astonished that one could still find a craftsman who do such fine work.

    We have a sugar beet factory down the river road from us. The smell of cooking beet used to make me cough, but I strongly associate it with my childhood. Now the owners are talking about shutting it down, because it’s cheaper to ship California-grown sugar beets to China and have them process it. I don’t understand the logic of it at all, especially with all the issues over the safety of food imported from China. But I hope they don’t close it: California was founded on agriculture, but it seems we lose bits of its history little by little because we no longer care where our food comes from.

    • Yep, sadly a whole range of items cost more to repair than to replace with a new one.
      Long live your Chinese shoe repairer.

      How astonishing that raw beet might be sent to China for processing. I know nothing about the sugar content of beet, ( sugar cane has only around 12% ) so I wonder how they justify the cost of shipping your raw beet overseas.

      Sometimes I despair at Australia’s complete disregard for farmers and where our future food supplies are going to come from.

  4. One of the less attractive aspects of “gentrification” is the loss of wonderful enterprises like the shoe repair, the corner store and even the independent pharmacist. It is exciting to live in a neighbourhood which is “improving” but it is sad that it is at the expense of small family businesses. As an area “improves” shop rents increase and these small businesses can not afford to stay. We try to buy from the small guys as often as possible but quite often they are much more expensive than the box store and with every one of my dollars being pretty precious these days it takes some weighing up as whether to support them. Last w/end I “made” the manservant buy milk from the corner store and he came home saying it was nearly a $1 more than CVS (the pharmacy/variety chain store directly across the street). So it’s one of those conundrums, the little guy can’t compete with corporations and if we are serious about budgeting we can’t afford to buy from him – then he goes out of business and we say “gee, I miss that little store” ….

    I have been recording local business signs and shops, in photographs, for nearly 5 years now and it makes an interesting timeline in our little history.

    • Your photographs will provide an interesting historical record.
      We have the same dilemma here with milk too as Coles and Woolies fight against each other for supremacy by reducing the price of basic commodities. The corner shops just can’t compete any more. The only hope I can see is for a resurgence of farmer’s markets and designated low-rental places for skilled tradespeople like cobblers.

  5. Loved the photos. I have never been to Cairns, though Mr FD has many times. Soon, be prepared!

    • Thanks FD. Look forward to it. Just give me a couple of hours notice so I can psyche myself up and dress appropriately for the occasion. 😉

  6. I wish I could “Like” this twice or three times, GOF. I think repair is the future of “eco-friendly”, one clothing shop, Patagonia, has actually encouraged customers to buy only what they need, and have opened a clothing repair service for people so they don’t have to keep buying and spending. Shoe shops, and watch shops, not nearly as popular as they used to be. Who knows, maybe they will make a comeback if enough of us speak up.

    Maybe sugar cane as fuel and material for stuff offers hope as well?

    • Thanks Emmy. There are little signs of hope for the future but we need to support businesses like this.
      Australia is trying ethanol blended fuel (from sugar) but not getting much support from the petroleum industry or the Govt which relies so heavily on income received from fuel taxes.


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