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My Blog

The Leprechaun in our Neighborhoods

Good morning to all.  Hope your hump day proves to be a good one.  As I look out my window...once again the ground is covered in powder.  SNOW....please go away....I so enjoyed the twittering yesterday on the window sill bird feeder, where today there is silence...and birds heads are covered with snow.  I must say, I did have to chuckle a bit at the site.  Poor little things! 

Well, today's blog is about Leprechauns.  Since this is the week of St. Patty, I was rehearsing some of my Irish stories for an upcoming performance and read the description of a Leprechaun.  It is a short male fairy who is the keeper of the pot of gold.  He spends his days cobbling shoes.  Well, I must say, I may have never met a Leprechaun...but it took me back in time to when I was growing up in Chicago. 

I lived in a neighborhood of Chicago called Cragin.  Chicago is so very large that they subdivided areas and called them by names.  Well, in the area that I lived, there was a store called the Shoe Repair.  Made me stop and think about how different things are today versus years ago.  We didn't have the amounts of shoes like we have in our closets today.  You were fortunate enough to have a good pair of Sunday shoes, a good pair of work or everyday shoes and a good pair of sneakers.  They weren't disposable either.  When you had a pair of shoes whose heel had worn down...you took them to the cobbler.  If there was a tear or sole repair...it was magically repaired by the same man.  You would polish your shoes with shoe polish...even if you were female.  I can recall that my mother wore a heavy pair of white work shoes, touch and strong for the need to be on her feet all day.  when she returned home each day...the first thing that happened once she removed them from her feet was that my Grandmother took the shoes over to the sink, cleaned them up with soap and water and then applied white shoe polish over them and set them on newspapers to dry and be ready for the next day. 
On Long ave., right across from St. Stanislaus B & M, there was a Shoe Repair shop. 
I remember walking to the Shoe Repair with a pair of shoes to be fixed. When you walked into the shop, the first thing that you noticed was the smell of leather, and the walls were a dark shade of green.  I would instantly see the cobbler with his apron tied on  hammering away at the iron lift that had a shoe form on the top.  He would set down his tools and walk over to help us.  You needed to leave you shoes with him and get a ticket and the day that you would return to pick them up.  There was never an instant fix!  If a Leprechaun has magic...or keeps the pot of gold...back in my youth...I guess he would have been the shoe maker. 
I remember as well, that the best known shoes to be had came from Florsheim shoes.  The factory was at Belmont and Pulaski in Chicago.  They cost a lot of money...but were known as the best shoe to be found. 
 Florsheim & co. was founded in 1892 by Milton S. Florsheim. He and his father Sigmund Florsheim made the first shoes in Chicago.
The company helped people who wanted to sell the shoes around the country, so many small towns had stores selling Florsheim.
Eventually, some cities had stores owned by and selling only Florsheim. By 1930, Florsheim was making women's shoes and had five Chicago factories and 2500 employees, with 71 stores partly or entirely company-owned and 9000 stores around the United States selling Florsheims. 
The factory was huge and I remember it well since I went to the high school right across the street. 
Back in those days, there were around 75,000 shoe repair stores in existence compared to the mere 7,000 that are around today. 
Well, I guess there are less and less cobblers because there are less and less people who believe in the magic of restoration.    I know that today...it is easier to buy 10 pairs of shoes at $15.00 each than to buy one at $100.00.  I remember that that we followed the before and after memorial day code as to what shoe to wear...no white until memorial day and never after labor day.  That was the choice...not which shade or hue...it was black and white.  The only time that a color ever came into existence was to have a shoe dyed for a wedding...and that was a BIG deal! 
Not only did the cobbler know how to fix your shoes...but they also could repair your purse as well.  Need a new zipper or clasp..off to the cobbler you went. 
 How we have changed our ways today. We are most certainly a disposable community.  I sit and wonder what the memories will be 50 years from now for our younger generations.  I suppose the drive to the mall and the 30 pairs of shoes in the closet.  They spend a lot of money these days on shoes these days that are tossed after the trend is over...which usually a season away from when they were purchased.  I guess the Leprechaun is off somewhere else with his pot of gold.  He doesn't need to worry about any of us looking for it...we seem to throw money away quite easily these days. 



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