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Western News

One of a dying breed

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com
Thursday, August 16, 2012

FALMOUTH, Trelawny — For more than 30 years Broderick Bennett, better know as 'Broadie' has been repairing shoes at a small shop located on a section of Georges Street in Falmouth.

A skill he has honed under the watchful eyes of his father, Joseph— who died two years ago at the age of 86— Broadie is now worried that the craft is facing extinction.

"The trade is a dying one because nobody don't want to come into it and I can't be in it forever," bemoaned Bennett, a graduate of the Montego Bay Technical School, now St James High.

"The young boys don't want to get the trade. They say it is old people work. Even my four sons, they don't love it. They are into the music, computer business and merchandise work".

He was, however, quick to note that there is always a demand for the practice although it is seemingly fading into oblivion due to the seemingly lack of interest of persons wanting to learn the trade.

The popular shoe repairer said however, that it has been fulfilling for him to be able to repair shoes for hundreds of persons over the years, despite the challenges that come with the job.

Among the challenges he noted, is the poor quality of material available on the market to repair footwear.

"In some instances due to the substandard stuff, shoemakers are faced with charges of shoddy service by customers so I am asking the merchandisers to sell better quality material because when we buy it they are not sturdy enough and we the workmen get the blame," he explained.

Another major challenge he articulated is the unhygienic state of some of the shoes that are brought in for repairs.

"Sometimes the shoes you get to fix....... just the scent alone turn you off... but I guess that is why people make soap and rag to wash off some of the scent from your hands," he said, with a broad smile.

"And we can't work with gloves in the trade, we have to use our hands to work on the shoes".

He told the Observer West that over the years the practice of some customers leaving their shoes without a down payment has forced many persons to believe that he in not punctual in the completion of jobs.

Pointing out that the vast majority of his clientele, are women who customarily seek his service to tip and or tack their footwear, Broadie noted that men are more inclined to return for their shoes, ostensibly because they are more expensive.

Consequently, he said, unclaimed women's shoes mostly account for the conspicuous towering pile at his workplace.

But inspite of this Broadie is not in a hurry to part company with the escalating heap, which he said has helped to market the business he has inherited from his father, who spent 67 years repairing shoes.

"Some of them (unclaimed shoes) are from my father's days but he used to instruct me not to throw out all the shoes because you must always have shoes so when a man pass him can say it is a shoemaker shop. Him don't have to guess what kind a work done in the shop," Broadie reasoned.

Broadie's workplace on George's Street, in Trelawny capital, Falmouth, is not only reserved for the repair of footwear.

It has become a meeting place for persons, including sports enthusiasts who discuss historic and current affairs, a trend which started when his father was alive.

"They always call my father a wise man because whatever people don't know they always come to ask him. He usually possess a lot of knowledge in history, current affairs, sports— anything you want to know you could come to the shop to ask him," he noted. "Whenever there is a sporting event he always have a radio called the 'Mollard' in the shop. At the time not everyone could buy a radio but he bought one and placed it in the shop so a lot of people come there to listen it".

Broadie also recalled that his father purchased a television set which attracted a number of viewers, especially during major sporting events such as World Cup Cricket, World Cup Football and the Olympics.

But, he added that although the tradition of a meeting place has perpetuated following his father's passing, he has since removed the television set, which he said is "a distraction for him," but he has however maintained a radio at the workshop.

" His (the elder Bennett) friends John Garth, Franco, Mr Manley and five others from out of town still come to the shop to sit down to chat as they have been doing for a number of years," Bennett disclosed.

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