January 6, 2014 § 4 Comments
As the daughter of a shoe salesman and granddaughter of a shoemaker my love of shoes and fashion began early. Growing up there was always a copy of Footwear News on the kitchen table. My father had a home office with shelves of women’s shoes and handbags (one of a kind) and our garage was filled with shoemaker tools from my grandfather’s days in the factory.
My grandfather Benjamin Benjamin, born in England was the oldest of 8 children. He was 12 when both his parents died. His mother first in childbirth, then 10 weeks later his father.
Some say from a broken heart, but the truth was he was a sick man and had 8 children to take care of.
My grandfather’s own words. When I was 12 I sat down with a tape recorder every Sunday when he would come over for dinner and asked him about his life. He told me about his grim childhood and early success in America. When his parents died he had to quit school. With the help of The Jewish Board of Guardians (a chartable organization) he was able to get an apprenticeship in a shoe factory in London. He stayed there 5 years and learned the trade. He spent 6 months to a year in each department.
He never really lost his East London accent.
Because shoe factory is all different kinds of departments, there’s the cutting, there’s fitting, what they call the stitching the uppers. There all trades in itself, you see?…And then after the uppers are made, there’s what they call rough stuff, that is cutting the soles, the insoles, the counters and things like that. That’s the rough stuff department and from that you had the lasting department where the shoes were lasted because you had the insoles, the soles were all ready, then after that was the heeling department and then there was the finishing department, see? A lot of departments, and it was a very good thing I got all that information. It was very good for me after I came to this country…It did me good.