RANGER AGAINST WAR: For Want of a Nail <

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

For Want of a Nail

--Old Shoes, Van Gogh (1887)
Oh, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be.
The old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be,
Many long years ago

I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you
In worn out shoes
--Mr. Bojangles, Jerry Jeff Walker
Uh-oh! I'm getting.. Happy Feet!
See, every once in a while that happens,
I have no control over it.
Sorry. Okay. We're moving along now
--Steve Martin, SNL
Ranger likes his 18 year-old Florsheims, and not being a spendthrift happily gave them over to his local cobbler when his soles became unhinged from the body (of the shoes). This is a sad tale of a sole for which there is no redemption.

Nick Camechis, the second-generation proprietor of Capitol Shoe Fixery, broke the bad news. The shoes were built on the cusp of Florsheim's conversion to a plastic insole -- one which disallows nailing. The shoe company has joined its fellows in the age of planned obsolescence.

Florsheims no longer have leather insoles, the sort with sturdy nail construction, soles which allow for re-soling. A shoe which allows the wearer to establish a comfortable familiarity with the product. A shoe with which one can carry on a long-term relationship. Now, like so much else, shoes are disposable.

Nick said, "There's nothing substantial holding these shoes together." This little slice of life is indicative of society in general: Everything is slap-dash, held together by glue, lacking nails and real staying power.
We are happy to have these cheap shoes, and no longer expect quality.

According to Nick, in the 1930's there were over 130,000 cobbler shops in the U.S. Compare that with a paltry 7,000 in 2009. Today, there are 3 cobblers in Tallahassee.

So here is a craft industry that provided jobs to many Americans, which is fast becoming obsolete. Like so many of our household items, shoes are now cheap and roughly-made, so why fix them? U.S. citizens no longer demand craftsmanship -- cheap garbage is the watchword, as long as it will do, for a while.

It is upon this
philosophy we have built Walmart lives. More is better, not better is better. Hence our lust for more square footage of particle board houses which will begin their decay soon after the mortgage is signed. Gone are the days of reasonably-sized craftsman houses worthy of the name. Just Super-Size Me, thanks.

Ranger is waxing nostalgic, viewing America as something no longer recognizable to him. Things are made to be tossed. This may be the fate of all creations of man, but the cycle seems to be shortening.

We wonder how long our glue is gonna hold.

Note: I just discovered photographer friend Zoriah did a feature on recycling in Cuba, which is an eloquent counterpoint to our disposable lifestyles. It is worth a look:



Anonymous Anonymous said...

These figures on the distribution of wealth 2004 sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board's, 'Study of consumer finances' says it all. The top 10% of Americans own 71% of the nations wealth. The bottom 40% owns .2% of our nations wealth and that figure is decreasing.

Kevin Phillip's book "Wealth and Democracy" and 'Bad Money', his latest book, make for brilliant and sober reading. I caught an interview of Kevin Philips on Bill Moyers and bought his book the next day. I'm on the third reading. While the media and White house are singing 'Green Shoots' and 'happy day's' the reality of our staggering National Debt and the downward spiral of the value of dollar will cause this country to become unglued faster than a chinese flip flop.

I wish I could find some humor in this, but I have children and grandchildren. What future do they have? It's instructive to look at the Weimar Republic in the 20's after the Great War. Most of you know what that led to 16 years later.

I'm waiting for the next 'Messiah' or for the next shipment of chinese glue.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 4:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Underground Carpenter said...

Hi Jim,
This whole "division of labor" thing has ruined us. When we were responsible for our own protection, we didn't need police. When we grew our own food, we didn't need supermarkets. Now that we can't or won't do anything for ourselves, we're at the mercy of people who will, and they know it. My advice is to raise a cow, butcher it for its leather, and make your own shoes. Oh, and invite me over for hamburgers.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 8:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Marc said...

Just cue up the Styx song "The Grand Illusion", and you've got the rant about America's superficiality set to music - from way back in 1977. Thirty two years later and we are still deluding ourselves.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 9:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous barcalounger said...


Get yourself some Red Wing shoes. This is straight from the FAQ at the redwingshoes.com site:

"Q: Can my Red Wings be repaired or resoled?
A: Absolutely! Take them back to your local Red Wing retailer or Shoe Repair shop. Most Red Wings can be resoled, too, especially if the upper part of the boot has been well maintained."

Made in America, too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 9:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger HopeSpringsATurtle said...

Interesting Ranger you took the cobbler tact, and I couldn't agree more about the disposabilty and planned obsolescence which has become the norm, but I'm here to spread a little hope...I actually have a friend who runs the only cobbler school in the US, The Shoe College, Université des Chaussures. So keep the faith my brother, there are lights in the darkness that has descended upon our lives.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 10:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger HopeSpringsATurtle said...

And then theres's always MUSIC to cheer our spirits: THE WANT OF A NAIL

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 11:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a pair of vintage pair of leather soled Florsheims never worn. No reason to worry, send me your shoe size and a shipping address. If they don't fit, or your too attached to your old ones, feel free to graft the new one's on. I'm sure your cobbler has a few tricks up his sleeve. A blog is a wonderful thing.......

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 5:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Thanks for the Kevin Phillips recommendation -- sounds like we'd all benefit by a read.

My shoes size is rare: 12.5 A. If you've got it, book me on Dancing With the Stars, as I'll be stylin' in new shoes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 11:16:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12.5 A? Rare? Is the A for Angstroms? If it is my 9 1/2 D's might work. I suggest you have your cobbler cut the soles of each shoe lengthwise and then have the leather stretched under an atomic microscope. That way you'll have a back up pair. Should be good for another 36 years of 'popping your toes'. Though a cobbler might hard to find in 2045....Keep me posted...


Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 3:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

born to consume.....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 5:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Always sobering. Makes me wanna cry and laugh at the same time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 6:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hadn't thought of a particular cobbler's shop in decades. It sat in the corner of a building next to a bridge that spans the Monongahela River. Many years ago that cobbler closed up shop and left. I remember him telling me about it then, in the late 60s, this throw away society that he saw on the horizon. A society that he saw in the soles of shoes. That cobbler, my uncle John, was one of the early departures from a town on the verge of a mass exodus. I'm in possesion of an early 20th century pedal sewing machine. It belonged to my/our grandmother. I came to have all of the working parts from the similar machine of the last tailor shop to depart that same once proud town that lays dying on the banks of a river that carried this country into industrial prosperity.

Like the machines and skills of repair that are decaying so is our society. Tort reform has lessened even the worth of a man. No longer a valued component of the work force. Now a predetermined and calculated cost of doing business. Massive amounts of research has been done to calculate how many men will be killed in industrial accidents. With tort reform in Texas the cost to kill a man in the name of a profitable plant process is 3 million dollars. That is the cap on a pay off to the survivors of an employee if they are killed on the job. Let's say a company has determined that they'll have 3 people killed on the job every 10 years based on their historical data. So all they have to do is bank 9 million and their costs are covered. Now they can lay off 3 lawyers, 3 legal aides, 3 admin assistants,1 IT person, god knows how many safety people, save on administrative costs for those employees as well as matchiing 401k accounts and retirement. Throw in the medical benefits they save. I'll bet even a conservative estimate of all of that will be a savings of close to 20 million. What accountability do the managers, owners and board of directors have? What deterent to unsafe business processes are there for these greed mongers? None.

"North, south, east, west
Kill the best and buy the rest,
It's just spend a buck to make a buck,
Nobody really gives a flying f**k about the people in misery...
...and they call it democracy."
Bruce Cockburn

Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 9:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Dear Turtle,

Thank you for bringing the Good News. If someone lights a candle every time. . . there is hope.

(As a peculiar aside: a friend once thought I might be her reincarnated cobbler grandfather. And I do happen to have a great appreciation for well-made footwear.)

Friday, October 9, 2009 at 9:52:00 PM GMT-5  

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