Interview: Monique Provost-Chatigny
Post-production: Gabriel Laprade
Still in his brown rocking chair, Marcel Charron speaks movingly of his trade as a cobbler. At one point, he takes a green wooden cobbler’s knife out of his shirt pocket and shows it to the camera. It is the very knife his father used when he worked as a cobbler.
Those that work the shoe over there, in tailoring we called it, the tailors…. It takes a guy that knows his trade. The one who was foreman, the tailor boss, he had to understand leather because, let’s say we’re gonna make shoes, in lots of 15 pairs, 30 pairs. And then, come a point, a girl, for one reason or another, goes to stich then goes straight through, so then, there’s something missing. So, you gotta go get the tailors to make more leather, but they have to use the same leather, for sure. There’s bundles of leather, but you know, you gotta find (the right one) so the pair matches.
To do those jobs, you know, you didn’t just waltz in and they didn’t dump you in there on your first day. Never. You had to get some experience under your belt. They had you do what you’d call easier lots. There was less things to cut. Because you gotta make two shoes that match. When you get a shoe, you gotta look and see if it’s bigger on one side than on the other. It was like that.
That was a tailor’s knife, it was my daddy’s knife. My daddy died young. He used this to trim. There weren’t any of what you call hand clickers. A leather tailor, back then, had to be a guy with a bit of brains, because, for sure all the leather had to be the same. When he tailored, the shoes, he’d do the left side, do the right side, and use the same hide. There might have been 1,000 or 1,500 skins, leather hides. We called them hides. And you know, if he took a different one, the shade could be… if it wasn’t the same black or the same brown…. You know, the guys who did the tailoring, those guys were professionals. When you were a tailor, you’d reached the top of the heap!