by Tim Soles
This article was originally published in the August 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
I know hardly anything about my grandfather, Thomas Sole.
We had managed to find his birth, marriage and death dates, and more recently Bob Sheldon found his World War I record. This showed that he only served for a year and was then discharged on medical grounds.
My grandfather had died before I was born and I do not even know what he looked like; there are no surviving photographs as far as I know. To know so little about such a key person in my family line leaves a void that I am unlikely to be able to fill.
Recently, my mother joined us for Sunday lunch and she was describing her recent success at the local flower club. The theme had been ‘Out of the Attic’. My mother can no longer climb the loft ladder, so she had rummaged around in the old tin chest in the garage. “I found the old last that grandfather Sole used to earn a living when he was invalided out of the army. He had a bad leg, but earned money as a boot repairer in his village.” My mother was pleased to tell us that using the last, she had won first prize in the flower competition.
This hit me like a bolt out of the blue. When I was a child I remember my father using the last to repair shoes, but I had no idea that it was one of his father’s possessions.
Quite unexpectedly, I now have access to a tool that my grandfather would have used on a daily basis to earn a living. Strange how these things turn up! One day it will be mine - I wonder what I’ll do with it?
Just in case you are still wondering: this is a heavy metal last with 3 different shoe-sized faces. You can just about see the large shoe shape at the front of the flower display above. The shoes or boots would be put over the last to be hammered or worked on.
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