The last rubber sandal maker in Thanh
duonghanhnguyen 6-10-2022, 09:13

THANH HOA – Although he can only sell a few pairs of rubber sandals every day, Mr. Le Van Dung still works hard because he wants to keep the fire and memories of the subsidy period.

After breakfast in October, Mr. Le Van Dung, 63, in Ngoc Trao ward, Thanh Hoa city, slowly picked up his tools to start a new working day. The main factory is the family’s living room of more than ten square meters located right on the crowded Quang Trung street.

In the room, in addition to the old set of sofas and chairs, the rest were piles of rubber of all kinds and a rusty cutter that he stowed in the corner of the house. Some items such as knives, chisels, and grinding stones… are stored in a small wooden crate close to the wall.

In front of the porch next to the sidewalk, Mr. Dung displayed a small stall selling hundreds of pairs of rubber sandals of all shapes and sizes, from flip-flops, back-straps, slippers… with many sizes for both children and adults.

The last rubber sandal maker in Thanh
Mr. Le Van Dung used a knife to cut the soles of sandals. Photo: Le Hoang

The only input material to make sandals is the outer part of new heavy truck or airplane tires to ensure the necessary thickness and toughness. Ordinary tires cannot be used because they are quite thin.

Previously, in order to have production materials, Mr. Dung had to go to Hai Phong port or Quang Ninh coal area to buy each waste tire for a small maker to make slippers. There are large tires for dozens of people to carry. Recently, some establishments have preliminarily processed tires into thin sheets, Mr. Dung only needs to order the processed type as he wants, so it is less difficult.

From the large rubber sheets bought, Mr. Dung used a knife to cut them into small pieces according to the appropriate size, then measure according to the size to cut the sole, punch holes and thread the straps. Rubber cutting is the most important and labor-intensive stage.

Sitting on a small chair next to the steps, Mr. Dung used his hand to wriggle the sharp blade along the pencil line drawn first, then cut the excess detail, cut grooves to create friction on the sole of the sandals. The movements of the old worker took place smoothly and decisively. “When cutting, workers need to put their hands with really even force, otherwise the surface of the sandals will form very bad convex streaks …”, he explained.

In addition to the tire phase, another complicated step is to put on the sandals. Experienced workers must make the strap so that it is curved enough, smooth and hugs the foot to make the user comfortable. When doing, the worker continuously tries to put the foot on until it feels smooth and fits. The special thing is that, between the strap and the sole of the shoe, there is no need for any adhesive, but it is fixed thanks to the expansion and elasticity of the rubber.

Every few tens of minutes, Mr. Dung completes a pair of beautiful sandals. Carefully bringing it up to eye level, he lowered it again to fix the unsatisfactory place until it was complete and put it on the shelf. “Making tire sandals at first glance seems simple, but to get products that meet the criteria of beautiful, smooth feet, not everyone can do it,” he said.

Mr. Dung said, more than half a century ago, along the route 1A, the section through his house, called Ba Dinh sub-area, there were hundreds of families specializing in the production of sandals and tires. He did not know where this profession was introduced from, only knowing that growing up, there were many people practicing in the neighborhood. At the age of 12-13, he was proficient in making slippers, but it was not until the 1980s, after completing his youth volunteer service, returning to his hometown to get married, that he chose to make rubber sandals for a living.

From 1990 to 2000, the profession of making rubber sandals was popular and easy to make money. Every month, Mr. Dung’s family factory sells thousands of pairs of slippers throughout the country, exporting to Laos and Cambodia… At peak times, his family had to hire 5-7 more workers as auxiliary workers, which was not enough. delivered to the customer.

“In those days, this type of sandal was very popular because of its durability, cheap price, not waterproof, but the materials are also easy to find…”, he said and said that the favorable business and production made Ba Dinh neighborhood. The 90s of the last century were very busy.

Thanks to making rubber slippers, Mr. Dung is able to support his family life and raise his children to school. However, after only a few years, footwear products are increasingly diverse in terms of materials and designs, and rubber sandals gradually no longer have a place in the market. The whole old Ba Dinh sub-area (now Quang Trung street) only had him making slippers. Neither of his two sons followed his profession.

A pair of finished sandals Mr. Dung has just completed. Photo: Le Hoang

“Two-thirds of my life revolves around the profession, sometimes it’s good and bad as a rule. Now I have nothing to lose, but the passion is still there, my age is also old, so I will stick with this job until the end of time. If you don’t have health, that’s it,” he said.

The old worker who shared rubber sandals with him was full of memories of the subsidy period and the years of war and bombs. “The tire sandals have accompanied generations of ancestors during the two long wars of resistance and even in the later years of subsidies, when the country was still in trouble. It will forever be a legendary souvenir of the nation,” he said. talk.

Currently, due to the narrow market, the store can only sell a few pairs of sandals every day, Mr. Dung also produces in moderation, only making 20-30 pairs. Depending on the style and size of children’s slippers, he sells 20,000-50,000 VND/pair, while adult sandals are 100,000-120,000 VND/pair. Mainly making slippers, but sometimes he still makes gaskets, rubber cushions, truck shock absorbers, leather seat linings, elastic bands…

In addition to the traditional sandals, he created many new designs to meet the tastes of customers. “Now some people wear sandals, but I just keep doing it as a profession. Anyone who likes it can buy it, no need to advertise…”, he said.

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