Sandor Sabo was born in a poor village, Novo Milosevo, Yugoslavia. He was taken off the street at age ten and into a bootmaker's workshop, to learn to make himself a pair of shoes as he was barefoot. He remained in the workshop and at age fourteen began a three year apprenticeship. Sandor was the number one champion wrestler of Yugoslavia for ten years, and also played soccer. After working in Yugoslavia as a bootmaker for 18 years, he then spent two years working in Germany, after which he immigrated to Australia in 1970. His wife Katalin, who was Hungarian, was also a a bootmaker and worked in Pancevo, Yugoslavia from 1948 to 1950, and in Germany, before migrating to Australia.

In Australia Mr Sabo worked at the Corvin shoe factory in Prahran for ten years, then when this closed he worked at the Robin shoe factory in Huntingdale. He later worked at a golf shoe factory in Richmond. Whilst he was employed there and in between employment at these shoe factories Mr Sabo also made and repaired shoes at home by hand. He also at times worked at a wire factory and as a gardener.

Sandor mostly made and repaired shoes for poorer people in Yugoslavia, Germany and Australia, using a simple range hand tools, without the machinery that many larger businesses used as the 20th century progressed. The tools he used for his trade came from a variety of sources: his boss's father in Yugoslavia gave him some of his own tools when he started his apprenticeship, and other tools he bought in Yugoslavia and Germany. Sandor said that the best made bootmaking tools were from England, Germany and Switzerland. His tools represent the more traditional, craft aspects of the bootmaking trade, and range in age with some being made in the early 1900s and others in the 1970s.

Items such as the small lamp and handmade tool holder, which are integral elements to the routine process of warming polishing and finishing tools for the making or repair of shoes and boots, reflect the small cottage craft nature of Sandor's work. Sandor's is a familiar story of an immigrant bringing skills from his country of origin, which are diminished in his new country, and need to be adapted for a successful new working life.

More Information