ON HIS MARRIAGE TO JOAN: `We went together for five years before we married, we broke off the engagement 12 times – we couldn’t get on but couldn’t be apart from each other.’ ON HIS CHRISTIANITY: `Once I started, it helped me with my English … I started to read the Bible and it helped me a lot to learn English and be with people. FROM PAGE 19
A visit to Ovidio D`Alessandro’s bright blue painted kingdom at the Brickfields end of Launceston is a humbling experience.
It takes you into an almost forgotten world of toe straighteners, steel- braced soles and tailor- made boots and leaves you amazed at the passion that a 75-year-old maintains for his trade.
Providing people with a better foot grip on the world has been Ovidio’s life since the early 1960s.
But it took him nearly a decade from the time that he arrived alone in Australia after World War II to return to the trade that he’d grown up in, at Abbruzzi.
He must have always been pretty passionate despite Ovidio protestations that it was only when he discovered his personal god that his pathway became clear.
“I first started in the trade when I was 12 but because of the war I didn’t finish until 1944,” says Ovidio.
The Italian who taught him to repair and make boots and shoes should have retired years before he did but stayed on to train Ovidio, he says.
He probably would have stayed in Italy if the war hadn’t happened but applied to emigrate to Australia as a young man looking for opportunities.
“There were no opportunities in Europe after the war,” says Ovidio.
His fierce concentration on all things to do with foot wear wavers a little when asked about those early years.
It must have been lonely for a young man on his own.
He was sent to pick fruit, in Mildura, then to Tasmania to help build the foundations of Comalco, at Bell Bay.
“But I didn’t like it much at Bell Bay because we were all together (migrant workers) so there wasn’t much incentive to speak English,” he says.
He moved to Launceston where two things happened, which for Ovidio were life-changing.
First he met his future wife Joan at a dance at the then-famous Carlisyle ballroom.
Joan was Scottish and Ovidio, by his own admission, is a fairly strong-minded Italian.
To say that the relationship was at times fiery seems to be something of an understatement.
“We went together for five years before we married, we broke off the engagement 12 times – we couldn’t get on but couldn’t be apart from each other,” says Ovidio, laughing at the craziness of those frantic years nearly four decades ago.
The other momentous event for Ovidio was that he became a Christian.
“Once I started, it helped me with my English,” says the ever-practical shoe maker.
“I started to read the Bible and it helped me a lot to learn English and be with people.
“I think my wife and I would be separated except for the understanding that came with me becoming a Christian. I realised that there was a problem and that it was me,” he adds, laughing again.
Despite all the odds and the opinions of two specialists and three general practitioners, Joan and Ovidio had two children and now revel in their seven grandchildren – miracles as far as Ovidio is concerned.
But there has already been too much chatter on trivial personal matters, as far as Ovidio is concerned.
He has a strong message to push.
There’s still fire in the 75-year-old’s belly.
“I am writing to (Health Minister) Nicola Roxon and the people in the Health Ministry to see if we can get some relief,” says the unlikely looking political lobbyist.
Ovidio wants his services recognised by Medicare so that his customers can claim some financial assistance with the cost of his custom-made orthotics.
“We are helping people by realigning the body, arresting bad posture that leads to sore backs, sore knees, sore hips and feet,” says Ovidio.
“If Medicare would bring some relief in the way of finance to these people, it would be a good result.”
Damn it, these boots feel good!
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.