James Eason takes one look at me and says: ''You're a
9 - maybe a 9.''
The 65-year-old can look at a person's foot and tell their
shoe size with reasonable accuracy.
It is one of the side effects of working at the McKinlays
Footwear shoe factory in South Dunedin for nearly 44 years.
He and colleague Gary Clark, who worked there for nearly 43
years, were given an official retirement and farewell lunch
at the factory yesterday and both had fun reminiscing about
their years together there.
To many colleagues, they were the life and soul of the place.
Mr Eason said he went to the factory as a 21-year-old for a
two-week work experience trial and was taught how to operate
a ''rounder'' - a machine which cuts excess leather off
It was a case of ''if the shoe [or the job] fits'', he said.
He had been working on the same machine ever since.
Mr Clark said his job for the past four decades had been
stitching the leather for shoes.
He estimated he had made hundreds of thousands of shoes over
the years, and said the most unusual was a size 17 pair he
made for New Zealand's tallest man.
''I can't remember his name, but I remember they were the
biggest pair of shoes I had ever seen. You could sit in one
and row it out on the harbour.''
While shoe styles and shapes had changed over the years, they
were still made using the same processes, Mr Clark said.
''Some machines have allowed us to automate the process but
it's still a very hands-on job.''
Both men said they were looking forward to retirement.
Mr Eason said he was looking forward to walks in the fresh
air, going to the movies, travelling and sleeping in.
''I've been standing on my feet in one place for too long.
''It's time to move on.''
Company co-owner Graeme McKinlay said it was sad to see the
''They've been here since I was in primary school.
''They are good honest people. They never got sick and they
always did a good hard day's work.
''They've contributed to the success of this business.''
Mr Eason said the thing he would miss most was the people,
and some things about his job would always stay with him -
like the smell of leather and glue.
''I don't think I'll ever be able to stop walking up the
street looking at other people's shoes.''
The company recently closed its outlet store in George St in
the hope of opening an outlet at its Glasgow St factory
within the next four weeks.