This picture from March ‘74 has us in front of the old shop downtown Melbourne. The 1960 Mercedes was given to me. It had been sitting for some time and the engine had siezed up. Really siezed up! When I removed the head there was water in the cylinders. We fought with it for days trying to get it loose, and the time to leave for Nova Scotia for our wedding was quickly approaching… My friend Fred went out one day and hooked up a lonnnnggg cheater bar to the flywheel on the engine and by hanging on the bar with one hand and hitting a remote switch to the starter, worked it for about three hours and was finally able to get it free! We got it put back together two days before we left for Nova Scotia. It wasn’t a trip without some small trials but that will have to wait for the long version.
About 1983 when Hannah was in kindergarten, I made a pair of clown shoes. Ruth is trying them on for size here.
After I made these shoes and took them to Hannah’s class, I became an instant celebrity and was sought out for my great oratorial skills. A couple of teachers that asked me to speak to their class, put together a book of thank you notes from the kids. There are some priceless ones, but my all time favorite is this one from Scott B. who missed the class due to illness…
Here is a picture of Esther and a couple of the nieghborhood kids that used to hang out at the shop and help out. Donnie is working at Harris Corp. now and Esther retired from her nursing job and Is helping at the shop again.
Recently I asked Ruth and Tom (my daughter and son) to stop on their way out to Park City, Utah. to stop and say hi to a couple of friends from back in my days at the University of New Mexico. They did and had a great time, but Ruth sheepishly admitted to me that they were little reluctant because the didn’t know what kind of friends they might be, Maybe it was the memory of photos like this in their memory banks that had them worried? This one is from circa ‘74 left to right Ham, Sam and Tim. Hamilton is the one who worked with my one summer as he road out hurricane season, with his boat anchored down in crane creek. He introduced me to Esther for which I will ever be grateful!
Thinking back over forty years brings a flood of memories, like the different projects and the different people that have worked with me. Lots of them have come and gone I don’t know what became of them, I would love to know; if you are out there somewhere, I’d love to hear from you. This young man, worked for a while we had a great time, loved his stories about growing up in Georgia. He went off to the army and is now a judge. Way to go Gary… giving up the wealth and benefits of a leather worker to serve our country.
FROM STOCKADES TO SUCCESS
The leather bag had been to Siberia, down
the 2000 miles of the Mississippi in a canoe, the Cote d’Azur, and in the
delivery room at a hospital in Rockledge, Florida. Which, was why it
needed a bit of repair. For years it had been my traveling bag, serving
well as a purse, a suitcase, a briefcase, and a shopping bag.
Last week I took it back to the fellow
who made it in Melbourne, Florida nearly four decades ago, Tim Kennedy, to
have a tiny split in the seam repaired. Tim’s 9200 square foot workshop
was a wonder to me; boxes overflowing with soft, supple leathers, thick, stiff
leathers, purple, red and green leathers, one odd leather shoe, a
rhinestone-studded leather cell phone case, sewing machines, fabric
cutting machines, foam cutting machines, die-cutting machines, sergers,
stampers, embossers, rolls and rolls of fabric, and a talking parrot.
Curious, I innocently asked Tim how his
business started. “I was in an Army stockade,” he began in a
honey soft voice, “It was drugs. Someone told me, though, that
God can’t steer a parked car, you have to be going. But I didn’t know
where to go or what to do.”
He heard shrimp boats were hiring in Key
West, so he gathered up all he had - a few leather tools, and forty dollars,
and hitchhiked to Florida, got as far as Melbourne and needed a place to
sleep. He heard about His House, a place where they would take him
in. “Jesus freaks, weird, but
harmless,” Tim was told at the time.
The next morning, on the kitchen table,
he started working with all he had; his leather tools. Someone saw him,
took him next door, and showed him a small space where he could set up shop,
and live in the back room. “I never thought I’d be a leather worker…”
At this point a piercing squawk interrupted our conversation, and
Casper, the parrot, screeched, “Goodbye”, but I wasn’t nearly ready
to leave. I had to know more of Tim’s story; how he now has a huge
workshop and how he went from an Army stockade to signing contracts for
military duffels and jeep covers.
“I read everything I could about the
leather trade and leather craft,” he said, “and soon had a modest,
but honest, business, called Christian Workshop, with a motto, Eximus Et Gratis
Dei - In Gratitude To God.”
Now, forty years, a supportive wife, and
seven children later, Tim says, “I consider myself a very wealthy
man. Yes, there were lean years, hand to mouth, really. It was
difficult to make ends meet, but these last few years have been profitable.”
All his children have worked in the
business with him. He’s hired men out of prison, or men who were
homeless, not always because his business needed more workers, but because
workers needed jobs. “If they have good ethics and are good with
their hands, I can teach them,” he said, “after all it was a shop
teacher in high school who taught me mechanical skills which, to this day, help
Berfalia, a seamstress, has worked with
Tim for 14 years. “She’s wonderful. She can sew
anything,” Tim says, “She can sew faster than we can cut the
fabric… if you need a case, a cover, a harness, a bag, a sheath, or
whatever…we can make. And we’ll make it right.”
“But, Tim,” I said, “How
did you become so successful?” “Cate,” he said, “I
was born to do this… and success to me doesn’t mean being rich or
well-known. Along the way I’ve learned to be more patient, more
organized, and to stay up to date with products, equipment, and now I even use
Autocad for my drawings.”
“I don’t advertise,” he said, “unless
it’s kids who need sponsors for some program or other. My customers seem
to be my best advertisers. Even so, I’m not looking for men’s
approval. I seek God’s approval.” Tim says he sees God’s hand
in everything he’s done along the way, and says “It was a natural
Take my advice; stop at Christian
Workshop, at 405 West Dr., Melbourne, between noon and one any weekday, and
you’ll be surprised. Take a fork.
Welcome to our new blog!