There are no differences among jobs. Mr Amin Koh is the infamous Tanglin Halt shoe doctor, who has been based in the area for more than 8 years.Neither does he possess any advanced medical knowledge, nor does he authenticate any medical certificates.
Mr Koh’s job scope mainly includes show repair, however he does provide customized services such as the modification of shoes to suit customers’ needs. He opens his shoe repair booth from 9am to 6pm every day.
At 6am, Amin started unpacking his tools and set up his tidy shoe repair corner near Tanglin Halt market.
At 8am, Amin started grinding on the rubber sole parts that he was working on, in order to be ready when a customer requires shoe repairs. He showed us proudly his DIY machine named ‘The Grinder’, which he polishes all the rubber soles on. Amin was proud of his creation, which eased his job by a huge amount, as he used to file the rubber soles using grinding paper by hand. He purchases his materials from a local supplier, who imports them from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and even as distant as Germany.
At 1pm, Amin started work on one of his customer’s shoes. However, MyQueenstown team was puzzled when he showed us 2 shoes of a different design, with both being left pairs. He explained that the customer had a disability where both of his legs were different in lengths, the left leg being shorter than the right. Amin promised to customize his shoes to fit his request. It was a tiring process as he started measuring the exact height of rubber to be added on the shoe, not forgetting that much gluing and sewing was required. He added, “I follow step-by-step procedures of the repair work, and do not take shortcuts which could potentially cause more problems.”
Heightened customised shoes
Business was poor and Amin told us that he only earned $25 at around 4.30pm. He explained that earnings are often irregular in his line of work. When we enquired about his career history, he told us that he used to be a Commando regular in the Singapore Armed Forces until 1981. After ending his contract, he acquired various advance construction certificates and one of them attained when he went through a supervisor course by the Ministry of Manpower in the 1990s. Amin worked in the construction line for many years, specializing in job posts such as Safety, as well as Scaffold supervisors. He emphasized that he even drew high salaries as a senior supervisor. Even though he was retrenched due to his company’s policy to cut costs during the recession period, Amin did not give up and even resorted to selling chicken wings to stay self-sufficient! “His desire to survive in the harsh transition phase of economic Singapore surely deserves appraisal. He did not have any specific reasons for deciding to stay on as a cobbler, but he surely appreciates the stable working environment that the trade provides.
Mr Amin chatting with a resident
At 6pm, Amin had started packing up his store and carefully placing his tools back where they were originally. Amin shared that he had once accepted 2 apprentices who practiced cobbling from him, however both ended up in bad experiences. Now, he focuses on providing a quality and affordable service to neighboring residents, and also on bringing up his 10 year old son. He derives pleasure in the products of his work and has no plans to switch careers in the future. Would you want to be a cobbler?