In moving scenes to be shown on Wednesday’s show, Tracy Harvey, 82, brings in the 100-year-old worn leather shoes
A pair of huge clown shoes, worn by a comic as he visited workers’ clubs in the 1940s and 1950s, have been restored to their former glory on BBC1’s hit TV show The Repair Shop .
In moving scenes to be shown on Wednesday’s show, 82-year-old Tracy Harvey brings the 100-year-old battered leather shoes that hold a deep connection to her uncle Bert, who raised her as his own child.
Bert Baveystock, known on stage as Bert Bavey, worked at a car factory in Acton, London, day and night, toured workers’ clubs across the country and hosted children’s parties dressed as clown.
He would put on his checkered jacket, with chrome buttons he had made himself, a black hat, a colorful wig and the huge floating shoes, then put on make-up and do everything to make everyone laugh.
Tracy, who lives with her husband Frank in Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, often joined Bert on stage at children’s parties to sing a song or two when she was around 12.
She says: “He loved to make people laugh. He just acted stupid, wearing his red nose and big shoes, beating them.
“You were sitting there and looking up and he had tissue paper on his eyelids, batting them like eyelashes. So funny. Everyone thought he was special, which he was.
“He served in the First World War and was shot in the leg, but he always had a fabulous sense of humor. He had been entertaining people for as long as I can remember.
Tracy, who has two sons and two grandchildren, lived two doors down from her Aunt Violet and Uncle Bert, who grew up in Willesden, London, and the couple raised her as their own.
She says: “Bert’s wife and my mother were sisters. My mother had five children and they couldn’t have any. I ended up living with them all the time. I had fantastic parents, but I ended up with two houses. My uncle Bert was like my second father. He did everything with me.
“He worked at the car factory, doing all the chrome finishing work. At that time the factories used to have children’s parties for the workers and he used to go around and to entertain the children.
“When I was a kid, I would go on stage with him and sing a song, maybe a Vera Lynn song. I did that until he gave up.
“Uncle Bert also entertained at workmen’s clubs, going out on the weekend on the train. He would travel for miles. You just did what you did to make money.
“We were a very musical family. My sisters and cousins all sang, my mom played drums and piano, and my brother was in a band.
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When Bert died in 1975, at the age of 87, Tracy’s aunt got rid of Bert’s clown costume, but Tracy wanted to keep something and grabbed the shoes.
Unfortunately, after Tracy’s son Grant played with them as a child, they ended up flattened, faded and scuffed, with dried out leather, a missing tongue and falling seams.
It’s a first for expert shoemaker Dean Westmoreland on the show to restore the shoes to preserve the memory of this funny man.
Blown away by the transformation, Tracy says, “They were such a mess I didn’t think they could be fixed. It’s so beautiful to see them come back to life. Everything about them is him.
“He’s going to look down on me now and just laugh, like he always has. I will never forget him.
Grant adds: “My great-uncle Bert was always a very nice and funny man. He raised mom like his dad and I know how much they mean to her.
* The repair shop, Wednesday BBC1 8 p.m.
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