Irene Waters’ Times Past challenge prompt for May is: Shoes
Have you any memories of shoes? A particular favourite pair, one that caused you pain, embarrassment or made you feel on top of the world?
I grew up in the USA suburbs as part of the baby boomer generation…wearing shoes my mother deemed practical and sturdy.
I was a very active tree climbing, kickball playing, jump-roping child. Sturdy was a good idea. Sneakers would not have lasted long on my busy feet.
Shoe shopping was carefully planned. Piled in the car with my siblings, my mother would drive me to “Kate’s Brothers,” the downtown shoe store. Shoe polish fumes hung in the air as a salesman measured our feet with a tool called the Brannock Device.
What a fascinating place…
I loved the machine (a fluoroscope) I could slide my feet in…for a quick x-ray. Looked in the viewer…and saw my bones! I don’t remember this questionable practice lasting very long and probably for good reason. It was, however, a fun way to wait while salesmen searched in the mysterious “back room” for our shoes.
Play shoes. Party shoes. Sneakers.
Play shoes were always leather – definitely durable – with laces or sometimes a strap. Color choices limited. Usually brown, navy blue or the occasional black and white saddle shoe. My go-to footwear for outdoors. Quickly scuffed and dirty, they withstood what I put them through.
I have no idea why I am wearing them with a dress in this photo…
Party shoes were black leather or shiny patent leather with a strap. Often called Mary Janes. I wore them to parties, holidays and Sunday School. The patent leather ones could be shined up with Vaseline petroleum jelly.
Keds or P.F. Flyers were the only brands of sneakers available. White or blue canvas with white laces. Only allowed for gym class. I was very jealous of my one and only cousin – 5 years older than me – who was allowed to wear sneakers All The Time. My mother thought she was spoiled. I thought she was incredibly lucky. Sneakers were much more comfortable than tight laced up leather shoes. Better for running faster and jumping higher.
When I was 11, we moved to a neighborhood with no trees to climb or woods to explore. My active outdoor play life came to an end – for better or for worse. I didn’t need “play shoes” for hanging out with my girlfriend listening to Beatles records or 77WABC Top 40 hits on the radio.
What did girls wear in junior high? Loafers! – sometimes with a shiny new penny inserted in the slit atop each one. Earning them the nickname Penny Loafers.
They were my first slip-on shoes. Usually brown. Since they were flats, I could be comfortable and stylish at the same time. At 5’7″ in the eighth grade, flat shoes were a definite bonus.
Still leather…but without laces or straps.
I felt very grown up.