Like clockwork, Labor Day once signaled the changing of the guard at least as far as mid cenetury shoes were concerned. The Tuesday after Labor Day one would be hard pressed to find the sight of white shoes in my mothers closet. By the end of the first Monday in September, along with her white wardrobe and wicker bags, white shoes had been neatly packed in thier proper shoe box to go into hibernation for the long dull winter until they woud be summoned for their Memorial Day appearance.
It also signaled that the countdown had begun for the end of summer and the new school term.
Across the country , crisp black and white marbled composition notebooks were hastily purchased, and last-minute yellow Dixon number 2 lead pencils skillfully sharpened. But most important of all were the purchase of new school shoes.
Back to School Shoes
In September of 1960 I would be heading to kindergardent and to prepare for the big school launch, a visit to the shoe store was in order, as summers canvas Keds, were sorrowfully replaced with sturdy, sensible school shoes.
Getting my brother Andyand myself to trade in our shoe of champions for a pair of Elementary School approved Oxfords was no easy feat.
Getting that extra care to help childrens growing feet was oh-so-important. It was none too soon for my feet to start getting the protection they would need.
And lucky for me our local shoe store no longer had to rely on the old-fashioned 6 point fitting plan, but could take advantage of the miracle of the x-ray fluoroscope.
That’s Shoe Biz
All week-long radio commercials were competing for attention on the airwaves as all the shoe stores were offering Labor Day sales and new school term incentives.
Because the number of US small fry kept rocketing upward at a phenomenal clip it was a business bonanza with shoe dealers competing for the right to dress your youngsters feet. From rockabye babies to cookie jar raiders to little ladies in pig tails, each company promised form-pampering shoes for your child that would outperform any other.
Pol Parrot Shoes squawked “Pol Parrot the name you ought to buy to make your feet run faster, as fast as I can fly,” while Weather-Bird Shoes promised that only their shoe “would keep kiddies feet protected in any weather.”
Red Goose Shoes claimed they were built for action fun and looks, while Jumping Jack Shoes targeted Mothers pocket books assuring that their shoes would “keep your moppets well shod and still keep you solvent.”
Buster Brown Fun
But only Buster Brown at Henleys Shoe Store could boast of that futuristic apparatus -the fluoroscope, to x-ray your feet.
The radio announcement blaring between WNEW’s Klavin and Finch was all the incentive Mom needed:
“Every parent will want to hear this important news!
“Now at last you can be certain that your child’s foot health is not being jeopardized by improperly fitting shoes.”
“Henleys Shoe store on Hempstead Turnpike in Franklin Square is now featuring the new ADRIAN Special Fluoroscopic Show Fitting machine that gives you visual proof in a second that your children’s shoes fit. The ADRIAN Special shoe fitting machine has been awarded the famous Parents Magazine Seal of Commendation…a symbol of safety and quality to millions of parents all over America.”
“If your children need new shoes, don’t buy their shoes blindly. “
“Come in today, let us show you the new, scientific method of shoe fitting that careful parents prefer.”
“Henley’s Shoe Store invites all of you to visit us today for an interesting demonstration. We know that once you buy shoes that are scientifically fitted you will shop at Henley’s s all of the time.”
Fit Right In
Staring at the big plastic Buster Brown lighted dealers sign we stepped in to the crowded, stuffy store.
Once in the store, crowds oohed and ahhed as children of all ages toddled and walked down the blue carpeted runway with its picture of a winking Buster Brown and Tige. Working the runway in new sporty saddles, hard-working Oxfords and the hands down beauty-shiny mary janes, kids preened and twirled for their mothers.
While the shoe salesman measured my feet, my trigger-happy, have-gun-will -travel brother Andy was off shooting down a rogue pair of Oxfords with his cosmic atomic ray gun. The plastic gun shot powerful electronic colors beams on the tall wall of floor to ceiling shoe boxes.
I sat on Mom’s lap and curled my toes when the shoe salesman measured my feet. His pudgy fingers with thickened yellow nails had nicotine stains between the first and second fingers of his left hand. Skillfully he placed my foot in the classic Braverman metal shoe measuring device.
Even this once scientific breakthrough 25 years earlier was now old-fashioned.
The salesman looked and sounded remarkably like Andy Devine, the gentle giant, a rotund, high-pitched gravelly voice host, who coincidently hosted a show sponsored by who else…. Buster Brown.
I half expected him to utter the words “Froggy plunk your magic twanger” and green Froggy would appear in a puff of smoke interrupting the sales pitch with his trademark “Hiya kids Hiya Hiya” in a low raspy voice sinister croak
Ready For My Close up
Gently, he placed my foot in the fluoroscope- x-ray machine, a big box that looked like an old radio floor model. My tootsies were ready to have their picture taken.
His well-practiced “Here’s looking at you kid” guaranteed to elicit a giggle from Mom. With the seriousness of a doctor and the expertise of a scientist his foot side manner created just the right blend of scientific know how and showmanship.
Naturally my brother Andy was fascinated by the fluoroscope – it was not unlike something that Captain Video, that technological genius, had invented like the Opticon Scillometer a long-range x-ray machine to see through walls.
Placing my foot inside the box I could see all the bones of my foot glowing white in a hazy green foot.
My future in footwear captured forever.
Copyright (©) 2018 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
Thanks for the charming little walk down memory lane. It revived my own memory of Kedso the Clown singing, “If you want shoes with lots of pep get, Keds, Keds, Keds!”
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Its one of my classic favorites. Here’s an even older one..
I remember those machines but they were decommissioned already in Detroit by 1960. I never did get to wiggle my toes and watch my bones move around. Perhaps now that I am near 70 I can do so without ill consequence.
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You gave me a good laugh!