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A Decent Pair of Shoes
By Kathy Hare

          I found myself standing there holding the shoe, examining the stitching, turning it in my hand, feeling the soft leather; I felt rich!

          The shoes are not the most expensive brand, but they are well made, comfortable, and cost more than your average shoes.  Still, it's a pair of shoes and I had to stop and think about why these shoes invoked such good feelings.

          Most strong emotions, the kind that burst through your subconscious and take control of your being, go right back to your childhood.  However, my childhood memories of shoes are anything but happy. Many children of the 1950's could tell you a story identical to the one you will read here, for while the 50's may be considered the "good old days," I will testify they were actually very hard on the feet.

          In the 1950's you didn't buy shoes willy-nilly; a trip to the shoe store was a big event.  Shoes were purchased twice a year, just before Labor Day and Easter, no matter how much your feet grew in six months.  

          And you didn't have a lot of different pairs of shoes.  There were your church shoes, your school shoes, and your play shoes, which were actually an old pair of church or school shoes.

          I would have to do some research to confirm this, but according to most 1950's parents; "Keeping their children in shoes was the most expensive part of the household budget."   That was because we were all ungrateful spoiled brats who purposely went out and grew bigger feet that poked holes in the ends of perfectly good shoes.  Or we didn't pick up our feet when we walked, and the constant foot dragging wore the tread right off the shoes.   Some dumb bollixes actually got their shoes wet because they forgot, or were ashamed, to wear galoshes.

          For those of you who are too young to have heard of the term galoshes, today they are called overshoes, and are only worn by business men attempting to protect their expensive Italian leather shoes.  Back in the 50's they came in two varieties, but only one color - black.   The shorter variety were for pulling over church shoes, and the big round toes made the wearer look like they had clown feet.  Then there were the big, ugly, black boots with metal buckles.  We hated wearing them as much as we hated those yellow rain coats with their silly pointed rain hats, but protecting our precious shoes was always a top priority, at least until we left the house where we could safely shed the dreaded galoshes.

          Needing a new pair of shoes, out of season, caused an economic catastrophe for the entire family.  So, God-forbid anything happened to your good shoes between September and April! It was horrible, because unlike clothing, which can be sewn or pinned, most children weren't very good at repairing shoes.

          Yes, there were still cobblers who could fix a flapping sole or replace a heel, but   my mother said they were all cheats who stole decent pairs of shoes on a regular basis.  So when nails were sticking through the heels into our feet, we stuck cardboard inside the shoes.  This also worked if you got a hole in the sole. As we got older we became more ingenious and cut sole patterns out of left-over linoleum.

          My siblings and I destroyed many brain cells trying to glue soles down, but the repair didn't last long because the Dupont cement didn't leave us with enough sense to clean the dirt off the sole before applying the glue, and I can still remember the embarrassing sound the soles made flapping against the asphalt on the playground.

          So when I stood there examining the shoe in my hand wondering why I felt so wealthy, I realized it  boiled down to this; I could buy these shoes without any guilty feelings.  No one was going to starve because I got a new pair of shoes, no one would go to bed hungry, we could still pay the utility bills, and we wouldn't have to cancel Christmas.

          I turned to the clerk and said, "I'll take a pair of these in black, and another pair in brown." And I chuckled to myself because it's only June, and I'm feeling very, very rich.

First published in The New Falcon Herald
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