I have the same problem as a school staff member as I did when I was a student back before the dinosaurs became extinct. Shoes. Summer means being barefooted as much as possible. It was so then. It is so now. At least in my korner of the world.

Younger folks might find this hard to believe but there was a time one could go anywhere bare of foot. The grocery store. The gas station. The five and dime. Even church if our mothers had let us get away with it, which ours didn’t. We got our new shoes sometime in early-ish August so as to have a breaking in period. Not sure if that period was for our shoes or for our used to being bare except on Sundays feet!

In any case school began for me again on Sept. 1, 2020, and that meant shoes on my feet. It got me thinking about shoes I have known and loved. Or hated.

As kids we had one pair of tennis shoes. They were used for any and all sports we played from empty lot baseball to side yard football to run all the way from the streetlight on the corner to the safety of the yard when it was dark. There were no running shoes, walking shoes, football shoes, baseball shoes, track shoes, etc. Just one pair of tennies. Usually Keds or Redball Jets. They were also known as hiking boots and if they got muddy we just hosed them off and went barefoot until they dried. We also wore galoshes over them in the winter and if the galoshes leaked we used bread bags as a liner.

Our other pair of shoes were our dress shoes, which were the ones we wore to church on Sunday and to school because back in those days there were things known as dress codes, and for girls the emphasis was on dress. My feet didn’t like slip-ons much so I wore the inevitable Mary Janes. I hated dresses for a time. Mostly because we were forced to wear them. When we were no longer forced to wear them to school — about the time I entered junior high — they became okay again. Though I adored the gowns worn by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen in the final scene of the movie “White Christmas.” All that red velvet and white trim. Not sure what kind of shoes they had on, but it wasn’t their feet I was focused on. In any case, my tennies came in first and my dress shoes were a distant second. Very distant.

In fourth grade, I got this snazzy little pair of dress boots. They were made of brown leather and short shanked with a tiny heel. They were fun, but I still liked my tennies best. I was already one of the tallest kids in my class, I didn’t need the added height.

In ninth grade, I owned a pair of white shoes with a sky-high (relatively speaking) stacked and very wide heel. They were cool, thought I. Until the heel broke off the right one on the stairs at Lincoln High School and I had to borrow a pair of flats from my friend Vicki. Such luck we were the same size and she had an extra pair of footwear in her lock. Though it was a bonus really since I didn’t turn an ankle or fall down the stairs and land on the principal. I never sat in detention in my life.

My tennies remained my favorite because by this time Converse had come along. And not just in white! We had colors. Red. Blue. It was awesome to have a tennis shoe that wasn’t always white.

You might get the impression that I do not favor heels. You’d be correct in that impression. Pumps schlumps, no thank you. I recall watching my mother and other members of her age group dancing, dancing! On those tiny little high heels. I can’t even walk in them. It’s ballet flats or sandals or “tennies” for me. Except now my tennies have orthoheel technology and arch support. The softer the footbed the better and I like the wide width these days. Plus I have more than two pair. I am no Imelda Marcos (remember her, talk about a shoe fetish) but I’ve got a few pairs in a variety of colors.

On the first day of school I wore my blue tennies and on the second day I wore my gray ones. Maybe I’ll alternate. Until winter comes anyway, then it’ll be muck boots all the way.

I miss the good old days. Walking into Zielke’s Grocery store in naked feet. These days I can’t even walk into a grocery story with a naked face!

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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