Monday, April 30, 2012

Them is dancing shoes

MJ posted this image on her blog, The Infomaniac.  I remember this era in shoes - about 1975-76.

Back then, my father and my mother got into a pissing match over child support an alimony.  So my mother and I were broke and living in Shaker Heights - counting every  penny, on Food Stamps, and I was getting free lunches at school while Dad was living very well.

Steve Tepper's Bar Mitzvah was coming up and I was growing like a weed.  At 13 I size 11 feet and none of my dress shoes, or my last suit fit me.  We didn't have folding money for new clothes, and there wasn't anything like a credit card back then. So Mom rounded up every Eagle Stamp we had and she and I glued them into books.  Each book of Eagle stamps got you a $3 credit at The May Company.  So off we went, loaded down with $10 in birthday money (advanced from my grandfather) and a trash bag full of Eagle stamp books.  In all, we had $75, and May Company was having one of its clearance sales.

The money was enough to buy me a sport coat two sizes too big, which I was expected to grow into, socks, underwear and new dress pants, two sizes too long - again, I would grow into them.

But we had $10 left for shoes.   And so we went to the clearance  racks where we found men's shoes just like those in the picture for $9.99.  Here was the problem - men's feet generally run from size 9 to size 11.  I wore a 10 at that point so there were no shoes for me.

There was, however, that pair of Dexter shoes in size 13's (that looked alike like the shoe on the right) except with navy trim on the toe and round the heel.  Since my dress pants were blue - Mom said we'd get those and that she would make them fit my feet.

A child of the Great Depression, making do was what she was best at.  We didn't have any safety pins, and my ride was an hour away, so she attacked the clothes with straight pins. "If you don't move around too much, these should stay in place."

So the sleeves on the shirt were turned in and using straight pins, she pinned so they were the right length.  Same with the sport coat, although the shoulders were so wide I looked like I was wearing shoulder pads.  The pants were shortened and she rolled and pressed the extra eight inches of fabric into cuffs, and then "pinned" in place.

For the shoes however, she jammed a tube sock into the end of each shoe and then had me try them on.  Between the 2" heel, the platform and the tube sock I was really unstable when I stood up.  They made my feet look they belonged on a clown. Her solution?  "It'll be dark - Just sit there."

I tried sitting there once we got to the dinner, but a 13 year old boy can only sit some place for so long.  So I got up and moved around like the other kids.  And that's when the pins started giving way.  At some point the cuffs (which were also pinned in place) slipped.  I looked like someone who was playing dress up in their fathers clothing.

One of the servers - a black plump woman - saw me and took me aside.  "You're coming undone.  Let me help you get it all back together."  She explained that she had a son "just my age," and that she had to buy him clothes he would grow into as well.  She saw that Mom had used straight pins and told me to sit while she got her purse, from which she pulled one big diaper pin with dozens of safety pins dangling like beads.  In a few minutes she rolled me back into something that looked like the clothes fit me and I was no longer getting jabbed and scraped whenever I moved.  Then she noticed the shoes.

"Those are the snazziest shoes here at the party," she said with a big smile.  "Them is dancing shoes.  Now go find your friends."  And off I went.

I don't remember much else about the evening except the huge shoes made me sound like a Clydesdale every time I took a step, and they  made me fall down twice.  That made me deathly afraid of them.  So after that night "my dancing shoes" spent the next year in the clothes closet, and then they were thrown away before we moved out of Shaker Heights.

My feet never did come close to size 13.  But I still buy my shoes marked down - way down.  But I hope and pray that those chunky bad ass shoes never become the rage again.  I don't think I could survive another pair of them.


  1. Too bad you threw them out.

    Peenee's a size 13.

  2. This is the 2nd best clothes transformation story right up there with when Scarlett took down the green drapes and fashioned them into a snazzy day dress in order to impress Rhett.

  3. How nice of that lady to put you all back together... At least you stayed upright Cookie!

  4. I had some similar shoes in junior high, about 1973 or so. They were from Kmart, and I was very proud of them, especially when worn with my plaid, flare-leg pants.

    1. Did you also have the combination shirt sweater vest, too?

    2. Oh you know that goes without saying!