Hand Me Down Shoes

The Olsons

The Olsons

I was the youngest of three boys in a fairly poor family so I know a few things about hand-me-downs. We were young kids during the Second World War when there were shortages of many things. We learned to get maximum mileage out of everything from shoes to food items. The early 1950’s weren’t much different, times were hard.

At a family reunion in the 1980’s I heard my aunt say to someone, “look here is a picture of the three boys sitting by their dad’s old car.” The youngest one shoes look kind of funny. Somebody said, “yeah they are two different sizes, one is much larger than the other and has a hole in the sole”. My aunt says, ‘that must have been about 1944 he wasn’t in school yet’. Like it made it okay to wear two different size shoes if you weren’t in school yet!

We walked everywhere in 1951, even walked 2 miles to the golf course so we could walk all day caddying. I remember that fall when school started. My middle brother got new shoes and I got his old hand-me-downs. He had so many miles on those shoes the stitches that held the soles on were worn through in places. We walked over a mile to school. One day when I was is about halfway to school, I kicked at something on the side of the road. Those old rotten stitches all let go, the sole came loose clear back to the heel. I didn’t want to be late for school so kept walking, that floppy soul was kicking up a little cloud of dust around my feet as I walked. When I got to school I found a couple rubber bands and put them around the shoe to keep the soul from flopping. That got me to my desk before the rubber bands came off.

I sat at my desk, closed my eyes and prayed that the teacher would not call me to go to the blackboard. When I opened my eyes she was looking straight at me and asked me to come up front to do an arithmetic problem. I slowly slid out of my desk and started for the front of the room, dragging my right flip-pity flop shoe along the floor. The rest of the class was all looking at me like they thought maybe I got polio. I finished the arithmetic problem and the teacher sent me back to my desk. I was so relieved I took off and flip-pity flopped all the way back to my desk. The kids were roaring with laughter. I bet God got a chuckle out of it too. I always thought Miss Johnson called me to the front of the room, because she knew I had that floppy soul on my shoe.

I was in junior high during the Pat Boone era. All the cool cats had White Bucks. There was no way I could afford a pair of White Bucks. When a young person wants something real bad the imagination goes into overdrive. I had a pair of old white golf shoes somebody threw away at the golf course. They were a little large, but I was used to that. I unscrewed the cleats from those old golf shoes and I had my White Bucks. There was one problem, the metal on the bottom of the soles that the cleats screwed into. They were going to sound like Tap Dancers shoes on those hardwood floors at school. I had a flashback to the fifth grade class and the terrible flip-flop ordeal. That was the end of my White Buck plan.

Physical anthropologist Eric Trinkaus believe there is evidence that the use of shoes began in the period between 40,000 and 26000 years ago, that’s a lot of shoes. I imagine millions of others with older brothers have walked a mile in my shoes.

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