Hand Me Down Shoes

The Olson Boys

I was the youngest of three boys in a small farm 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 1950s weren’t much different; times were hard.

At a family reunion in the 1980s, I heard my aunt say to someone, “look, here is a picture of the three boys sitting out in the yard.” The youngest ones’ shoes look kind of funny. Somebody said, “yeah, Leland has two different sizes. One is much larger than the other. ” 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! I was almost bigger than  Harlan by then.

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We walked everywhere in 1951, even walking 2 miles to the golf course so we could walk all day caddying. I remember that fall when school started. Harlan got new shoes, and I got his old pair. He had many miles on those shoes. The stitches that held the soles on got worn out 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. The old rotten stitches on the right shoe all let go, and the sole came loose clear back to the heel. I didn’t want to be late for school, so I kept walking. That floppy sole was kicking up a little cloud of dust around my feet as I walked. When I got to school, I found a couple of rubber bands around the shoe to keep that sole 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. She 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 suddenly got polio. I finished the arithmetic problem, and the teacher returned me to my desk. I was so relieved I took off, and flip-pity flopped 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 sole on my shoe.

I was in junior high during the Pat Boone era when all the cool cats had White Buck shoes. There was no way I could afford a pair of White shoes. When young person wants something bad enough, their imaginations go into overdrive. I had a pair of old white golf shoes somebody had thrown 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 was happy to have my White shoes. There was one problem, the metal on the bottom of the soles that the cleats screwed into. They would sound like Tap Dancer’s shoes on those hardwood floors at school. I had a vivid flashback to my fifth-grade class and the terrible flip-flop ordeal.
That was the end of my White Buck plan.

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



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