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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Clean Saddle Oxfords

By Lyn Burnstine

The topic of shoes has never been a happy one for me. Cursed with long, narrow feet, I outgrew children’s sizes long before the other girls did. It was hard to find ladies’ shoes that fit yet were still appropriately styled for a pre-adolescent child.

As my feet continued to grow, so did the prices. My size was only available in a few expensive shoe stores and in limited styles.

As the joints in my feet were being destroyed by rheumatoid arthritis, I was forced to wear ugly, wide men’s shoes until one blessed day I discovered Birkenstock sandals. For 10 years, until I had both feet surgically reconstructed, I wore them in summer with no socks and in winter with two thick pairs.

I kept hoping I wouldn’t get invited to a chi-chi event. But I did - as mother of the groom! At my son’s wedding, photographs document the obligatory mother-son dance with me in bare feet (I had made it down the aisle in the worn-only-once dress shoes but shed them as soon as I possibly could).

Lyn Burnstine and son at his wedding

But along the way, there was one other happy foot time - during my teen-age years when the saddle-oxford fad hit hard. I don’t remember a time before or since that sensible and comfortable shoes have been the hottest style.

All the bobby-soxers had white oxfords with a colored saddle - a section wrapped across the instep - and white shoelaces. The saddle came in red, black or navy or the most popular color: brown.

The second part of the fad was to let your saddle oxfords get as dirty and scruffy as you could as soon as you could. One never polished or cleaned them.

Lyn Burnstine and friend on lawn

I should have known then that I would spend my life dancing to a different tempo because I not only loved my saddle oxfords, I loved them pristinely white and clean.

Every day after school, I’d take out the saddle soap and polish them until they were as soft and smooth as when new. I can still feel and smell the burnished leather. I would then wash and bleach the shoelaces.

After a while, the inevitable gouges and scratches began to mar their perfect surface, so the white shoe polish came out of the cupboard: the chalky results were never as satisfying, though, as the shine from the saddle soap.

The fad lasted long enough for me to wear out two pairs of those beauties - the last pair going away to college with me.

Lyn Burnstine and friend on dorm steps

The penny loafers that replaced them never quite thrilled me in the same way. Perhaps it was all those hours of loving care that bonded me to my brown-and-white saddle oxfords.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Lyn, Thanks for the memories. I too loved my saddle shoes.

What a memory you have, I do remember my brown and white ones, but forgot about the other colors. They were very hard to take care of, and I did not think they did anything for my larger ankles.
The penny loafers were more flattering.
Great memories.

Lynn, I found saddle oxfords with a soft toe, and wore several pairs out. I, too had, and still have problem feet. Thanks for the memories!

Lyn: I remember saddle shoes and how I loved my first pair, but they took so much work to keep clean. Therefore being a girl who didn't mind being different, I died my shoes a lovely tan color. I thought that went well with the navy blue part on top and it ended that chore of forever cleaning the white.

Your story also brought back high school memories for me. I have a picture of me in one of my year books where I was wearing them with a pair of socks. I also bleached the shoe strings.I cleaned the patent leather dress shoes with leftover biscuits. By the way, I enjoyed your photos, too.

Good memories presented in an interesting way. Made me remember the late 50s when "white bucks" were the footwear of choice for college lads. As with most of the saddle shoe folks, we never cleaned white bucks. Perhaps they should have been known as "gray bucks." Thanks for the interesting story.

Thank you all for your comments. Joanne, I tell the ladies in my memoir writing group "The more you remember, the more you remember." It's like any other part of the body--it is strengthened by exercise.

I was in middle school when the saddle shoe fad came around again with the popularity of the sitcom, "Happy Days." I happily sported a pair of black and whites, and I, like you, liked them CLEAN!

Julie, It's the artiste in us!

When you couldn't buy them any more, I wore my last pair until they had a hole in the bottom of the sole and were much too small. I loved them.

Thanks, everyone, for sharing my memories.

Thanks for the memories, but I hated my saddle oxfords -- trying to keep the white clean, then when polishing, keeping it from smearing the rest of the shoe.

I couldn't wait for my mother to stop insisting I wear sturdy instep supporting oxfords and finally allow me to buy a pair of loafers. Had nothing to do with style in my mind.

She was considered very tall in her day, though only 5'9" -- but she also needed 10 1/2 AA shoes -- none such available for her other than what she called "old lady" shoes. Even throughout her lifetime, we found only one brand with a last that fit her foot perfectly. Then, that company finally sold and the new one changed the last a bit. Her life had ended before she wore the last new pair that really fit we had purchased.

All her early years she had been fitted into too small shoes, so had bunions and was always very careful to see that I had well-fitting shoes.

Who are the women in the 2nd photo? I can't believe how much the woman on the right looks like my mother.

Kwynn, If your last name is Drescher, maybe? It is me on the left and Ann Livengood Drescher, my childhood buddy on the right.

the resemblance is uncanny. I even shared this photo with my mother, and she thought so as well. No Drecschers (as far as I know) in our family. Thanks for responding!

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