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Monday, 18 June 2012

Flat Feet

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

I have the world’s flattest feet. Yep, no doubt about it, these babies would have kept me out of the draft had I been a boy.

In 1955, my mother was convinced that if I wore “the right” shoe, this condition could be corrected. She would tell me horror stories about how I would be walking on my ankles someday if this problem wasn’t addressed immediately.

So began my shoe torment that would last the remainder of my life.

I was in the first grade when I received my first pair of corrective shoes. They were the familiar black and white saddle oxfords. The only thing different about my shoes was the steel plated insole that held my flat foot in the correct arch.

These shoes were heavy and I felt like I was permanently planted to the ground. Fortunately for me, oxfords were a popular shoe in the 50s and I didn’t look out of place. Seems just about every kid I knew had a picture of Buster Brown in their shoes.

By the time I was in the fourth grade, the other girls had graduated from their corrective shoes and were wearing the now popular penny loafers. Oh how I wanted a pair of penny loafers. My mom wouldn’t budge no matter how much I begged saying, “They have no support, you’ll just run over the sides.”

So while my friends were jumping rope in their smart little penny loafers, I remained firmly planted to the ground turning the rope.

By the summer before junior high, I pitched enough of a fit that my mother finally said I didn’t have to get another pair of corrective shoes. Gone were the saddle oxfords; I was ready to purchase a cute pair of dainty little flats and I couldn’t wait.

In my wildest imagination, I could never have imagined a pair of shoes worse than those clunky old saddle oxfords but to my dismay my mother found just the pair. She had completely vetoed the cute pair of flats giving me the same familiar reason - “They have no support.”

Looking back, I wish I’d really raised a fit about the shoes but I figured anything would be better than those oxfords but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

She (my mother) picked out a pair of grandma shoes in the sickest color of tan I’d ever seen. According to my mother the perfect color since, (Oh sweet Jesus) they would go with everything.

They were hideous and to make them just a little more horrific, they had a rubber sole that had wedges cut into them. I just kept telling myself that they weren’t oxfords so they had to be better.

The first day of junior high came and of course, like any red blooded, self-conscious preteen, I was terrified. The last thing on earth I wanted was to draw attention to myself.

I went through the front door with a herd of kids scrambling to find their classrooms. I followed the crowd until I found my first hour class. It wasn’t until I crossed the threshold of my classroom that I heard them, MY SHOES. With each step I took across the tiled floor, I heard this loud squishy squeaking noise.

It was those rubber wedged soles. No matter how gingerly I tried to step, it was the same squeach, squeach, squeach every time my foot made contact with the tile.

Of course, everyone looked up to see where this irritating noise was coming from and it wasn’t hard to tell just by the horrified look on my face that it was coming from me. Right about now, those saddle oxfords were looking pretty darn good.

I hurried across the floor to my assigned seat as quickly as I could. Squeach, squeach, squeach went my shoes in rapid fire. I looked down at my desk not wanting to make eye contact with anyone in the room.

While counting the knotholes in my desk, I realized that somehow I had to remain in my seat for the entire hour and then run to my next class when everyone else left the room. If I managed to be the first one into my next class, no one would hear my shoes.

So as soon as the bell rang, I was up and moving with the crowd. I made it to the next class and was seated before anyone else entered the room.

When I got home that day, I immediately went to plead my case to my mother. She wasn’t budging. It was her contention that she had already compromised by allowing me to get these shoes and not the corrective shoes she preferred. No matter how much I tried to tell her I was going to be socially ostracized because of my shoes she wouldn’t budge.

So everyday I timed my entrance to each class and tried to always walk with the crowd. It wasn’t until a girl in my English class asked me if my shoes were squeaking did I finally find a solution to my problem.

I confessed that the noise was indeed emanating from my shoes and she simply responded, “Why don’t you wear your gym shoes.”

Gym shoes? The ones I kept in my locker? The ones that went with that horrible little blue jumpsuit we had to wear in gym? Why hadn’t I thought of that?

So everyday for the remainder of the year I got to school early enough to go get my tennis shoes and switch them with the granny shoes. My mother never did find out and I was thrilled when my feet grew another shoe size and I was finally able to donate those beauties to a nursing home.

[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


Oh, poor you! I had to wear oxfords in grade school due to weak ankles that turned often without extra support. I was so happy to be able to give those up!

Oh, I remember that color of ugly "luggage" tan. I don't remember if I had shoes in that color. My shoe trauma was always that my feet were longer than others my age. It was next-to-impossible to find anything appropriate for a pre-teen in women's sizes. I did, though, LOVE my saddle oxfords--wasn't that the hottest trend in those days? Late 40's-50's?

Dear Danni,
My shoes were hated lace-up shoes with ankle support. In addition, the long underwear or the long socks that embarrassed me in the winter. I tried to tell my mother that just because her own mother still wore them and she had to wear them when she was growing up, didn't mean I needed them.
Wonder what embarrassment kids today will be telling in their elder stories. Obviously not long anything on their legs. Probably they never heard of clunky shoes.
Good Story. Brought back memories...
Michigan Grandma

Yes memories of my brown tie oxfords I had to wear all through grade school because of having rickets. Even in my 6th grade graduation picture, there I am in the front row with those terrible shoes and all the other girls in their patent leather Mary Janes. Oh jealousy really hit me then.

Dear Dani, your ugly shoes,
my Sears & Roebuck orange long
underwear! We suffered.

Dani and Marcy B.

I shall never forget that I was still wearing undershirts when all my classmates had beginner's bras.

Oh the humiliation! Yes,indeed, we did suffer...

I could feel your pain as a teenager but your story reminded me of those saddle oxfords with short, roll-down socks and those penny loafers. I had a pair of both.

It doesn't matter what year it is... no nonsense parents are the bane of every kid.

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