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Historical Perspectives: October and Shoes

October 24, 2018


Historical  Perspectives:  October and Shoes


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Reading local history often helps us to put into perspective national history and, at times, even world history.  In my list of retirement -stage readings, I find that I tend to alternate nonfiction and fiction books.  Usually only a book which is scheduled for one of my book clubs will shift this trend of a fiction book followed by a nonfiction selection.  While I have read a number of books by the prolific, Wisconsin writer Jerry Apps, his WISCONSIN AGRICULTURE: A HISTORY (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2015; Madison, Wisconsin) has especially intrigued me in a variety of ways over the past few days.  You need not be a current or former resident of Wisconsin to enjoy and learn from this outstanding history book.  From one of the book’s charts entitled “Items Rationed During World War II,” I learned that shoes were rationed from February of 1943 through October of 1945.


The thought of rationing of shoes prompted me to recall the first essay which I posted on WORDWALK in January of 2013.  After writing the essay on January 11-12, 2013, I posted the essay on January 19, 2013.  For this re-posting, I have revised the following piece slightly, including the changing of time references to be appropriate from this date of writing.


* * *


Big Shoes on Little Feet


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Clippity-clop.  Clippity-clop.  The approximately three-year-old child was trying as hard as an Olympic competitor to keep up with her impatient, young mother.  The scene unfurled in front of me as my second guide dog Heather and I walked down the State Street sidewalk toward the Big Lake—Lake Michigan.  The obviously too big shoes for the little feet were tugging at my heart strings and my wallet.  How I wanted to buy the little girl a pair of shoes of the perfect size!


As I walked with my Leader Dog, I wondered how I could approach the young mother who was assuredly in a hurry.  What exactly would I say?  As a teacher for most of my adult life, I was accustomed to telling people what to do, offering suggestions of what to do, counseling individuals.  Fortunately or unfortunately, my thrusting out my opinions was never limited to the classroom:  A need to teach has always exuded from my being whenever and wherever circumstances arose.  Nevertheless, on this one occasion with the clippity-clop reverberating in front of me, I could not step into the scene.  I just thought:  I did not act.


Although I am blessed with having few regrets in my life, just observing and not entering this scene is one of my regrets.  Even though this incident occurred about a dozen years ago, the scene periodically replays in my mind.  Was the young mother taking the little girl to the park?  Was the mother taking her daughter to day-care before hurrying to a job or job interview?  I thought I would meet them again sometime on a walk, but I never have.  I have only met my regrets.


When my sister Mary Elizabeth and I were young, our parents took us either to McCoy Shoe Store (on the square of Paris, Illinois) or to Horning and Hahn (a shoe store in Terre Haute, Indiana).  At both stores, my feet were carefully measured to insure a good fit on my growing feet.  Although the people at McCoy’s were quite nice, I especially enjoyed going to the shoe store in Terre Haute because it had a life-size, beautifully-painted, wooden horse I could ride back and forth, back and forth.


Growing up, I always had at least a pair of play shoes and a pair of dress shoes that were well-fitted.  Additionally, my cousin Carole had patent leather tap shoes and shiny pink ballet slippers.  Of course, we had house slippers and boots also.  I do remember having a pair of boots that seemed a bit too large for my feet; however, I never experienced trying to walk quickly in shoes that were so very much bigger than my feet as the little girl on State Street.


At the onset of another “Milwaukee Gray Season” (late autumn and winter), I do make resolutions.  One of my resolutions for this upcoming “Gray Season” is to live the next six months without regrets.  Finding a way to offer help to someone who needs help is a wonderful path to walk and avoid regrets during any season.  I wonder if that little girl is now in high school.  I wonder if she is now walking in perfectly-sized jogging shoes.  I wonder how she is doing, and I hope that she is living her days with happy feet and a happy heart—with no regrets.


* * *


BOOKNOTE:  Besides being available in print (322 pages), the book which I mentioned in the introduction of this WORDWALK post is available in digitally recorded format for patrons of the National Library Service (NLS) of the Library of Congress as DBC 04745.(13 hours, 21 minutes).  I hope you will enjoy reading WISCONSIN AGRICULTURE:  A HISTORY, by Jerry Apps.


PAW-NOTE:  In my essay, you read about my second of four Leader Dogs, Heather, whose birthday was October 22, 1996.  This Yellow Lab was my guide dog from April 15, 1998, until June 6, 2009–the day that Leader Dog Zoe came into our lives and the day when Heather officially retired from guide work.  Then, for thirteen months, I was blessed with two Leader Dogs–one retired and one active guide dog.  Having Heather and Zoe together gave me some of the happiest days and months of my life.


With thanks for reading WORDWALK,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


October 24, 2018, Wednesday



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  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–I remember reading this post and how it made me think of a few times, and one in particular, where I could have intervened in some way and did not. Unfortunately, since then, there have been a few more times I could have done likewise. Your resolution is one I should copy!

    I appreciate the information about the Jerry Apps book and plan to read it soon–Sue

    • Sue–Thanks for your nice comment, and a special thanks for your phone call earlier this week!

      Enjoy the weekend!  Alice and Willow

  2. Alice, it sounds like you and I have similar reading habits. I also like to alternate between reading fiction and nonfiction unless I need to read a particular book for an upcoming book group discussion. I enjoyed this article.

    • Abbie–How interesting to hear your similar reading preferences! Thanks for continuing to read and comment on WORDWALK!

      Happy reading–Alice and Willow

  3. Dear Alice,
    I remember this touching essay, and I also like to think that the little girl has grown up to have well-fitting shoes for all occasions. Heather was a remarkable Leader Dog who would have certainly worn out many pairs of shoes with all the miles that the two of you walked together through her working years. The two of you made an amazing team!
    With loving memories of Heather near the anniversary of her birth,

    • Mary–One of my fondest memories of Heather was when we went to visit Mother at your home in Colorado.  Despite Heather’s strength, energy, and enthusiasm–my big Yellow Lab was so gentle with our then frail Mother.  Seeming to understand the situation, Heather just rested her head on the bed beside Mother.

      Thanks for your nice comments–Alice and Willow

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