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170724 July 24, 2017


Walk a Mile in My Shoes
Tommy Towery
LHS '65

    I never know where my idea for a story might come from, and sometimes it amazed even me when I am hit with a subject. For example, this morning I was putting on my shoes, and the thought of the shoes in my life started walking around in my head. I suppose one reason is because I recently acquired a pair of those rubber band type shoestrings. The brand name is “Hickeys” but I got an off brand. Anyway, they replace the common shoestrings in your shoes with a pair of rubber (elastic) strings which do not have to be tied or untied. They basically turn your “tennie” shoes into a pair of loafers. Now I just slide them on and slid them off and no longer have to worry about shoestrings. I hope that's not a getting-old thing.

    But the ease of getting my shoes on this morning presented me with a task for which I have worked on all day – thinking back about the shoes in my life.

    I know I wore those little white kid shoes when I was very young. I know that because they are still sitting out in my storage locker in the garage, along with a pair of my brother Don’s. They survived the last 70 years by being bronzed when I outgrew them. Was it really "bronzed" or just painted with bronze paint? Do people still do that today? I wonder who started that tradition and if it was a door-to-door salesman or just a place where people took the shoes in and picked them up a week or so later.

    Anyway, while it would be impossible to list all the shoes I wore during my lifetime, there are some significant ones which jump out in my memories. The first shoes I remember wearing on a day to day basis were the black and white Keds “tennie shoes” as we called them. They were the high top ones with the big white Keds circle on them and long white shoestrings. I know I didn’t wear them to church, but I guess that was about the only time I wore different ones.

    My most memorable pair of shoes of my younger life was a pair of multi-colored Keds which became popular in 1955. For many years I tried to find some record of the existence of those shoes, but have been unsuccessful until this morning. I mainly remember the advertising campaign of "Dig Those Crazy Mixed Up Keds." I don't remember the comic book hawking them as shown at the top of this page, but it was a little 16-page free give-away. Thanks again to the power of the Internet, I have finally found some sites which mention them, including a newspaper featuring them  in a Keds’ ad as “Washable colors: blue, faded denim, brown and multi-color Crazy Mixed-Up Keds.” Boy was I proud of those shoes. Basically they were low tops with each piece cut from a different color canvas, of which I remember orange being the dominate color. I know I wore them until my toes were sticking through holes in the front. "Man, dig those crazy mixed up Keds!"

    In my aging process, my next memorable shoes were some Buster Brown brown-leather shoes, which were a necessary part of being in uniform when I joined the Boy Scouts. Unlike today, our uniform rules were strictly enforced, and the brown lace-up shoes were required for those who wanted to be in uniform.

    I never got a pair of blue suede shoes, but I remember switching over from Keds to grey Hush Puppies as I entered my teenage years. Those and the required Penny Loafers donned my feet throughout high school, with loafers becoming my favorite form of foot ware, and stayed so throughout my college days as well (except for one brief period when Beetle Boots were the must have attire.) 

    After college graduation my choice of shoes for daily ware was out of my hands for the next 20 years. My spit-and-polish black leather shoes kept me busy keeping them polished for the first few years of my Air Force days but lucky for me, and thousands of others, high gloss men’s Corafam shoes were finally accepted as being legal by the uniform board. When flying I was required to wear high-top jump boots with zippers for fast access when the alert horn blew. During my time in Southeast Asia I was allowed to wear the coveted jungle boots with the olive-drab nylon tops and booby-trap repellent soles.

    In my civilian life during those 20 years I tried cowboy boots when I was in Texas, but they were not me. I also tried sandals during my assignment to California during the hippie-days – no love there either. I tried sandals again when I was going to Greece on and off – mainly because I bought them from “The Poet Sandal Maker” who was famous for selling his sandals to the Beatles. Still have them in my closet for a conversation piece but don’t wear them. I also tried the sandals made from truck tires when I was in Thailand –they were cheap but uncomfortable for me. I had a pair of wingtip dress shoes made in Thailand in 1972 from a local cobbler in the little village of Sattaheip. The guy sat me down in a chair and drew my foot in a ledger book and with a tape measure took a few other critical measurements. Two days later I picked them up, and paid him $10 for a sturdy pair of shoes made from elephant leather and which are still as good as new and also sitting in my closet.

    After my Air Force stint, I was back to loafers for my job at the University and finally settled in on a pair of knock-off suede Merrells. I broke down once and bought a pair of leather Rebox walking shoes once and swore I would never pay that much for a pair of shoes again, so I started buying cheap athletic shoes from Walmart and shoe outlet stores. Over a year or so time period I saved money but succeeded in acquiring plantar fasciitis which changed my foot ware from shoes to a medical boot for the next six weeks, and gave me a doctor bill which was much more than the money I saved with the cheap shoes. The insurance bill for the one boot was over $600. When I was finally well, my doctor said “Don’t wear anything but Saucony or a similar brand of shoe ever again.” And I haven’t.

    Throw in some flip flops, beach shoes, moccasin house shoes, bowling shoes, golf shoes, snow boots when I lived in Nebraska, and Wellies, and that pretty well covers my foot wear in my life. 

    If you think this article is stupid, don’t criticize until you have walked a mile in my shoes (take your pick of which ones.)

Some Shoe Songs from our Time

Blue Suede Shoes

These Boots are Made for Walking

        Memphis, TN - Busy week ahead for me. I am going up to Blytheville, Arkansas to attend a re-dedication of a memorial for the men from that base who were killed during the Hanoi bombing campaign called Linebacker II. Got a former commander coming for a visit to go with me so it should be a interesting trip.

    It's been a really hot week in Memphis this last week, and I know it will be just as hot in Arkansas, standing out on the tarmac. Will feel like my old B-52 days in Texas.


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