Putting Best Foot Forward

I’m going to do it, I told myself the other day. I am going to put the winter boots away. Spring already arrived on the calendarl. In fact, I think I’m going to throw away a certain pair of boots that have seen me through several winter seasons.

As I looked in the closet, I pulled out a pair of shoes that will work their way into the spring wardrobe. They looked a bit dusty and tired, however. So I went to the cupboard and located a bottle of black shoe polish. Yes, I have shoe polish — several different colors, in fact. I grew up in a time when having clean, polished shoes was a sign of respect, for yourself and for the occasion. I guess we got that from our dad who had a magical shoe shine box with brushes, tins of waxy shoe polish, bottles of liquid colors and buffing rags. He was a drill sergeant in the Army and that’s most likely where he got into the habit of shiny shoes.

His idea of polishing shoes was something to watch. He had it down to a science. He would line up his shoes, color coordinated, and proceed to polish, paint and brush them to a gleaming shine. Many of his shoes were old, but you wouldn’t know it from the care he imparted on them.

Every season had its shoes. From the sturdy wingtips for winter and special occasions, cordova-colored penny loafers for fall and the white bucks for summer, but never worn past Labor Day. Even his golf shoes got special attention.

Attending Catholic school, we were expected to keep our uniforms, beanies and shoes neat and clean. Our cheerleading/pep club moderator was Miss Lillian Gangwere. She led the charge for proper attire, including maintaining our black and white saddle shoes in proper order. Now that took some skill as it required two bottles of polish — one black, one white. It’s a good thing there were plenty of newspapers in the house to catch the drips of polish.

Most shoe stores today are self-serve. That’s a far cry from years past when Wheeling had several shoe stores on every block in the downtown. There were clerks to measure your feet and help you find the perfect fitting shoe. It was especially important for a toddler to have his or her first pair of “walking” shoes, and you could find them at the Buster Brown store.

Maybe the shoe does not make the man or woman, but you can tell a lot about someone by the shoes they are wearing. Take a look at your postal carriers.They put a lot of miles on their feet and shoes. I wonder if they can write off shoe expenses on their income tax forms? I imagine they buy really good and comfortable shoes that most likely cost a little more than the tennis shoes Mom bought us at Harts.

In life, putting your best foot forward can be as simple as a bottle of shoe polish. Think about that when applying for a job. Those clean, shiny shoes just might get your foot in the right door.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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