Hunter Levinsohn


When I was a child one did not go into the shoe store and decide on oneís own what shoe size and which style were appropriate and pay for oneís purchase. No, to purchase a shoe in my childhood required ritual.

My mother and I would go on the chosen day after school to the shoe department of Condonís Department Store way up on King Street. We would sit in the special chairs for those in search of a new pair of shoes and the salesman would approach; first inquiring as to the sorts of shoes we were in need of. And then asking the size of shoe I would need. After the size had been announced I would remove my shoe and stand placing my foot in the special measuring device which measured not only the length but also the proper width of oneís foot. This having been determined, he would disappear behind the curtained-off doorway of the room where all the shoes were kept, row after row on long, and tall shelves. Soon he would emerge with four or five boxes. All but one would be very much what my mother had described as the kind of shoe we were looking for, but the last box would contain shoes very different from all the rest, with only a small hint that they were related to the shoes for which you had asked. I would put one of each of the pairs on and stand while both the mother and the shoe salesman punched the end of the foot to check how much "room to grow" I would have and thus would we narrow down the selection. When we got down to one or two possibilities, I would put on both shoes for the walk-about. I would walk around the shoe department to see how the shoe felt. If the first round of boxes produced no shoes then he would go back into the sanctum for more boxes of shoes and we would repeat the process. I donít remember ever going away empty handed.

For a very brief time there was in Condonís the Shoe Fitting X-Ray Device which was a large box of a machine which you stood in front of and slipped your feet into so that your mother, the salesman and you could peer down into special viewing screens and see your feet inside the shoes glowing green. This marvelous machine assured you of the perfect fit. It was also the first thing I ever remember that included the child as a part of the "team," for most of this process you were only the feet to be shod.

I remember very little about the shoes we bought but I loved the ritual, particularly, looking back on it. We are all too busy for such rituals today or we buy things too often and have lost sight of the value of process.

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