Dr-Martens 1

For a Catholic school girl relegated to wearing a uniform every day, choosing school shoes was a big deal.  They were your only real venue for expressing yourself.  They told your classmates who you were and what you were all about.  In my day, athletic shoes weren’t permitted.  Your school shoes had to be “dressy” enough for Mass, stylish enough to fit in with your friends, practical enough to make a fast getaway if a boy flipped up your skirt, and sturdy enough to send a kickball soaring into the outfield.  Plus, they had to fit comfortably and leave room for growth without looking like canoes.  A tall order for a humble pair of shoes!  Which meant a long day for the person doing your fitting and trying to close the sale.  God bless the patient salespeople at Januzzi’s who treated me like a princess as I wrangled with my annual footwear indecision.  I still remember their back-to-school jingle on the radio:  “Follow the street to happy feet, get your shoesies at Januzzi’s!”  My favorite school shoes ever were called Armadillos, which looked like the Doc Marten’s shown above.  I can’t believe they’re back in style.


Summer’s but a dying ember,
August fades into September,
and with fondness, I remember
trips to buy my school shoes

No lunchbox or pencil case,
set of crayons or jar of paste
could bring a smile to my little face
like picking out my school shoes

The store lay in a weird dimension
free of adult condescension
where salesmen gave their full attention
to fitting kids for school shoes

To be measured, stand up straight,
heel to the rear of the sizing plate
Right foot, left foot, width and length.
Then, to the back for school shoes

Stacks of boxes around me rise
a huge selection, personalized
to the styles and colors in my size
Time to try on school shoes!

Buckles, laces, leather, suede,
slide them on and then parade
past the mirror, each surveyed
Which would be my school shoes?

Favorites make the second round:
tiptoe, two-step, stomp and pound
Where fit meets fashion, there are found
my Cinderella school shoes

Neatly wrapped and boxed away,
up on my closet shelf they’d stay,
kept pristine ‘til opening day
And ready to run for the school bus!

As the child of a teacher (dad) and former valedictorian (mom) whose frugal living habits afforded me the luxury of parochial school, I have a soft spot for education.  I regularly donate to educational charities for children, especially in Third World nations where a year of school costs less than $50, the price of the uniform required for attendance.  Ignore the naysayers; even small donations, when added together, can change a life.  Take a couple moments to watch this favorite video of mine; the look on the little girl’s face literally brings me to tears.

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  1. Tippy Gnu August 28, 2016 / 9:07 am

    I like the poem. As I recall, shoes were the thing most classmates focused on when criticizing each other’s dress. So the selection process can be pretty important for kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 28, 2016 / 3:27 pm

      I loved shoe shopping because it was my yearly “Fifteen Minutes of Fame.” Also because I was allowed to get whatever I wanted, something that happened nowhere else besides the public library. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joyce Robinson August 28, 2016 / 10:36 am

    Loved this. I remember my favorites – brogues they were called not at all girlish more like men’s wing tips.
    Also like you I have supported a boy for ten years he was nine when I started he is now nineteen and hopefully will find a good job when he finished school. Along with education my monthly donation has helped he and his family.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan August 28, 2016 / 3:30 pm

      Good, all-purpose shoes are hard to come by.
      I’m sure your sponsorship of this boy and his family has made, and will continue to make, a huge difference in their lives.


  3. circumstance227 August 28, 2016 / 3:58 pm

    Nice poem! I always loved the first days of school. I’d set out my clothes (including the shoes!) and supplies out neatly the night before with such excitement.
    It’s nice that you do charitable giving for education. We sponsor two girls in Ethiopia to keep them off the streets and in their schools. It may not be any guarantee for their futures, but it surely extends their childhoods by several years.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan August 28, 2016 / 4:33 pm

      Ahhh! #2 pencils, Pink Pearl eraser, new Crayolas, Elmer’s glue. On art afternoons (Friday, I think) I loved covering my palm with a thin coating of glue, letting it dry, and peeling it off. I would have been voted most likely to scuff up my new shoes on the first day–which went well with ruffled hair, untucked shirt, and knee socks drooping down to my ankles. Mom said no way, I needed to look like a proper little lady. So I would smooth my hair, tuck in my shirt, and pull up my socks on the bus ride home, right before my stop, so I’d look “acceptable” when I got off. LOL 🙂 The educational missions I support are in The Philippines, Ghana, and South Africa.

      Liked by 1 person

      • circumstance227 August 28, 2016 / 6:50 pm

        #2 pencils rock! I also did the glue thing. (My current students do it too.) Here’s another one: getting a mimeographed handout and pressing it up against your face, breathing deeply.
        I didn’t share your school bus stress though. I walked home. And then let myself in with my own house key. Then there were a few (glorious) hours before the siblings and mother returned. Every time I hear reports about the poor, miserable “latchkey kids” I think “You have no clue!”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan August 28, 2016 / 8:53 pm

        I’d almost forgotten about the mimeographed handouts–I loved the smell, too, especially if they were freshly run and still a little damp. I started “latchkeying” in 6th grade and loved it. One or more sisters were always there, so I was never alone-alone. We turned on “Another World” (a soap opera) and watched as much as we could before my Dad pulled into the driveway, then we’d open up our schoolbooks and try to look like we’d been doing homework the whole time. I didn’t dust under the doilies either, just lifted the edges. I admit it, I was a closet delinquent.


  4. Marissa Bergen August 28, 2016 / 9:38 pm

    Kind of cool concept how these Catholic schools take away the identity so you have to express it in your shoes. I’m sure I’d be wearing Doc Martens!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 29, 2016 / 3:07 pm

      We looked like a row of Stepford Students, aside from our shoes (which were probably more similar than different). I loved my precursors-to-Doc Martens, even though I got teased for having “Holly Hobbie feet” when I wore them.


      • Marissa Bergen August 29, 2016 / 4:36 pm

        WEll, if you’re going to show your individuality, you always open yourself up for being teased but I say, better that than being a sheep!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. L. T. Garvin, Author August 29, 2016 / 11:06 am

    What a neat memory. ..buying shoes and going back to school. I loved shoe stores and the measuring device that you placed your foot in. Education is indeed a very worthy cause. I have seen the video before, and I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 29, 2016 / 3:14 pm

      According to Google, that metal shoe-sizer is called a Brannock Device. You hardly ever see them anymore. I loved how the salesmen rolled out the red carpet and let your try on as many as you wanted. And the video? That guy is my hero; I want to BE that guy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. T. Garvin, Author August 31, 2016 / 6:24 am

        I wasn’t sure what the device was called, looks like it was named after someone. You are right, don’t really see them anymore. Buying shoes back then was truly more special, maybe because people couldn’t buy as many as they do today.

        Liked by 1 person

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