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Monday, October 24, 2016

Shoe Polishing...Almost One Hundred Years Ago

As I was searching for shoe polish on my shelf where I thought it was, I thought back to my grandmother and mother.

My grandmother walked a short distance to town. I don't know how far or for how long. But, I seem to remember it was one mile and for a short time. Mama said when her mother walked to town, she always wore old shoes and carried her good ones in a bag. Memaw then sat down in edge of town and changed to her good shoes.

Mama said all the other women who walked to town wore their good shoes to town and thought it strange that my grandmother changed shoes.

When I was a child, I remember my mother polishing our shoes. Before I wrote this, I tried to remember when she did this, the time frame. I remember her polishing our shoes from first grade through eighth grade. I was the oldest, so she did this much longer. Plus, I remember polishing my own shoes in seventh and eighth grade. Maybe she did it sometimes for those last two years. Since my youngest brother was born when I was in high school, I suppose she polished shoes longer.

My mother did not just polish our shoes once a week, she polished them every night. We were poor, but we had the cleanest shoes in school, of that I am sure. I remember noticing other kids with scuffed shoes.  We only had one pair of shoes, so they were worn at home, in the yard, walking to the school bus stop, and on the playground at school.

I don't remember anything but lace up leather shoes. But, each night she faithfully washed the mud or dust off, rubbed on the wax polish and buffed all four pair of shoes. She performed this act of love whether she was ill, overworked, abused, or pregnant. I never went to school with shoes not freshly polished.

For Sunday, we three girls wore patent leather shoes. Did you? I took a wet cloth and removed every speck of dirt and put Vaseline on them to make them shine and rubbed it all off and rubbed them often before leaving for church. I suppose all the Vaseline I put on my shoes just drew dusty dirt to the shoes...lol. Mama told me not to use so much. I cared for these shoes.

Outside church before entering I knelt to get all the dust off. I remembering carrying a bit of toilet paper in my patent leather purse to wipe off my shoes before entering the church. One day, some ladies were smiling at my wiping my shoes. I thought they were smiling because my shoes were shiny. Now, I imagine they were smiling at the third-grader keeping her shoes shiny.

I don't know if we used shoe polish or shoe cream. As for the difference in shoe cream and shoe paste (both are shoe polish): Shoe cream has a higher oil content and a lower wax content, and shoe paste is just the opposite with a lower oil content and a higher wax content.

She used a small rag to apply and spread the shoe polish. Then, she held the shoe between her knees and buffed them with another rag drawn back and forth, like at a shoeshine stand. She finished them my buffing them all over with the same rag.

Back to now. One shoe toe is exceptionally scuffed to the point of little polish. This is from dragging my foot on the one high step at the door! This is an older pair, but it is the pair without a hole in the sole. It cannot be seen on the other pair, but water does seep through. I just hope the best old pair will work with polish and not have a leak. Maybe Santa will bring me new shoes!

Kiwi was the brand at WM. It seems that we used Cavalier brand.

Your turn
Did anyone else have a mother who polished school shoes every night?  Did you ever use Cavalier brand? What brand did you use then and now? Do you polish your leather shoes regularly? Do you have these kinds of memories about your mother's loving sacrifices? Share with me.

17 comments:

  1. My sister and I polished our own shoes every Sunday night. Dad spread newspaper on the den floor and we polished our school shoes, Sunday shoes, Dad's work shoes and dress shoes and Mom's black pumps. Mom wore Hushpuppies daily unless it was summer and then she wore sandals, so we had to use the suede brush on her shoes. We had black Mary Janes for winter and white Mary Janes for summer. (Our feet had to have grown between seasons because we only got new shoes when our feet grew. I do remember from spring to fall between the 4th and 4th grade I grew from a regular 4th grade kid height to 5'5" literally in 6 months. I think I got new shoes about every 4 weeks that year)
    The white shoe polish was a liquid in a bottle with a cloth "dabber" to apply it, but the other polish was wax. No idea of the brand, but we had black, brown and cordovan polish, plus we used saddle soap on our purses and Dad's briefcase.

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    Replies
    1. Anne,
      I actually did polish shoes in the kitchen when I was small, but decided not to go back and add it to the already long story. But, we had no set time like you did.

      I remember using the white polish on my siblings' baby shoes. Plus, I just had to have majorette boots, all the rage, in the fourth grade. I did polish those white with the liquid. I remember black and brown. We had saddle soap, but I don't remember using it.

      You did grow a lot in that six months! Just curious, was that your full height?

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    2. I have not grown even a quarter inch since then. By the beginning of the 5th grade I was a fully adult woman/child

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    3. Anne,
      I have heard people with those early and major growth spurts say they never grew a bit afterwards.

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    4. My youngest was the same- in fifth grade she was the tallest, wore a size 8 1/2 shoe and had started her period. I don't think she grew after that- she's about 5' 5''-5'6'' now.

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    5. My kids had larger feet than their classmates, even though they had no growth spurts. My grandchildren have larger than normal feet now, but no growth spurts there, either. My son wears a 14 and grandson wears a 13 or 14, but the girls don't have large feet now. The early periods come with the early growth spurts in girls. Thanks.

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  2. We were the kids who had a shoe carrying bag, kind of a leather or vinyl zippered case with a handle, to carry our shoes to school, saving them from the wear/tear from walking. This was the 1960's, we were lower middle class

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    Replies
    1. CTMOM,
      I don't remember anyone carrying a bag for shoes. But, I always rode the bus, so maybe that's why. Thanks for that.

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  3. First memory polishing saddle shoes in junior high. Next year we wore them scuffed up. Fads!

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    Replies
    1. carol,
      I hated saddle shoes with a passion. I got penny loafers after a major meltdown. The Spanish teacher in hs wore loafers and never polished hers, so that was good enough for me--no hose or socks, either. My mother was horrified, but she no longer polished my shoes. Our fads seem so tame and reasonable! Thanks.

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  4. I remember the fibber like polish on dad's shoes and white stuff on my mom's work shoes and our tennis. Mom wasn't very domestic about shiny shoes so nothing daily. Good memories to share Linda.

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    1. Sam,
      Well, if she worked, she probably did not have time to be so domestic! Thanks, I have wonderful memories of my mother.

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  5. My dad was a salesman and wore suits/sport coats to work and yes, he paid me to polish his shoes. I usually did it just once a week but I did a good job. As for my shoes, we rarely polsished them but as a mom, I polished my kids white walker shoes regularly. I just hated seeing little kids in dirty scuffed white shoes LOL.

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    Replies
    1. NAN, A good job was worth the money. I wanted the little high tops to be spotless and whiter than white for my babies. My son hung his foot over the side of the floor of the stroller and completely wore through the toe of one of his high tops. I was so upset. He just refused to keep his foot inside the stroller! The sidewalk and mall floor ate the toes out. Polishing his shoes lasted about 10 minutes...little stinker.

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  6. I once took a lot of delight in polishing my shoes, and even in ironing my handkerchiefs and underwear, so that everything that I wore would be in a state of perfection. I used cream polish and sometimes liquid polish, but it vexed me no end that I couldn’t make my shoes shine like those of the people on the TV variety shows. I had to grow up to realize that their shoes were patent leather, so I was doomed from the outset. I still feel bad about that because I tried so hard to make my shoes look like their shoes.

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    Replies
    1. Snowbrush,
      It is good to hear of a man who wants to look good and is willing to do the job himself. Did you know a spit shine makes a shinier shoe? Look it up but use water. Spit or water is the secret...well, if you don't have patent leather shoes.

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  7. I remember the knowledge of how to polish your shoes was a sign of a proper gentleman. Alas, I do not do so but haul them to the shoe shine shop. Lazy but worth the price of time and money.

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