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Readers' footwear stories: If the shoes fit, write about them

Mireille Taub wore these patent leather shoes as

Mireille Taub wore these patent leather shoes as she escaped Nazi Europe as a child. They are a part of a collection of family treasures that Taub, now 77, keeps in her home in Freeport. Credit: Mireille Taub

Until we start searching the Internet, most of us probably wouldn't realize how fascinating the history of shoes can be.

For instance, before the 1800s, there was no distinction between the right and left shoe.

Men were the first to wear high heels.

And the first ladies' boots were made for Queen Victoria.

We all have our own stories about footwear that has created a special memory, and we asked readers to share their tales. One writer takes us back to the Great Depression. Another invokes the image of Farrah Fawcett, and others illustrate that you can be nostalgic about something as basic as shoes.

Here are some of their true stories, edited for space.


'Daddy's Bagel Shoes'

Thirty years ago, my husband purchased a pair of Sperry Topsiders. Little did he dream that, to this day, he would still be wearing them!

These shoes have been to countless events and still haven't fallen apart. When our son (now 25) was little, he referred to them as "Daddy's Bagel Shoes" because they were always worn on Sunday excursions to the bagel store.

I don't remember what they cost, but I can honestly say they are still going strong!

Carleen Hoffman,Great Neck

Cereal-box insoles

I was the fifth child and my brother was the sixth in our family. It was early Depression days and our family's income was low. We had to live within our means. So, when we wore out our shoes and they would get a hole in the sole, we would trace the half-sole out of recycled cereal boxes, cut the tracing out and place the cardboard into the shoe to cover the hole. Mom would caution us not to step in puddles! When there was enough family money, the shoes would go to the shoemaker for repair.

Marie Otten,Shirley

High style

In 1976, it was the era of Farrah Fawcett hair, bell bottoms and high platform shoes. I loved my shoes and walked in them from Penn Station to my office at the Empire State Building!

As years went by, my shoes stayed in my closet. Nothing like holding on to a pair 39-year-old shoes that you bought when you were 19 and feeling nostalgic showing them to your four adult kids! They laughed, and my daughter said, "Mom, those would be in style today."

Gloria Luchsinger,Farmingville

Generations of footwear

I am a saver and a few years ago, it occurred to me that I had these beautiful little shoes tucked away in a drawer. What to do with these gems? Throw them out? NEVER! So I put my thinking cap on.

When the framer finished the project, I was very pleased. The shadow box displays the first shoes for three baby girls, along with their pictures at the age they would have been wearing them. The pair on the left is mine; the middle ones belong to my daughter, Nancy Herrmann; and the third pair is my granddaughter's, Shannon Herrmann.

Betty Galvin, Jericho

Uno, due, tre!

My late husband, Art Levine, took me on many fabulous vacations. On one vacation, we went to Italy. I told Art that what I wanted to purchase there was a pair of Ferragamo shoes -- a classic, low heel, with a bow. In Rome, I found a Ferragamo, but they didn't have the shoe in my size. On to Capri, where they also didn't have the shoes in my size. Art felt terrible, and showed me another pair of shoes he thought I would like instead. At the same time I saw a different pair of shoes. I couldn't decide, and told him, "Well, you know what my mom would say?" He purchased both pair of shoes for me.

To return, we had to fly to Milan. While roaming the airport, lo and behold, a Ferragamo store! They had the shoes in my size! Art rolled his eyes and handed over his credit card, and I still wear the shoes!

Ginnie Levine, East Meadow

No-go go-go boots

It was the winter of 1966, when white go-go boots were the rage! Even as a 9-year-old, I wanted them so badly! All my sisters wanted them, too. (At the time I had five, one more and a brother were born later!) I begged my mom to take us to the shoe store in Lynbrook. We were thrilled that Mom said OK.

We got to the store and the salesman measured us all and went to the back to get the boots. As he doled out the fabulous footwear, we girls were giddy with excitement! There was a bit of frenzy as each sister got her boots, but mine never came because they had sizes to fit everyone EXCEPT me! How could that be possible? I was the fashion plate! It was ME who persuaded Mom to take us all to the shop! I told the man that in a week, our aunts from Brooklyn were taking all of us to see "The Sound of Music" at Radio City Music Hall and we ALL wanted to wear our new boots! Alas, it was not to be, and I went to Radio City wearing penny loafers while all my sisters were sporting the coolest boots ever!

Patricia Quinn,Rockville Centre

Spikes to flats

I never quite reached the 5'1" mark, and when I began teaching, I bought a wonderful selection of spike heels. They made me feel lithe and glamorous. Even though I stood all day long, those shoes never left my feet. I kept everything -- even my satin wedding shoes with the sexy pointed toes. Boxes were piled high in my closets. Everything was lovingly labeled and looking at them brought back wonderful memories.

Years passed. The 4-inch heels shrank down to 3, then 2, then flats, but all those shoes remained in my closets. Besides, styles were recycling and the pointy spikes were coming back into vogue. Unfortunately, wearing them now felt like I was on stilts and my ankles wobbled.

I could open a museum. Maybe you'd like to borrow a pair?

Irma Gurman,Smithtown

Wingtips and shoe wax

Wondered for decades why I was drawn to wingtips in shoe store windows, and why I was always inspecting what men were wearing on their feet. Finally had a flashback to the mid-'50s, when I was 4 or 5. I'd wait for my dad to pull into the driveway after tiring hours on the Grumman assembly line, then I'd run to my bedroom. He would come in, hang his coat and hat, make his hellos to my mother and older sister, and ask for me. My mother would say I was around because she'd just seen me, and my dad would begin a vocal search hither and yon, calling outside and up the stairs for "that Valerie, who has to be somewhere nearby because I'm home." He would come to a final stop, his wingtips under the bed right under my nose as I lay on my belly stifling my laughter. It never got old, and now I know why I'm comforted by the smell of shoe wax and Old Spice and the sight of those shoes with the holes in them.

Valerie Policastro,Miller Place

Shining in patent leather

In the late 1950s, when I was 7 or 8 years old, my mother got tickets for us to attend the children's TV show "Wonderama," hosted by Herb Sheldon. I was selected from the audience to come on stage and Mr. Sheldon placed me on his lap and said, "What pretty black shoes." I was wearing a new pair of patent leather Mary Janes and I was thrilled that he'd noticed. Although there must have been more conversation that followed, all I can recall is how proud I was that the host of the show called the nation's attention to my brand-new shoes.

Sara Josloff,Freeport

Holland to East Meadow

On a trip to Europe in 1975, my parents bought two pairs of wooden shoes for me from Holland. I was in kindergarten at Parkway Elementary in East Meadow. I loved those shoes! I would wear ONLY those wooden shoes. To school. Playing outside. To birthday parties. Riding my bike. Grocery shopping. Eventually I wore the bottoms out. My mother took them to the shoemaker to have rubber soles added to the bottom.

Not once did I think about others' reactions to my wooden shoes. Teachers would question my parents about those shoes. My parents would explain I just liked them. My free-spirt attitude was formed early in life. I marched to my own beat. My parents still talk about those shoes, how they symbolized me and my approach to life.

The shoes are almost 40 years old and they are still in my closet. Each of my three children has tried them on and wore them, too. I hope the free spirit "magic" passes on to them.

Jennifer Capece-DiPalo,Merrick

A diary in footwear

You may remember every moment in your life by the date on a calendar, but I can also remember the shoes I was wearing. Gazing at my collection is like looking down memory lane. The challenge of finding the perfect pair of ebony leather and suede boots for a family reunion. The shoes I wore on Sept. 11, 2001 -- black patent leather, oxford style. After arriving home safely from Manhattan, covered in dust, the shoes were bagged, never to be worn again. I wore open-toe, 4-inch heels to celebrate my daughter's s Sweet 16. They looked great and the smile on her face was worth the blisters.

Jennifer Bischoff,Seaford

History in my toddler shoes

These were the first days of a sweltering June 1940. My father was drafted to defend France against the inevitable Nazi invasion. He explained to his commanding officers that he had exit visas for his family and that we were Jewish. He was immediately excused from military service and returned home. We managed to get on the last train from Paris, along with thousands of other refugees.

Nazi planes strafed the railroad lines as well as the civilian population who were walking, riding the trains and on the roads that led out of Paris. We were forced on the road to join others after the train was bombed. We walked for hours, occasionally rested and then walked some more. My shiny patent leather shoes became dusty and dry. It was exhausting for all of us and more for my father and mother when they took turns carrying me. I was not quite 2 years old.

Eventually, we arrived in a small city near Bordeaux. My father met an American female attaché officer who remembered him vividly because he was traveling with a very-hard-to-come-by League of Nations "Nansen" passport.

She needed to get across France to the newly established U.S. consulate in Marseilles. We needed to get out of the country. She located a truck and let us ride through the Pyrenees into unoccupied France. She left us in Perpignan, and we traveled west, crossing into Spain. What would happen to us if our visas could not pass inspection by fascist Spain?

Luckily, we were able to cross Spain into Portugal. In Lisbon, we boarded a Greek freighter, part of a convoy crossing the Atlantic. We arrived in New York on Aug. 12. I was still wearing my black patent shoes -- worn down at the heels, very used and abused. I treasure them, now, because of their scarred links to my past.

Mireille Taub,Freeport

Bronzed shoes, golden memories

We did not think twice about bronzing the shoes of our firstborn son, Paul. We also bronzed our daughter Kim's first pair of shoes. We paid, way back then, $25 for each pair of shoes.

My husband, Mel, was born with a clubfoot. His mom had given me the one shoe he wore at the time. Thankfully, all is well with him. We'll soon be celebrating 51 years of marriage!

Leone Turner,Rego Park

A look too quickly faded

During the early '60s while living in Queens, a group of friends and I formed a girls' social club called the Aphrodisiacs. Every Friday we would hold club meetings. Once in a while we would give parties and invite our classmates. We planned to have a party at the local YWCA; this was the big time for us. I wanted to wear a special dress, so my mother bought me an aqua blue party dress and she suggested dyeing a pair of white shoes I had aqua blue to match.

At the party, I received many compliments on my dress and shoes. Then, one of my club members said something was wrong with my shoes. When I looked down the blue color was fading and the white of the shoe was becoming more pronounced and the shoes looked speckled. I was so embarrassed, I ran to the ladies room and stayed there until the party was over, then hurriedly left and ran toward the car.

Once home, I showed Mom the shoes. Then she realized that dyeing the shoes was a last-minute decision and so she had placed them by the radiator to dry quickly, but they had not properly dried. We both laughed.

Carole Hamilton,Baldwin

Shoes I still fall for

I have a pair of Luciano Barachini shoes. I don't know who he is, but his shoes are a work of art.

I bought them a long time ago and after my last two falls, I avoid heels. Yet I still love to look at them. This is the kind of shoe you want to touch. To feel the texture and be amazed that this is only a shoe. A shoe that could get worn out, which surely would've happened if I didn't fall and wind up wearing flats most of the time.

Once in a while, I get dressed up and put on my Luciano Barachinis and practice for the day when I can wear them again outside. Without a doubt, I will, but in between those dress rehearsals, I found a purpose and place for those shoes -- on a table next to a piece of metallic art that has colors that match my shoes. They say, "If the shoe fits, wear it," but, if you can't, at least display it.

Lynn Handelman, Bayside

My dog ate my Manolos

Manolo Blahnik encounter! With my second job on Wall Street, I was enjoying all the great monetary bonus perks and decided to treat myself to a shoe I spotted in Vogue magazine without asking the price! Later found out they were $450. After showing a few co-workers the shoe (a black sling back) and having them fill my head with compliments, I decided to order the shoes from Bergdorf Goodman with my new Bergdorf credit card.

The shoes were messenger-delivered to my workplace. Wore them to work the next day and they felt like a glove, so smooth and soft. That evening my dog took a liking to them as well by mauling them beyond recognition. He had never gone near any of my shoes before! I cried so hard you would have thought I lost a family member, After reciting this over the phone to Bergdorf and hearing the staff's laughter, they were replaced without additional charge!

Ruby E. Webb, Brooklyn

Hobbled by the BMT

Around 1962 or 1963, I was working for the Serial Federal Savings & Loan on Vesey Street in lower Manhattan, future site of the World Trade Center. On my way to work from Astoria on the BMT line, the train stopped at Cortland Street to discharge its passengers, of which there were many. In the crush to disembark, I was one of the last and just barely got my foot released from the shut door leaving my shoe on the train. I looked back as the train was leaving the station and a man held up my shoe to the window, opened at the top.

Does he throw my shoe out to me? No! Here I am in late fall with one shoe on, having to walk to hobble along in my stockinged feet. At my arrival, my amused co-workers all wanted to know what had happened. Those were the days when we dressed to work -- suits, shoes, hose and gloves. I can just imagine what people on the street were thinking when they saw this very properly dressed young woman walking to work with no shoes. I still laugh when I recall the scene.

Millicent Harlow,Oceanside

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