Sheboygan Pioneer Monthly Supplement
When Squeaking Footwear Was Favored
In early times, when boots and shoes were hand-made to measure, and when many folks particular as to the footwear they bought went to their favorite shoemaker to get measured for new boots and shoes, just as men went to their favorite custom tailors to replenish their wardrobe, while today all but those who can afford to and now get footwear and clothing made to their order and measure buy them ready-made and "built" in huge factories in huge quantities.
When the oldtime shoemakers desired to please their customers they were careful to produce a pronounced squeak in wearing them, keyed to the musical taste of the wearer, women, of course, preferring gentle squeaks in their shoes and men more robust audibility in their boots and shoes.
The squeak in pioneertime footwear was not produced by its tongue, as it is in most of God's creatures, but by its sole, the honest leather layers of which rubbed against one another when the wearer walked and bore down his or her weight upon it, so that one person's approach to another was heralded by squeaking footwear, and the shoe that did not squeak was not considered much of a shoe.
A chronicler of early times in Sheboygan who later recorded reminiscences of them in local newspapers, tells about the once favored squeaky footwear, which, however, lost its squeak and its favor apace with wear, the fading squeak rather then the wear causing many folks to buy new boots and shoes before the old ones were worn out, and that one could tell by the varying audibility or the squeak whether the wearer of the new footgear was walking up or downstairs or on a level surface.
Mr. Chronicler also relates a little story pertinent to the present subject to the effect that once upon a time - as such stories usually begin - young Hezekiah Armstrong went to Uncle Lute Spalding to get a pair of "Sunday" shoes, made to order, of course, saying that he wanted to have considerable extra squeak put into them to make the girls look around when he walked up to the Armstrong pew, which was way up near the pulpit of the meeting house devoted to religious services.
Now, Hez, tho quite a dandy for his time, wasn't very sharp, and Uncle Lute played a joke on him. To increase the squeaking of the new shoes, he split a goose quill and put the halves between the two layers of the sole of one shoe only. Next Sunday Hez entered the meeting house rather late, not having noticed, while walking on the ground outside, that there was anything unusual the matter with his new "Sunday" shoes. Like as not, he didn't put them on until he got near the meeting house, so that they might be clean and bright when he walked in, which he did just after the customary long prayer, and as he walked up the aisle, at every other step he took there was a yell like a cat fight, and all the girls did look around to see Hez grow as red in the face as a beet. He hardly dared to look up during the sermon time, and after the meeting he disappeared as unobserved and avoiding the girls as much as possible.
Early on Monday morning Hez went to see Uncle Lute about that static squeaking of his new shoes. He wanted them to squeak alike, but the old shoemaker said he believed that could not be done, and that Hez would have to be satisfied with one of the new shoes doing all the squeaking. One good thing accomplished by the rather mean joke Uncle Lute played on Hez was that it caused the latter to go to meeting early after that.
Copyright 1997 - 2005 by Debie Blindauer
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