If you love shoes like my friend Joye Helm and I, we have something in common.
In a shoebox, far up in the corner of my closet, I have saved a beautiful pair of leopard pumps for more than five decades. I don’t wear them, I just enjoy having them.
We lived in the country, in a home rented from the Rosendales, just down a country road from the New Bethel School in Anderson, the year was 1944 and mother was canning harvest from her vegetable garden. Never then – in the third grade (or even now as a senior citizen) — very graceful, I fell as I carried the empty jars to the storage and broke a jar, causing a pretty serious wound on my calf of my right leg.
We were fortunate that mother had some understanding of first aid: she applied a tourniquet and showed my younger brothers how to hold it tight, and without any means of transportation, ran to the nearest neighbor, Mr. Dale, a quarter of a mile down our country road, who had a vehicle. It’s painful to think of it today, a hot summer day, she was several months pregnant but prevailed on a very compassionate Mr. Croddy who obliged her, giving aid to the little family as he transported us to downtown Anderson where Doc Bush applied a little more than first aid and sent us home.
Survival it was but not much more than that. Many were the nights of aching torment, eased by mother massaging and rubbing the injured member. Shortly after that we moved from Missouri to California. Dragging that leg caused uneven wear on my shoes and we learned we could, to save the shoe in times of World War II when shoes didn’t come easy, by taking it to a shoe repair and having that sole built up. Imagine my surprise when I went to pick up the shoe one day at the shoe repair when the shoemaker casually remarked, “Oh yes, you’re the little crippled girl” as he handed me the doctored shoe. Surely, I thought, he’s mistaken, he must be talking of someone else. Credit goes to my parents as they never let me feel that I was “handicapped,” it was just an accepted fact that I could never participate in sports at school or anything that required a graceful walk.
Apparently, angels in heaven were on duty when the school nurse contacted my mother and informed her that discovered during “the war” was the fact muscles could be transplanted. She contacted my parents, to whom health insurance was unheard of, and arrangements were made through the Crippled Children for the surgery.
A year of physical therapy followed, as I boarded a country “Peerless bus” and traveled from school to the nearest town to dunk my healing leg in a mechanism similar to a washing machine and ultimately was able to not only walk without a doctored right shoe but, in time, could participate in softball out on the playground and even a bit of snow skiing in the Sierras.
It wasn’t surprising that shoes, for the first time in my life, became important in my life. It was a few years later, when I got my first paycheck that my first indulgence was shoes. My sister chuckles today as we remember that I arrived home with five boxes of shoes, including a pair of leopard pumps. My, how I enjoyed wearing those fancy pumps! The rest of the shoes, I don’t remember today, worn and discarded, but those beautiful leopard pumps I just couldn’t part with.
I haven’t worn them in many decades, but I know where they are and even today, five decades later, I’m enjoying just knowing they are there, safe, and a part of a history made possible by an angel guiding a school nurse and an agency that cared.
The McDonald County Historical Society works to preserve our local history and would like to invite everyone to join us. Check out the grand old courthouse on the square in Pineville, work is in progress for it to soon be the McDonald County Historical Museum. The current museum, at 302 Harmon Street, is closed for winter. However, we can be reached by ‘snail mail’ at P.O. Box 572, Pineville, 64856 or you can check out our progress at www.mcdonaldcohistory.org.
Alberta Anders writes a weekly column for the Daily News.