LITTLE BALKANS CHRONICLES — Spring Shoe Magic

J.T. Knoll
In the ad, Spring Shoe Johnny could jump incredible heights while wearing these shoes.

Former Pittsburg resident, Dick Shaw, sent me the following story from 1947, when he was 9 years old. I’m sure many readers of a certain age will identify with it. I remember comic book ads for shark’s teeth, trick baseballs, magic tricks, homemade rocket kits, body building instructions, etc. I sent off a dollar for some ‘X-Ray Specs’ myself. They worked about as well as the shoes Dick bought. — J.T.K.

When I was 9 or 10 years old and a student at St. Mary’s, I saw ads in Children’s Activities or some such magazine about “spring shoes.” In the ad, Spring Shoe Johnny could jump incredible heights while wearing these shoes.

For example, Spring Shoe Johnny could jump up into a tree and rescue the baby kitten for a little girl, he could save a child through a window of a burning home and do all sorts of other marvelous deeds.

I begged my mother, Jessie Shaw, who worked at McNally’s, to buy me a pair, but she said, “Dickie, you won’t be able to do those things — that is just an ad.” I said, “Mother, I’ll be able to help a lot of people with those shoes.” She just shook her head, “no.”

Now the shoes sold for $3.98. Mother realized that she had to end this conversation, so she said, “If you want them, use your own money.” Since my allowance was 25 cents a week, this would be almost a half a year’s salary. To me they were worth it!

I bought a money order and sent off for the spring shoes.

When they arrived, I was home alone. I excitedly pulled them out of the box, and they looked absolutely fantastic! They consisted of an aluminum base for my foot, a Masonite sole, a leather strap to wrap around my foot and ankle with two “industrial strength springs” on each shoe.

I immediately strapped them on and jumped up and down. Nothing really happened. At that time, I probably weighed 50 pounds wet. Even though I had not yet studied physics, I knew that if I jumped from a higher spot, I could get the springs to perform better.

“What should I do?” I thought. “I know. I’ll climb up on the roof of our house and jump off!”

I knew that in two or three bounces, I could reach the home of Dickie Webb who lived just across 2nd Street. (Dick Webb never bought a pair of spring shoes, but became Pittsburg’s own “Railroad Magnate.”)

While still wearing my spring shoes, I got the ladder out and wobbled up the steps until I reached the roof — keeping my balance while climbing the steps was in itself a challenge. When I reached the porch roof, I knew the magic was soon to happen. I leaped out as far as I could with great delight and expectations. When both feet hit the brick sidewalk, one leg went one way, and one went the other and pain traveled up both.

When I was finally able to determine that nothing was broken and got up, I loosen the straps and hung my brand-new spring shoes up on a nail in the basement. As years rolled by, I referred to this trophy as a “Monument to Stupidity.”

One good thing that came out of this adventure was I often used my mother’s phrase, “use your own money” when my kids wanted to buy some stupid toy that they saw advertised on TV. This approach works.

So how did I spend my adult life? Teaching Advertising and Marketing to college students in St. Louis and Kansas City.

— Dick Shaw

If you have a remembrance and/or photo to share, send it — along with your name, address and phone number — by email to jtknoll@swbell.net or by land mail to 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, Kansas 66762. You can phone and text photos to 620-704-1309. — J.T. Knoll