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  • I had heard of the shoe store in the Hill District (of Pittsburgh). It was run by two brothers who were now in their seventies. Their father had started the store and they had been in the business all their lives. It was said they not only had excellent prices, but also knew more about shoes than any one else in town.

    I took my seven children there one day. As we filed into the store, one of the brothers greeted us. The children, of course, filed in in order of age – the oldest first, and on down to Mary Rose, the little one.

    “Well! Well! Where did this one come from?” he said, pointing to Mary Rose. At first I was rather offended , but then I realized he meant that the others were close in age and size, but there was such an age difference with Mary Rose, that she was just a little peanut compared to the rest of the crew.

    I pointed out which of the children were to be fitted with what and said I’d like to look at something for myself. He took care of everyone very nicely and then it came to me. “I’ll measure your foot.”

    “That won’t be necessary, I’ve worn size 12 B for many years. In fact, I just bought a pair at Kaufman’s last month and it is a size 12 B.”

    “Don’t your feet hurt?”

    “Well, I have been on them for a lot of years, and I am a bit heavier.”

    He set about measuring, in spite of my protest. Shortly, he looked up. “You should be wearing size 13, sir!” No wonder my feet had started to hurt! This old fellow could tell just looking at my shoes they were a misfit.
  • The next time we needed some shoes, I had Rosemary to come along. I pointed out who was to be fitted and said I’d like him to measure Rosemary’s foot. Rosemary had always had much trouble with her feet. He took care of the children and then said with finality, “Well, I guess that takes care of it.”

    “No, I asked you to measure Rosemary’s foot.”

    “Oh!” reluctantly, “All right.” He set about it. He looked like an amateur carpenter hunching as he measures a piece of board that he can’t quite make fit the measurements. He said nothing, just kept moving and adjusting the measuring instrument.

    Finally, I inquired, “Well, what size should she wear?”

    Looking up from his measuring table, “She should go barefoot as much as possible”, he responded. (The last thing I ever expected a shoe salesman to say!)

    This was a surprise. Rosemary’s parents had always emphasized that going barefoot was very bad for the feet. She had never gone barefoot.

    “All right, but if she wears shoes, what size should it be?” I insisted.

    “If she continues to wear shoes like this, she won’t be walking in 5 years”, was the response.

    Finally he did tell us, “They don’t make shoes to fit her. She should have a septule A in the heel and a quad A in the front. But they don’t make such a shoe!”

    He advised her to wear no heels, if possible. He suggested she wear an extra narrow tennis type shoe he had, and generally, just to try on as many different brands of shoes as possible to find the one that suited her best. None would really fit her. Just come as close as she could after trying many different makes, etc.

    Some years later, Rosemary found a podiatrist who helped her a great deal. He cut tendons to loosen her clenched toes and he cut one quarter of an inch from the middle joint of her middle toe on each foot. That toe was longer even than the great toe, which made shoe comfort almost impossible.

    The podiatrist was an hour’s drive from our house. Rosemary drove there, herself, and drove home. After dinner, she had a 7 to 11 p.m. shift at Ala Call, which she worked. The next day the podiatrist called to make sure how she was. After all, he had done this in his office. For the same procedures, a Medical Doctor or Surgeon would have had her hospitalized for several days. She told him she was fine, had worked the evening before, and wondered if it would be o.k. for her to hang wallpaper today!

    He was astonished at what she had done and vetoed any wallpaper hanging for a day or two.

    P.S. In 1993, as many facets of my life changed, so did my feet. The now measure 13 ½. I am more comfortable in size 14’s (they don’t make 13 ½). Rosemary had a bunionectomy on Dec. 23rd (so she wouldn’t miss any work). She attended Mary’s aannual Christmas festivities on the 24th. The 105 pound dog, Hans, sat on the bad foot. She was back at work on the 26th – in snow and ice and 20 degree weather, wearing a wooden shoe!

    (Second photo - Rosemary on the right, working at Ala Call)
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