Posts that I’ve done on local retailers that Queensborough-connected readers and I remember from our younger days (or that resemble non-local retailers that readers elsewhere remember from their younger days) always seem to draw a fair bit of interest. I suppose there’s something a bit magical in our memories about the stores we visited as small children. The excitement of getting a new outfit or of seeing a display featuring more candy than you could ever imagine eating; the interesting clean smells of “dry goods” on shelves; the promise of all the rolls of pretty fabric and the Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity pattern books (not to mention the rickrack and other “notions”) at the sewing-supplies store; that funky contraption (which I’ve learned from reader Nicole was called a Brannock Device) with which the man at the shoe store use to to measure your growing feet – all of those images just kind of conjure up small-town midcentury childhood, do they not? A childhood in which money was not abundant and a visit to the store was something special.
One of my more recent posts on that general theme was to ask who among my readers might remember a Madoc store run by “Thos. A. Ross” that sold Dack’s shoes for men. (This came about because reader Sash had discovered on eBay a vintage matchbook advertising that store.) I asked whether there was any connection between Thos. A. Ross’s store selling Dack’s for men and a Madoc store that I remember well from my childhood, Ross’s Ladies’ Wear – a wonderful place that I first wrote about here.
But in that matchbook-inspired post I apparently erred in saying that Ross’s Ladies’ Wear did not sell shoes. I don’t remember shoes being among the goods on offer at Ross’s, but some readers have assured me that they were.
And apparently not just any shoes! The shoes that Ross’s sold were enough to launch at least one person onto a lifelong love affair with shoes. Now, we all know that lots of women have had a lifelong love affair with shoes, and I myself might qualify; but I don’t think too many people can say that it started at Ross’s Ladies’ Wear in Madoc. I think that’s very cool.
Here’s the note that Lamoine (Thompson) Luukko, who grew up in Queensborough, sent me with her story:
It was about Grade 11 when Bev Holmes (a classmate) arrived at school (Madoc High) wearing a pair of the most magnificent boots called DESERT BOOTS. Lo and behold, sold at Ross’ Ladies Wear.
I immediately proceeded to convince Mom I should use some of my money from working that summer…She finally caved and I was the proud owner of Desert Boots. Saddle shoes and black ballerina flats followed, and I have never recovered.
I have since bought hundreds of shoes but will never forget my Desert Boots.
Desert boots! Oh man (as I told Lamoine in response) – I remember them so well! Back in the 1960s, I too thought they were the coolest thing ever. And I would have loved to have had a pair. Sadly for me I never did until many years later, when I was well into my 20s; but I made up for lost time then, and made sure always to have at least one pair in my closet. I still do.
It turns out that Lamoine’s younger sister, my Queensborough friend Elaine, also considered Ross’s the go-to place for stylish shoes. The wonderful pair that you see in the photo at the top of this post came from there – in 1962! (And they still look smashing.) Here’s Elaine’s shoe story:
The Thompson girls bought shoes at Ross’s Ladies Wear. Attached is a photo of a pair of shoes I bought in 1962 for my Grade12 fall graduation. These spike shoes were too much for me so they were left behind tucked in a secret cupboard under a stair tread when I went off to teachers’ college in 1963. They have continued to hide for the last 52 years. Shoes that hurt never get worn. The little cupboard also holds a pair of pink satin shoes with pointy toes. I look at them every few years.
I love the way Elaine tells that story. Surely she is not alone in keeping a pair of shoes (or two) that were bought for a momentous occasion once upon a time, that haven’t been worn for many years (and perhaps were hardly worn in the first place because they pinched or were tottery), but that are special to memory and thus are “looked at every few years.”
Because they take the person who once wore them back to a place and time.
When the perfect shoes could be found at Ross’s.