On a recent trip home, I discovered a marvelous and meaningful collection my mother had put together in her living room. In a small drawer in the coffee table, she had arranged a collection of my grandfather's (her father's) childhood shoes. Many of the examples are over 85 years old and were worn by my grandfather when he was a toddler. It is very special that they are so well-preserved. I admire the notion of keeping them close at hand in the living room for family and guests to appreciate, rather than sealing them off in some dark corner of the closet where they will never be seen. To keep their shape, my mother stuffed them with acid-free tissue paper. The cool, dark and dry drawer also helps preserve them. The shoes share the drawer with two old keys from the farm where my grandfather grew up in Ontario.
To give a sense of scale, I photographed this little shoe of my grandfather's in my mother's hand. All of the shoes shown below are of similar size. This pair was considered a dressy pair of shoes. They were handmade in white leather by a cobbler in Ashton, Ontario in the 1920s.These were the more sporty counterpart to the formal shoes above, also made of white leather.These shoes were my grandfather's 'school shoes' when he was seven years old. He walked 30 minutes to school every day on a dirt road and the wear is obvious.Another pair of leather shoes, these ones too were worn as an infant. My grandfather is shown wearing them, below, in a photograph taken with his mother (my great-grandmother) in 1921. In those days, infants of both genders wore 'baby gowns' (very Edwardian) and the sweater was knitted for him by his grandmother.