Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's a Penny Good - Gerry, 68

My mom came from German descent.  She was raised on a farm in Akron, Ohio.  The family was large.  She had four brothers and also four sisters.

She had always told that her mother had taught her to stretch a nickel and pinch a penny.  My mom said she told her, "You should stretch it 'til the buffalo s***s and the Indian screams."  Then Mom would laugh.

I often heard her remark, "It's a penny good."  I grew up hating this comment.  I always will remember it.

We lived in the little town of Sharpsburg.  We had no car and walked most places, but my mother had leg problems.  So when we needed shoes, it was a distance too far for her to walk to the main part of town.  We would go by street car.  It was a bumpy ride, and the streetcar would sway from side to side.  It always made me feel kind of sick to my stomach and dizzy.

We shoe shopped at only one store: Wagner's.

Our town only had one shoe store, but it was a great place.  It carried quality shoes the wore well at a fair price.  I think they are still in business today but at a different location.  I do remember they had a funny big machine.  You took your shoes off and stood with your feet in it.  It measured you for the proper fit to give you growth room, so you would buy the correct size.

Mom gave us only two choices for school shoes.  We could pick between penny loafers or saddle shoes (These were the ones she felt held up the best for wear).

I really disliked the saddle shoes because Mom insisted that they be kept clean.  Polishing them was my responsibility, and if you crossed your feet, the white polish would get on the black and look like chalk dust on it.  Then too the white laces needed washing to look fresh and nice.

After selecting my shoes (of course, I chose the penny loafers), we would go to Isaly's for a treat.  Their skyscraper ice cream cone was my favorite.  Ice cream of multiple flavors.  I couldn't believe my eyes as I read the list.  Each flavor sounded better than the last as my anticipation grew, my stomach growling, and my taste buds anxious to savor my special treat.  We didn't get treats very often.

Then we rode the streetcar back home once again.

The next day when getting ready for school, I proudly put on my new shoes.

Mom was always one step ahead of me.  "Oh, no, you don't!" she cried.  "Back in the box with them 'til next week."

My heart got sad, my eyes near tears, as she would say once again of my old shoes, "These are still a penny good."

For the next week, every day, she would help me replace cardboard to cover the holes in the soles of those old shoes.  School was on 9th Street, and we lived on 21st.  So it was a pretty good distance.  We had no bus, so walk we did.  Home for lunch and back to school, then home again at the end of classes.  Twenty-one minus nine equals twelve blocks for four trips equals forty-eight.  Forty-eight blocks a day for five days.  Two hundred twenty blocks to walk in those old shoes, lots of time fixing new cardboard over and over again to make it through until the week was up!

My heart would ache as much as my feet did. Each step I took in those old shoes seemed endless.  I just wanted to wear my new ones, but Mom wouldn't hear of it.

To this day, when I can't decide to discard an item, I'll look at it and say, "It's a penny good."  Then I definitely know it's going in the trash quickly!

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