Ingenious grocery-store solutions to keeping your shoes dry have been on my mind since last week’s State of the Union. An Iowa senator claims to have worn them on her feet as a kid to keep her good shoes dry.
The scent of wet rubber tires still inspires a surge of nostalgia. These were no modern Uggs . . . no stylish ski-type accessories. They were the absolute opposite of perky schoolgirl fashion — designed to be tugged on over your saddle shoes, then abandoned when you arrived at school. They were absolutely mandatory, and they were the bane of winter.
Much like Joni Ernst’s bread-bag innovation, ugly overshoes were meant to keep our one good pair of school shoes mostly dry, sort of, especially if you ignored the sweaty socks these foot-sized saunas generated on the snowy hike from home. Since we faced the kind of frigidity that sissified Iowans never dream of, our hideous footwear also helped ensure we’d graduate someday with all our toes.
Overshoes were Ford Model T of footwear: You could have them in any color, as long as it was black. Virtually indestructible (and possibly vulcanized), the rubber clompers were intended to make no statement beyond “My mother makes me wear them.”
The fetching female model was styled with an industrial zipper over the instep and up to the top, crowned with a ratty ruff of fluffy fake fox. Boys got a perk that was denied us: Their galoshes had snappy buckles. The cooler dudes preferred them flapping and clanking … once they were past the limits of Mother’s oversight.
Kids in soggy overshoes were the curse of school janitors, the authority figures who really ran our schools. Squinty-eyed Mr. Wentz stood at the door every morning, arms crossed and biceps bulging, silently reminding us of the unspeakable fate of those who failed to stomp off the snow to his satisfaction. Yet once those overshoes were pried loose and lined up beneath the coat hooks in the cloakroom, they always seemed to yield pernicious puddles of melted snow and snirt — eternal aggravation for the man whose life work was to keep those acres of hardwood shiny.
Bread sacks? Joni? Personally, I never witnessed any — at least at ankle level. Now, old ladies did bag up hereabouts to preserve their ‘dos as they left the beauty parlor . . . but that’s another story.