Sunday, October 17, 2004

Keds blog.

No vintage material this weekend, since I haven’t had the energy to find anything. My papers, while not complete chaos, are less than organized, so sifting through takes some effort.

Cool days, nearly freezing nights. Saturday was gray and very cool, more like mid-November than mid-October. In the afternoon, we drove out to Elgin and St. Charles and their connecting road, Illinois 31, which follows the west bank of the Fox River –- not very far away, really, but away from my immediate neighborhood. Like many people, I have a fondness for fall foliage, and we’re about at peak. Fine fall places like New England, East Tennessee, Hokkaido, Mongolia are out of the question this year. Illinois 31, a semi-suburban road, stands in nicely.

Before our drive, Yuriko persuaded me to go to a church rummage sale in Hoffman Estates. I was reluctant, but ended up buying more than anyone else –- a copy of Listening In, a history of radio in the United States (by Susan J. Douglas, 1999, hardback, 50¢), Best of the Best of Chuck Berry, (prerecorded tape probably dating from the ’80s, 25¢), two heavy flannel shirts, my size, in case I go ice fishing, $1.50 each. I noticed that one of them was made in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has a textile industry? Why?

Lilly’s new shoes are made in China, no novelty value in that. Shoes for her weren’t forthcoming at Saturday’s rummage sale, or any other recent one, so today we visited a handful of stores within the gravitational pull of mighty Woodfield Mall, but not actually within the mall. Eventually she found a pair of Keds that she liked, and that fit her, and which weren’t insanely priced.

Keds, I thought, a durable brand, not an imperial imprint like Nike or Adidas and their ilk, but a sturdy workaday brand for people who aren't impressed by athletic fantasy, and a brand that’s been around long enough for me to have worn them sometimes as a kid. Naturally I couldn’t leave it at that, so I consulted the library on my desk when I got home, that is, the Internet. Lots of suspicious information out there, but I have no reason to doubt the following, from “A Brief History of Sneakers,” by Stephen M. Pribut, DPM and Douglas H. Richie, DPM. (Doctor of Pain Management? Dreaded Purple Monster? I didn’t consult the library on that point.)

“Before the late 1970s, running shoes were not high-tech items. With rare exceptions, until the middle of the 19th century, shoes were made on a single straight last and there was no differentiation between left and right shoes. During those years, not many international competitions were held, and the modern Olympics did not appear until 1896.

“Keds began as a product produced by US Rubber in 1917. Keds was chosen as a name because the desired name, ‘Peds,’ was already trademarked by another company. Keds were the first sneakers, so-called because of the stealth and quiet manner in which you could creep up on someone when you wore them. Keds, and later Converse, captured much of the US sneaker market. Keds was purchased by the Stride Rite Corporation in 1979.”

So we’re participating in a product that not only shod me in my youth, but one that has outlasted the Soviet Union, which was of the same vintage. Keds also probably represent better shoes than anything ever produced by the Evil Empire, which had a notorious reputation for footware.


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