Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My Chucks History

In the 1940s, all the cool basketball players wore black high-top U.S. Keds. In the 1950s, black Keds went out of style, and all the cool basketball players wore white high-top Keds.

Only girls wore low top sneakers. Also, sneakers were called tennis shoes back then.
U.S. Keds in the old days
I wore white high-top Keds when I played basketball in the 7th grade in 1962.

In 1963, our coach Mack Primm walked into the gym just before practice with a big bag under his arm, and he said, "Boys, I wanna show you something."

Bag  rustles, we lean forward, Coach Primm pulls out a shoe box. So what?

He takes out a pair of white high-top Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars. "Take a look at these shoes, fellows," he said. "I want these to be the Pinetta Indians' team shoe. They cost $6.75, so try and get me the money as soon as possible because I gotta order them."

Then he pulled out some off-white socks that had elastic on the top, but nowhere else, meaning they tended to droop and buckle. They cost fifty cents each.
The kind of Keds I wore

I went home and told my dad about the Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars (it would be decades before they were called "Chucks) and the floppy socks. He laughed at the idea of spending $6.75 on tennis shoes, but agreed to pay for one pair of the baggy socks. 

I begged Mama Joyce for Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars, and she said "We can't afford that, but let's go to Cohn's and see if we can kind some tennis shoes that look like them."

Cohn's was sort of like a dollar store. It was full of Japanese made cheap stuff for poor people. Back then "Made in Japan" was a joke meaning cheaply made crap that will fall apart in no time. Who knew they would wind up making Lexuses?!

We found some white high tops with a brand name I never heard of, but they looked a little like Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars, so I was like, "Well okay." They cost $2.40.

A few weeks later the soles started to come off, so my dad agreed to fund a purchase of duct tape to bring the shoes' soles and bodies back together.

In the 9th grade, I bought a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars with money I made working in tobacco. That was the year I set a Pinetta Indian record for most points in a junior varsity game, 26. I was really good at drawing fouls, and in that game I made 14 out of 16 freethrows, and I scored seven points in overtime to help us win.

I'm still so proud of that I'm willing to interrupt an otherwise interesting story about Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars.

By the time I started college -- 1968 -- the Boston Celtics had gone back to black Chuck Taylors and they were low tops. Boy, did they look cool. And, boy, did it make it okay for guys to wear them, not just when playing basketball, but when we walked across campus holding our textbooks. Girls still didn't wear them, by the way.
Celtics' Sam Jones in Chucks

I knew how cool I looked with my low-top Chuck Taylors and Levi jeans. So easy to be fashionable. 

And so fun to have a wardrobe that cried out, "I am not a grownup. I have no serious obligations. I obey no clock. I am young and growing in knowledge. I have no pains in my joints, nor do I limp, nor will I in the foreseeable future. I love you, Chuck Taylors and jeans, and all that you stand for!" 

So was it any surprise that my first purchase after retiring from roughly 35 years of teaching was a pair of black Chucks?  

They're my Lucky Charms without the milk. They are my talispersons. As long as my soles are young, my body will follow.