Return to Home         

 

 

Saddles (con't.)


By  Darlene Glaze Jennings

 

 Most of my friends, Carole, Glenda and Sharon all lived a few blocks away. Walking or riding our bikes to each others’ house was second nature to us. We could even go to Northtown Shopping Center and Forest Park Plaza in the latter years. My Mother always knew where I was going at all times, but there was never any concern if I made it there or not. We all just knew when to be home, 5 o’clock for dinner.

Girl’s lives were different from the boys in the neighborhood, a fact of life. We were not trying to see what devilish things we could come up with, we were not trying to set fire to or blow up something—or even hang out down by the Stillwater River. Oh no, our lives were much tamer. Playing records, playing duets on the piano, maybe learning a new dance, talking about boys, walking around—trying to find out where those boys might be! A big treat was walking up to Burger Chef behind Loos School and buying our lunch, feeling so grown up and on our own at age 12 or 13! Which is just what we girls wanted to do—grow up and have that teen life we had seen in those Gidget movies.

Most of us got to go swimming, but only when our mothers could take us. I went to Miller’s Grove with the freezing water and the bumpy cement bottom. On certain summer holidays we would be taken to Trotwood…a million miles away. Later in my young teen years I would go to Philips Pool, owned by Mike Schmidt’s grandparents. So our summer days were long, it seemed. We had the time to do whatever our hearts desired, with a few chores thrown in to keep us “responsible” I guess. But then, after our long “languid” days of summer passed, we began thinking of school again. We all knew who our teacher would be, that info was given to us on the last day of school. The biggest thrill was that our best friend would be with us—the deepest disappointment was that they would not.

As the middle of August neared the excitement began to build for me, and I am guessing for many other girls. It would soon be time for all of us to be back together again uh, and yes to see those boys again, who had remained so elusive all summer! The biggest back to school ritual for me in grade school was going downtown to Rikes. Every August they would have their big “Back to School” sale on Spalding shoes. Now I only wore these shoes in grade school; high school was another story. I can remember walking up Carol Avenue to the bus stop at Redwood and Kathleen, the mode of transportation to downtown Dayton. I usually had a friend with me in the later years, my Mother when I was younger. Yes, we all had the freedom to go downtown on our own. We would be dropped off in front of Rikes, eight floors of merchandise wonder. I think the Shoe Department was on the 4th or 6th floor, one would think I could remember it better than my own name, but I don’t. Once I got to the shoe department, there they were! Saddles, loafers and white bucks! Wow, so beautiful, so perfect, would they have my size? I always HAD to get the black and white saddles with red rubber sole, the staple of grade school footwear. They would be brought out, tissue paper pulled aside to try on. I would take a pair of bobby socks to try them on. Yes they were perfect, I’ll take them! I would also get a pair of loafers, looking forward to actually putting a penny in them. And yes, I’ll take a pair of white bucks with their little powder Bunny bag to keep them white. So with purchases in hand, school fever was taking over. Remember, Rikes would also deliver anything you purchased if you wanted, and it would be the next day! I never wanted to do that, they were mine now; I just had to carry them home!

Once home my shoes were put upstairs in a hallway closet, to await the first day of school. At least once a day I would go up there and look at them; try them on. This is the memory that is the most vivid to me: taking the boxes off of the shelf, sitting down on the floor and opening them up. As I pulled the tissue paper away I would get the wonderful smell of new leather, Mm, Mm, Mm; I can smell it now. I would try them on and walk up and down the hallway. Oh yes, can’t wait for school to begin!

When I entered Fairview High School, the saddles fashion faded away, we wore hose and skirts every day! My gosh, I cannot believe it now. As I entered Miami University, dress became a little more casual, didn’t go the Hippie route, but more casual indeed. Then came the fall of my Sophomore year. Lo and Behold, there sitting in a class with me was a girl wearing a pair of Spalding saddles (yes I could spot them a mile away). She was wearing knee socks and a short wool skirt. Wow, I thought, I want me some Spalding’s too, once again! Shortly after that I went home for the weekend and headed down to Rikes, 4th or 6th floor. There on display were my saddles. I was a bit disappointed that they only had brown and white, but I took them. The following Monday I was wearing my saddles, knee socks, John Meyer or Villager wool skirt and sweater. Wow! The compliments were flying, the “Oh, where did you get those?” the “Oh, I remember my saddles, I loved them.” My accounting professor saying, “I like your Rah Rahs.” I think he meant my shoes.

I wore my saddles to death, eventually just wearing them with jeans at Miami, when I was becoming less concerned about my wardrobe and just concerned about getting to class. Life moved fast after that; marriage, kids, moving, at one point settling in Louisville, where our kids went to high school. I was wearing my saddles to mow the lawn, paint the picket fence, any labor that required a sturdy old shoe, an old friend. The soles never wore down much, but the stitching began to come undone. I guess I eventually threw them away. Still can’t believe I did. I can hardly ever throw a pair of shoes away.

The years have passed, but not the memory of my saddles. Searching the Internet for Spalding’s, contacting the company, going to EBay, but to no avail. Maybe a few out there, size 6, but not an 8. There is a company called Muffy’s Shoes that makes new shoes, a close second to Spalding’s, but at $99. I didn’t think I could really do that one. I finally gave up the obsession, only wishing I had not thrown my last pair away.

We have lived here, outside of Atlanta for more than 9 years. Most weekends we head out on day trips to little towns within a 50 mile radius. One of our favorite towns is Monroe, Georgia, 30 miles southwest of us. This town has it all, a great restaurant, antique shops, a courthouse with the Confederate Soldier out front. We feel we belong when we go there. One Saturday last spring we headed into town, passing a sign that said “Church Sale.” We passed by it when I said, “Hey, let’s check it out”, although not usually going to those sales. As we pulled up into the parking lot, men were hauling tables out of the building, the sale was ending. As we stopped I thought maybe we should just forget it, but we got out and Marc started helping the men move the tables. I walked into the building, seeing everything boxed up, stuff that did not sell, maybe to be saved for the next one. “Come on in,” they said, “see if you want anything.” I poked around, digging in the boxes, finding a book and a vase. There just wasn’t much left, I thought. Marc was still helping the men remove racks and tables so I continued to poke and move things around in the boxes. Something caught my eye—could it be—red soles, Yes! There in a box was a pair of nearly new, no, brand new brown and tan saddles! I think they are called Soap and Saddle. I pulled them out, staring at them, they looked small but I had to put my foot in one. Yes, Cinderella, they fit! They were made by Striderite but as close to a Spalding as I have seen in over 40 years. I tried them both on, they fit. Here on my feet was what I had been looking for – forever! Marc walked in and I showed them to him, he was stunned, too. He had done a lot of internet searching too. “They fit, OMG,” I told him. We almost didn’t come here, we almost didn’t get out of the car, and I almost did not bother to look around. I took my 3 items up to the ladies taking the money, $1 for the book and vase and 50 cents for the shoes—aghhhhhh! We gave them more; so thrilled to have found my saddles.

I know to most of the guys reading this and maybe to some of the women, it might not mean too much. But I just bet there are some of you reading this who have that one favorite article of clothing you had, or shoes you wore, that you wished you still had. All I can say is, don’t give up. This site is about our memories, and this is one of my favorite ones, and yes—my shoe obsession has only grown.
 

 

I don’t remember the crowd cheering and applauding but I’m sure we did. There was awe and respect for this performer that we had the chance to hear years after his career seemed to end. As far as we knew then, we might never hear his music again and I think most of the crowd felt as I did, glad that we came to that crummy little bar on that Sunday afternoon.

There was another performer that could always be counted on for a fantastic show, although the setting was quite different from the one at which we saw Jerry Lee. James Brown and his Famous Flames always appeared at Memorial Hall; and Mike, Dave and I never missed a performance. I guess we went to his shows three or four times. I especially remember the song, “Please, Please, Please!” One of the Famous Flames would come over and put the cape on James as he was in such pain, pleading with his lover, that he had to walk slowly away. Then he would throw it off and rush back to the microphone to plead once more. “Try Me” was a song that you could not hear without thinking of your special love and dancing close. Grinding on the dance floor was definitely permitted for this song. And speaking of dancing, James Brown could dance in a way that no one else could. Ed Stout says he tried to dance like James Brown, so did I, but with almost no success.

James Brown’s music was described as Rhythm and Blues. Whatever you called it, it was good and it got to you—Devil’s Music. But in addition to singing great music, James Brown was a tremendous entertainer. He took care in crafting a show that people enjoyed. He gave you a good reason to get out, come down and pay the money to see him perform.

In the early 60’s there were a lot of “Girl Groups”. The Shirelles, the Ronettes, the Chiffons, the Velvelettes, the Crystals, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and on and on. It’s possible some of the really good girl groups came to Dayton and we missed them, but I don’t think so. The group that did appear at Memorial Hall, and that Mike, Dave and I went to see was the Orlons. The Orlons recorded “The Wah-Watusi”, “Don’t Hang Up” and “Shimmy Shimmy” among others. The show was OK, but didn’t give us much to talk about on the way home. I guess it beat hanging out at Parkmoor for a night.

Mike and I played the guitar so we were pretty excited to see Lonnie Mack at Forest Park. Lonnie Mack recorded an instrumental song called “Memphis”, and he played much faster than we could even think about. As it turned out, Mike and I played in a band together at the time and our band appeared with Lonnie Mack, but that’s another story.

We also saw the Byrds at Forest Park. Their big hit at the time was “Mr. Tambourine Man” written by Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman, Debbie Rutstein’s cousin from Minnesota). By the time we saw the Byrds, we knew things were changing, but we didn’t know what was coming, except that it would probably involve drugs.

In another story I mentioned the impact The Beatles had on all of us at Fairview when their music first began to be played in this country. One of the first people I knew that got a Beatles album was Mike Stein. Right after he got it I stayed over at his house on Siebenthaler on a school night and we listened to the album until his mother made us turn it off and go to bed.

The British Invasion was what it was called. There were all these bands from England with records out in the US. I liked the Animals and the Searchers, but number 2 behind the Beatles was eventually a band called the Rolling Stones. The Beatles didn’t come to Dayton but the Stones did, in 1965. Naturally, Mike Overly, Dave Todd and I had tickets to their appearance at Hara Arena. I know my ticket cost $2.50 because I still have the ticket stub. There was a huge sell-out crowd to see them, but as usual, we came early and got a good parking place and were in our seats well before the show started.

The concert was great. The Rolling Stones had several songs that we liked, including their then current “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction”, and they played with a real attitude, especially Mick Jagger, who strutted all over the stage. By the end of the concert we were in a great mood, agreeing the Stones were fantastic and that our money and time had been well spent. We got to Mike’s car in the Hara parking lot and pulled out onto Shiloh Springs Road, where traffic was moving pretty slow. People had parked along the road, at Wampler’s Barn and wherever they could find a space, so there were kids walking along the road on both sides. We hadn’t gone far when we saw a boy laying on the opposite edge of the road with a few people standing around. Mike pulled off the road; we got out and went over to see what had happened. I wished we hadn’t stopped because the boy, although not bleeding, was in pretty bad shape. There was a girl, a bit older than us, I think, who had hit him with her car as he walked along the side of the road. She was very upset, the ambulance was not there yet and there was just nothing we could do to help, however much we wanted to. We heard on the radio the next day that he died.

I don’t remember going to any more concerts in high school. I attended some later in college but the excitement of hearing a live performance of great music was not the same; that is, until 1985. That year, while attending a cable television convention in Atlantic City, NJ, I was invited to an HBO party at one of the casinos. The entertainment was a New York Doo Wop band called The Regents. The Regents wrote and recorded “Barbara Ann”, which was released in 1961. One member of the group also wrote “The Wanderer” recorded by Dion. Their performance of old rock and roll songs was just great. That night, for a little while, I remembered what it was like to be a student at Fairview, when music was such a big part of our lives. I even left a couple of scorch marks on the dance floor as I began practicing for the FHS 20-year reunion in 1986.

Post Script. Music experts, like me, pretty much agree that rock and roll music evolved as a combination of other forms of music. One contributor to what became rock and roll was Rhythm and Blues, which itself owed much to southern blues and gospel music. Another contributor was Country Music, which was blended with R&B to become what was called Rockabilly. The point I am trying to make is that rock and roll music came from the South. We southerners are real pleased that y’all like our music.

The one exception to what I have stated above is Doo Wop. Doo Wop music originated in ethnic neighborhoods of New York, Jersey and around Philly. But the black, Italian and Jewish boys who developed, wrote and sang Doo Wop only did so after being inspired by southern rock and roll.