HOLY SNEAKER

One day when I was a young boy I was at my Great Grandmother’s house down on 14th street between 3rd and 4th avenues.

Everyone in our family called her ‘Mom’.

Everyone loved her, I think?

To be honest, I hated going there.

First off it was a hike. We had to walk all the way down from Windsor and 9th. (Nowadays as an adult who enjoys walking it doesn’t seem too far but when you’re a kid, it’s a journey!)

On occasion, if it was too late at night, say 7 or 8 o’clock we’d catch a cab up on 4th avenue for the trip home. (Remember how fast the cars on 4th avenue would drive? It was like watching the Indy 500)

Sad to say I didn’t have much of a relationship with Mom.  At the end of each visit, before leaving, my mother always made me kiss her good-bye. I tried to hide or run outside the house when I knew it was close to going home. I did my best to avoid Mom.

In Mom’s house I recall there was a candy dish on the coffee table, a breadbox in the kitchen and a giant stuffed turtle that someone had brought back from Korea.

There was a bird-cage with a parakeet or a parrot; it’s been so long I don’t remember exactly. But it was creepy.

Sitting on the couch one Friday afternoon, there was a soap opera on TV and my mother and mom were in the kitchen sitting at the table; I was bored out of my mind. Looking down at my sneakers I realized there was a hole on the bottom of one of them. The rubber had worn down and now you could see my white tube sock.

Friday’s always seemed like the day the adults were in a good mood. Not sure if it was because of the last work day of the week or maybe because it was pay-day. I asked my mother if we could go to 5th avenue and get new sneakers?

“No, I’ll get Pop to fix them.” she answered.

As a kid, I owned one pair, I did everything in them.

I would rock Pro-Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor’s or there was the time I wore a pair of ugly-looking yellow rejects. They didn’t even have a name! My mother had purchased them at the ‘Junk-Shop’ on the corner of 10th street and 5th avenue. (Do you remember Jerry?)

I used my only pair of sneakers to play baseball in the lot, football in the park, stickball in the schoolyard and of course basketball.  In the winter, when it snowed,  I used them as boots too. These days I see kids with multiple pairs of shoes.

That afternoon at Mom’s house I removed my shoe in the living room handing it to my mother who passed it off to my Great Grandfather whom everyone called ‘Pop’.

The hard-working, retired Ironworker took my sneaker down to the cellar where he had all sorts of tools spread out.

A few minutes later after inserting a piece of brown cardboard inside the sneaker and wrapping silver duct tape around it, it was good as new.

So I thought.

Pop handed me the shoe, had a few words of encouragement for me and I put it back on.

Walking around I felt like I had more cushion. It felt like I was walking on clouds. I even felt like I could run faster and jump higher…but just on one foot.

Forget Air Jordan’s, I had ‘Air Rejects’.

Reebok Pumps? Ha, I had Reject Pumps!

A couple of days later I was out in the boys schoolyard at Holy Name playing basketball. Late in the afternoon it started raining.  Back in the day we didn’t pack up and run for cover, we kept on playing. After a few trips up and down the court, I felt my sock getting soggy.

I glanced down and saw some of the brown cardboard slipping out of the hole which had now become bigger.

Standing off to the side of the court I reached down and tried to stuff the soggy cardboard back inside my shoe.

Ten minutes later, the tape started to rip and the cardboard slid out.

I was losing the battle.

Frustrated as hell, I finally ripped the cardboard out of the hole and continued to play.

These days I don’t think you will ever see a kid walking around with cardboard stuffed in their sneaker wrapped up with tape.

Respectfully,

Red

HOOPS135@HOTMAIL.COM


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18 Responses to HOLY SNEAKER

  1. richie k says:

    these days? no way will u ever see a kid with holes in there sneakers, dam if they get dirty they want a new pair lolllll and the kicker here is they don’t even use them like we did for sports, there for show now!!!!!!!!!

  2. TonyF16thSt says:

    Your 100% on point Richie. Steve my Dad used to take us to the Converse factory on Sterling Place and he bought us BLEMS. If at the end of summer they didn’t last you got linoleum glued inside the sneaker.
    Can you imagine only 1pair and they had to last, today we’d be up on child abuse charges LOL

  3. mike slavin says:

    STEVE, I KNOW THE FEELING. COMING FROM A FAMILY WITH 8 KIDS I HAD PLENTY OF CRAPPY SNEAKERS. PLAYING BANTHAM BALL IN HOLY NAME MY MOTHER BOUGHT ME A PAIR THAT DIDN’T EVEN HAVE RUBBER SOLES. I COULD SLIDE ON THE SIDEWALK WITH NO ICE ON IT. I TOOK A KNIFE TO THEM AND CUT THEM UP. MY FATHER BROUGHT ME DOWN THE THE SNEAKER PALACE ON LINCOLN PLACE AND I GOT A PAIR OF KNOCK OFF CHUCK TAYLORS. THE WERE CALLED BOB COUSY’S. LOOKED JUST LIKE CONVERSE. I WAS IN HEAVEN. ALSO WORE NUCONS, PRO-KEDS AND CHUCK TAYLORS IN GRAMMAR SCHOOL. WHEN IT CAME TO HIGH SCHOOL THE FORD FRESHMAN TEAM WENT AGAINST THE NORM AND WEARING CHUCK TAYLORS AND WE WORE LEATHER NIKE’S. PAYING CLOSE TO $60.00 A PAIR FOR THEM IN 1976 WHEN RAY NASH WAS SELLING CHUCK TAYLORS FOR FOR $9.00 EVERYONE THOUGHT WE WERE NUTS BUT WE LOOKED GREAT. NOW THAT I’M NOT PLAYING MUCH BALL I GO TO MODELLS AND GET THE $40.00 ON PAIR THAT ON ON SALE THAT LOOK DECENT AND I’M HAPPY.

    • hoopscoach says:

      Mike,

      Great stuff!

      I remember Nucons. You know not once did I ever buy sneakers from Lincoln Place. I wanted but never was allowed.

      Gutter’s and Reds was the place most often.

  4. jiimyvac says:

    We used to go to Sneaker circus and we got the cheapest ones. My Aunt Catherine would keep stuff in the small bedroom in her apartment. I would mention casually that the sneakers are worn and she would claim that she was holding them for XMAS or my Birthday.. and I still got something ..
    Mike, I have three pairs of sneakers now … oold pair for work around the house, dress sneakers, and sneakers to play a little ball or go walking.. two more than I had at one time in my childhood. Joe Sacca says hi..
    Red, my son has at least 12 pairs of sneakers.. at least he plays hoops and softball…..

  5. G Trapp says:

    Red, That story was hysterical, brought back memories, can defintely relate. – GT

  6. G Trapp says:

    Can’t say I did that, however many a time I remember stuffing my socks back into the hole in my sneakers as the game was going on, and then when we played while it rained, your whole sock and foot would be soaked. I think back in the day with all the playing we did it seemed like we would blow through a pair of cons in a couple of weeks.

  7. Maureen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    if my schools shoes got a hole towards the end of the school year (and they always did) it was cardboard til the end of the year- no way you are getting new shoes that may not fit you in September- also, when we were kids, sneakers seemed to be for poor kids, now, you need to take out a bank loan to keep your kid in sneakers- and the stuff that goes on around “elite” sneakers- muggings, killings, stampedes- it is downright scary- did anyone ever get jacked for their Converse???

  8. Tom Gerbasi says:

    Do you remember Dee and Dee on fifth avenue with the big bin full of sneakers? If you found one your size, you had to dig into the bin and hope for a matching one. I begged for good sneakers – you know, the name brand ones – and one day my father came home with these beige and yellow terrors. No name of course. I was crushed. So dad put his hand on my shoulder and said “these are better than those other ones. They don’t have a name, so you can name them yourself. You can call them Oscars.”
    And off I went with my Oscars…

  9. hchoops says:

    in the 50s schoolyard, if you didn’t have converse, everything else was reverse

  10. BT says:

    Good stuff, Steve. If I remember correctly the hole in your sneaker, my sneaker, my brothers sneaker and everyones elses sneaker was in our Left sneaker, right?

    • hoopscoach says:

      LOL…

      Left sneaker, right sneaker…? Try both sneakers, just at different times.

      I’m reading, “Foul” The Connie Hawkins Story and they talk about how he would put cardboard in his sneakers.

      Speaking of holes in our sneakers; how about the guys that dragged their feet on a lay-up? The front of their sneaker was always worn down.

      Good stuff.

      • BT says:

        That was my point the hole in the sneaker came from the dragging of the foot from the lay-up trying to be kool….. If you were a righty it was your left sneaker and if you were a lefty it was your right sneaker… Tommy Conlon was known for that……and Alex Batista……

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