From Basketball Digest-February, 1999:
“In 1921, Converse hired a former athlete to help sell its shoes - Charles "Chuck" Taylor, a pre-World War I high school basketball star who later barnstormed with several teams, including the Original Celtics and the Akron Firestones. In 1921, Taylor went to Converse's Chicago office in search of an offseason job, and was hired by salesman Bob Pletz, a sportsman who was looking for athletes to help improve the company's canvas sneakers. Taylor offered some suggestions and modifications, which were implemented in 1921. Two years later, the sneaker underwent another modification -- Chuck Taylor's facsimile signature was added to the logo”.
When I was a kid I coveted a pair of . Perhaps they made them in children’s sizes but where I grew up, nobody carried them. Phil Nofals Fine Shoes….the source of 100% of my shodding from toddlerdom till I grew an adult sized foot, carried P.F. Flyers. Now don’t get me wrong, there was always excitement associated with getting a new pair of P.F. Flyers-mainly because you got some kind of tchotchke …a giveaway of some sort with the shoes. A decoder ring, a whistle...something. I think P.F. and Keds had an ongoing contest to one up the other with the giveaway thing.
I remember dress shoes from Phil Nofals during the early years being almost exclusively either Hush Puppies or Buster Brown. Shoe buying also seemed to be a seasonal thing with my mom. I’m sure I got other shoes during the interim… what with kids' feet tending to grow in addition to the time slots allotted for buying new shoes. But I don’t remember it that way. Seems like I got shoes twice a year. I got Acme cowboy boots every year when school started.
What I did not get was a pair of Chucks. The older boys had them but my foot wasn’t yet big enough to graduate from P.F. Flyers. Chucks kinda made P.F.s look to me, like my MG Midget did after I saw the Triumph GT-6. They just didn’t cut it anymore. And Keds…please. The big Chuck moment for me came when I could finally wear the smallest men’s size available. My memory is vivid…my mom took me to the sporting goods department at K-Mart (remember folks, this is Florence, S.C. in the early 1970’s) and I begged her to let me have the smallest size Chucks in stock….still a bit big…white high tops. I wore them out of the store. I might have slept in them that night.
I was in Borders book store the other day just browsing, killing some time before I picked up LFG from school. Picked up the biography of Pete Maravich, the magical floor general from times past. Tons of black and white photos of Pistol Pete in the midst of his magic while at LSU. What caught my attention was that 100% of everyone in the shots had on Chucks. Maybe black or white …but they were 100% Chucks.
I didn’t see much variation in Pete’s shoes till I got to the photos of him on the pros. Funny also was the fact that all the players back then looked like they were wearing Hot Pants.
The University of South Carolina was at one time a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.Basketball coach Frank McGuire had in the early 1970’s, a pipeline of basketball talent coming down from the boroughs of New York City to play basketball for him. Those players were Gods to me. Especially John Roche. Traylor, Owens, Cremins, Riker, Dunleavy, Joyce, Powell…they were ok but John Roche was my idol. They all wore Chucks. I remember watching Roche untie and retie his Chucks when briefly being out of the game. Not sure why he did it….but I started doing it too.
I had a few pairs of Chucks but then I left them for another genre of shoes. By the time I
reached Junior High, I was too small to play basketball but I developed a passion for tennis. That led to the predictable series of shoes…Adidas Stan Smiths… (Purcell was a Badminton player...no? ...I'm too lazy to look it up) Fred Perrys….Fred was also an avid table tennis player. I have a pair of Jack Purcells now. I love the old black and white photo of James Dean in khakis, feet propped up…shod in a pair of Jack Purcells. Then came Tretorn Canvas and Tretorn leather.
Now back to Chucks. Other than Purcells with khakis, I don’t wear athletic shoes unless I am “doing” the activity for which they are intended. Chucks years ago, seemed to slip into a goth/sloth genre and I think that look is silly as hell. I’m glad though, that Chucks survived by finding some segment of the population who is willing to buy them. You damn sure aren’t gonna see them on the hardwoods during March Madness.
Yesterday was shoe buying day with LFG. She’ll start tennis again in another month and needed proper shoes for the courts. We settled on a nice (and expensive….geez…the shoes are so tiny) pair of K-Swiss shoes for tennis. Then she eyed the pink Chucks for little girls. Twenty five more bucks...what the heck…I only have on child. She wore them out of the store. She did not-sleep in them last night.