The Great Shoe Catastrophe

18 Mar

Spending the summers in the Catskills was so important to my brother, sister and I, that once we became of age to work, we looked for jobs in and around Kauneonga Lake.  We wanted to be able to spend the weeks in the Catskills and not have to join the long line of cars that went to and from the City every Friday and Sunday night/Monday morning.

For two years, when my brother was 16 and 17, his job was at a shoe store in Monticello.   It started as National Shoe Store, but then was changed to the Triangle Shoe Store. He worked five days a week.  Sometimes he worked during the week, but many times on the weekends, because that is when all the tourists were up.  For this job he had to be dressed appropriately.  No jeans and tee-shirts  and sneakers for him, instead he was in nice pants, a collared, button-down shirt and dress shoes.  This attire lead to what I call the GREAT SHOE CATASTROPHE.

It started as an abnormal day to begin with for us.  Not only was my Dad in the City working, but my Mom had left the day before to spend time alone with Dad at our home in North Bergen, New Jersey.  I think they had a meeting and a social event they had to attend.  My Mom decided she would take some items back to our house.

At this point, we were no longer staying on the grounds of my grandparent’s bungalow colony.  Instead we had a bungalow on the same property as their year-round home about 1/2mile from the colony.  Both houses sat on several acres of land.  It was peaceful and beautiful.


A peaceful Catskills morning on our property.

But not so peaceful on this morning.

My brother was getting ready for work, when he realized he had no shoes.  My Mom had taken his good shoes with her to New Jersey to get the repaired or resoled or something. But she did not only take the damaged shoes, she took both pairs of shoes. All my brother had to wear was a pair of sneakers.

He went bonkers.  He was yelling, he was screaming. “How could she take my shoes! Both pair.!”  I have to be honest, I was laughing.  That is what a younger sister does, when an older brother is annoyed.

But then he lifted up a kitchen chair.  I don’t think he meant to do anything really wrong.  But first the chair hit the ceiling then crashed into the floor.  A t this point, my sister and I decided it was prudent to leave the bungalow and get my grandmother.  Which we did: we ran to get her, screaming all the way.

She quickly went back to the bungalow to see what was happening.  And then came back to the house, laughing.  With a big smile on face, she turned to my grandfather and said, ”Go back there.  Look at yourself.”

We stayed with Grandma, while Grandpa walked back to the bungalow and my crazed brother.  I was not witness to what was said. But it became family lore.

My brother raved and ranted about my Mom taking both pair of shoes and leaving him with only sneakers. And he had to wear nice shoes for work.  And why would she do that to him?  (This was before the age of cell phones, so he could not even call her.)

My grandfather laughed.  “Shmenrick ,”  he said.  “You work in a shoe store.  Buy another pair of shoes.” And he gave my brother money for shoes.

I am laughing as I remember the story.  My brother, for a long time, did not think it was so funny.  But later…the words,  “You work in a shoe store, buy yourself shoes, “ became amusing even to him.

When my Mom returned, she felt terrible.  She realized when she got to Jersey that she had both pairs of his shoes.  She had not meant to do that. But it was done.  However, she was not happy with the hole in the ceiling or the broken chair.

That chair matched her kitchen set.  And there were only four of them.  She wanted it fixed.  So it was put in the corner of the screened-in porch.  We all knew not to sit in it.  Eventually my Dad was going to fix that darn chair.  But he did not get around to it right away.  It sort of just sat there in the corner for most of the summer.

Several weeks later, we had lots of company one weekend.  We were all eating breakfast on the porch.  Along came my cousin to join in for the food and conversation.  But there were no empty chairs at the table. In the corner was a chair that looked fine.  So he went over to sit on it.  (Yes that broken chair.)

We all yelled at the same exact moment,  “NO DON’T SIT THERE!!!!!”

Too late.

He was down and out. The chair splintered into hundreds of pieces beneath him and scattered everywhere.

He had a horrified look on his face.  And said,  “Did I do that?”

None of us could respond because we were laughing … there was nothing else to do. The chair was a goner.  My cousin was fine, just startled.  We tried to explain what happened.

The great shoe catastrophe had taken one more victim.  But the outcome was important: my brother never lost his temper like that again.

One Response to “The Great Shoe Catastrophe”

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