Heritage Holidays in Appalachia

Shoes That Go Flap In The Halls, And Echo

shoes that go flap

Shoes That Go Flap In The Halls, And Echo by David Templeton

My dear precious mother raised seven of us. Kept us fed good and tried her best to keep us clothed and shoed from the weathers of poorness.

Momma was an inventive and skilled clothes maker, using flour sacks when she could get them and old clothes pieces that she tore apart and sewed back together into a shirt or a blouse or a dress or a coat.

She remade britches to smaller sizes and could patch a pair of overalls to make it look like some designer’s artwork and she leaned heavily on The Salvation Army’s charity for used clothes, scrap rags, shoes and coats. When we were little, we had almost no underwear.

When we moved from the mountains of East Tennessee, we were bitterly poor among the other kids whose fathers had factory jobs, or bakery jobs or drove city buses in Indianapolis.

And, I remember that good shoes were the hardest things to find, especially for me, as I was then a teenager and as I got older and began to wear grown-up size shoes, finding my size at the Goodwill was hard to do. City pavements wear out shoes faster than country roads.  Also, smaller kids outgrow their shoes and pass them on before they completely wear out.  Grown-ups’ can wear their shoes until they wear out, and back then they did and my feet were grown-up size.

Good used shoes in my size were not easy to come by.

Back then, shoes were made of leather, mostly.  Some had hard rubber soles, but most had leather soles.  And, all shoes were sewn together and the soles were nailed on.  The seams would split eventually and the shoe sole nail heads would wear down and the soles would come away from the uppers and the soles would flap with a resounding slap with every step taken and we would shuffle our feet along so as to not let the soles flap but we looked funny walking that way and there was no silent way to walk with worn out shoes through the school halls and we prayed for loud crowds in the hallways to mute our misery.

One time, the only pair Momma could find to fit me was a pair of brown and white wing-tips golf shoes … you know, with cleats.  And I had to pull out the cleats with wire pliers. The pair I had been wearing then had flapping soles and holes in the soles and I would cut out cardboard or pasteboard pieces shaped like insoles and put these barriers inside my shoes between my feet and the ground until they got wet and they always did. I was in high-school and my poorness hurt to the bone because the kids made fun of me and no girl would claim me, even some teachers spurned me because of my mountain tongue and my mismatched rag-tags.

Maybe it can be said to be natural for any kid to feel hurt, to feel awkward, to feel embarrassed when very poor and showing it, but I am ashamed now as I think back to how self-conscious I was in my second-hand clothes and my flapping shoes without reflecting then on what my mother was enduring in those locust years of our lives, that dark night of abject poverty for my mother where no star of hope glimmered for her, yet she kept on.  I am ashamed of my selfishness when I think of my dear mother swallowing her own pride and asking for help from the Salvation Army, for used clothes and scraps and working her fingers to the bone to repair and refit the tatters of hand-me-downs into some semblance of clothing that would get us to school and keep us clothed and warm and me complaining while she did the best she could.

And, she sometimes cried.  Maybe more than I know.  Her weeping echoes in my mind even as I see her hiding the tears.

Momma didn’t choose her thriftiness to save the Earth, she made do to clothe her children; it’s all she could do.

And, with her love and her industriousness we learned that being poor wasn’t a disease passed on from generation to generation; we were happy and loved and we overcame the hard times.

And, we have prospered in many ways.  Beginning with her as our mother.


I hope you enjoyed David’s guest post-and if you’re a Mother-I hope your Mother’s Day is extra special.



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  • Reply
    Chef E
    May 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I love this, and you also just inspired a line in a poem I am writing! My lips flap like an old pair of shoes…well something like that!
    Keep these coming…

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    May 11, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Dee from Tennessee
    David, what an insightful reflection. Would that all children feel accepted regardless of economic status. Regardless of what your parent has done in your small little town where everyone knows. Regardless of appearance. Regardless of learning capability. Great post David.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    May 10, 2010 at 11:27 am

    David Templeton’s Shoes That Go Flap in the Halls, and Echo is such a beautiful piece and so inspirational! A mother’s love is capable of anything, isn’t it?!
    I hope you had a joyful Mother’s Day, Tipper! :))

  • Reply
    May 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

    This reminds me of stories from my dad.
    We are truly lucky to live as we have lived our lives.
    People had so little then. But they made due just the same.
    Hope you had a very Happy Mother’s Day, Tipper.

  • Reply
    May 10, 2010 at 4:42 am

    happy mothers day tipper.. i too came from, a family of seven and being the sixth.. i got many handdowns… and also had my share of flapping shoes lol .. i lost my mother a week after mothers day last year.. so this year has been kind of melancholy for me.. i did spend it with both my daughters.. so that was nice.. thank you so much for sharing with us, and also for people to know that when you didnt have alot, it makes you more thanful for the days when the pantry is full 🙂
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    May 10, 2010 at 2:48 am

    Shoes That Go Flap in the Hall is the best. It is good writing. It’s a winner.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Happy Mothers Day. What a story. I enjoyed it so much. I can still remember the lean times of my growing up years. I still use the frugal ways my mom taught us.
    I had a bit of catching up to do, my kids and I just got in from our first camping trip of the season. It was a good one,with a baby and an new dog, and both behaved well. Whew.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I enjoyed David’s guest post. He touched my heart. He has me thinking of that space between mother and child–when awareness of the mother’s struggles can’t cover the pain of being embarrassed at school. When need and understanding don’t match up. It’s hard. He has me thinking. Thank you.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    That story sure reminds me of old days at our school. I love The Blind Pig web site. These stories sure hits home for me.
    I wish you could have known my Momma. She was so gentle and kind Your first impression of her would probably have been that she must be a fake, but she was just that way; you would have loved her! Her old rose bush that she gave me is in full bloom today.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    May 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Hey Tipper: I managed to get about half-way through Mr. Templeton’s POST before the tears took over and blinded me! Earlier I was having an absolutely PERFECT MOTHER’s DAY – having shared a splendid breakfast on the back porch of my son’s place – with a roaring fire in the fire place and a bag full of lovely gifts, a bouquet of red roses and the sweetest MOTHER’s DAY card! But Mr. Templeton’s comments have taken me back to a tearful time in my childhood when I DID NOT HAVE SOCKS TO WEAR and the tacks were too sharp in the soles of my ‘hand made’ shoes! Daddy was very knowledgeable about tanning the hides, cutting the beautiful leather and making GOOD SHOES! But after being worn (they never wore out!)and ‘handed down’ by five girls those shoes sometimes were not so comfortable! But Daddy could almost always “fix em up agin!” Those shoes were made with lots of love! Thanks Mr. T. for reminding me of my extraordinary childhood!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Happy Mother’s Day to you.
    If it is one thing I have learned is that mom’s can be very creative with just about anything they do and we would be lost with out them.
    Have a Great Day!
    Whitetail Woods
    CVA Wolf Black Powder Rifle Give-Away!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Tipper, tell David Templeton thank you for that extrodinary telling of life. There is such strength to be found in the quiet lives lived by those around us.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    May 9, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Tipper: So well written and so interesting. I remember the tough times in the 50’s but we had it a little better then David. Enjoyed this so much.

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I have just written a comment on aother post that we were very poor growing up, but this story from David makes me ashamed of how ashamed i was of my homemade clothes. I did not have to wear flapping shoes, but everthing i wore until after highschool was home made and it made me feel like an outcast because i did not look and talk and act like the others. looking back, i beleive I made myself the outcast because of how i felt about my clothes, i never gave anyone the chance to know me because i KNEW they would not want to. this was a really good story for mothers day. Have a happy day Tipper

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    May 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

    What a beautiful tribute to a mother!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Happy Mother’s Day, Tipper!!!! We’re home from the beach –and I’ll post in the morning. Had a wonderful time –but it’s nice to be home.
    One of my sons is visiting me on my ‘special’ day today!!!!!
    Hope you have a wonderful day.
    Thanks to David for the special post today!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2010 at 6:16 am

    You have really put tears in my eyes, Tipper. This is a wonderful tribute to your mother – a real hero! Or should I say a superhero? Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers of the world.

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