Wendy and I were talking last night about that weird metal clamp used in shoe stores to measure kids feet. It's been probably 25 years since I saw one up close, but I remember them as vaguely scary and very cold.
I remembered it this morning and looked it up on Google. It's called a Brannock Device. According to the company's web site, it was designed in 1927 and it's a must for all shoe retail stores since it leads to greater customer satisfaction and ultimately more sales.
There were some items that my mom took me to buy when I was a kid (school clothes, school supplies) and other things that my dad took charge of, among them church clothes and shoes. There was a practical reason for this. Mom generally knew more about clothes and what looked good, but she just wasn't qualified to fit me for a neck tie or a sport coat, having never worn either herself.
Dad picked out my shoes because he used to sell them (and other items) at J.C. Penny, first in North Dakota and later in San Fernando. He would stand over me and the poor shoe salesman, watching for errors. After measuring both of my growing feet in that cold Brannock Device, the salesman would run into the back room for the right size and then pull up that stool with a slanted porch. He would lace me up and have me walk around on one new shoe where I could get and ant's-eye-view of myself in the shoe mirrors.
"Yes," I would think to myself if I liked the shoes, "I just might be able to jump higher in these."
But before the final nod, Dad had to show off his footwear knowledge with his own test. He would kneel down and press down on the tip of my shoe, searching for little piggies. "Do you feel that? Where's your toe? Feel that?"
I was probably 15 before I bought a pair of shoes on my own. Even now, I have to thumb the toe of the shoe to find my own toes. It wouldn't be right otherwise.