One of my daily pleasures is to check what happened on this date in history. It’s fun, informative, and almost painless. There are many resources available for finding such facts. The newspaper (which I still read – mainly because it uses words instead of emojis) has a “highlights in history” column, and there are numerous sites online that cater to history or trivia buffs. The disturbing thing is that the sources often don’t agree, either on who did what, or on which day they did or did not do it. Of course, Americans don’t agree on anything these days, including who won Best Picture, so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise.
Recently, I was innocently scanning the historical facts for something juicy, when this startling item leapt off the page and smacked me in the head:
On this day in 1824, J.W. Goodrich introduced rubber galoshes to the public.
Much to the chagrin of American school children of the 20th century, as it turned out.
When I was growing up, most people in my ‘hood (which at the time we didn’t realize was a ‘hood) didn’t use the term galoshes, except maybe grandparents. “Rubber boots” or simply boots was the preferred term. But whatever they were called, they had one universal characteristic – kids hated them. The other characteristic they had was that parents loved them.
In fact, one of the favorite sports of parents of that era was to embarrass their kids by making them wear rubber boots when all vestiges of snow, ice, and precipitation of any sort known had long-since vanished. The “cool” kids would then gather around the galoshed to make sure they were properly mocked. Can you imagine running the bases with galoshes over your sneakers? I’ve seen it. A picnic with galoshes? Been there. Galoshes in church in May? De rigeur.
Some were known to wear galoshes in August during a drought. There was a kid down the street who seemed to never wear anything else. I often wondered if he slept in them. I imagine his parents had multiple trophies on their mantle proclaiming them “City Champion Galoshes Inflictors.”
Another distinguishing feature of that vile form of footwear is its unmistakable flopping, poofing, wheezing sound when hitting a concrete pavement. There was no such thing as a stealth galoshes wearer. If you had them on, you were busted, and you paid the price. For extra credit, parents could make their kids wear bright yellow rubbery raincoats with a matching canary-head hood. These abominations were visible from a half-mile away, and made an unmistakable woosha-woosha sound as the rubber sleeves rubbed against the rubber torso. When the ensemble was completed with galoshes, the rubber din could be heard from blocks away, even over the metallic clacking of an approaching streetcar, which you were considering throwing yourself under.
I think you can understand why I reacted in an uncharacteristic manner (I burned the newspaper) when I read about this historical event. I was striking a blow for my generation. I was standing up for all children who have had insidious fashions foisted upon them. You see, for children of my generation, the name of J.W. Goodrich will forever be anathema, right up there with Snidely Whiplash. And galoshes will always be a symbol of parental oppression.
And don’t get me started on enemas.