Buster Brown and the X-Ray Machine

I have big feet, which always seemed somewhat unavoidable, as these things go. I come from a family of Sasquatch. The footprints my brother leaves in the forest while hiking in the Pacific Northwest brings out the National Enquirer and legions of Bigfoot spotters. So there was little hope for his little sister to have dainty ballerina feet. And that’s not the all of it. Not only are my feet big, they’re ugly. Cinderella’s mean step-sisters ugly.

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. An ah-ha moment. I was walking down Main Street (with my solid “under-standing,” as my husband -- who loves me in spite of my feet -- says) and I passed a shoe store. Up on the marquee over the store front was a picture, faded but still quite visible, that I remember well from my childhood.

I can even hear his voice: "I'm Buster Brown, I live in a shoe. That's my dog, Tige, he lives there too!"

I immediately flashed to my mother taking me into the Buster Brown shoe store to get new shoes for school. And that’s when my ah-ha moment struck. One of the perks of buying a kid’s shoes at Buster Brown was that a mother could be confident of a good fit for her little darling’s feet. How? They used a fluoroscope to view the child’s foot inside the shoe, thus ensuring those little toes were perfectly and comfortably shod. And for the kid, well, it was fun. I mean, it was all very Flash Gordon, wasn’t it?

But, see, here’s the rub (so to speak). A fluoroscope performs its x-ray vision with, you guessed it, x-rays! X-rays! As we now know, over-exposure to x-rays is not a good thing. If you doubt that, just look what it did to Buster’s dog, poor thing. I wore Buster Brown shoes for years. Years of being zapped by the fluoroscope.

No wonder my feet are unnaturally awful. I’ve got gamma ray feet!

Hmm, I wonder if I can get into some kind of class action suit…


  1. Hulk smash! lol.
    that is defintely interesting...i missed that completely...

  2. Brian: You are probably too young! You missed out on the whole seeing the bones in your feet thing, but you get to have normal, nice-looking feet. A fair trade-off.

  3. OMG - I tell my kids about those things and they don't believe me. For me it was Singer's Shoe Store on 26th Street in Chicago. Southwest Side. They were a Florsheim shoe shop, and that machine was the centerpiece of the store as far as I was concerned.

  4. I sure remember this part of getting shoes as a kid! I'll join the suit. My feet are OK but other things have been called into question and need a cause!

  5. Lou & Grandmother: Those were the days of our lives. It makes me wonder what oddities our kids will be telling their kids about someday. Nothing as cool as the foot x-ray machine, I bet.

  6. I was brought up in eastern ky. In the 50s and 60s, we used to go into a local dept. store and look at our toes through the buster brown x-Ray machine! No wonder my toes are crooked 60 years later. Ha ha. Ed

  7. I also remember this experience, probably about 1966 or so in Alliance Nebraska. This is where my grandparents lived and all of us grandkids loved going down to the Buster Browns to have our feet xrayed. We did this over and over.......yes, over and over. HMMMMMM, I do have some arthritis in my feet now at 56 years old. But, I also ran through the DDT spray truck fog as a kid...whoops. Still alive!

  8. 1956 in Gastonia, NC at the BELK Department Store, loved jumping on that machine to see the bones in my feet. Did it many times. Also, that store had the vacuum tubes where the clerk put your money in it and sent it off someplace upstairs and then the change came back a few minutes later. Sort of like the bank drive thru today. Getting zapped with x-ray was one thing, but we also use to play with the mercury out of a broken thermometer and wash greasy car parts in gasoline with our bare hands. Now we have to wear a mask every place and wash our hands with chemicals 20 times a day. Go figure.


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