Heart and Sole: World War II Era Shoes Get New Life
By: Lauren Caggiano, President of WriteOn

What does it mean to walk a mile in another’s shoes? I experienced this literally after having recently restored my 94-year old grandmother’s shoes. 

You see, these aren’t ordinary shoes. These are the shoes she wore the first time she set foot on American soil. They are an artifact, a piece of history.

Her journey here as an immigrant is a story in and of itself. You could call it a storybook romance. She met my grandfather, an American G.I., while he was stationed in her town of Reims, France. He worked for the Signal Corps and was in regular communication with General Eisenhower. 

Their paths crossed by chance. My grandmother was working for her father at the time and active in her church youth group. In fact, the Catholic Church is what brought them together. A friendship and eventual romance blossomed. They got married and later settled in my grandfather’s hometown of Niagara Falls, NY.  The rest is history, as they say.

Before Shoes   Before2

But back to the shoes….my grandma gifted them to me a few months ago when I was down for a visit. She had held on to them all these years. Despite a move across country and the passing of many years, they remained in decent condition. I knew they could be restored to their former glory, so I entrusted them to the care of a local cobbler. He was able to give them new life!

After Shoes  After2

My grandmother was pleased with the outcome and shared some thoughts: 

“I bought the shoes when I was 21yrs old just before I got married, and of course I did not think they were of good quality because good leather was hard to find then, and we had to use coupons to buy shoes, clothes, and linen. I am really surprised they lasted that long. I kept them for sentimental reasons.”

Merci beaucoup, grand-mère.