While looking at some historic photos, I came across one that was both intriguing, and sad. The title of the photograph was as intriguing as the photograph itself. Shoes on the Danube Banksdepicts a memorial in Budapest, Hungary that was conceived by film director Can Togay. The memorial sits on the east and of the Danube River. Togay worked with sculptor Gyula Pauer to create a memorial to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.
As I looked at the picture of many pairs of shoes, the magnitude of what had happened there, and exactly what I was looking at hit me. These shoes were not just shoes, they were people…innocent people, who lined up and shot for no other reason than that they were Jewish. These people were told to remove their shoes, and then they were shot. Their lifeless bodies fell into the river and were swept downstream. There was no funeral, no burial…despite the traditions that are set up for Jewish burial. Of course, I know that not every Jewish death can be handles in the Jewish traditions, but these people were murdered in such a way as to humiliate them, including the lack of a traditional burial.
The monument along the Danube River represents the lives of the people who were murdered, there is no way to really represent the people, because no one knows who they were, what they looked like, or even how many there were for sure, but rather the monument depicts their shoes left behind on the bank. It is the only real connection we can have to these victims of such horrible hatred. The brutal treatment of the approximately 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, and the rest accused of Jewish activities, is beyond horrid. These people were forced to strip naked on the banks of the Danube and face the river. Then, a firing squad shot the prisoners at close range in the back so that they fell into the river to be washed away.
The monument is located on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade in line with where Zoltan Street would meet the Danube if it continued that far, about 980 feet south of the Hungarian Parliament and near the Hungarian Academy of Sciences…between Roosevelt Square and Kossuth square. The sculptor created sixty pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron. The shoes are attached to the stone embankment, and behind them lies a 131 foot long, 27 inch high stone bench. At three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.”
Most of the murders along the edge of the River Danube took place around December 1944 and January 1945, when the members of the Arrow Cross Party police (“Nyilas”) took as many as 20,000 Jews from the newly established Budapest ghetto and executed them along the river bank. There were, of course, some survivors who managed to make it out, and lived to tell their stories. On of those Was Tommy Dick, who wrote the book, “Getting Out Alive.” I have not read the book yet, but after seeing this memorial, I will be reading it very soon.
There were heroes in Budapest too. Valdemar Langlet, head of the Swedish Red Cross in Budapest, with his wife Nina, and later the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and 250 coworkers were working around the clock to save the Jewish population from being sent to Nazi concentration camps. This group later grew in number to approximately 400. Lars and Edith Ernster, Jacob Steiner, and many others were housed at the Swedish Embassy in Budapest and 32 other buildings throughout the city which Wallenberg had rented and declared as extraterritorially Swedish to try to safeguard the residents. Italian Giorgio Perlasca did the same, sheltering Jews in the Spanish Embassy.
On the night of January 8, 1945, an Arrow Cross execution brigade forced all the inhabitants of the building on Vadasz Street to the banks of the Danube. At midnight, Karoly Szabo and 20 policemen with drawn bayonets broke into the Arrow Cross house and rescued everyone. Among those saved were Lars Ernster, who fled to Sweden and became a member of the board of the Nobel Foundation from 1977 to 1988, and Jacob Steiner, who fled to Israel and became a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Steiner’s father had been shot dead by Arrow Cross militiamen 25 December 1944, and fell into the Danube. His father had been an officer in World War I and spent four years as a prisoner of war in Russia. These were horrific murders, and after looking at the pictures of this memorial and reading about the horrible murders, my mind cannot unsee the images it has conjured up of this atrocity.
During the years of World War II, so much destruction brought with it the loss of jobs and homes. Along with the loss of jobs came poverty for many people. The smallest necessity became a “luxury” to people who had no problem making a living before. Many children were caught in the post-war poverty, because they lost their parents in the war. The orphanages were filled with children who were still in a daze, and trying to learn to be pretty much on their own, while still under the supervision of the state. I can only imagine how these little ones must have felt. Their parents were gone, they were grieving, and they were tossed into a strange building with many other children, all in the same boat. I’m sure the people running the orphanage did their best to comfort the children, but there were just so many of them.
I’m sure that joy was stranger to most of the children. And I’m sure that the people who cared for them were looking for any way to put a smile on the faces of the children. Little did they know, how such a small thing as shoes, could change everything. They found out, when the Junior Red Cross in the United States of America put together boxes of what most of us would consider necessities to give to the children in Europe.
One six year old Austrian boy named Werfel, was photographed when he got a new pair of shoes at the Am Himmel orphanage, donated to him in the Christmastime care box. The picture taken of little Werfel, was enough to bring tears to the eyes of anyone who saw it. They may have been happy tears, but they were highly emotional tears nevertheless. Most kids these days, would be almost disappointed to receive a pair o shoes as a gift…unless they were the latest in cool shoes. Little Werfel was beyond happy. He held the shoes to his chest and looked to the sky, as I he couldn’t possibly contain his happiness. The photographer probably took the picture through tear filled eyes. I know that’s what I would have done as the photographer. It was impossible not to be filled with emotion. “The photograph was first published in LIFE magazine on December 30, 1946 (on page 22) and later, again, on September 24, 1951 (on page 180). The photograph was shot by Gerald Waller, in 1946, and was titled “New Shoes”. The little boy, Werfel, was among the children who were brought to the USA after being deported from Israel / Palestine, where they arrived after liberation from the concentration camps. The image was published with the following caption in the 1946 issue. “EUROPE’S CHILDREN – Christmas brings joy and sadness.”
It was said that, “For many of Europe’s children there was a Santa Claus this Christmas. When a big box from the American Red Cross arrived at Vienna’s Am Himmel orphanage, shoes and coats and dresses tumbled out. Like the youngster (in the picture), the children who had seen no new clothes throughout the war smiled to high heaven. But for thousands of other European children there was no Santa Claus. When a boatload of illegal Jewish immigrants arrived at Haifa, Palestine recently, two Polish children (opposite) got separated from their parents. Tears filled the eyes of the boy, and his wan sister clutched him protectively. They were later reunited with their parents, but the whole family was shipped to Cyprus.”
The picture has stayed in my memory since the first time I saw it. To see that little boy so overjoyed…over shoes, was so beautiful. The photographer caught the picture perfectly. That moment was very likely one of the first truly happy moments that little boy had felt in quite some time. An adult, no matter the need would never have shown such deep joy, probably because they would still be wrapped up in the poverty of the time, while the child was able to look beyond all that,and see the pure joy of the gift. The child could simply enjoy and cherish what has just been given to him, even though he was living in an orphanage…even though historical events had just unfolded,robbing him of his comfortable life…even though these were hand-me-downs. It made no difference to this boy, and it reminds us of how flawed our thinking is. We tend to look at the negatives in life and focus on them. Not this boy. He was happy with the tiniest positive thing that came into his life. It’s a lesson we should all learn. Sometimes we all need to appreciate the little things in life.
Most of my friends know that I love shoes. In fact, that is truly an understatement. I have shoes for every need and for every outfit. I have hiking shoes, sandals, shoes for jeans, boots…lots of boots, and of course, heels…of every color, height, and style from low heels to platform heels, and even funky heels. Yes, I love shoes. But there is a line that even I won’t cross.
Over the centuries in many areas of the world, shoe style was really a show of status. And in some countries, the size of a woman’s foot was so important that women would stuff their feet into shoes that would fit a young child. Those women were so intent on making their feet small, that they would perform a procedure on them called foot binding. It is a crazy way of tying the toes in such a way, so as to make a point of the front of the foot. The foot was then bent almost in half to fit in a shoe for a young child. I think every woman would like her feet to be smaller, at least every woman who wears size seven or above, but foot binding is extreme.
I love platform heels, but some styles…both old and new, are ridiculous. When the platform is so high, and made of something with no give to it, or has no heel on it, the woman wearing the heel really can’t even walk by themselves. And believe me, I would need help too, and I’m used to platforms. It’s just that these aren’t platforms. No, they are stilts!! Platforms have been a tradition for a very long time in Europe, clear back to the 17th century, and then they were out of fashion until the 20th century. Really, it wasn’t until Ferragamo reintroduced them in the 1930s that platforms came back in style. In 2009, an exhibition was organized, with an accompanying catalog on the topic of these elevating shoes, titled “On A Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels.” Chopines, which were also known as zoccoli or pianelle, are a platform shoe up to 20 inches high. Of course, those who wore them required the help of servants so that they didn’t fall flat on their face…in the name of fashion. The idea of chopines, besides being a fashion statement, was to protect the wearer’s clothes from street mud. Never mind the servant’s clothes, and really, why did they have to go out in the mud anyway? They were aristocrats, couldn’t someone just carry them on a platform chair, or run their errand for them. Whatever the case may be, I will not be buying a pair of these crazy stilt platforms, should they ever come into style again.
I do love my many styles of shoes, and my platforms are among the favorites, but I draw the line at about a 3 inch platform. Much more than that, and I not only have difficulty walking, but I end up taller than everyone around me, and for me that is just too odd. I am used to being one of the “wee ones,” as my niece Kellie Hadlock calls me, and that’s ok with me. I never wanted to be tall anyway. I’ll let my platforms make me look tall. I’m good with that!!
My little grand niece, Zoey Iverson is quite a character. Always on the go, she makes sure that there is never a dull moment in her family’s home. You see, Zoey is turning two today, and she is into exploring…everywhere!! As any parent of a two year old…past or present…can tell you, a two year old exploring means that nothing is safe, and the parents must always be on guard duty. Zoey’s mom, Cassie tells me that Zoey has made the whole house into a jungle gym. Now that reminds me of my own daughter, Amy who somersaulted down the hallway, and swung from the table. I never knew what she would do next, and that meant I had to make sure everything was pretty well anchored to the floor…or at least not top heavy, because it might become a swing for a little girl. All I can say is…I’ll be praying over your sanity, Chris and Cassie.
Miss Zoey is not just a two year old gymnast, she is also a princess…complete with her princess dresses. She loves to play dress up, and get her bling on, and who can blame her. I think most girls love to get their bling on. Zoey is quite sure that she is the queen of her castle. She is currently working on teaching herself to play the piano. When asked how that is going, her mom tells me that she is “banging on the piano,” so it looks like she might need just a little bit more practice…or perhaps lessons someday. If she likes the piano, she might have a long standing career or at least a hobby for the rest of her life. Kids often develop their likes and dislikes early in life.
Zoey is learning to put her own shoes on too. She loves to get them on the right feet the first time. I’m sure it makes her feel like a grown up. Chris and Cassie love to take their kids out for walks, and Zoey is not into sitting in a stroller. She wants to walk!! Of course, sitting in a wagon with her brother Lucas is ok sometimes too, because Zoey loves her big brother. Today is Zoey’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Zoey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
It’s been a year now, since my grand nephew, Weston Moore obtained his driver’s license. It’s still hard for me…and his parents, to believe that he is 17 years old today. The years have flown by, and what seems like just yesterday, is now far in the past. These days, Weston has his own car, and is pretty much self sufficient…with the exception, of “What’s for dinner Mom!” I suppose he needs her for more than that, but when a parent has teenaged boys, food is the number one priority.
No longer is Weston a baby, crawling around on the floor. No longer is he the little boy in grade school, or even middle school. These days Weston is a tall young man, with feet the size of boats!! They literally make his dad, Steve Moore’s feet look small…which they aren’t. Weston is busy participating in track right now, where he is in shot put and discus. He is very serious about track, and works very hard at it. He sprained his ankle in his “0” hour class last week, but if you think that stopped him for going to track…you would be very wrong. He still managed to make it to track and participate!! I guess it’s all in what is important, and apparently pain is overrated, and sports are a necessity.
Weston has a part-time job, working at with his mom, Machelle Moore, at Bighorn Design Studio in Powell, Wyoming. His job is to clean the screens after a design is placed. He is doing so well at his job, that they plan is to teach him to do several other things that the full-time employees simply don’t have time to get done. When school lets out for the summer, Weston has the offer of a new opportunity. The place that his grandpa, Lynn Cook retired from wants him to go to work for them. It will be a great opportunity for him, and I know he will learn a lot, and make some good money, which as we know, every teenager needs…for gas, if nothing else…oh, and of course, for dating.
Weston has grown up to be a lot like his grandpa, Lynn Cook. He is tall like Lynn, as well as his own dad. He has big feet like his grandpa, and he likes to joke around and make people laugh…just like his grandpa!! I’m sure he is a great jokester, and my guess is that he has learned a bunch of his material from…you guessed it, his grandpa. Weston may be a funny guy, but he also has a soft heart, which I have seen in him whenever he is visiting. Many kids don’t really like to hug the great aunts, but Weston always does, and it melts this great aunt’s heart for sure. Today is Weston’s 17th birthday. Happy birthday Weston!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Babies are so cute. They do things that we as adults can’t do, not only because we would be looked upon as a little off in the head, but because, lets face it…we don’t bend like that anymore. Things like trying to suck on our toes, like my sister, Caryl Reed is doing here, would be looked upon as disgusting, if they were done by adults, and in all reality, most adults would be hard pressed to get their feet to their mouth, although, I’m sure there are those who can do it. If you are one of those, it is probably best to keep it to yourself, because, as I said, people will think you are a little off in the head if you were to do that in public. And yet, we all find the pictures of babies sucking on their toes, to be so cute, that they are definitely Facebook worthy which is one of the highest compliments a picture can get these days. Of course, your baby isn’t really sucking on their toes because they taste good, but rather because they are curious about them, still we would look pretty ridiculous doing the same thing. Kids can get away with goofy stuff, but adults…not so much.
Another way that kids have all the freedom over adults is the area of eating and table manners. No one gives a second thought to the mess kids make at the dinner table…until it comes time to clean it up, anyway. When a baby puts a whole bowl of spaghetti on their head, it’s funny. When they like their food so much that they use their hands and shovel it in to the point of wearing almost as much of it on their face as they put in their tummy, it’s funny. When they fall asleep in their food, because lets face it, eating is hard work…it’s funny, and you still have to wonder how they can bend like that. Most adults would have to be drunk to fall asleep comfortably in their plate of food, but kids often do it without a bit of trouble.
And, of course, there are the non-food things that kids do that we as adults probably had better not do. My niece Aleesia Spethman walks in the door of her grandma, my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s house, and before very long, off come most of the clothes. And if there are any pretty shoes around, she is clomping around in those far too big for her shoes, looking like a princess, even thought all she has on is a diaper…or these days, underwear. Of course, Aleesia comes from a family, her grandmother and Aunt Chantel Balcerzak for sure, who are very warm blood people. The removal of the clothes can be a matter of being too hot. Nevertheless, her grandma and her aunt, certainly do not have the luxury of being able to run around in just a diaper, because as with so many other things kids do, that would be ridiculous. Childhood is a special time when these goofy, messy, and absolutely kid things can be done, and no one thinks it odd. It’s a time to find out about all the yummy things life has to offer, and a time to live free of embarrassment, restrictions, limits, and inhibitions.
When most people think of Gumbo, they think of soup, and I do too, but there is another form of Gumbo, that isn’t quite as nice. In fact, this Gumbo is pretty awful. The Gumbo I’m talking about is the black, sticky, clay kind of mud found in many areas around the nation. Getting crossways with this kind of Gumbo can be a real mess, and in some places, very dangerous. Casper, Wyoming is known to have this kind of Gumbo, and any of us who have come across it can tell you just how bad it is.
My own experience with it was at the Kmart construction site when I was just a kid. My sisters and I were all curious about the new Kmart store going in, and since we lived just a block away, we liked to go over there and check it out sometimes. On this particular day, it had rained, and the dirt hill we had to climb over to get to the site was pretty soggy. I was not put off by that one bit, but perhaps I should have been. I proceeded to climb up the hill of mud, and sunk quickly to my ankles. Thankfully that finally deterred me from trying to go further, and changed my plan instead to trying to get out of there with my shoes…brand new penny loafers, which I had been wanting forever, by the way. In the end, I managed to get out and rescue my amazing shoes, but the shoes didn’t fare as well as I did. They shrunk by about a size, and I could no longer wear them. Man…was I in trouble. I don’t recall if I ever got another pair of penny loafers, or if they went out of style shortly thereafter, but I do remember that mud, and how awful it was. Ugh!! It was not a good day…especially when you add to it the fact that my mother was furious.
My cousin, Tim Fredrick and I share this type of experience. Once when Tim was in Kindergarten at Pineview School, in Casper, Wyoming, which we both attended, by the way, he recalls learning about the stuff of legends…in the form of the mud in the area. For any of you who don’t know it, the mud in Casper, Wyoming is pretty much all Gumbo. Gumbo is so sticky, that believe me when I say, “It will eat your shoes, if you get in there, and you will feel lucky to get out of it with your feet!!” This was the predicament Tim found himself in, when the playground had finally begun to dry after the rain, and because it had developed a thin crust of dry dirt, Tim mistakenly thought it was safe to walk across. Well, as you might have guessed, the crust broke, and that Gumbo mud ate Tim’s shoes. Tim couldn’t move, and if his friends hadn’t been there…some of them larger than he was, thankfully, that Gumbo might have got his feet too, but they pulled him out, just in the nick of time. Ok, I’m exaggerating just a bit, but that mud will get a grip on you and you can’t get out without help. I don’t know how Tim’s mom felt about all that, but my guess is that it was a feeling similar to my mom’s on that day long ago when I was a little kid. When it comes to Gumbo, I think Tim and I will agree…stay away, but it will always win. As Tim said, Gumbo is truly the stuff of legends!!
When it comes to being spacey, kids take the cake. As a child, I remember telling my mom that I couldn’t find something, such as shoes, books, and homework, to name a few. Mom would always say that we needed to go look for it, and “Don’t walk around looking at the ceiling!” Her point was that it obviously wouldn’t be up there, or where ever else we were scanning in such a manner, and it was time to really look. It was really a laziness way to look for something, hoping that if Mom thought we had tried, she would come and really look for it. It seldom worked, and when she found it quickly by really looking, you could bet the next time she helped was a long way off.
One of the funniest things kids do is to look for something that they already have on, or in their hand. We have all done this one…and it is one of the spaciest things to do. It’s like saying, “Where is my cell phone?” only to be told that it is in your hand. Now, that’s embarrassing!! This one happened to my daughter, Amy when she was a little girl. She was getting dressed, and started looking all around for something. I asked her what she was looking for, and she told me her shirt. When I said that she had it on, she was totally surprised, and I laughed for quite a while about that one. It still makes me laugh.
Of course, kids aren’t the only spacey people around. How many times have you seen someone looking for their keys or their glasses only to find that they are carrying the keys in their hand, and their glasses are sitting on top of their head, or hanging on a lanyard around their neck. Of course, when that is pointed out, they are always embarrassed, because that makes them as spacey as the kids. For the adults, I suppose it is just because we have our minds on so many other things, but it still feels like we should be a little more organized. And speaking of organization…don’t get me started. How many times have you put something important in a safe place so it doesn’t get lost…only to find that you can’t remember just where that safe place was. You search and search, and finally find a way to replace it. Then you remember where you put it…of course.
I think that as people get busier they forget things more often, and by the time the retire and aren’t so busy anymore…then for many, the memory isn’t so great, so the whole problem gets worse…my mother-in-law, for example. We had the worst time with her glasses for a while, only to find out that she was giving them away to “help” one of the other residents. It was a nice gesture, but a little pricey. So we had to get her a lanyard, so she couldn’t take them off so easy. It just goes to show you that when it comes to spacey…kids don’t corner the market. Everyone has the opportunity to do this at any time.
As kids, most of us have varying degrees of difficulty keeping track of our toys, mittens, coats, shoes, homework, and other such vital items, and when it comes to actually looking for those lost items, we somehow seem to be less than adept. How can so many things simply disappear in our rooms? I used to think that my daughter, Amy had a black hole in her room, because some of that missing stuff was never heard from again…even when we moved!! Nevertheless, Amy was not alone in her mysterious disappearances. It seems to be a common problem among children…and some adults are no better at keeping track of their things…losing cell phones, keys, paperwork, remote controls, and any other item that they were going to put in a safe place, so it would not get lost.
I remember so many times as a kid, when I couldn’t find something, and my mom would tell me to go look for it, because she didn’t have time to hunt for it when we were fully capable. That did not inspire us to go and search our rooms in depth until the much needed item was found, but rather caused us to wander aimlessly around our room…playing with other things that came into our line of sight, because those things seemed much more important than looking for a lost shoe on a school day. Then after playing for a little while, we would wander out to the front room again, whining to Mom that we just couldn’t find it. It was our hope that Mom would finally take pity on us and come to help us hunt for that missing item. Most of the time we were sadly disappointed…except for the possibility of the missing shoe on a school day, which usually found us wearing some other pair of shoes, that probably didn’t really go with the outfit we had on, but would have to do, because like it or not, we were going to school. Mom wasn’t about to let something as minor as wearing a dress with tennis shoes, keep us home on a school day.
So, we usually found ourselves back in the bedroom, hunting for that missing item again, and wishing Mom would just come and find it, because she was so much better at looking for things than we were. I suppose that she was right in making us do things for ourselves. I think I do better than the average person at keeping track of my things these days, because of Mom’s teachings. Although I must admit that I still lose things sometimes too. Mom taught us to put things away, although we don’t always do so…even today. But the thing I remember the most about those times when I was in my room hunting for a lost item, and unable to find it, was my mom saying, “You’ll never find it if you keep looking for it on the ceiling”, which meant quit walking around the room hoping it will jump out at you, and start looking under the bed, in the drawers, or in the closet, so you will find it already.
Everyone thinks of boys and men being all tough and macho…at least when it comes to emotions, but that really isn’t always the case. In my experience, the fastest way to turn a guy from tough and macho to mush is a girl. Yes, girlfriends and wives will bring that out in a man, but the thing that really melts my heart is watching a man with his daughter or a boy with his baby sister. They just lose all that tough macho stuff, and become pretty much putty in her hands…living the rest of their lives wrapped around her baby finger, because she is quite simply their baby girl…their princess…their little darling…their everything.
The future will bring many frustrating times. She will be rebellious and argumentative. She will fight with them and annoy them. She will want to start dating and going out with friends, leaving her poor daddy to sit up, just waiting for her to get home, and then waking up after a late night to go to work, whether he feels like it or not. Her clothes will cost more than he ever dreamed, because obviously a girl can’t have too many outfits…or shoes. And yet, somehow all that doesn’t really matter, because she is their girl. They feel that protective instinct kick in. She is fragile and tiny, and they want to make sure nothing ever hurts their little girl.
It’s funny how even little boys can tell that their is something very different about this new baby. You have to be more careful and gentle than with a brother. For her…and no one else, they will change their play from rough and tumble to girly things…and you had better never tell anyone about it! She is simply special. She can make her brother play house…and have fun. She can make him stop running around…and run to pick up her dropped toy, without even trying. All they want to do is make her happy. They will turn into a clown, making little faces at her just to get a smile. And yes, they will hug and kiss this girl…at least for now, because we all know that at some point in a boys life, he figures out that even his sister can have cooties, and then for a time, she might have to realize that she is temporarily contagious. But then again, maybe she always was. Maybe the contagion has just changed a little bit…from “I love my girl” to “Girls have Cooties” and back again, because she will always be their girl.