Well … it seemed only appropriate to pull up this old word as we face our fourth major snow storm in four weeks here in Providence. It’s just beginning to snow, but we have about three feet of ambient snow and we’re expecting another 8-12 inches. Poor Boston, to our East, has another potential snowfall of 18″ to 2 feet.
I was reminiscing with an old friend on Facebook about “the old days” when we traipsed off to school in the worst of snow situations. Neither of us can remember anything like a “snow day” back then. We just put on our heavy coats, hats, scarves, mittens, and galoshes over heavy socks and headed out.
Galoshes, or “overshoes” were a given in the 40’s and 50’s. Everybody wore them. They had four buckles on the front of them that brought the skin of the galoshes in close to the foot. The rubber skin was not exactly what one would call insulated or warm, but the purpose wasn’t as much warmth as it was dryness. Several pairs of socks might help. And, your shoe fit inside the overshoe along with your foot.
Everybody in school wore a piece of adhesive tape with their name on it attached to the galoshes, as we all bought them at the same store in town, and they all looked alike. They weren’t quite as fancy as the one shown in today’s image, but they did the job.
The word galoshes comes to us from the Old French word which seems to have referred more to wooden shoes worn in the garden than anything. I suspect it just found itself adopted for any foot covering meant to keep out the moisture.
Kids today wouldn’t be caught dead wearing galoshes like these. They weren’t very stylish, and the wreaked of function over form. Nobody really cared what they looked like. The purpose was protection from slush.
Almost nobody was transported to school in those days, except for the kids who lived on the farms outside of town. So everybody had to walk to school through all kinds of conditions. Our kids and grandkids today moan when we begin to talk about those days. You know, “we walked through snow up to our thighs for a mile or more just to get to school” and “some of the kids actually wore snowshoes to get there.” And “it was all uphill … both ways.” But most of it was true. The uphill portion was a little exaggerated.
There was something about practicality having more importance than it does today. We didn’t even own a car until I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, so nobody was going to transport us to school (except the principal of the high school, who sometimes took pity upon those of us who lived near him.) And … just to set the record straight … the jr./sr. high school was 1.1 miles from my house. No exaggeration. The elementary school and the jr. high I attended were actually just around the corner.
So galoshes are a part of my history … and I suspect yours also. They made sense. We’re about to head out for a basketball game, so I’ll slip into my insulated Timberlane boots over heavy socks. But they may get a little warm in the car.
Image Credit: LaCrosse Tracktion