Jim Thorpe wins gold at 1912 Olympics

This is Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics

If you look closely at the photo, you can see he’s wearing different socks and shoes. This was not a fashion statement.

The year was 1912. The place, Stockholm for the 1912 Olympics. Jim, a Native American from Oklahoma was representing the U.S. in track and field.

On the morning of one of his events, he discovered his track spikes were stolen. Without an option for getting a new pair, Jim and his coach went scouring. They found found two shoes in a garbage bin. But the shoes weren’t a pair.

One shoe fit fine, the other was too big. There were no other shoes to choose from. So Jim wore an extra sock on the foot with the big shoe.

Jim ended up winning two gold medals. Wearing these shoes.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thorpe

Viola Liuzzo fights for civil rights

On March 16th, 1965, Viola Liuzzo “called her husband to tell him she would be traveling to Selma after hearing the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. call for people of all faiths to come and help, saying that the struggle ‘was everybody’s fight.'”

She was 39 at the time, living in Detroit. A housewife, a mother of five kids.

She had already taken part in the fight for civil rights. But her fight had always been in Michigan. Now she was heading to the south.

On Sunday, March 21, 1965 over 3,000 people began the march from Selma to Montgomery. There were blacks and whites, doctors and nurses, wealthy and working class, priests and nuns and rabbis, students and housewives, and there was Viola.

And it was there that four days later, after the march had ended and she was helping shuttle marchers home, that Viola was stopped at a red light. With her in the car a young black protester also helping shuttle marchers.

A car of local KKK members pulled up beside her. And when they saw a white woman and a black man in the car together they followed her. She tried to outrun, but she couldn’t. They caught up to her. They shot her. Twice in the head.

She died instantly.

“Viola Liuzzo fights for civil rights” sources: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/08/12/209595935/killed-for-taking-part-in-everybody-s-fight, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola_Liuzzo

Chuck Taylor and the rise of Converse

Sneakers today are the norm to wear. But how did they become popular?

You can say the historical record started in 1908 when 47 year old Marquis Mills Converse, a well groomed and lifelong respected manager started his own company, Converse Shoes. They made rubber soled shoes for winter first. Then in 1915 sneakers for tennis players, and in 1917 the company introduced the All-Star basketball shoe.

During this time, a basketball player at Columbus High in Indiana by the name of Chuck Taylor fell in love with the All-Star basketball shoe. Chuck was a lanky kid with a prominent nose and insightful eyes. By most accounts he was a good basketball player at best. But he was likable and he understood the footwear needs of basketball players. He was also a gifted salesman who knew how to pitch himself and his ideas. In 1921 Converse hired Chuck Taylor after he arrived unannouced at their Chicago office.

With his drive and passion, Converse introduced the Chuck Taylor sneaker. Soon after, it was the shoe to wear for basketball players. And in 1936 the sneakers became the official shoe for the US basketball team in the Olympics.

Then “during WWII, Taylor became a fitness consultant for the US military. GIs were soon doing calisthenics while wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers that had become the official sneaker of the US Armed Forces (Wikipedia).”

In the 1950’s, sneakers extended beyond sportswear and became the norm for daily wear. Much of this was the result of James Dean and his love for the Jack Purcell’s, a sneaker designed by a former world badminton champion (and which was later acquired by Converse). The Jack Purcell sneakers were similar to Chuck Taylor’s, but appealed to a different segment of society. These sneakers were prominent in the rebellious rock culture of the time, broadening the overall appeal of sneakers.

Stories such as the rise of sneakers as a cultural norm remind me of the Harriet Tubman quote, “All dreams begin with a dreamer.” Chuck Taylor wasn’t the only reason sneakers became popular, but he was certainly the catalyst to usher in the change. And as a result, more than 600 million pairs of Chuck Taylor’s have been sold.