Does this look familiar to you?
If you you were born in the 1960s or later, it probably doesn’t… unless you’re into antiques. This is a fluoroscope, and it used to be routinely found in shoe stores to help judge the correct size of shoes a person should buy for herself – or her child!
See those holes at the bottom? Your child would stand with his feet shoved into the openings, and then if you looked down through the scope on top, you would clearly see the bones of his feet, as well as the outlines of the shoes he had on. This would supposedly show you if there was ‘room to grow,’ in which case – the store manager hoped – you would happily buy the shoes.
One big problem, and it wasn’t clear until the darn machine had been in use for decades: radiation leakage.
In still-innocent 1953, I somehow ‘beat’ the machine when, at the tender-tootsie age of seven, I insisted that a pair of adorable black suede Mary-Janes were a perfect fit, because I was in love with them. They were definitely too small, but it was the only size they had in stock, and I squished my feet into them. Darned if I was going to let Maureen, my long-time babysitter, leave the store with me in tow, without those gorgeous shoes.
“Are you sure? Are you sure they feel all right?” she kept asking me, not wanting to mess up this errand she was performing for my mother. The fluoroscope must’ve shown that my toes were right up against the toes of the shoes. But the salesman kept quiet – he wanted the sale! Maureen finally gave in; I was fiercely stubborn, and she was 14.
I remember wearing them on the walk back with Maureen to my parents’ dry-goods store. It was all of two blocks away. By the time we got there I was limping!
The shoes went right back to the store. Yes, I cried, but I got over it… eventually. I still have a soft spot for Mary-Jane-style shoes, though. 🙂