Saturday, June 25, 2016

Raise Your Hand If You Remember These!

" Step right up on the box, Junior, and put your foot in the radioactive machine so I can check your feet inside your new shoes.

"No, Mother, don't you worry, it's perfectly safe. Junior's toes will not fall off or glow in the dark from radiation. This is science at work to give Junior a perfect fit and an inch to grow in."


We visited a small museum in Walterboro, South Carolina and came across a flouroscope, which I hadn't seen since I was a child in the 1950s getting new shoes for school.


The flouroscope was invented in the 1920s as a sales gimmick to sell shoes. It X-rayed the customer's feet, revealing bones and the outline of the shoe assuring a perfect fit.

Even by the1950s when the dangers of radiation should have been fairly clear and clerks who used the boxes were reporting burns and other injuries, the hazards were brushed off and the machines continued to be used! By the mid 1950s there were 10,000 of them leaking radiation all over the place in the United States and a similar number in England.


The customer, most often a child, would stand wearing new shoes with her feet in the slot in the bottom of the box. At the top were three viewing places, one for the salesman in his suit and tie, one for Mom in her dress and heels, and one for the child, also dressed up for the occasion.






I got two pairs of shoes every year, brown "oxfords" for school and patent leather "buckle shoes" for church. They were always the same. No one asked me what I wanted and I don't even know if the store had any other options. The brand was Buster Brown and they came from the small town shoe store that had the X-ray machine. I don't remember its name.

When you put your feet in the machine with the new shoes on, you wiggled your toes around inside the new shoes to check the fit, and I can't tell you how exciting it was for a five or six year old in the mid 50s to see the actual bones inside her foot moving around. I could have stood there wiggling my toes all day long!

This is from an article I read when I was looking up some facts about the flouroscope. If it's true, it's pretty frightening but I didn't see any research about it that looked more detailed. So take it for what it's worth.

"By the 1970s, shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were almost universally banned, but damage had already been done; foot cancer began to rear its ugly head in many older patients, and there was little question of Its source."

If you want to give yourself nightmares, Google foot cancer images. Yikes.


  1. I'm Buster Brown, I live in your shoe, this is my dog Th, he lives there too. Yes I remember those machines. I got white Oxfordshire for school and white strap shoes for church.

    1. I had forgotten that rhyme! I love those stickers. Once my baby sister removed them from my new shoes and I was devastated. They were the best part of those clunky oxfords!

  2. We didn't have those machines here in New Zealand (that I am aware of), which sounds like a fortunate thing. I had never heard of them.

  3. nice shoes.... interesting post

  4. Perfect day to read your post. Just moments ago, GN caught me singing something as I put groceries away. She asked me where the song came from "cuz you sing that all the time, Grammy." It was from a 1960's Pop Tart Commercial. So reading your museum post made me think of another commercial song. "Does your shoe have a boy inside? What a funny place for a boy to hide. Does your shoe have a dog there too? A boy and a dog and a foot in a shoe. Well, the boy is Buster Brown and the dog is Tige, his friend. They're really just a picture, but it's fun to play pretend. So, look, look, look in the telephone book for the store that sells the shoe with a picutre of the boy and the dog inside so you can put your foot in too!" I had the same shoes growing up. Oxfords for school, Mary Janes for church: black in the winter, white in the summer. I never had to put my foot in the flouroscope.

  5. I don't recall ever seeing one of these machines in Australia.
    So that now seems to be fortunate.
    I do recall Oxford shoes - school shoes were of that brand name.
    Our coldest morning this winter so far in Brisbane - down to 5 Celsius
    at 7.00 am. I am rugged up like an Eskimo in a blizzard.
    My God, I thought that the South Pole had moved north - ha ha.
    PS: With Wimbledon starting on Monday, I am hoping the nights will
    be warm - I don't fancy sitting up and freezing in front of a TV.

  6. I guess I lived in the boonies as I never saw these devices.

  7. I'll take your word for it; cancer scares are not very appealing to me!

  8. That is scary. I vaguely remember the machines. Not sure if I ever used one as a kid.

  9. I don't remember them, I always had Clarks shoes navy blue for school white for church and black boots for the winter.

  10. I think I have used this thing only once long, long ago indeed in the fifties. Mostly the saleswoman pinched with her fingers in the shoe to feel if it fitted well. Nasty apparatus with X-rays, but people didn't know better those days.

  11. Oh, my goodness! Sears Roebuck & Co., Greenville, SC, had that machine! I remember my mother feeling reassured that I had the perfectly fitted pair of shoes because of it. That store was at least 45 miles from my small home-town in Upstate SC, and there were 7 children, so you know we weren't making that trip very often. I'll avoid researching foot cancers.

  12. Never encountered these machines, thank God. The principal where I worked, though, was older and told me about his mother taking him for some kind of chest treatments which were x-rays. He ended up in his adult years with breast cancer.

  13. Cute shoes! That machine was horrible, it belongs in a museum. :)

  14. Yikes indeed firstly the machine, secondly the shoes! I remember having very similar shoes for school myself, but in my country town growing up, we used the two finger method. Two fingers (my mother's) were pressed firmly at the end of the shoe - if there was no 'ouch' from me, they were a perfect fit! What an interesting post, loved it.
    Have a happy week.
    Wren x

  15. Good grief! I remember it well...;(

  16. I don't remember this machine at all, I'm pleased to say, but all my shoes were Clark's. That was a really interesting find at the Museum.

  17. I don't remember these. I do remember the metal adjustable measuring thingy but that's about it so I can almost confidently say no one ever stuck my feet in a radiation chamber. :-)