Our colorful character for today is Charlie Haase, from Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin.
He operated a restaurant there, “Barefoot Charlie’s”, for many, many years.
Land O’Lakes is way up north along the Wisconsin/Michigan border. It gets cold there. Despite that, Barefoot Charlie went barefoot all of the time. In fact, supposedly when people would give him shoes, he’d just sell them for the money.
One of Charlie’s unique abilities was working with wood. That means that he built his “Bearfoot’s Tavern” himself. This eventually became “Barefoot Charlie’s”, which was actually a pretty famous gathering place.
He would regularly dress up in pioneer or Native American garb, usually as part of promoting his place.
There were even postcards that featured him.
The insides of his place also had intricate woodworking, all done by Charlie himself.
I find it interesting that he was able to run a restaurant barefoot without anybody making up Health Department myths, but this was in the 1940s and 1950s, before such myths were started.
Barefoot Charlie died in 1970 at age 79. “Barefoot Charlie’s” burned down in January 1988, from a malfunctioning heater. For a while Land O’Lakes had a “Barefoot Charlie” festival, but that didn’t seem to last.
And now people in the northwoods have just forgotten that bare feet could be perfectly acceptable, and they exhibit much of the hostility as the rest of the country.