I came across this newspaper column from 1966 that I think pretty much sums up and explains why going barefoot is so reviled by so many. It illuminates all too well the mindset of those who put up so many roadblocks back in the 1960s, and who continue to do so today.
The newspaper is “The Assabet Valley Beacon” in Acton, Massachusetts, which is suburban Boston. It’s one of those weekly, local newspapers, so it’s not really a bastion of journalism. But I think it is also more likely, therefore, that it might reflect better the attitudes of more common folk.
I’m going to show two columns, by a guy named Frank Anthony. In the first one, he goes off on bare feet. In the second one, from two weeks later, he replies to a letter he received regarding the first column.
I’m going to intersperse a few of my own comments right into the columns, italicized. But there really isn’t too much to say, besides looking on in horror.
August 18, 1966
By Frank Anthony
BARE FEET STREET
Along with the summer violence this year, we have seen another budding more, bare feet on the street has come to Hudson, Maynard and Marlboro. Either this quaint habit means that these lower middle class mill towns have been elevated to the status of upper middle class resort towns, or it means that you young people are getting so sloppy they just do not care where they show their dirty feet in public. [What an insult. It’s also horrible writing—he switches from “you young people” to “they show their dirty feet”.]
As is usually the case, some adults are looking around at their barefooted offspring, with whom they are more ashamed to be seen in town than usual, and asking the question, "What started this?"
Many of them are overlooking the fact that, for the last several years, they have been running around the castle, of which they are supposed to be the king and queen, not only bare footed, but half undressed as well. [Arrogant ass. As if his way of doing things is the only way of doing things.] Little Johnny and Jane, who have become accustomed to seeing their parents in a sloppy state of dress, with a glass or a can in their hands and a cigarette hanging from their mouths, are doing the only natural thing that could be expected. They are going and doing likewise. It is also natural that the parents should wince when they observe the cigarette smoking, beer drinking, sloppy progeny they have allowed to “develop”, for they are plagued with looking at the mirror of their own ungraceful and undisciplined way of life. [That’s right, it’s just a sloppy state of dress. And does he have any evidence that the barefooted come only from these slovenly families, or might they come from all walks of life?]
Speaking of the pursuit of the great life, yes it is great to have a country where we can have all the nicotine and alcohol we want but it is greater to do without it.
NEVER LOSE FACE
Speaking of the bare feet idiots, I was playing tennis a few Sundays ago at the Acton courts, and among the four boys on the court next to ours there was one with bare feet. The sun was very hot, and I could feel the hot asphalt baking my feet even through the tennis shoes and woolen socks I was wearing. After a while, the bare footed one was walking, and running, on his heels. That stunt looked more painful than walking on the ordinary blisters, but he kept it up until the end of the match! He never once lost face, and his fellow teen-agers never mentioned a thing about the demonstration. [Or maybe he was doing just fine and Frank Anthony isn’t smart enough to realize it.]
It was an excellent example of the kind of conformity that has taken over this country from Maynard, Massachusetts to Viet Nam. [Except the barefooted tennis player was the only one not wearing shoes. He wasn’t conforming to his friends. Duh.]
It is seen in the so-called ladies who go shopping with cigarettes hanging from their mouths clad in colored pants so tight they leave nothing for the imagination.
It is seen in the middle-class drinking ritual at parties, meals and while TV “snacking” … near beer for junior.
It is seen in the bare footed ones, as they slouch along unmindful of the filth they walk in on the street. [Oh, yeah. They slouch. Except for those who don’t. I’m reminded of stories about nudists who always seem to “prance”, even when they don’t.]
It is seen in the young girls, heavy bottomed from watching TV, who have given up pretty dresses for men’s “pants”. [And pants on girls! Wow. He sure likes dictating how other people live.]
It is seen in a country where mediocre entertainers like the “Beatles” [Wow. This guy’s powers of prediction really suck.] are banned for what they say and think. They are forced to take it back, or lose face and MONEY.
And it is seen in Viet Nam where this country wages a no – win war rather than losing face … and Money. [I am surprised that this guy was against the Viet Nam War. And in 1966 no less.]
September 1, 1966
Dear Mr. Anthony,
I’ve just finished reading your column in the BEACON newspaper, issue of August 18, 1966.
I happen to be someone whom your article referred to as a “barefooted idiot.”
You state in your column that the the young people go barefooted because they just don’t care where they show their dirty feet. Every man is entitled to his own opinion, but yours, I feel, isn’t what we, the young people consider a fact!
Would you like to know my reason for being a “barefooted idiot”? Well, here it is. I go barefooted because it happens to be a little more comfortable than wearing shoes. I doubt if even you have ever sat in your office or at your home and NOT taken off your shoes to become more comfortable and relaxed. Can you sir, truly deny this fact?
When school rolls around, students are required to dress properly so naturally we don’t go barefooted. But, that is during school.
Summer is a time when we feel free, and just want to enjoy life without all the strict rules concerning dress which we had in school.
That’s about it.
A happy and carefree Barefooted Idiot.
Dear Happy and Carefree:
I am accustomed to being misquoted, particularly by preachers, but it is disconcerting to see it done by a young person with such an obviously open mind.
I doubt if you are one of the character, I see running around Maynard with their dirty feet showing.
If you take the trouble to read last week’s column more carefully, I did not say that the “reason” young people run around Maynard barefooted is BECAUSE they “do not care.” [Well, yes he did. Right here: “you young people are getting so sloppy they just do not care where they show their dirty feet in public.” That’s a reason. It may not be the only reason, but he gave it as a reason.] I made it quite clear in my article that the parents of these children are to blame for the poor example and lack of proper guidance they give to their children. [And here he’s not assigning a reason, but blame.]
Of course, it is more comfortable to go barefooted than it is to wear shoes, but there is a proper place and time for everything. Yes, I CAN deny that I take off my shoes to feel more comfortable in my home because I have not and do not. [Somehow I have no problem believing this. But maybe if he did the blood going to his brain would not have ossified.] I might also add that I buy wellmade substantial shoes (with laces usually) that give my feet adequate support, and that last as much as eight to ten years. [Aw, man. The “support” shibboleth again.] This can be proven by Velly Kangas who puts many pairs of heels and soles on them.
Judging from the taste of my older son, I would say that the reason most teenagers try to shed their shoes is because they wear loafers or some other cheap kind, and suffer the consequences.
As for feeling free, by all means I’m for that, but everything has a limit. In Florida recently, a young girl felt more free when she rode around nude. As so-called civilized people, we are supposed to have some respect for each other. Proper attire in public is one of the characteristics of a person who cares about what his fellow man thinks about him.[And here again we get the old “civilized” crap. If you don’t wear shoes you are not civilized. Sigh.]
In Rockport, Harvard Square or Provincetown one expects to see all sorts of people running around half undressed and thoroughly enjoying their “freedom,” but the way a person looks when he goes “uptown,” in a place like Maynard, tells a great deal about the way he feels about his town and the people who live in it … summer time or anytime.[Or maybe he can tell the difference between what is important, and what isn’t. Going back to his opposition to the Viet Nam War. Killing people: important; dissing what they wear: not important.]
You complain about the strict rules of dress in the schools, and I certainly agree, for a place like Nashoba High School with its jail-like atmosphere is not conducive to good learning let alone comfort.