Polio Place

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Broken Arm & Saddle Shoes

Joan L. Headley; Age 11, 1958; Ohio

Our family didn't take many pictures in the 1950s, but breaking an arm was an occasion. In our farm community, boys broke their arms, not girls.

Looking at the photograph today, I am reminded of two things: my mother and saddle shoes.

Mother: I suspect my mother was not there when this picture was taken, because I am not “standing up straight” with my "weight on both legs.” Or, it is possible that I didn't obey that day. I was confident that I was loved by her and my father regardless of how I stood. In retrospect, she gave very good advice. My right leg or "good" leg signaled the late effects of polio first due to its extra weight-bearing responsibilities.

Saddle shoes: One of the late summer rituals was to visit the shoe store that sold mismated shoes. On the first visit, they would measure my feet, and I would pick either brown or black saddle shoes. I typically alternated the colors, because I was so tired of the pair I had worn every day for a year. I vividly remember my excitement one year, because I was offered navy blue.

It wasn't until I slipped on snow-covered school bus steps and landed on my spine while in junior high that a health professional suggested a lift in my shoe to help equalize my leg lengths and to minimize my limp. The idea and the benefits seem so obvious now.

How did I break my arm, an event that deserved being photographed? In the summer of 1958, I fell off of my brother's bicycle, which he reluctantly shared. His broken bone tally was arms, three; nose, one.


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