Butch Buys Beatle Boots!!!

When I started sixth grade in the fall of 1960, I just knew I was going to continue having loads of fun goofing off in the classroom, just like I did the previous year, when my 5th grade teacher had no control. Mr. Brown, the sixth grade teacher, had other ideas…AND a paddle hanging on the wall behind his desk. During that year, I learned three valuable lessons: (1) Do what you are told, (2) Keep your mouth shut, and (3) You go to school to learn. I grew up a lot that year and became a straight-A student the rest of my school years.

But I also grew up in many other ways. As a 12-year old, my main interest had been sports. I wanted to be like Winston Wilson, the star of the Darlington High School basketball team…or Warren Spahn, star baseball pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves. But something else began to grab more of my attention that year…that’s right…members of the opposite sex…especially a new girl in my class who was quite a cutie! And I surmised that if that girl asks me to a school dance sometime in the future, I should start listening to popular music a tad more… (and gulp)… learn how to dance.

I had no idea how to dance, and I very seldom listened to songs on the radio. The only records we owned were my parents’ 78 rpm’s from the 1930’s and 40’s. So I began tuning in to TV’s American Bandstand with host Dick Clark. Ricky Nelson also sang on many episodes of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett.” There was absolutely no way I would ever “fast dance,” so I mostly listened to love songs such as…”Teen Angel,” “Only the Lonely,” “Puppy Love,” “Moon River,” “Blue Velvet,” “I’m Sorry,” and “Sealed With a Kiss.” Thankfully Chubby Checker came up with “The Twist,” which certainly made fast dancing much easier for all of the boys…just stand there and twist around!

In the early 1960s, the Beach Boys came on the scene with their unique “California surfing sound.” I purchased an adapter for our old console record player, and purchased my first 45rpm record, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” I also loved “409,” which made me want a hot Chevy convertible when, and if, I ever received my driver’s license. (That never happened…I was stuck with Dad’s red and white station wagon.)

Then in February of 1964, a new musical group appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show…that’s right…the lads from Liverpool…the Beatles! I watched Paul, George, John, and Ringo…and was captivated by them. Their longer hairstyles, collarless suits, and edgy, upbeat, and catchy songs were totally unique…WOW!!! “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “She Loves You” were played first, and then later in the show they performed “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” That did it…I had to buy those records! I wanted to let my hair grow a longer, but my basketball coach was not too thrilled with that idea. No one made a collarless suit. But there was one thing I could buy…Beatle boots, and one of my classmates found out that Crawfordsville’s own Kinney Shoes was going to receive a shipment!

My buddy drove me and another friend to the store one afternoon after school, and the Beatle boots had arrived…Great!!! The boots were $11.00 a pair, which was a fortune for this 15-year old farm boy who earned 60 cents an hour detasseling corn and $1.00 an hour baling hay. Oh well, easy come, easy go. But I soon discovered there was a slight problem. I wore a size 13, and the largest size he had in stock was a size 11. Hmmm, what now? I tried the boots on. My feet were crammed in like a can of sardines. “Maybe the boots will stretch out after I wear them a few times. Yes, I know they will. Money gone. I’m happy!”

Until the next afternoon after I had worn the boots all day at school. Oh, my aching feet! I sold my precious Beatle boots two days later to a buddy…for $5.00. Great way to learn about buying and selling and losing money in the process. (I still know how to do that.) The Beatles music remained THE group for me and most teenagers in the mid-1960s. We bought their singles and albums and listened to them on the radio. But I decided not to buy any more Beatle boots…had to stick with my “penny loafers” and Converse “All-Stars.” And yes, I did the Twist a few times, but mostly slow-danced with that cute gal…and we were engaged at age 17 right after our graduation, and married that fall. The smell of Aqua Net hairspray and Chanel No. 5 perfume will do it every time…and yes, at our wedding I wore “wing-tips”…size 13.

– John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.