Just before Christmas a woman came into the shop and was looking for that perfect gift for her son who was studying at the University of Ottawa – she told me he was a graphic design student and I in turn told her I had the perfect gift – the item, a box of Cat’s Paw heels with the original graphic design on the outside of the box (price $20) – I told her the story about the origin of the design and she was immediately sold – she said it was a great little tale and she wanted to share the details of it with her son. As she was leaving the shop she told me she wouldn’t be able to spin the story with as much detail and interest as I had and asked if I might post the story on our website. I was more than happy to do so; the story went as follows:
Antique collecting is a hobby that can be gratifying on so many levels. For starters there’s the most apparent benefit; the prospect of making a few dollars (for some it’s a lot more than merely a few dollars); add to that the thrill and rush of the hunt (finding or hitting a pick that produces that super rare item you’ve been seeking for so many years) and of course there’s the opportunity to meet and socialize with various groups of like-minded collectors like ourselves. But aside from the aforementioned benefits, one of the things we really enjoy about collecting antiques is the lore and fascinating stories that are often associated with certain items we stumble across.
Case in point: Recently we found an old box or two of Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels (ca: 1930s). Seeing these heels reminded us of the days when people actually fixed things when they broke or wore out. And while the heels are by no means highly desirable or super rare – nor do they command large sums of money – they do however come with an interesting story; research tells us the Cat’s Paw logo, first used in 1904, was designed by famed German graphic designer Lucian Bernhard. Now for many, that name might not ring a bell, but as it turns out Bernhard just so happens to have a font named after him…appropriately named The Bernhard Font. And, to add a little more intrigue to our little story there’s another historical figure associated with these heels. History has it that while searching for the famed Amelia Earhart (American aviation pioneer and author) a pair of her shoes was found on the island of Nikomaroro; they were singularly identifiable by the Cat Paw Heel, the heel of choice by the renowned female pioneer!
Now who would of thought that a simple rubber heel would be connected to such an intriguing past?
A few weeks after Christmas we received an email from the woman’s son in Ottawa and he very corrigibly thanked us for sharing the story with him. Given the fact that we receive many emails from former customers it came as no surprise that the young man took the time to email us – and of course we were grateful; what we didn’t expect however was another email that we received shortly thereafter. The second email, coming out of the blue, was very succinct and to the point. It read as follows: “Do you have a size ten in black?”
When I read the email I was stupefied and initially began to laugh and then as I began to reflect, I tried to imagine the person at the other end of the email; perhaps it was an elderly woman or gentleman who had grown up in the era when replacing a heel was common practice, a person who had come from a time, as I mentioned earlier, when people actually fixed things as opposed to merely tossing things out; perhaps it was a person who remembered their mother or father taking the time and tender care to replace a child’s set of heels… my natural curiosity was aroused and I was inclined to reply and ask if they were seriously looking to purchase a size ten, but then I thought, “Hmmmm, some things are best left to the imagination…”
By the way, I did reply to the inquiry and informed the person that we only had only one pair left; unfortunately, it was a size 6 in white.