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COLUMN: Chuck Taylor All-Star

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | May 17, 2023 12:00 AM

There was no thought of making some kind of statement. Well, maybe just a bit.

This was not an attempt to prove I’m still young enough to be cool.

And yeah, I would be the first to admit it may have proved you can be old and crazy at the same time.

No, this was basically a nostalgia fueled purchase, not as strong as my desire to own one last muscle car before the sands of my time on the planet runs out, but heavy in the nostalgia nonetheless.

Yes, it may have become more urgent given the medical situations I have faced in the past 20 months and which, I’m proud (and relieved) to say I survived.

Replacing four coronary arteries and losing another essential organ to the surgeon’s laser has a tendency to make one realize that ticking you hear is not a weird form of tinnitus, AKA “ringing in the ear”.

Got that too.

So while there may have been some powerful forces at work here, I’m sticking with the notion that this was about grabbing of piece of the past before it’s too late.

I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, but that’s in many ways out of my hands.

With that background laid, I am proud to say I am the owner of a pair of brand spanking new Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star black high-top tenny runners.

They have the official Chuck Taylor patch, just like the last pair I owned more than half a century ago.

First off, I was surprised they still make them. But when I tore open that UPS package knowing what was inside, there they were in all their splendid over the ankle glory.

When I was a kid, and yup, that was in the days when nobody had that new-fangled television set that had a picture in, gasp, “living” color, Chuck’s were the thing to have.

For one thing, they were cheap and tough.

Walk through a mud puddle or spill dang near anything on them and into the washing machine they went, then on to the dryer where you could hear them throughout the house banging off the inside of the dryer drum.

Out they came, temporarily shrunken up a bit, but clean as a whistle, right down to the long length white shoe laces it took to fasten them to your feet.

And back to the outdoor basketball court you went with what looked like a new pair of Chuck’s.

They didn’t make you run a little faster or jump a little HIIIIGHER, and yeah I know that was a commercial for a competitor shoe, sold to the “Kid In The Red Ball Jets”.

In the athletic genre, Converse All-Stars, and they HAD to be Chuck Taylor’s, were the equivalent of the “penny loafer” slip on shoes so many cool teens had to have. Those were the shoes with the slit in the tongue where you could insert a shiny penny for the extra cool statement.

If you were really going for cool, you would slip a shiny dime in the tongue slit, thereby upping your “class” statement and helping make the ankle hugging stretch denims look extra cool.

Sure, I had dreams of such grandeur when I took them out of the box and slipped my size 13s into the first pair I had since John Kennedy was President. Visions of running down the street in my new Converse tennies was indeed bouncing around the inside of my skull.

I turned 69 years old this past week and this was my way of saying I still have some cool left.

I debuted the Chuck’s at a track meet recently and got some interesting reactions.

Most wearers of Chuck Taylor All-Stars when they first came out did not have gray leg hair. And no one in their late 60s wore them in those days.

Surprisingly, a lot of kids today knew exactly what was attached to my feet and most seemed pretty comically impressed.

Running down the street ain’t going to happen for me anymore, unless a very large bear is chasing me or an angry ex-girlfriend finally tracked me down.

But the mission of this purchase was accomplished.

I felt a certain spring in my step that only Chuck Taylor All-Stars could produce. They are not the $5 bargain they used to be, this pair set me back $70 and meant I would have to watch the budget for the next couple weeks.

But inflation be damned! I had to do what I had to do.

So if you see me grooving up slowly in my black high tops, be kind. I’m on a trip down memory lane.

And, I like to think, it is a trip a lot of folks would like to take.