The Happy Housewife on shoes… and shoe cleaning

Ruth Drew, a writer and broadcaster who sadly died in 1960 when still relatively young, had her work published posthumously in a volume entitled ‘The Happy Housewife’; it is not just a book of how to do and what to do to manage a house and a household, it is her, it is Ruth, jumping off the page, cheerfully, optimistically, full of energy and wit. Written sixty or seventy years ago and more, some of the advice is like a little window into a bye-gone age:

Another point about equipment: it’s important to work with clean tools. Shoes don’t like dirty clogged brushes and dusters any more than noses like dirty powder puffs.

We have shoe cleaning equipment – but do many people younger than us? And who has powder puffs these days? Ruth explains that mud must be cleaned and even washed off before attempting to polish, and wet shoes must have ‘careful slow drying in an airy place not near radiators, or toasting like crumpets in front of the fire.’ She speaks quite sternly about getting rid of all the mud before polishing otherwise ‘you’re left with crusty blobs of dried mud rising up reproachfully under the polish. And no amount of guilty rubbing’s going to see the back of them.’

Ruth has a whole list of shoe related advice:

  • dark marks on leather shoes
  • squeaking shoes
  • toning up shoes
  • evening shoes
  • football boots
  • patent leather
  • skin shoes
  • suede shoes
  • summer shoes
  • winter boots

The only way apparently is to stop shoes squeaking is to send them back to the factory or a shoe repairer: ‘an expert hand can strip the sole – put some French chalk between the squeaky layers – and build the shoe up again. A squeaky shoe is a faulty shoe, says a shoemaker.’

Apparently some children’s shoes are deliberately made to squeak… what fun for the child, what torture for the person stuck on a bus with someone else’s child enjoying the squeak!


  1. David Lewis

    I used to look forward to winter when I was younger and my favorite sport was cross country skiing. Two severe back injuries put an end to that. Fond memories of getting off the trail and going to the sauna. With a lady friend of course! Aaah what fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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