Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Big Shoes

When Danny Eskenazi was growing up in Seattle, USA, he often visited his grandfather's shoe store. For nearly 30 years, Isaac Eskenazi kept a pair of giant boots in the window. The shoes belonged to Robert Wadlow, an 8-foot-11-inch tall man who travelled on the lecture circuit in the 1930s and stopped in Seattle at the Pantages Theater. Wadlow suffered acromegaly and was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as a giant. Acromegaly is a condition caused by increased secretion of growth hormone after normal growth has been completed and occurs in adults. When excessive secretion of growth hormone occurs in children before normal growth has been completed, it causes gigantism rather than acromegaly. The cause of the increased hormone secretion is usually a benign pituitary tumour. The pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, controls the production and release of several different hormones. There are no known risk factors other than prior history of a pituitary tumour. Acromegaly occurs in 6 out of 100,000 people. You may recall Ian Thrope, the Australian swimmer was accused of taking hormonal supplements which were thought to increase the size of his feet. There was no substance to the accusation and “the Torpedo” just was a big laddie. His tight fitting swim suit made his bits look bigger. Anyway back to Robert Wadlow, his life was tragically short and he died very young aged 22. His demise was brought on by an infected foot blister, so there is a warning to us all. Maybe his shoes were too small for him, in any event when Isaac Eskenazi relocated his store in the 1960s; big Wadlow’s boots mysteriously disappeared. Young Danny has spent his life in search of the Holy Grail of Giant Shoes. To this day, he continues to look and there is even a $1,000 (US) reward for the return of Wadlow's boots. Meantime Danny has acquired a collection of giant shoes which in 1997, he generously donated to the new Giant Shoe Museum (Old Seattle Paperworks). A particular unique feature about this collection is it appears in a coin-op museum. For a dollar's worth of quarters you can see three of the peep shoe exhibits. The museum is sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of Oversize Footwear which is one of Seattle's most exclusive clubs. Makes you wonder what these people do for a life. Most of the exhibits are too large for anyone to have worn and likely were made as displays for shoe manufacturers. Now if you are in Cambridge Street, Perth, Western Australia you might like to visit the premises of Perth Surgical Shoemakers & Wembley Shoes. Not just because they are very nice people, that is taken for granted, but because there is on display the biggest shoe in Australia. According to the Guinness Book of Records the world’s largest shoe was made by Zahit Okurlar. It measured 3.12m. (10-ft. 2.8-in.) long, 1.05m. (3-ft. 5.5-in.) wide, and 1.23m. (4-ft. 0.8-in.) high. The shoe was exhibited at the Konya International Shoe Fair. Okurlar started making the shoe in August 1999, creating a mould made from foam, wood-dust, and gypsum glue, modelled from a size 41 shoe. The upper part of the shoe was stuck to the leather sole before being hand-sewn. A five-meter (16-ft. 6-in.) long shoelace was used. Okurlar used three complete cow hides to make the sole and had to knock down a wall of his third floor workshop to winch the shoe down.

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