September 19, 2019

The Fluoroscope

If you were born before 1960, you probably remember going to a shoe store as a child and having your feet x-rayed with a fluoroscope.  You would try on a new pair of shoes, stick your feet in the opening at the bottom of the unit, and while you were looking through a porthole on top and wiggling your toes, your parent and the shoe salesman were looking through similar openings which showed a fluorescent image of the bones and soft tissue of the foot inside the shoe as well as an outline of the shoe.  The purpose was to see if the new shoes you had on were the right fit.  In actuality, this was just a sales gimmick as the same fit could be done using simple measurements.  It was a big draw for children, who loved to go into the shoe store and stick their feet in the machine just for the fun of seeing the greenish yellow image of their bones.

Introduced in the 1930’s, the units grew in popularity until  by the 1950’s there were 10,000 such devices in shoe stores in the United States.  At the same time scientists began to voice concern about the potential hazards of radiation,  and by 1970 shoe x-ray machines had been banned in 33 states.

The unit at our museum was donated by Bob McNamee who was the manager of Charles Company Shoes, 229 North Main Street, which is now Delphos Sporting Goods.  Sorry, the inside workings have been removed, so it’s not as much fun to stick your feet in as it was then, but you’re welcome to visit the museum for a bit of childhood nostalgia.  The museum is open every Saturday & Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. and every Thursday from nine to noon.

 

Printed in the Delphos Herald January 14, 2012

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