A Barefoot Schoolboy


These days practically all schools require shoes. That’s just the way it is, and I suspect it is that way just because . . . that’s just the way it has been.

A lot of that is just cultural. Here’s a story from the September 12, 1903 New York Times about a father petitioning the school to let his son attend his Jersey City school barefoot. Just the thought was enough to make the news . . . in New York City. Meanwhile, in rural districts all over America, large numbers of children were attending school barefoot without their school districts batting an eye.

Anyways, here’s the story:


Father of Boy Who Was Never Shod Asks That Son Attend School Barefooted.

September 12, 1903

Victor Smith of 641 West Side Avenue, Jersey City, has made application by letter to the Board of Education for permission for his son to attend school in his bare feet. Mr. Smith said the boy had gone barefooted Winter and Summer all his life. He asked that the boy be allowed at least to go shoeless to school until cold weather sets in. The matter was referred with power to Dr. Murray E. Ramsey, who is a member of the board.

Dr. Ramsey said yesterday that he would see the boy and his father before giving a decision. Personally he thought it might be a good thing for boys to go barefoot, provided they kept their feet clean at all times, but he feared that if one boy were given the privilege asked for other boys might want the same favor.

Mr. Smith, who is connected with a New York morning newspaper, when seen at his home, said that his boy had gone without socks and shoes all his life.

“He can walk on tacks,” said Mr. Smith, “and even broken glass does not cut his feet. He coasts down hill and uses his bare feet as other boys use their shoes. He can sleep out doors in any kind of weather, and has never had a cold or a day’s illness.”

Oh, and look at the possible horrible implications if they let the boy go barefoot to school: other boys may want to do so too. Horrors!


2 Responses to “A Barefoot Schoolboy”

  1. Beach Bum Says:

    I guess this shows the difference between urban vs rural attitudes. The expectation that you are to dress up in the city was there for a long time. On a similar note, what may be one of the earliest instances of an adult getting kicked out of a business for being barefoot was in New York City in 1958. Beatniks were known to go barefoot sometimes, and were a major influence on hippies. And Allen Ginsberg was certainly one of the most famous:

    “Chronicle columnist Herb Caen coined the word “beatnik” on April 2, 1958, six months after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite into space.
    Caen says he “made fun of the beats because they took themselves so seriously.
    Allen Ginsberg was all right. I had a drink with him one night at Vesuvio and we walked across the street to the Tosca. He was barefoot. The uptight Italian who owned the place kicked him out. ‘But I’m Allen Ginsberg!’ he shouted. The guy had never heard of him.”

  2. Followup to “A Barefoot Schoolboy” « Society for Barefoot Living Says:

    […] few days ago we read the 1903 story of the Jersey City schoolboy who asked permission to attend school there barefoot. There was a followup story that appeared in […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: