As readers of my blog know, I just did a story on the Weinermobile, a 27-foot vehicle that visited the Quad Cities recently, with its 2-month-old baby brother in tow, a 13-foot smaller weiner, built on a Mini Cooper chassis. [See blog archives.]
But how many Quad City readers are aware that, back in 1922, a local business (Hallas & Mead) built a giant shoe thirteen feet long that weighed about a ton and was an exact metal replica of a work shoe of the day, for advertising purposes for the Mendel Shoe Store?
Back in December of 1978, Jim Arpy (now retired) of the Quad City Times interviewed the then-77-year-old creator of the giant shoe, Harry Hallas, a sheet-metal fabricator for 25 years for his brother, George. George, along with Arthur Mead, owned Hallas and Mead Company (24th St. and 3rd Avenue.) Harry Hallas worked there for 47 years, but building the Big Shoe was among his most unusual job chores…right up there with prying six bullets out of one of John Looney’s vehicles following a gun battle.
The Hallas and Mead Company is long gone, but listen to Harry Hallas talk about one of the prototypical vehicles that the Weinermobile is based on, and a vehicle he helped build:
“I can’t for the life of me remember where Mendel’s (Shoe Store) was located, but one day he (Mendel) came into the shop and said he wanted us to make a shoe large enough to be mounted on a Model T Ford chassis. We’d never done anything like that, but we were the only place in the area equipped to do it, so we took it on.”
[Hallas and the partners worked for about a year to complete the shoe, which had a driver who sat in the arch behind a windshield and steered conventionally, separated from the rear and uppers by a compartment door. The shoe also had eyelet hooks (three of them) on each side and four similarly-situated large holes for the same purpose and was painted work-shoe brown.]
Hallas: “It sure stirred a lot of interest. I don’t think we would have accepted any more orders like that. We didn’t want that kind of business, because it was too much work and took too much time. We didn’t make a dime on it. In fact, if the truth were known, we probably lost money, but it was a challenge we wanted to try.”
Every weekend, Mendel, (the shoe store owner), would come to the shop and create more of the shoe shape out of wire.
Hallas: “Then, following Mendel’s pattern, we’d take the wires out and replace them with one-inch channel iron every four inches. The skin was riveted galvanized iron. When we were done with it, it went to the paint shop and was painted to look just like a big brown work shoe. I never did hear what happened to it, but I’d sure like to know,” said the 77-year-old Harry Hallas back in 1978, when the original Jim Arpy interview was conducted. [If Harry Hallas were alive today, he’d be 106, so it’s probably safe to say that he never saw the Big Work Shoe again.]
If anybody knows the whereabouts of Mendel’s Giant Shoe, drop me a line.