The face-up side had the words “Keep me and never go broke” around the ring. Turning over to the wheat-side of the coin, I read the large lettering around the top: “Goodrich PF canvas shoes” while two smaller lines at the bottom said, “Ross J. Canella” on top, and underneath that, “Westfield, N.Y.”
“My, oh my,” I exclaimed. “I remember the Canella Shoe Store from when I was growing up in the 1950s. And I remember actually having a penny something like this one that said the same thing about keeping it and never going broke. Of course, if you keep it you’ll always have at least one cent.”
We chatted about where he’d found the coin — in a coin collection passed on to him from one of his older family members — and I told him about the unusual X-ray machine in Canella’s Shoe Store that you placed your feet inside and looked through a viewer at the top, and it showed the bones of your feet and toes inside the shoe. This was to help you get a good fit — not too small that it cramped your toes, but not too big either. There were two viewers on top, one for the shoe wearer, and one for the shoe salesman who stood in front of the contraption.
The man bringing me the coin said he had watched programs on TV about restoring antique items and one time they actually showed one of these shoe store X-ray machines. He commented that they had used something like a Geiger counter to check for radiation and had to remove the old mechanism for health safety before restoring the cabinet because the meter shot way off the top of the scale.
Historical research located a few items of information about Canella’s Shoe Store. In the Westfield Republican of June 11, 1947, a page one headline, “Canella Blaze” leads off with, “A bad fire Sunday wrecked the plans of Mr. and Mrs. Ross J. Canella, 7 Elm Street to open a shoe store at that location Monday. They had worked for months, remodeling… and had received a shipment of 70 pairs of men’s work shoes… Another larger shipment of shoes for men, women and children had not arrived.”
The Canellas were insured and told the reporter they planned to redecorate and open the new shoe store in a few weeks, which they did. The Republican carried another front page story on August 6, 1947 — “Canella Shoe Store Opens Friday.” This article described, “The most modern x-ray machine available… being installed for the opening… insures a perfect fit.”
Curious about how long Canella’s Shoe store was in business, the obituary file was searched to locate Ross J. Canella’s obit, which was found in the Aug. 6, 1992 Westfield Republican, on page four. Canella died at age 82, in St. Petersburg, Fla. His obit tells “He and his wife owned and operated Canella’s Shoe Store, Westfield, retiring in 1976.” Also, former Westfield Historian, Dorothy Hopkins Curtis, in “History of Westfield New York, Part I, 1802-1952,” lists Canella’s Shoe Store among the businesses in Westfield in 1952.
The year, 1976, was the Bicentennial of the United States, so research was begun to find any information regarding Canella’s Shoe Store at 7 Elm Street at the time of Mr. Canella’s retirement. But the microfilm of Westfield Republican’s for 1976 is so very long, and filled with a lot of historical articles about Westfield and other local businesses, that only the first three months have been studied. It is interesting to note that another shoe store also closed its doors in January of 1976 — Pratt’s Shoe Store that was at 45 East Main for many years.
Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
A special Lincoln-Wheat penny dated 1957 started research on and stirred memories of the Canella Shoe Store.