Our great American imagination
CHAPTER 1 | CHAPTER 2 | CHAPTER 3 | CHAPTER 4 | CHAPTER 5 | CHAPTER 6 | CHAPTER 7 | CHAPTER 8 | CHAPTER 9 | CHAPTER 10 | CHAPTER 11 | CHAPTER 12 | CHAPTER 13 | CHAPTER 14 | CHAPTER 15 | CHAPTER 16 | CHAPTER 17 | CHAPTER 18
RICK Well, let’s start there, in Pennsylvania, just east of the city of York. As these sorts of buildings go, this one can be difficult to find.
RUTH It’s very difficult to find. I think a lot of people don’t come cause they can’t find it. Even the people here in York can’t find it.
RICK It was built in 1948, it’s changed hands several times over the years. Ruth Miller and her husband Bud bought it in 1995.
RUTH I saw it in the Sunday paper for sale. Monday morning I was here.
BUD Well my wife came home one day, she said, “I bought a shoe.”
RUTH He said, “What do you mean you bought a shoe?”
BUD She didn’t say a pair of shoes, I figured she’s up to something.
RUTH I said I didn’t buy a pair of shoes, I bought a shoe. And I said the Haines’s Shoe House.
BUD We both knew about it. Knew the man that built it. And she makes good decisions.
RUTH When you say to people this is the only shoe house in the world, that registers. They think, well, can’t go anywhere else and see it, I better look at it now while I’m here.
RICK We asked Randy Garbin to meet us there. He’s a writer and the editor of By The Way magazine, and he has considerable affection for buildings like this, and for people like Mahlon N. Haines who built it.
RANDY Haines obviously had a sense of humor. Thank, you know, thank God. That’s what attracts people to it, because most people are afraid to do anything goofy.
RUTH It was an advertising gimmick is exactly what he built it for.
RANDY He was a shoe salesman. What else is he gonna build but a giant shoe?
RUTH First they put up a wooden shape to get the shape of it, then they put a wire mesh on top of that wood. Then the stucco sticks to that wire, That’s how it’s made.
RANDY I’m sure that when he built it, newspaper reporters were coming by here and people were taking pictures of it.
RUTH What he did with this house, he would give it free to honeymooners, wedding anniversaries, and late birthdays. You would stay here free. Plus, he gave you a maid, a chauffeur and an automobile, fifty-five years ago. I want the history of it to be preserved. That’s why I do tours, and I sell homemade ice cream and souvenirs.
SUSAN It’s not just a big shoe on the outside. It’s actually a house.
RUTH This first level you’re going to tour is called the Honeymooners’ Suite.
DON Inside has a lot of the appliances and all like I have in my house.
RUTH Above the bed is a picture of Mr Haines. If you forgot what he looked like.
DON And the tub is exactly like mine, and the fixtures…
RUTH I’ve had people come back that spent their honeymoons here. Just last year, I had a couple, their forty-eighth wedding anniversary, and they said if they’re living, they’ll be back on their fiftieth. This is the only room we are going to go into that has a slanted ceiling. We’re at the shoelaces. Every room has to fit in the shoe. No two are alike. Right?
RUTH I had a little girl come here and said, Is this stinky like my sneakers? (laughs) But it don’t stink. (laughs)
RUTH Look at this bathroom. And it was made for the chauffeur and the maid. He didn’t want them disturbing the guests. I think it’s fun everyday I’m here. I meet such interesting people. I’ve met people from everywhere in the world.
RANDY And it’s very typically American. And it goes back to I think our innate optimism for the future and about our country and about and hopefully about the economy.
RUTH And you can pay him for your tour when you get your ice cream. How will that be? OK?
RICK Well, in 2003, Ruth and Bud decided to sell the place.
RUTH Seventy-seven years old. My husband’s seventy-five. We’d like to do a little traveling.
BUD I’d like somebody to buy it and do the same as we’re doing. Cause so many people want to see it.
RUTH I don’t believe if a big company came and took it over it would hurt it. They could put Reebok across it. Wouldn’t hurt it. Nike. Dr Scholl’s. (laughs)
RANDY It is what it is. It’s a shoe house. OK. Then, that’s, that’s, that’s what I love about it.
RUTH I do love this place. No matter who buys it, I will be back. They won’t be rid of me. (laughs)