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Red Sling-back Shoes {a family story}

Dedicated to my cousin Lee-Anne Longley 1961 – 2011

Sling-back Shoes


In the summer of ’66, my cousin Lee-Anne and I were hanging out together at our Grandpa & Grandma Davies’ house on Inkster Boulevard.
My family was visiting our Winnipeg relatives en route from Kingston, Ontario to our precious old log cabin on Good Spirit Lake in Saskatchewan. I was 9 and Lee-Anne was 5. It was a big day… one of those happy and memorable family gatherings.

For get-togethers like this one, Grandpa & my Uncles would set up a couple of long tables in the basement to form one really long table that would accommodate almost everyone for dinner. The basement was filled with Grandpa’s framed oil paintings, pastel drawings, and the scent of an artist’s studio. With a comfortable over-stuffed couch and chair surrounded by all of Grandpa’s neat stuff this plain old cement basement had been transformed into a wonderful world with a special cachet.

On that day it was all set up for a formal “sit-down, tablecloth and china, talk to each other” kind of family dinner. There was a warm ambience in the old cold basement when it was filled with family. I loved the mingling aromas of this room and great food, and cherished the presence of my Aunts and Uncles telling happy stories and laughing. Nothing sounded better to me than the laughter of my Grandma Davies. Sometimes she would laugh until she cried.

At those events The “Lil Kids” got their own, private, small round table for their own high-pitched, high-energy dining conversation. At the time, I did not consider this an honour. I wanted to sit with my movie-star-like Aunties at the big table with the tablecloth and grown-up conversation. However, sitting at the kids table provided me with a chance to get to know my charming and pretty little cousin Lee-Anne better.
Turns out that we had a fascination for some of the same things…

Lee-Anne and I both adored all of our beautiful Aunties, but during that summer’s visit we were following Auntie Betty-Anne around, swooning over her and her cool stuff. We would get starry-eyed just peering into her bedroom. At one point she invited us in and let us rummage through a jewelry box full of amazing things.

I remember fondling a beautiful brooch, studying it intently while silently wishing Betty-Anne would give it to me. Due to the begging below me, I anxiously handed it over to little 5 year old Lee-Anne, praying that our dear Auntie wouldn’t suddenly let my cute, angel-faced cousin keep it. We were both in love with this new-found treasure, and who wouldn’t be? It was an incredible looking real gold-tone Beatles brooch, in the shape of a large capital letter “B” for The Beatles. It had real rabbit fur on it, light brown. Nestled into the lower inside corner of the “B” was a tiny Beatles stage, complete with a tiny drum kit and a tiny Ringo, fronted by tiny John, Paul & George with their tiny guitars. Their Beatle haircuts were painted black.
Lee-Anne and I took our turns stroking that furry Beatles brooch, but to my knowledge neither of us got to keep it. Well I know that I didn’t. I was a little 9 year old Beatle nut, and only later did the thought cross my mind that for my Auntie, that brooch might have meant “B” for Betty-Anne. Jeesh.

As captivating as that brooch was to us cousins, nothing compared to Auntie Betty-Anne’s RED SLING-BACKS! Ahh, those Red Sling-backs… They were an incredible pair of shoes – shiny red patent flashy classy and classic. And big. Miles too big for either one of us of course, but that didn’t matter at all. We would compete over who should get to wear them and each felt we should own these shoes. As if they were up for grabs! The rabbit fur brooch was one thing, but those shoes made us crazy.

They were less too big on me than they were on Lee-Anne, and because of that, and my “I’m older than you” ticket, I figured it was a slam dunk that I should get to wear them. But that little squirt cousin of mine was a tenacious negotiator.
Eventually we decided (or maybe it was decided for us) to take turns, and so the two of us would go off down the Inkster Boulevard sidewalk flaunting Auntie Betty-Anne’s Red Sling-back shoes in the sunshine. After a wobbly start, the lucky one would be clomp-clomping down the sidewalk in those fantastic shoes, feeling like an instant movie star. The other one would be at her side, staring down at the shoes, yappin’ that they were way too big for her and were gonna fall off, and that it was now her turn to wear them, so hurry up and finish walking. Umm… that would have been me.

I have to admit, my charming and pretty little cousin Lee-Anne really claimed those Red Sling-backs as she clomp-sauntered away. She ‘owned’ that Inkster Boulevard sidewalk the way a super-model would own a runway.

Many years later I finally bought a pair of “shiny red patent flashy classy and classic” red sling-backs of my own. It was a thrilling purchase, but they weren’t the same. They were a tad too tight and they hurt my feet. Unused, eventually I gave them away. To this day, anytime I happen to see red sling-back shoes, I pause for a quiet, happy nostalgic moment. And I’m more than happy to have the chance to sit at a Lil Kids table.

The End


I wrote this story in 2011 for my cousin Lee-Anne as she lay gravely ill in a hospital bed in Winnipeg. It was read to her the day before she passed on… she was a young 50 years old, and she was still a beautiful, angel-faced child.

Lee-Anne Longley 1986

images: My cousin Lee-Anne on her Wedding Day in 1986, age 25. Courtesy of her family. The image of the red shoe is from the internet.

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