The Bellefontaine Cemetery had a great system for finding all the notable famous and fascinating people buried on their grounds. There was a clear white line in the middle of the road that you could follow and then each of the 58 notables were marked with red markers. Black markers showed Civil War notable people.
When I heard that George Warren Brown (1853-1921) the maker of Buster Brown shoes was buried here I wanted to see his grave site. When we were young my siblings and I would be taken to a shoe store in Montebello on Whittier Blvd. that carried Buster Brown shoes. Even though we always struggled to make ends meet my pop was determined we’d have good shoes to wear. We would get our new Buster Brown school shoes every year and a pair of shoes for church.
George’s brother Alanson (1847-1913) is buried across the road.
The Journey Through History book we bought at the front office at the cemetery gives the history of all the notables buried on the grounds. It was worth the $5 to purchase it. Here’s what is written about the Brown brothers…
“Traveling to St. Louis for a church convention, Alanson Brown found the city centrally located and populated with ambitious citizens. Seeing opportunity, Alanson decided to invest in a new wholesale shoe business in St. Louis.
His brother George Brown worked as his star salesman but found the shoes he had to sell did not meet the needs of his customers. When George could not convince Alanson to manufacture shoes in St. Louis, George set up his own company making shoes, including the still popular Buster Brown children’s line. Recognizing George’s success, Alanson’s company also began manufacturing shoes in St. Louis – then a city known for shoes, booze, and news and last in the American League.
Both brothers supported St. Louis institutions and focused on improving the lives of others. George’s widow set up the George Warren Brown School of Social Services at Washington University.
With parallel lives, the two brothers rest across the lane from each other at Bellefontaine – Alanson in a 1910 domed mausoleum by World’s Fair architect Isaac Taylor and George in a 1928 hexagonal tomb by the St. Louis firm of Mauran, Russell, Crowell.
I put out the call to my friends from Montebello on Facebook to help me remember the name of the shoe store on Whittier Blvd. in Montebello. They pulled through big time with more information than I ever knew about the couple who ran this store. Here’s how the conversation went…
To my Montebello friends…does anyone remember the name of the shoe store on Whittier Blvd. (on a corner) that sold Buster Brown shoes??? My brain will not bring it up.
Lana: Was it Kinney shoes?
Nancy: I can see it but I can’t remember the name!
Nancy: Lana would remember since she”s MUCH younger than us!!
Randy: It wasn’t Kinneys,that was up on 20th st and Beverly Blvd. Sorry
Judy: Was it Sandlers? It just popped into my head so it may be totally wrong.
Lynda: That sounds right Judy.
Ellen: Yes..Judy thank you!
Anne: It was Sandlers! Judy is right!
Tania: thanks for shaking up my brain Ellen. Maybe when it resets I can remember some of this stuff.
Gloriya: Sandlers sounds correct.
Steve: Sandler’s Shoes was on Whittier & I believe 5th Street, right across the street from the Deluxe Cafe. They had one of those old X-Ray machines where you put you feet into a slot and and Mr Sandler could see if my toes were touching the end of the new shoes in the mid 1950’s. Needless to say, the poor old man died of cancer in the early 60’s, which we now know was radiation poisoning from that machine X-ray device.
Ellen: Steve, thanks for the info. That is so sad about Mr. Sandler. Did his wife work along side him. My dad remembers a man and woman team in the store. They always commented to my dad that he only bought shoes for his kids never for himself…
Linda: I also remember my mom taking me to Sandler’s store to get Buster Brown shoes. She had my feet x-rayed there and trusted that the shoes fit better than anywhere else. She instilled on me that need. I have never had bunions or crooked toes thanks to her.
Steve: Ellen, yes there was a blond lady that worked there, that was probably his wife. Linda, I always wondered why my toes would glow in the dark when I was younger – LOL
Facebook bugs me in a lot of ways but when I can interact with old friends and get good memories like these it redeems itself for me.
Do you use Facebook and have you found some good ole friends there? Did you wear Buster Brown shoes when you were growing up?