This is an accidental book. Meant to be a catalogue of her Mother’s shoes simply as a gift to her Mother and a keepsake, it developed by adding adding memories, quotations, anectdotes - and opinions. It is a celebration of the style of shoes that her Mother wore, and a Golden Age of shoe design, all designed to extend and flatter the graceful, natural curves of the foot and leg, and add appeal and interest, without outshining the wearers natural assets.
These shoes represent a slice of the golden age of business as well, large and small, particularly in the Southeast, that developed after World War II. The discretionary spending created from textiles, tobacco, insurance, furniture and aviation was the fuel for many small businesses centered around design and the arts, as well as the creation of many museums and foundations that nurture arts in our communities long after the businesses and families have faded away.
Montaldos was an iconic chain of clothing stores created, owned, and managed by five sisters which employed women and catered to women. Created in 1919, it lasted through two World Wars, the Depression, the turbulent 60’s and 70’s, but closed in 1995, declaring bankruptcy. The Greensboro store was its most successful and hung on the longest, but couldn’t fight the forces heaped on it at the end. It is never one factor, but catalogue competition, a general relaxation of dress standards, and the beginning influx of goods not made in the traditional garment systems in America and Europe all took its toll. (Montaldo’s story is being written by someone else and we look forward to reading it.)
Most of the people from Montaldos are gone, but Ginia, and her mother, Virginia Zenke were priveleged enough to visit Charles Lane, buyer and head of their shoe department, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina in 2011. He talked about Montaldos, but since there is someone else working on a book about that wonderful store, this book does not delve into that. The interview centered around the shoes and some of the businesses and characters involved in shoe design and manufacturing. Still sharp as a tack at 87, information flowed freely, sidetracked only by updates on their mutual friends and clients, tallish tales and people they have lost to time,
The photographs were taken by the author, very spur of the moment, just a plain cloth backdrop, two lamps with politically-incorrect incandescant bulbs and Nikon D-70 held as still as possible. A photographer friend reviewing the book laments her selective knowledge of F-stops and exposures, but seemed to enjoy the content none the less.
In 2005, an announcement in the paper started Ginia and her family on the preservation adventure of a lifetime; moving their 1830 home out of the way of the expanding Guilford County Jail and right into financial turmoil as the Recession closed down lending just as they needed to move. Three houses were saved out of four, their 1830‘s home, a small Queen Anne which was moved six blocks where it was renovated and now blends into the vintage neighborhood, and a duplex which moved to their property with the hopes it could find an appropriate lot to move to later. As of now, the house must be renovated where it stands, or face demolition. Their home moved beautifully, but not far enough away, being still at the foot of an eight-story jail.