All God’s Children got Organ Shoes
by Fred Bock
I was driving down Highway 10, on my way to Perris, California, to a wedding I was asked to play at the last minute, when I noticed my gas gauge nervously close to Empty. I got off the freeway at the next available exit hoping to see a gas station close by. What I saw ended up changing forever the way I think about organ footwear. But what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a former drive-in movie theatre taken over by some very creative entrepreneurs who have opened what I think to be a first: a shoe store that sells only organ shoes! What an idea!
I turned into the drive-in, past the cashier’s booth, where I was greeted by a courtly gentleman who directed me to nearby parking. Located on this huge plot of drive-in land, it was no trouble at all finding a convenient parking place, though I was taken back a bit to see the huge number of cars that filled this drive-in at 10:30 on a Saturday morning. Evidently, many young families come early to enjoy the playground area below the gigantic screen while Mom and Dad browse for new organ shoes.
As I parked my car (aisle J, speaker 45) I could hear the familiar sounds of a Bach Trio Sonata (#6, I believe, the one in C minor) wafting over the entire drive-in through those little speakers, but at a very comfortable volume level so as not to disturb the neighbors who perhaps might not want to hear organ music day and night, nonstop, because this place is an all night, 24 hour Organ Shoe Store!
Can you imagine such a thing? When wide awake at 2 a.m., how many of us have picked up a copy of the American Organist, and have thumbed through its pages tying to fall asleep again, only to fall into a fantasy world of daydreaming about liturgically-colored organ footware, or organ shoes with rhinestones on the heels for concert use? In my wildest dreams, I would never have thought of an all night organ shoe store!
When I walked into the store, I thought I was in heaven. Here, in an old drive-in theatre was an assortment of shoes like I had never seen before: organ shoes in literally every size, shape, style and color, beautifully displayed as shoes would be in the finest European booteries. They had loafers, oxfords, pumps, high heels, sneakers, thongs, and rehearsal slippers. Even a brand new line of brightly-colored “pedal pushers” for child organists! And something else, brand new: velcro-tipped toe and heel rubbers that fit over existing shoes. What a marvelous way to help young students locate the right pedal note and not slide off onto adjoining pedals. Someone has obviously seen this need and filled it!
The rest of the building, including the area where the projectors once stood, was filled with customers, relaxing in comfortable chairs, attended by neat, courteous salespersons sitting on padded little stools to measure your feet, alongside ankle-high mirrors allowing you to inspect your shoes from most any angle.
The salespersons were gracious—not at all pushy. It turns out they are all former organists. Most of them only recently got out of the organ-playing business when they could simply no longer abide having to play all that new music so many churches are using nowadays. Fortunately, a sales position at the all night Organ Shoe Store seemed to be a natural transition for most of them. Consulting one-one-one with another organist certainly instills confidence, as organists instinctively know, deep down, exactly what other organists are looking for in functional and fashionable footware.
Also included in this section was an interesting assortment of organ benches. Benches, and pedalboards as well. No manuals, just pedalboards. What a wonderfully accommodating way to “test-drive” you new shoes with a tricky pedal passage from the Reubke 94th Psalm played on a real pedalboard! They have the official AGO-approved 32-note pedalboard, a tracker 25-note board, even a Hammond Spinet 12-note board (the model without the top C!). I thought to myself, “these folks have thought of everything.”
Now over where the popcorn, hot dogs, candy and soda used to be dispensed were the all night Organ Shoe Store’s checkout counters: “No Waiting!” “Cashiers always on duty!” and a special express line for customers buying 9 shoes or less. And believe me, when you see the variety of footware they have to offer, buying nine shoes would be nothing!
Since green is such a popular color during the Advent/Christmas season, it’s just automatically assumed that any self-respecting AGO member would have themselves a pair of green organ shoes. But get a load of this Summer Special: Buy yourself a pair of green shoes and get one red shoe free!
I’m planning to make and all-out fashion statement next Christmas Eve. What I’m planning to do is to slip that red shoe on midway through the Benediction prayer so that for the Postlude my new red shoe will really show! Matching laces are included, although I was tempted to treat myself to a three-lace set of gold lame shoelaces (2 for the green shoes, 1 for the red shoe).
A wonderful display, containing a wide variety of shoe laces, is located in the area where baby bottles were warmed up free for drive-in patrons. The bottle warmer still works (just in case) though to my knowledge, no babies have been born at the all night Organ Shoe Store.
The trunk of my car was packed full of new and exciting footwear when I finally had to leave the all night Organ She Store. Everyone was so helpful—they couldn’t have been nicer. I was given a full-color catalog and their toll-free phone number: (800) TOE-HEEL. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be calling them again real soon—day or night. Their Eight Little Preludes and Shoes offer is just too good to be true!
I was almost late for that wedding I had to play, the prelude was a bit shorter than usual, and my Visa card was just about maxed out…but I sure had happy feet!