I've found out a bit more about the "cool-ee joyce shoes" my mum recorded in her 1947 Diary (see previous post and images on this blog).
Joyce shoes were very popular back then. They were originally designed in Pasadena, California in the 1930s; the company expanded rapidly to become one of the biggest shoe manufacturers using innovative design and production techniques which allowed them to keep costs down.
There is a fascinating history of the Joyce Shoes company on a Blog written by Jonathan Walford who is a fashion historian.
The 1940s adverts for the shoes in the U.K. promised that the cool-ee design was not an expensive luxury but a luxurious economy. The advertising played to the need for economy and restraint at the same time as appealing to the customer’s desire for something stylish, bright and cheerful to wear in times of austerity. In addition the advertising appealed to a stereotyped British character of being easy-going, reliable, friendly and good natured matched with American style.
My mum noted in her diary that she paid £2. 17s. 11d for her cool-ee joyce shoes. In British currency (pre 1970s decimalisation) there were 20 shillings in £1 and 12 pence in one shilling (240 pence in £1); £2.17s.11d is approximately worth £85 these days which is probably about right for a pair of leather shoes. Later in the diary Doreen records how much she had earned and this amount was almost a quarter of her monthly salary; she must have been saving up for quite a while before she bought them.
You might have missed the post where I explained about my mum's diary. She kept it in the early months of 1947 and some of the entries give fascinating in-sights into life in that post-war era.
Although 1947 has the reputation of being one of the worst winters on record in the U.K., December 1946 and most of January 1947 were about average for the time of year. In December overall the weather was unsettled; the temperatures were colder than usual but there was considerably more sunshine. Fog and wind occurred sporadically and there had been some heavy snow falls in Scotland and one in the south east of England on December 19th. As the New Year started the weather continued to be unsettled but it wasn’t until the end of January that the temperatures plummeted.
You can find all the weather records for the U.K. on the Meteorological Office website. I discovered that when my mum recorded in her diary in early January that “the snow is fairly thick, very cold” and that she “went to work feeling thoroughly miserable and stayed in at night” the weather conditions were localised to her area. It wasn't until later in the month that it went nationwide.
On 26th January she recorded that the weather was very bad. In fact it had started to change on 20th January first in the south east and eastern districts of England but gradually the whole of the country experienced frost, snow and strong easterly winds. By the end of the month there was continuous frost and snow all over the country with temperatures over 10 degrees Fahrenheit lower than usual. Doreen recorded: “More snow” (January 27th); “Went to work. Still very cold, snowing too” (28th January). There were widespread snow falls all over the country on 28 and 29 January and even the normally temperate Isles of Scilly had over 7 inches. She continued her weather record:“very cold still snow on the ground” (29th January); “Snow still on the ground” (31st January); “Snowed all day. Went to Chapel at night, snow fairly thick.”
The snow continued to fall throughout February which was the coldest month on record since 1881. It was also the month with least sunshine since records began. This exceptional, persistent cold and continuous frost and snow was accompanied by frequent high winds. This resulted in the snow drifting causing traffic chaos with roads blocked and public transport cancelled. In Yorkshire over 12 inches of snow fell with even more in some places such as Huddersfield which had a 20 inch snowfall on February 6th.
Of course this might not sound like a great deal of snow to some people. I googled "which place gets the most snow?" and got The Mount Baker Ski area in Washington State, U.S.A which got 1140 inches of snow in 1998 / 1999! 20 inches of snow is only a flurry really isn't it?
As well as her diary my mum kept a few photos from that era.
Wednesday 8th January
Went to work.
Snow about 6 inches.
Connie took photo.
Went to Palace at night to see Florian, enjoyed it.
Thursday 9th January
Snow thawing, very messy.
Not quite so fed up.
Connie took another photo.
Stayed in at night and did a puzzle.
I guess these must be some of the photos that Connie took. My mum is the one in the middle; I don't have a clue who the others are but don't you just love the fashion?
I’ve been looking at a diary kept by my mum when she was nineteen years old.
On Saturday January 4th 1947 she wrote:
Went to Leeds got some smashing cool-ee joyce shoes in tan + navy £2. 17s. 11d.
I wanted to find out what she meant by cool-ee joyce shoes. My mum died many years ago so isn’t around to answer my questions.
It was the same when I was researching the background to I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety: The Diary of a Petty Officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II; in the introduction I wrote: “I read it (my dad’s diary) again and was intrigued by what my dad had written and as I deciphered his handwriting a number of questions were raised in my mind. I decided to type up the manuscript to make the extracts more legible and accessible and then passed copies to my two sisters. Like me, they were intrigued and also prompted to ask questions in relation to what they were reading. When he was alive, our dad had never really spoken about his war time experiences and when we were younger we hadn't been interested in what he'd been doing thirty years previously. Now we had the interest we didn't have the person with the answers.”
So, yes, I did have a Eureka moment when I stumbled upon an amazing blogsite which houses some adverts for 1940s Joyce cool-ee shoes:
The adverts show some of the shoe designs from the 1940s. These may not be the exact same ones that my mum was so pleased with (and she paid a quarter of her wages to buy them) but you can see how special they were.
I’ve transcribed the words on the adverts here as they epitomise the era illustrating a mixture of concern for austerity with a desire for fashion and style.
“At a time when dress allowances are pretty sorely strained, COOL-EES by Joyce come to the rescue with jaunty, devil-may-care designs at severely sober prices. Here are four typical models that cost far less than they look. Joyce of California styled them… and doesn't he know the inspiring value these days of gay colours and rakish lines.”
“These Cool-ees models are pretty like the British character - easy-going, good natured, friendly and reliable. Joyce of California has given them the added attraction of New World styling which compliments the fine British craftsmanship in a highly desirable way. You'll wear them knowing you've done the right thing by your fashion sense and have played fair with the need for economy…..”
What I’ve learned over the years is that when undertaking family history research nothing pays off like persistence and I firmly believe that if you search long and hard enough you can find the answers to nearly all your family history questions.