Web Page No 2174
Top Picture: Foot Floriscope
Middle Picture: Foot X-ray
Bottom Picture: 1950’s shoe fitting
Danger in the shops
History contains many examples of medical functions performed by frighteningly unqualified people. Barbers once were also dentists and some even bled people, hence the red and white pole symbolising bandages and blood. Whoever was the oldest lady in the village was often the midwife or they laid out the deceased; believe it or not x-rays were shot through children's feet - by shoe shop attendants.
It's no secret that people of the 1930s and 1940s had an unhealthy fascination with radiation. People put radium in health tonics, food, and toothpaste and swore by them. Others boiled or toasted themselves under UV lamps. Radiation was popular to mutate garden vegetables. So when they found a way to check the fits of a shoe, especially on delicate children’s feet, and all it took was shooting an x-ray through the child's foot, naturally they jumped at it.
The shoe fitting fluoroscope or X-ray machine as we knew it, had a little box on the bottom, to put the tips of one's feet through and on the top were three different viewing windows. Once the child’s feet had been put through, they were pretty much standing on an x-ray tube, and the rays were shot upwards so that a fluorescent image of the feet was visible through each of the little viewing windows. The parent and the shoe shop attendant looked through one of the windows and the child the third. The rules were very simple, if the toes were pushed up against the tip of the shoe, it was too tight. If the shoe had a bit of room in the toe, it was perfect. The only safety shielding on the fluoroscope was a tiny layer of aluminium. Brochures recommended that the stores place the fluoroscope in the middle of the store, where anyone could get at it.
The fluoroscope was originally invented for legitimate medical purposes. Injured soldiers during World War I, who needed special fits in their boots, could be accommodated more quickly if the person fitting them could see what was happening under the leather of the shoes. It was only after the war that things got dangerous and unnecessary. Although the brochures that accompanied the machine told shoe shop employees to refer any person with medical problems to a doctor instead of trying to help them in the store, there was still the matter of shoving children’s feet into x-ray machines every time they grew, and of course the attendants would have had far more exposure than was healthy for anyone.
At first the X-ray wielding boxes were seen largely as gimmicks, but eventually they came to be respected as valuable shoe-fitting tools, instead of feared as the leaky dangerous boxes they actually were. It wasn't until the late 1950s that the machines finally left the stores.
The Company’s publicity department fought back against any cancer scare these machine were said to cause by releasing this statement :- The shoe-fitting fluoroscope is not an instrument with obviously hazardous potentialities. It has long been used and no direct clinical evidence of harm has yet been established
At the peak of its popularity in the early 1950s, there were at least thousands installed in shoe shops all over the country and the parents and children loved them. What kids wouldn't, it was a new exciting experience.
But these machines put out 50 kv from its x-ray tube. The problem was repeat exposure. While it was recommended that children not be subjected to more than 12 doses a year, there was no such luck for shoe-store employees. Shop assistants would put their hands into the beam to squeeze shoes during fitting. Worse still was the fate of a poor shoe model, “who received such a serious radiation burn that her leg had to be amputated.”
But as time crept on, it became clear that these devices were not only leaking radiation all over the place, but were also a pretty inefficient way of fitting shoes. By the 1970s, shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were almost universally banned, but damage had already been done; and foot cancer began to rear its ugly head in many older patients and the long serving shop staff and there was little question of what was to blame.
It shouldn't be surprising that there's a history of X-ray abuse just a few decades in the past, but it's positively terrifying to look back at it knowing what we know now.
Keep in touch
Answers to Maureen’s question about the policeman, soldier, sailor and airman,
This from Barbara: No wonder she didn't pass her 11+ - the sailor drinks rum the other three don't.
This from Griff (RAF Retired): The answer to the question is "Sailor" because a sailor doesn't necessarily have to be in a uniform in the Royal Navy.
The other 3 are in uniform.
Yes, agreed, Maureen a bitch of a question to ask any 11 year old under examination rules. But that was the 11 plus exam for you.This question made it even more difficult for those of us living in Portsmouth the home of the Royal Navy and we were used to seeing RN Sailor's walking about the City anytime of the day in full uniform
News and Views:
On this day 6th July 1960-1965
On 06/07/1960 the number one single was Good Timin' - Jimmy Jones and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 06/07/1961 the number one single was Runaway - Del Shannon and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Harpers West One (ATV) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 06/07/1962 the number one single was Come Outside - Mike Sarne with Wendy Richard and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the weekwas 94 die in Bombay air crash.
On 06/07/1963 the number one single was I Like It - Gerry & the Pacemakers and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 06/07/1965 the number one single was I'm Alive - Hollies and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.