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Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22, 2015 7:31:00 AM America/Chicago

Memorial Day. A day marked by office & school closures, long weekends, grilling, and the start of swim season. It is so much more, though.

Memorial day is an honorific holiday even older than its inception - it is a day used to commemorate those who laid down their lives in battle. This has been a practice for centuries, and was formerly known as Decoration Day in the Pre-Civil War South. Decoration Day added focus to the commemoration of fallen soldiers by cleaning and decorating their graves - hence the holiday's name. The date varied from state to state, but was definitely more common in the South than the North.

After the Civil War and rejoining of the Union, Decoration Day spread across the northern part of the reunified United States of America. Decoration Day became a day of memory for soldiers from both sides - Union and Confederate. As the years passed and the 1800s passed into the 1900s, the holiday evolved and began commemorating all soldiers who had laid down their lives; Naturally, Decoration day became known as Memorial day.

The years continued to roll by and the 1900s became the 2000s. Memorial day continued to shift and adapt and the modern era arrived. It became commonplace where only the graves of soldiers who had family left to mourn them were decorated, whereas at its inception, Memorial day was meant to remember all soldiers and - in Decoration day tradition - to decorate the graves of all soldiers, regardless of their familial ties and legacy.

So this Memorial day, remember those who had made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that you can grill whenever or whatever you want, spend time family and friends and your leisure and discretion, and that swimming can be enjoyed regardless of location, time, and gender.

Our office will be closed on Monday, May 25 in observance of Memorial Day. Thank you to all the men and women who have served, are serving, and will continue to serve our country.

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Ro Luckey

The History of Skateboarding

Friday, May 22, 2015 7:19:00 AM America/Chicago

Skateboarding has a long and tricky history. It actually started over 50 years ago on the West Coast as an alternative for surfers when the waves were flat. The very first skateboard remains as mystery since a cluster of first generation boards popped up around the same time between the late 40s and early 50s.

By the 60s, skateboards were being manufactured across Southern California and mostly resembled mini surf boards with roller skate wheels. The early 60s ushered in the first golden era for Skateboarding. It's popularity grew rapidly and even saw one of its earliest Exhibitions in 1963. The following year, the first skateboarding magazine was published - The Quarterly Skateboarder.

Skateboarding began to decline around the late 1960s when claims began popping up about the sport being unsafe. Shops stopped selling them because parents stopped buying them. It wasn't until the following decade that skateboarding would see a resurgence in popularity.

The 70s saw another spike in skateboarding growth when Frank Nasworthy replaced traditionally metal or clay wheels with polyurethane. The new wheels improved traction and performance and led to a direct increase in skateboarding popularity. Skateboard manufacturers began to design and produce components specifically for skateboarding, which also allowed for greater maneuverability.

1975 saw the historic Del Mar National Championships, the largest skateboarding competition of its time. Up to 500 competitors were said to be present, among them the Zephyr Team. Later known as the Z-Boys, the Zephyr team introduced a progressive and radical skateboarding style heavily inspired by surfing. Their presence revolutionized skateboarding styles and solidified their place in skateboarding history.

With new technology improving maneuverability, traction, and performance, skateboarders were able to experiment, pushing the limits of conventional styles. In particularly, you saw the branching of street skating and vert skating. Vert coming from the word vertical, popularized by the increased use of empty swimming pools as skating grounds after the 1976 California drought.

Skateboarding did not lose steam as it rolled into the 80s. The majority of skateboard companies were owned by skateboarders, fueling the passion and innovation for gear and boards. This decade also saw the birth of the kickflip and the no-hands aerial (later known as the ollie) as skateboarders continued to experiment with tricks and styles.

The 90s were dominated by street skateboarding, and growth in popularity declined somewhat. The skateboard of today was finalized this decade - extremely hard but relatively small wheels, lighter boards, narrow and symmetrical. But by the time the new century rolled around, more minors were involved in skateboarding than baseball.

The 2000s began to see skateboarding as more pop culture than counter culture, utilizing this activity as a means to compliment academics. Much like sports, skateboarding programs were a non-traditional method to encourage physical activity, self-discipline, and confidence. Skateparks also experienced a resurgence in attendance and growth because of this. In 2003, Go Skateboarding day was founded on June 21"to define skateboarding as the rebellious, creative celebration of independence it continues to be." Three years later, there were 2400 skateparks established globally.

Skateboarding is now an internationally enjoyed recreational activity strongly associated with rebelliousness and independence.

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Ro Luckey

School's Out!

Friday, May 15, 2015 7:07:00 AM America/Chicago

It just so happens that it is now SUMMER VACATION! At least for those lucky seniors here in the US. Then, in about a month, all students (maybe even teachers?!) will be enjoying their summer break. At least here in the US. Across the globe, even across the nation, summer vacation does not mean the same thing! Some schools are off for 6 weeks. Some? Over 12 weeks. We'll take a closer look at the differing summer breaks - here in the US, with our neighbors Canada & Mexico, and then finally abroad.

US summer vacation can last anywhere from 2-3 months. These are typically the summer months with two distinct timelines: Early June to Early September, or Late May to Late August. This break is often believed to be due to the alignment of the academic calendar to the traditional agrarian calendar - children were needed at home to help plant and harvest craps. This does not seem to be the case as the major harvest seasons are spring and fall, and often times classes would resume after long harvest breaks. The leading theory to explain this long period of school-less-ness seems to be the growth in the population of urban areas - and the subsequent desire of families to escape the sweltering cities during the summer.

Canada experiences a similar summer break from scholastic endeavors, yet their summer starts at the end of June, lasting through to Labour Day in September. The difference in summer vacation days seems to be made up in longer breaks during the school year, for example a longer Christmas Break or spring break.

Mexico seems to have an even shorter summer vacation at only about a month long, starting in July. Much like Canada, holidays and breaks seem to be longer and occur more often during the school year.

In Japan, however, Summer Break occurs from July to September, and happens in the middle of a school grade/level (vs. Western schooling where the summer break is taken between school grades/levels.) Japan also offers a longer spring break towards the beginning of summer (April or May) and also ends the school year in Winter with another smaller break to separate school grades/levels.

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Ro Luckey

Mother's Day - A History

Friday, May 8, 2015 6:42:00 AM America/Chicago

Mother's day is this weekend! Sure, we all know WHAT mother's day is - the day we celebrate our Mothers (and their mothers, too!) and Mother-figures in our lives and society - but very few of us know the history behind this decades old celebration.

While there have been many celebrations honoring mothers and mother-like symbols around the world for centuries, we're going to take a closer look at the Mother's Day celebration most commonly celebrated in North America - particularly the US. Mothers day started in the early 1900s, and is usually celebrated in the springtime (either March or May - This year is May 10!)

The very first Mother's Day was celebrated on in 1908 by Anna Jarvis. She held it in honor of her mother, Ann Jarvis, who had died 3 years prior. To quote Wikipedia, "Ann Jarvis was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues."

Though Jarvis (the younger) was successful in inaugurating a new US Holiday honoring not just her mother but mothers nationwide, her joy soon turned to bitterness at the quick commercialization of what was intended to be an honorific holiday. Jarvis was so embittered that she tried to do away with the Holiday she once fought so hard to create.

As the Holiday grew in the US, it spread across the known world with neighboring and other countries adopting Mother's day into their Calendar. For Example, Mothering Sunday in the UK - which existed before Mother's Day's conception - now shares its day with Mother's day, although both holidays are not related. Again, in Catholic countries, Mother's Day was reassigned to better tie in with major events in Catholicism, particularly those pertaining to the Virgin Mary. Ex-communist countries, however, will remain loyal to celebrating the socialist International Women's Day (vs. the capitalism heavily associated with Mother's Day).

Regardless of the religios affiliation (or the lack there of), it is clear that nations across the globe can agree on one thing: Let's celebrate the Mother we all love. Be sure to get her a great present - Mama Nees A New Pair Of Shoes!

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Ro Luckey

How is it STILL March Madness?!

Friday, April 3, 2015 1:06:00 PM America/Chicago

So, today is April 3rd. As in the third day of April. As in no longer March. Then how is it still March Madness?!

March Madness, or NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament (WOW what a mouthful), coincides with the end of the basketball season. So the whole division falls away by the end of March. Unfortunately this usually pushes the championship game and playoffs into the month of April. That's why even though today is April 3rd, there are still 3 outstanding games left in the tournament.

But what is March Madness anyway? Why all this mayhem for a month made up mostly of springtime sunshine and showers? There's a certain appeal to college sports that a lot of spectators are drawn to - the youth and vibrancy, the sincerity and fervor, and the interpreted purity of the game, given that teams and players generally lack - and are barred from - professional sponsorships. So it's no wonder that the NCAA tournament has garnered such hype and popularity.

The term March Madness itself, however, was initially coined around an Illinois high school sports association. Coach H.V. Porter, an official for Illinois High School Association, released an essay of called March in 1939, and again used the term in a 1942 poem about basketball. "March Madness" spread quickly across the midwest, but almost exclusively only referred to high school basketball.

It was during the 80s when "March Madness" first met college basketball. Legend has it that CBS Sportscaster Brent Musburger, who spent a good amount of time casting from Chicago, brought the term from the Midwest into the national spotlight. More often than not, however, the NCAA credits Bob Walsh for coining this term at the collegiate level.

Over 10 years pass before either the IHSA (Illinois High School Association) or the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) thought to trademark this iconic term. In a historic ruling in 1996, both associations were granted the right to trademarking the term in what is considered the precedented concept of "dual-use trademark."

The IHSA and NCAA joined forces to form the March Madness Athletic Associate, making the licensing of the trademark much easier to manage and protect. Today, however, the NCAA is sole owner of the trademark as the IHSA relented ownership in the 2000s.

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Ro Luckey

Texas History Is ShoeBacca History

Saturday, March 7, 2015 8:30:00 PM America/Chicago

March is an important month to people for several reasons: NCAA March Madness begins, it's the first calendar month of spring, and Texas declared its independence over 150 years ago.

Texas was no stranger to sovereignty. Over the course of 300 years, this region passed four time between 3 different nations: Spain for over 150 years, France for a brief 5 years before its ownership was rescinded back to Spain for another century until civil unrest yielded the nation of Mexico in 1821.

Mexico, perhaps much inspired by her northern neighbor, made great strides away from the monarchy that once ruled and established a Federal Republic. In 1825, the young nation began to colonize the remote province of Coahuila y Tejas. After a decade of targeted federal regulations and settlement auto-militarizations, the Texas portion of the province began its revolt in what would become the move toward an independent nation.

Stephen F. Austin, the spearhead for colonization, originally wanted Texas to be recognized as an independent state from Coahuila. After a year in prison, he published a document outlining his stance. However, in a few short months, dissent escalated in Mexico and Austin was freed in July, only to recant his stance. War was Austin's battle cry, and independence his spoils.

Rebels rallied to his cry while Mexican President Santa Anna sized control from the states. The clouds of war that had been brewing finally burst forth the Revolution with The Battle of Gonzales. "Come and Take It" was the rebels' mantra, a phrase that still echoes from the annals of history. President Santa Anna, in a token of good faith, had given settlers in the northwestern area of Coahuila y Tejas a cannon in 1821 - as means of protection against the Comanche. However, in attempt to curb the onset of war, federal forces were sent to retrieve the weapon. "Come and Take It!" the rebel settlers cried and forced the Mexican military to retreat under a rain of bullets and cannon fire.

Blood flowed across the land in skirmish after skirmish as the war raged on. Texians gained land and support over the course of the next six months. President Santa Anna, a general first and politician second, rides for battle to turn the tides of war. On a Cold February afternoon, a day that started in celebration ended in siege as Santa Anna's forces fell upon a small Catholic Mission.

Nearly a week into the Siege of the Alamo, as standing commander of the garrison William B Travis rallied his mere 200 troops against an army of thousands, The Texas Declaration of Independence is signed. The Republic of Texas is born. David Burnet is interim Commander in Chief and Sam Houston as Commander General. Much gained, and much lost. The Alamo falls within a few days, and with her fall patriots William B Travis, David Crocket, and Jim Bowie.

Victory is on the horizon, but to whom she belongs is yet to be seen. Texas rebels and Mexican militants both had their wins and losses. Santa Anna assembles his war council to plan a final assault. Rebel forces, after receiving the Alamo's distress cry, flock to her aid. The force led by Colonel James Fannin, as they dispatch from Goliad, are ambushed and overwhelmed by General Urrea in the Battle of Coleto. Over 300 Texan rebels are captured, marched back to Goliad, and imprisoned. Nearly 400 prisoners of war are held at Fort Defiance.

In a cruel twist of fate, the Mexican government had enacted a law at the onset of war that "any foreigners taken in combat were to be treated as pirates and executed. As it so happens, the mass of POWs held were Anglo immigrants from the North. General Urrea had left Goliad in the command of Colonel Portilla. Urrea saw these rebels for what they were - as soldiers, men just like him, fighting for what they believed at the behest of their leaders. He wrote vehemently to President Santa Anna for clemency, who wrote back with equal fervor to comply with the law. Unable to stop Colonel Portilla from carrying out his duty, over 300 Texians were marched to their death on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, better known as The Goliad Massacre.

Santa Anna, who had conquered first for Spain, then conquered Span itself to help bring Mexico to fruition, had dealt a great blow and sent Texas reeling. The Texas army drew forces east in an effort to amass them all at a central point. Sam Houston was mocked as a coward, urged to move west and meet the Mexicans in open battle. Santa Anna was not called the Napoleon of the West. Emboldened by the retreat, he pursued the Texan forces to San Jacinto River, setting the stage for what would be his Waterloo.

Small skirmishes took place for a few days between scouting parties as both armies probed for each others forces. Drunk on confidence, Santa Anna maintained very relax defenses around his encampment, disregarding the need for sentries and lookouts. On the dreamy afternoon of April 21, the tides of battle came crashing down on the Mexican forces in a flurry of gunfire and artillery shells.

"Remember The Alamo!" the rebels cried, storming hastily built fortifications constructed from packs and baggage. "Remember Goliad!" the shrieked, pouring over sleeping Mexican army like the tide reclaims the beach. Much like their siesta, the lives of Mexican Soldiers were cut short this day. Though outnumbered, the Sam Houston's bold gambit to lead an attack in broad daylight had paid off. Although Santa Anna far outnumbered the rebel forces, hubris and traditional ranked tactics cost him the war.

The Battle of San Jacinto was a landslide victory. Texas suffered only 9 casualties, while half of the Mexican forces were slaughtered and the rest taken captive, among them Santa Anna himself. The Battle was won. The War was ended. Texas was a sovereign nation all her own.

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Ro Luckey

Season's Greatings

Thursday, December 25, 2014 4:30:00 PM America/Chicago

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Team Shoebacca

'Twas The Shoe Before Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2014 3:25:00 PM America/Chicago

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a sneaker was squeaking, not a thing like a mouse;


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes for some Nikes that would soon be there;


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Pumas dashed through their heads;


With Ma in her slippers and I in my cap
We’d just settling down for our long winter’s nap,


When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I threw on my shoes to see what was the matter.


Away to the window I bound at a dash
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash


The moon on the sole of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to lining below,


When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight kinds of footwear,


With a baller old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.


More rapid than sandals, his footgear they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:


Now ASICS, now Gravis, now Woolrich, and Eastland!
On Converse, on K-Swiss, on Skechers, and Justin!


To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now sprint away! rush away! bound away all!


So up to the house-top the footgear did spring
With the sleigh full of Shoes and St. Nicholas too.


As I pulled back inside, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.


He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his boot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;


A bundle of Shoes he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a cobbler just opening his pack.


His Oakleys -- how they twinkled! his Dickies how merry!
His Klogs were like roses, his Keds colored cherry!


His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;


He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.


A wink of his eye and a tilt of his head,
Put me right at ease - I had nothing to dread!


He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,


And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;


He sprang to his sleigh, to his kicks gave a whistle,
Away they all scattered like the down of a thistle.


Then I heard him cry out, as away they all flew,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good shoe.”

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Sarah Barnes

The History of Christmas Traditions

Friday, December 5, 2014 3:14:56 PM America/Chicago

During the past few weeks we here at Shoebacca have been talking about holiday traditions from pumpkin carving to turkey trots to fun family winter activities. Christmas is steeped in traditions possibly more than any other national holiday.

We put up lights and hang stockings by the fire. We make gingerbread houses and go caroling. Children write letters to Santa Claus and take pictures with him. But where do these activities come from? And what is Christmas like in other countries?

Here in the United States, Santa Claus is accompanied by elves and Mrs. Claus who work together to bring nice things to good children. Santa is not always accompanied by such nice companions in other parts of the world.

Krampus is the “Christmas Devil” in Alpine Folklore. He helps Santa punish bad children and takes them away to his lair for a good spanking (coal isn’t so bad anymore now is it?) The Yule Lads of Icelandic tradition come one by one each night (13 total) before Christmas and scare bad little children and generally cause mischief. In the French legend of Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas rescues 3 boys from a butcher who wanted to eat them. The butcher became Père Fouettard whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children.

Many countries around the world, such as Russia, Ethiopia, and Egypt, don’t even celebrate Christmas in December! They celebrate at the beginning of the year on January 7th. The Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar.

A lot of our traditions actually come from celebrations associated with St. Nicholas' Day. Which is fitting because our modern day Santa Claus is based loosely on St. Nicholas and his concern for children and gift-giving tendencies.

A great example of a borrowed tradition is stockings. In Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, children leave their shoes by the chimney. The shoes are filled with carrots or hay for St. Nicholas' horse (because the original Saint presumably didn’t have flying reindeer) and the next day they find small presents in their shoes. This probably inspired our stockings hung by the chimney with care. In Brazil where Christmas is too hot to have a fire they hang socks out the window in hopes that Papai Noel will exchange it for a present. I now know what to do with my odd socks - the ones the dryer didn’t eat.

A traditional that seems to be pocketed in the US is the Christmas Pickle. It’s prevalent in certain nooks of the country, but doesn’t seem to be national! Anyway, a pickle-shaped ornament is hidden in the boughs of one’s Christmas tree. The person who finds the pickle will be destined to have good luck in the coming year! Others practice the tradition by giving the finder a prize. We always played on Christmas as part of the holiday revelries. Many people claimed this tradition came from Germany (which I always believed since my family is German), but it turns out it’s a purely American tradition!

Caroling is often referred to wassailing. We travel from door to door singing songs of joy sometimes getting hot chocolate or cider in return. But the original wassailing involved the less fortunate demanding food and drink from wealthier citizens in exchange for toasting their good health. A traditional carol that dates to the 1800s is A’soalin, illustrating the door-to-dor singing in exchange for food - this instance a soul cake. Listen to the cover by Peter, Paul, & Mary below. These proceeding would get rowdy and sometimes violent if the demands were denied.

In fact due to some extra rowdy wassailing the city of Boston actually banned Christmas celebrations from 1659 to 1681. Boston was able to ban Christmas festivities because Christmas was not a National Holiday until 1870, but only applied to federal employees in Washington DC. It wasn’t until a century later that it truly became a national Federal holiday.

Regardless of how you celebrate Christmas (or if you celebrate Christmas at all), this is the season to celebrate friends, family, and people of all creeds. Enjoy your holidays and explore their history. Discover new traditions and keep dear the ones you know. And remember - there’s no better excuse to buy a new pair of shoes.

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Ro Luckey

Get Out Of The House This Winter

Friday, November 28, 2014 3:33:00 PM America/Chicago

The holidays can leave us trapped indoors in a turkey coma. Family from out of town is staying with you and well everyone is getting a little stir-crazy. Don’t let the cold keep you from fun. There are plenty of things you and your family can to do to relieve cabin fever. Our recommendation is to get off the couch and as a family enjoy activities that you can only do in the winter.

If you and your family are adventurous, try learning something - like curling! Watching Winter Olympics I find myself thinking, “Hey that looks like fun” and, “I could do that.” I was flabbergasted to find out that there was a place near me I could go take curling classes. It is definitely on my list of things to do with family and friends this winter.

Feeling a little silly? Take the kiddos to an ice skating rink. While circling the rink start singing songs from ‘Frozen’ and see how many people join in.

Not so adventurous? If you are lucky enough to be in a place where it snows, why not have a snowman building contest among your family. The person who makes the best snowman gets the most marshmallows in their hot cocoa. Or first slice of pumpkin pie! Growing up in Texas sometimes the only place the snow would stick was the hood of your car. So my sister and I would improvise and build tiny snowmen (less than a foot high) on neighborhood cars.

If competitions aren’t your thing, why not find a hill and go sleddin? Sledding is something the entire family can enjoy. Keep warm though with layers and warm shoes with a good tread.

Maybe you just want to get out of the house, but not necessarily spend time outside. Understandable. For most places, winter is winter because… well… It’s Cold! So pack up the family and check out your local museum! Not only are they warm, but many are packed full of fun, interact-ve exhibits (read: education masked as games.)

Regardless of where you live and what your family is like, one thing remains the same: you don't have to stay cooped up with them! Get out there and go somewhere, or just get out there! Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy the holidays!

Posted in Employee Spotlight By Sarah Barnes
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