Radiation, anyone?

I must tell you I knew nothing about this until I ran across it last night. Aside from its carcinogenic benefits, it had to be the greatest marketing ploy anywhere. The text from a radio commercial, circa 1948:

We know that once you buy shoes that are scientifically fitted, you will shop at <<STORE NAME>> all of the time.”

I’ll bet. Of course, we’re talking about the Shoe Fitting Fluoroscope — a contraption into which a customer slid his feet to view the bone structure inside a new pair of shoes. Children and women used it most, along with the salesmen, all of whom were blissfully ignorant of the dandy effects of scatter radiation.

The latest use of this gadget predates me by about 10 years, but I’m surprised that I never heard about them from the adults in my life (especially since I lived in Milwaukee, where many of the things were manufactured). Mavis, do you remember anyone ever talking about them? I don’t.

Anyway, the salesperson would fill out a card on each customer, thereby enabling him/her to recommend the right shoe. Again, brilliant marketing. If you could get a Fluoroscope in your store, the trap was set. All you needed to do was wait for the fish to take the bait.

Many of the comments I’ve read about them come from people now in their 60s and 70s, who thought it was fun as kids to line up in the shoe department and play on the Fluoroscope while Mom shopped. I imagine it would have been a hoot back then to look into the viewfinder and see your foot bones — like you were Ray Milland in The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, a movie that scared the snot out of me when I was ten years old.

Fortunately, by the time that movie came out, the medical community had wised up and the FDA banned the Fluoroscopes.

Interesting, ja? Now I’m going to be ooky for the rest of the day. Ray Milland. *shudder*

Images: Oak Ridge Associated Universities Museum (orau.org), Wisconsin Historical Society

12 thoughts on “Radiation, anyone?

  1. Greg

    There was one of these gadgets in our local Kay’s shoes where my Uncle Harry worked. I remember putting my foot under the scanner while Uncle Harry operated the controls and I could see through my feet. This store also had a “Golden Goose” in the window where my brothers and I were frequent recipients of golden eggs filled with a toy and candy. Uncle Harry would tip the goose’s head forward and a golden egg shot out from underneath.

  2. PKPudlin

    Another thing we aren’t told is that radiation is cumulative in the body. After 20 years as a NICU nurse, I probably glow in the dark. I’m lucky my kids are normal (well, sorta….).

    When I was a kid, the big fear at Halloween was to get a razor blade or needle in an apple or a candy bar. So local hospitals set up X-ray machines at the malls to X-ray your candy before you ate it. Irradiated candy. Great.

    One of these days, people are going to get sick of being afraid of everything. I’m already there. Sheesh.


    1. Rat Fink Post author

      I read on a “myth” site tonight that a hospital right down the road in Columbus STILL offers a free X-ray of Halloween candy to put parents’ minds at ease. I checked and as of 2007, this was true.


  3. Ross

    One Halloween I was in the 3rd grade and with my parents, we’re trick or treating and we happened to walk past a young couple and I trick or treated them, they dropped some candy in my bag and when we got home there was a panic to determine which candy they’d dropped in the event it bore the fabled razor blade. I’d be curious to know if there was ever a single reported, legit case of someone finding a razor blade in their candy/apple. Seems too much like a handy urban legend. Like the ‘fear’ of somehow coming into contact with a dirty needle loaded with heroin and/or the HIV virus; as a former opioid addict I can attest to the fallacy of any addict leaving behind even a scintilla of drugs anywhere. Absurd. Furthermore, as a virus HIV wouldn’t survive hanging around on a needle’s end.

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Well Ross…you got my curiosity up, so I investigated. And you will be happy to know the following from Dr. Joel Best, professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, who took it upon himself to test the whole “razor blades in the apple” thing. He studied crime reports from Halloween dating back as far as 1958, and concluded:

      The bottom line is that I cannot find any evidence that any child has ever been killed or seriously hurt by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating. The fear is completely unfounded. Now, one time, in 1974, a Texas dad did kill his own son with a poisoned Pixie Stix. He had taken out an insurance policy on his son’s life shortly before Halloween, and I think that he probably did this on the theory that there were so many poison candy deaths, no one would ever suspect him. In fact, he was very quickly tried and put to death long ago. (Them Texans, ya know…)

      And you are spot-on regarding the drugs — I laffed. “Yeah, let’s leave some of my hard-earned dope for the kiddies. I don’t need it…”

  4. Mavis

    No Bird, I don’t remember anyone in the family ever talking about those foot machines. That’s one creepy looking contraption!!


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