What's the age of the brass feet outside Norris Shoes?

Brass footprints on the sidewalk outside Norris Shoes in Medford. Jim Craven 3/7/2007

Three immense impressions underfoot outside a downtown Medford shoe store have been tantalizing toddlers and hawking sure-fitting footwear for almost a century.

The big, brass footprints imbedded in the Main Street sidewalk outside Norris Shoes are an advertising stunt that have survived all sorts of renovations since they were first placed there in 1909.

At 19 inches long, 6 inches wide and 301/2 inches apart, the prints have become a historical hopscotch course for generations of downtown visitors, much to the delight of the store's owners.

"It's been a kick over the years watching kids hop from one to the other," says John Norris, whose 44-year career at the store ended when he sold it last year. "Kids have always done that."

The story of the big feet originates with A.C. Taylor and Doc Phipps, who together built what was to be known as the Phipps Building in 1909. The building was to house Phipps' dentist practice as well as Taylor Shoes.

"He was Taylor the Foot-fitter, and his moniker at the time was 'Form-Fitting Shoes,'" Norris says.

Before construction crews poured cement for the original sidewalk, Taylor had the three footprints cast. Two say "SHOES" on them, while the third says "FOOTFITTER."

They were laid in the wet cement leading customers to the store's front door.

Norris' father, Aubrey Norris, went to work for Taylor in 1924, eventually co-owning the store with H.G. Field. It was known then as Nor-Field Shoes.

Aubrey Norris bought out his partner in 1962, and John Norris joined his father in 1965 after graduating from the University of Oregon.

Twice the sidewalk outside the store has been removed and replaced. But the prints have survived.

"One of those times, I took the brass feet home, polished them up and put them back in," says John Norris, now 64.

Over the years, the footprints have become analogous with Norris Shoes, appearing in the company logo and advertisements for decades.

Jim and Linda Heath bought the business from Norris in February 2006, brass footprints and all.

Not only will the prints stay, they will get improved exposure as future Medford toddlers hop from foot to foot.

"I don't think we've capitalized on them enough, as far as marketing goes," Jim Heath says. "They're an unusual thing and we certainly see them as an asset. We like them."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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