Saturday, November 19, 2011

Walkin' The Walk, Talkin' the Talk

Have you ever heard of the International Shoe Company? Neither had I, until I started doing some research on a bookmark I'd seen, while looking into a piece of brilliant advertising ephemera on Inherited Values. This site is dedicated to "Antiques and Vintage Collectibles, NOT by the book". I thought that Deanna Dahlsad, (the author of the article about bookmarks) actually had her tongue in her cheek, given the aforementioned tag line I found when I hit their Home page. She didn't have a lot to say about the bookmark she'd chosen to highlight in her article (actually an interview with a bookmark collector), but it was a Parrot. A Poll Parrot to be exact. More about the Poll Parrot bookmark later in this story.

Several weeks ago, I published a post about another bookmark fan by the name of Michael Popek. He has a blog called Forgotten Bookmarks. As he works in the family's Antiquarian Bookstore, he has ample opportunity to find what others leave behind in books of every stripe. A couple of weeks ago, he published a book, and I covered that in this post.

Long before Michael had decided to publish a book, he had posted a piece of billhead, and the top line item was Baby Ruth Candy Bars. That post is a good example of what I really enjoy about the people I meet on the way to acquiring my old paper. The receipt was dated 1934. It was used. It was high time it was recycled, and I was the guy to get that done. Michael gave it to me. For the asking. He got a Thank You.

Bookmarks are good. Good for books, and good for my art! How good? This post will give you some idea about books and bookmarks and how I find a steady source, helping me put my love of history and art together.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in The Parrot Confectionery, talking to the owner, Brian Ackerman. Brian let me have some billhead - both old and new, but unused. I like the kind that have served their purpose, whether the business owner used a typewrite or wrote it out in long hand, because it's still richer in history than a pristine piece of  letterhead or billhead. Every piece of Parrot paper that I had previously received from him I'd put in new homes. I knew I wanted to do more of the Parrot that "Talks for Itself", so I asked Brian if he could let me have a few more pieces of the "old paper". He let me have some of it.

I was no sooner home and sitting at the computer looking for my old templates for the Parrot and doing a little bloghopping, when I came upon the Poll-Parrot bookmark. Which started my research journey - What do shoes that "Speak for Themselves" and Parrot Chocolate that "Talks for Itself" have in common? A lot.

In 1911, Roberts, Johnson & Rand Shoes merged with the Peters Shoe Company and became the International Shoe Company with office in St. Louis, Missouri. Apparently, St. Louis was the home for more shoes than you can shake a walking stick at. About the same time that International was taking over shoes businesses (there were others), Paul Parrot was busy making shoes - in St. Louis - as well. In 1922, International bought Mr. Parrot's business, right down to the soles. Oh yes - they took at least one cue from Paul - he had a talking Parrot in his shoe store, and it was a very popular advertising "gimmick". There's currently all kinds of Poll Parrot ephemera floating around in the vintage collectibles market - anything from whistles and buttons to Radio Programs? For real. Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention Howdy-Doody. Poll Parrot Shoes sponsored Howdy-Doody. Yup. I'm surprised International didn't convince Howdy to introduce his Poll Parrot friend. A Parrot Puppet. Someone to talk to, you know - Puppet to Puppet.

I digress.

The Parrot Confectionery began business in the same location in downtown Helena in 1922, the same year International began marketing Poll Parrot shoes. I don't know if Poll Parrots were sold in Helena, (we did have a Buster Brown), but we did have The Parrot. An old functioning soda fountain. Booths. A Wurlitzer jukebox. And Parrots. Lots of them. The also have the Avian equivalent of the Turtle - The Parrot. Oh Yes - A facebook page.

The Parrot I've placed on The Parrot billhead is slightly twice the size of the original bookmark - which I've seen and touched. The owner would not sell it. It was die cut (the curved line around the tail) so the only thing that would be sticking out of the  book would be the Parrot's head. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with it yet besides getting it matted and framed. The Parrot isn't talking.


  1. This is great!! Just love the stories behind it all!! And I once wore Poll Parrot didn't? Very nice indeed!

  2. Very interesting information! I'm always doing web research. lol I guess I'm just a naturally curious person.

    Love the parrot! I'll have to send this link to my SIL to look at. :-)