by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
For the past two weeks, the Rockford Squire has been visiting San Antonio in south Texas and the “hill-country” surrounding the jewel of a city. No different than avid regular Squire readers, we took copies of our hometown newspaper along on the journey seeking a great photo-op.
Granted, Texas is not necessarily one of the most exotic places our well-traveled newspaper has ever visited, but never the less a great picture taking opportunity occurred when we visited the factory and the adjacent outlet store of San Antonio Shoemakers (SAS).
The Rockford community, being the world headquarters of Wolverine World Wide, is steeped in the history of shoemaking and we couldn’t believe our good fortunes to be able to take a behind the scenes peek at the SAS shoemaking facility.
SAS, established in 1976, is one of a scant few remaining American shoemaking companies who continue to make shoes right here in the USA. Specializing in handcrafted comfort shoes, SAS believes that “life is a journey and why not wear comfortable shoes along the way”. Every day SAS prides itself on working to make sure their name continues to stand for superb craftsmanship and extraordinary comfort. The Company strives to make their shoes so comfortable that you don’t want to take them off!
We were 2 of a 47-member Holiday Vacations tour group spending 9 days seeing and experiencing everything that the San Antonio, Texas area has to offer. On the day of our visit to SAS, the shoe company divided us into groups of ten to be led by one of the company’s experienced shoemakers. On the floors of two different shoemaking facilities, our guide led us from one shoemaking station to the next while the factories were in full operation.
We were able to follow a style of shoe as it was being made from start to finish. Not exactly the same-old, same-old vacation itinerary, but never the less it was an educational blast!
Not taking a merchandising backseat to WWW, the SAS guides concluded our shoemaking tutorial with a visit to the company’s General Store/factory shoe outlet. Our tour group must have been sold on what they witnessed on the factory floors that afternoon, as almost each and every one had their shoe size personally measured, the good old-fashioned way, by SAS employees in order to take advantage of the great values offered. You know women when it comes to shoes, right? One tour guest was seen purchasing 3 pair and almost everyone, men included, returned home with a new pair of SAS shoes.
Our Holiday Vacations tour group was composed of folks from 11 different states across the USA. During our extended stay in the San Antonio area, we enjoyed area attractions almost too numerous to mention. At the top of the list was the outstanding 15-mile San Antonio River Walk. The River Walk winds below street level in the very heart of downtown San Antonio and reaches out both north and south from the city. The banks of the River Walk are lushly landscaped and are lined with restaurants offering every possible culinary experience. From Texas steakhouses to authentic Mexican to French cuisine, there was something for every palate.
The River Walk was a visual cornucopia of peoples from all over the world enjoying one another while taking advantage of guided riverboat cruises that whet their appetites for their own walking tours along the San Antonio River’s banks.
Not to be forgotten were visits to The Alamo, Fort Sam Houston – 5th Army Headquarters, San Fernando Cathedral, the historic Spanish Governor’s Palace, The Flying L - an authentic Texas Dude Ranch, the Buckhorn Museum and Saloon housing the Texas Ranger Museum and one of the world’s largest collections of game mounts, Mission San Jose, El Mercado Mexican marketplace, LBJ Ranch, the National Museum of the Pacific War – Admiral Nimitz Museum, La Villita historic arts village, and the historic hill country town of Bandera, and the German influenced cities of Boerne and Fredericksburg.
Amusingly, our motorcoach driver took it upon herself (with permission of the tour director) to take a side trip to Luckenbach, Texas (pop. 25) in the middle of nowhere. Readers may remember, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings making Luckenbach famous in a song by the same name.
We’ll never forget rolling in the isles of the tour bus while singing Luckenbach, Texas as the coach motored through the “one-horse town” past storied “watering holes” and the town’s, since closed (1850-1971), US Post Office.