Kenneth Bolton was born in the august splendor of Maternity Home in Heckmondwike, England on December 7th, 1921. The third child of Arthur Bolton and Claire Beaumont, Ken was reared in a small Yorkshire town, and spent 64 years of his life in the home of his parents, on Cemetery Road.
Rich only in the sentimental understanding, Kenneth lived his life unburdened by monetary wealth. His first job he took when he was 13 years of age, earning about 50 pence a week for 48 hours of work, six days a week.
He was the first to admit that he joined the armed conflict of the Second World War not only out a sense of duty, but also to escape the life he had been given and to gain from the army a new pair of boots. After fibbing a bit on his age, Ken joined the army at the age of 17.
Not only did he receive the boots that he was eager to get, but he wanted to make sure that they stayed his. So, he notched the toe-box of both boots to make sure he could identify them.
Unfortunately, about ten days into his time in the field of battle, his battalion was captured by the Japanese forces, and his boots were taken from him.
In all things, my grandfather seemed to have a way of making light of the most dire of circumstances. When telling the story of how he was robbed of the boots he had worked so hard to obtain, he simply remarked “I joined the army for a pair of boots and spent most of my time barefooted.”
Not only did this lightheartedness purvey in this story, but even in the stories of his time as a prisoner, being starved and tortured by his captors. He called this time, knowing better than anyone its terrible pain, as a “lesson in Biology and slimming.”
When I read his memoir, a painful laugh escaped when I read that line. As sad a life as any man had led, Kenneth gave everyone a chance to laugh instead of cry.
I never met my grandpa Ken. A fact of my life that I have always wanted to change, but that cannot be altered. Yet, I do feel that I know him. Every ounce of humor I possess is likely due to him, and my pride in my heritage is also a descendent git from him.
My grandfather is not a stranger to me. He is a friend.
As his friend, I want to do something for him. I plan on returning his boots to him in England. While it would be impossible to dream of gifting the exact pair of Battledress standard issue combat boots, I will nonetheless give him a fine pair, a pair that even I’d consider enlisting to receive.
What I would gift my grandfather would be a pair of one of the most iconic pair of shoes to grace this planet: the Air Jordan 1.
This shoe started it all for one of the most successful lines of shoes in history.
The Air Jordan 1 in particular is a favorite of mine for a number of reasons, including the all leather upper, the collared cuff, and the high-top cut. Not only is it an iconic shoe in basketball history, but it also serves a purpose as one of the most stylish sneakers in the world.
This would be the shoe I would gift my grandfather. Customized with the emblems of his story: the notched toe box, the Union Jack and Saint George's Cross, and the town of Heckmondwike.
I intend to buy him a pair of shoes, engrave them with these emblems, and deliver them in a special box to his gravesite in England.
Copywriter: Ben Bolton
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