America's No. 1 Heel is moving out of our Metro region. Tucked away in yesterday's Washington Business section was an item that the O'Sullivan Corp. of Winchester, Va., has decided to get out of the shoe-component business and has sold that line to the Cincinnati-based Vulcan Corp., eliminating sole production, and that of heels, too, limiting itself to industrial lines.
If you're of a certain age, you'll remember the engaging magazine and radio ads, "O'Sullivan, America's No. 1 Heel," and when you'd go to the shoe repair shop, you'd hope that the repairer would attach an O'Sullivan. (O'Sullivan and Cat's Paw were the chief rival brands, like Coke and Pepsi, and consumers were urged to demand their favorites, although few repair shops carried both.)
A bit desolate, Metro Scene called O'Sullivan's headquarters yesterday and, accustomed to big-city ways, asked for somebody who could speak for James T. Holland, the corporation's executive vice president and chief operating officer.
"Hello," the next voice responded, "Jim Holland speaking."
In answer to a question, Holland said he wouldn't admit to already having given up being America's No. 1 Heel. That will take place only after production by Vulcan is transferred in future months to Clarksville, Tenn., and the Winchester workers are switched to other jobs.
Not only that, Holland said, but O'Sullivan will assign quality-control and marketing people to the new operation. "That slogan -- 'America's No. 1 Heel' -- will go with it," he said, although it hasn't been advertised for 15 years or more.
Company shoe products now go, he said, to a dwindling number of American shoe manufacturers and repair shops and, he agreed with Metro Scene's thesis, "Who is going into a repair shop and insist on America's No. 1 Heel?" Familiar Name
It's strange how an event or a name from the past will pop up then speedily pop up again.
Until yesterday morning, I never was aware of former representative Joseph R. Bryson (D-S.C.), who served from 1939 until his death in 1953. He who was quoted yesterday in a column by my colleague Lou Cannon, who described Bryson as an ardent New Dealer who opposed restricting presidents to two terms in office.
Later in the day, in my reading of a 1941 article in Life magazine about Washington as the nation prepared for World War II, Bryson's name jumped out again, this time from a picture caption: "High Washington rents and a frugal nature inspired Congressman . . . Bryson . . . to double up with his male secretary in an ancient tourist boardinghouse. They each pay $4 weekly for their single room."
Pricey, huh? World Travelers
I don't know what, if anything, this tells us, other perhaps than that international commerce ultimately will triumph.
Leaving my apartment yesterday, I saw a trash dumpster piled high with cartons unloaded and discarded and with printed labels that caught my eye: "Beirut Express. Air & sea packing. Storage. Travel. Beirut, Lebanon. Branches: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Kabul, Afghanistan; Manama, Bahrain; N. York, USA."
And the legend, "Handle with care." Indeed.