Footwear for the family.
A family ran shoe store filled with thousands of top-notch brand name footwear from around the world. Consisting of two warehouses located in Trochu and Olds Alberta, we are stocked with a vast array of footwear for all types of occasions! Originally built and open by shoe maker Henry Rist in 1962 and later ran by his son Vern Rist. Check out a little history below!
Henry and his Shoes
Biography – Rist, Ruth and Henry
“Written by Ruth Rist Wigand”
Humble Beginnings. The start of a journey.
It was 1945, and the War finally came to an end. We evacuated as far west as we possibly could, so we would end up under American or British occupation. And so it happened that the Americans and British were coming towards us, but then to everyone’s surprise after about one month, they suddenly pulled their troops back, and the Soviet Army took over. Oh! What a disappointment to everyone. I cried and said to my mother, “I want to get out of here. We should write to our relatives in Canada.” My mother said that would be nice, but we lost everything, including all the addresses. I told her that I remembered two words and that was “Trochu Alberta.” Mother said, “Stop dreaming. It was early 1938 when we received the last mail from Canada. You were nine years old. How could you possibly remember that far back?” after hearing that, I took it upon myself and wrote a letter to my aunt and Uncle L. and L. Henkel, Trochu, Alberta, Canada.
In the meantime, a lot had happened. The country was divided by a heavily guarded border to prevent people from defecting to the West, and one day I received a letter from Henry Rist who served as a commissioned officer in the army and was discharged from a POW camp and had found his parents and us through the Red Cross. It was 1946, a hopeless and depressing time. We had to work from sunrise until sunset and had very little food. I had already forgotten about the letter I had sent to Canada over six months earlier until one day the post man handed me a letter from our relatives from Canada. I ran as fast as my feet would carry me to tell everyone the good news. They were even willing to sponsor us to come to Canada. Henry wrote often, even though he was in the West I was in the East, with a dangerous border in between. To my surprise, Henry showed up one day. He stuck a ring on my finger, then he said, “How about getting married so we can plan together, how to get out of here?”
But things didn’t turn out the way we had planned. After we were married, we lived in my in-laws for six months until we finally found a little place of our own. Henry worked for a shoe manufacturer, designing and making shoes.
In 1948 our son, Manfred, was born. A whole year went by, and we still had not heard about our immigration process; any correspondence about this matter was strictly forbidden. In 1949, our second son Heinrich (Heinz) Werner (Vern) was born.
Three weeks later the doorbell rang and as I opened the door there, to my surprise, was my sister Emilie (seventeen) and my brother Arthur (eighteen) standing there. They said, “We came to get you, to help you across the border.” They were already in the West and had inquired about our immigration process. They were told we had to come at once for an interview and then for a medical examination. We had to keep all this a secret because it was too risky to tell anyone. Only our parents, brothers and sisters were told. We packed all night.
The first train left at 4 am. We all said very emotional goodbyes. This was the starting point of a great danger. We got off the train ten kilometres before the border; then we waited until dark. We started walking the road to the border which could not be followed for very long. Then the long walk began through ploughed and muddy fields and the rain was coming down heavily. We dodged border patrols with guard dogs, search lights from lookout towers crossing a river, then a tank trap ditch fifteen feet plus deep with steep edges, very hard to climb up in the rain and holding two babies (fifteen months and four weeks old). Then we were crawling under a ten-foot-high barbed wire barrier fence. Finally, we were across the border in West Germany. We had got through the Iron Curtain! And now only another ten kilometres of marching to the next train station but this time we followed the road all the way, without fear. The train pulled in shortly after we got there, and we were on our way to Bremen. When we got there, the baby got very sick and had to be hospitalized for six weeks. In the meantime, the ship left for Canada without us.
The next ship sailed from Capri, Italy. A long train with immigrants to Canada and Australia left the city of Bremen to Naples, Italy, crossing several borders. At a four-hour stopover in Rome, some of the people went to see the old coliseum and Henry went with them. I stayed on the train with the little ones. A Medical doctor and two nurses came and insisted to take the little baby to the first aid for an examination. They promised to return the baby right after. The train left and the baby was not returned. A search revealed there was no first aid car, no doctor and no nurses! I went into a straight panic and nearly lost my mind; my baby was taken away and I had no clue on where they took him. Once we arrived in Naples, we searched for our baby at many places. Ten days later, with the aid of a helpful nun, we found him at a convent where they had many babies.
Two weeks later our ship, the Charleston, left the harbour of Capri, crossing the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. After twelve days, on September 4, 1949, we landed in Halifax. One week later we arrived in Trochu. After a one-year stay on the Henkel’s farm, there came the birth of our little girl, Iris, in 1950. The family moved to Didsbury. Where Henry worked as a shoemaker for Clarence’s Shoe Store, before Henry finished his time there, he made sure to make enough shoes so Clarence would not need a pair for a good amount of time. In 1962, we relocated back to Trochu after purchasing the shoe shop from Mrs. Fiala. Henry reopened the shoe shop to “Henry’s Shoe shop – Shoes for the family, all repairs” Henry’s Shoes was born.