Odd-Shoe Expert Jeanne Sallman Boasts a House Full of Sole
"I've been called the Helen Keller of shoes and the Ann Landers of feet," says Sallman, by way of explaining how she came to be hip deep in wing tips, deck tennies, spiked heels and even baby booties. For five years Sallman, 46, has served as director, sorter, mailer and chief troubleshooter for the National Odd Shoe Exchange—NOSE, to you—which was founded in 1944 to provide footwear, at reasonable cost, to amputees and people with feet of different sizes. Originally, NOSE was a matchmaking organization, enabling, for example, right-footed amputees and left-footed amputees with the same shoe size to correspond and split the cost of buying shoes. During Sallman's tenure, the program has expanded to include a mail-order service that provides NOSE's 16,000 members with free shoes from her stockpile, which is replenished with orphaned shoes donated by manufacturers. Says Veronica Duquette, a Vallejo, Calif., polio victim who used to buy two pairs of shoes to get one pair that fit: "Now I have a closet full of shoes, and I feel like Queen for a Day!" Says Bill Cook, a Missouri farmer who lost his right leg in 1976: "I used to have to buy a pair of boots, and it was kind of a drag having one brand new boot lying around."
Sallman, whose feet are slightly mismatched because of a birth defect, began using NOSE's services as a teenager. Now a divorced mother of two grown children, she took over the organization in 1983. Sallman receives no salary—she supports herself by working as a registered nurse—but delights in "the warm and fuzzy feeling I get inside." She feels fuzziest when she's able to fill a special request—one size-9 hip boot for a Vietnam vet, for example—but admits that there's another benefit to running NOSE. Says Sallman: "I now own 150 pairs of shoes."