The 1940’s was a desperate time, in terms of economics, for the Bahamas. Times were at their worst during the war years. Prohibition money, from rum running, had long dried up. Those who had managed to invest their rum running fortunes in businesses were doing okay. Land sales, shipping, winter tourism, hotels and food production were the biggest industries. This was the time when millionaires were beginning to see the Bahamas as an attractive investment option.  For the vast majority though, for the average Bahamian, poverty dictated their daily lives.

And as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, Bahamians became inventive.

One day, the Governor, the Duke of Windsor saw a man wearing a unique piece roughly  cut rubber on his feet. The crudely shaped rubber was tied to his feet by a length of rope. Almost immediately, the Governor surmised that this might become a new “peasant industry” for the poor to work in.


HOME MADE SHOES

This week his royal Highness the governor noticed a man wearing a pair of shoes made from a car tyre.

This is a Bahamian war invention and it is called the “wampus”.

The “wampus” is cut out of the hard casing of the tyre. It is shaped to fit the sole of the foot and is held on by a cord passing between the fourth and the big toe and two cords running from the heel around the ankles.

The “wampus” is used in the Out Islands for hard travel and a pair of these shoes will last a year or more over the roughest roads.

In consequence of His Royal Highness’ observation and his interest in providing facilities for the working people it is possible that the War Materials Committee will reserve a number of its car tyre casings in the hope that a new peasant industry may be started:

Formerly these people wore “sapplattas” or rubber shoes. These shoes lasted only a short time and it was an expensive item of the poor man’s living costs. These shoes will soon not be available and it will be a definite advantage if working people could be taught to make their own shoes at no cost at all.

(April 17th 1942, Nassau Tribune)
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