"Oh, Lord What Next" - Al gets the Big Boot

 

Back in the early 50's, Al was always being ask to do publicity appearances for the Big companies. Like the large photo in the restaurant, with the big and little turtles, was done for Eastern Airlines. (I ended up with that baby turtle) And there were usually props involved.

 

Some were given to him after the photo shoot.

 

Since he refused to be paid after he quit the road. His charity work he called it. He was doing something for the Goodyear Co. The blimp people, they are always overhead at the pro football games. I remember when Al brought it home, I was somewhere between 5 and 8. And that was back in the dark ages of childhood, many moons ago. When he came in with it, he set it just inside the front door. Jeanie with the "Oh, Lord what next" look on her face, just accepted his little treasures into the house. Only this wasn't a little treasure, it was taller than the rest of the family. On him it was knee high, but too large to wear. I have always wondered, why they didn't make him a pair of them. It would be hard to keep your feet dry, with only one, if they had fit. He did put it on several times over the years. But there it sat in the living room. Too big even for a flower pot. And how many people have a three foot plus Rubber Boot in the living room.

 

I guess I learned to be a pack rat from him. Can't throw anything away, cause someday you might need it. But by then, you have forgotten where you saved it to, and have to go buy another one. Then you have two or more of the same thing. Too bad Goodyear didn't come up with expandable rubber rooms, that could be added on to existing homes.

 

Somehow, one day, Mother and I managed to drag it over to the fireplace. No, not in it, just by it. What I think she was really doing, is heading for the back porch with it. But by doing it a room at a time, eventually it would end up out in the big garage. Where he kept his tools and show stuff, and various other junk and Christmas decorations. The Boot would fit in just fine. Jeanie would leave it in the new spot for a month or two, then edge it closer to the back porch. Then do the same thing on the porch, and edge it near the back door. By the time it got to the back door, Al would have forgotten it was missing from the living room, and she could get the help to put it in the garage.

 

We had it in the house for Halloween one year, and we set it up on the porch, with bags of candy for the kids in the neighborhood. The word spread that the Tomainis had the biggest bags to hand out, so we would end up with several hundred kids, from all over the Tampa area show up. By then it was a Halloween decoration, and could go directly to the garage after Halloween. It was a good idea, a giant boot full of goodies, but after a few years it was retired to the garage. The kids starting to get too big to trick or treat, and most of the older boys were only tricking, which ruined it for the littler kids. So the Boot was packed away in the garage, and forgotten.


 The next couple years, Al was starting to show signs of memory loss and odd sleeping behavior. One night Jeanie found him sitting in his car sleeping. He was ok for a while, and then, when least expected, he would walk home from the bait house, and leave his car there, to be retrieved by me. I loved driving and didn't mind a bit. He had always wanted to go to Alaska, so the summer of 61' we bought a new station wagon, packed up the family and headed north west. First stop for a rest was in Denver to visit my mothers father. We were there for a few days, and headed on to our destination. Stopped on the way in Wyoming for the Frontier Days Rodeo. And then north again. Al would drive for hours without stopping. It was turning into a nightmare vacation. I wanted to be home, not cooped up in a car in the middle of the Yukon. Might as well have been the Sahara. But that is another story, the trip to Alaska.

 

Al had wanted to go to Mexico the following summer, but by the time we got back from the Alaska trip, we all knew it would never happen. After Al died, August 30, 1962, Jeanie wanted to memorialize him in some way. She wanted to get a tree to plant in the camp, and someone had mentioned the boot in the Garage. Being rubber, she figured it would last for ever. So it was set atop a stand of cement blocks, and filled with concrete. Also had to strap it down, so it couldn't be taken very easy. Then she planted some purple leafed "Wandering Jew" plants that Al loved, around the base. To this day there are some still there. The tree she decided would be a Norfolk Island Pine. It was about 10 foot tall when she bought it, and grew to a good 30 feet when the Flood waters reached it one year, and slowly the salt content killed the "Tomaini Tree". My Mother was devastated, but decided it was time to get on with life. So after 40 odd years, it still stands, well parts of it does.

 

The rubber started to get brittle, and so many people stop to have their photo taken by the boot, as some of the older ones were the kids, that pulled a bag of candy out of it when they were kids, and have brought their kids, and Grandkids to see the boot that went along with the story, of long ago. When real live Giants, roamed the Giant's Camp. It has been a dream to have a fiberglass boot made, to replace the little of the original that is left. As the Giant Boot has been the symbol of the Giant's Camp since Al Tomaini has been gone. The last photos taken of Jeanie, were taken beside her beloved husbands Boot, in the summer of 99, before she also left us, to go to her waiting husband, and baby, she lost so many years ago.

 

They are missed by many people from all over the world, but their memories will last for Eternity....

 

2003 Judy Tomaini Rock, All Rights Reserved

Published with the permission of Judy Tomaini Rock

 

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