Bronzing preserves memories

October 01, 2006|By Ellen Warren | Ellen Warren,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

If only we could turn back the clock. Short of that, we'll settle for preserving the moment.

"Bronze baby shoes are like a trophy to babyhood," says Bob Kaynes Jr. Kaynes is the CEO of the American Bronzing Co., the firm in Columbus, Ohio, founded more than 70 years ago by his grandmother, Violet Shinbach.

About 12 million baby shoes later, Kaynes says this tradition of preserving little ones' footwear in bronze is uniquely American. Efforts to interest Europeans in doing the same went nowhere.

Maybe we're just more sentimental. Grandma Vi certainly was. She began the business going door-to-door at homes with signs that children lived there: a swing set, a bicycle, a toy truck in the front yard.

Today, the company she founded bronzes some 200,000 shoes a year and if there's a pair or two in your house, chances are they were dipped and plated by American Bronzing (its Web site is

But why stop with babyhood? As long as the object is not "fluffy" it can be bronzed (a process that doesn't involve bronze but copper electroplating).

One man who survived a car accident promised that if he ever walked again, he would have the body cast that he wore for months bronzed. The American Bronzing Co. did the job.

And then there was the World War II veteran whose family had stored his old Navy uniform in the attic. Going through the pockets years later, the man's wife found an unopened wartime U.S. government-issued condom, still in its pristine packaging.

Decades passed. For the man's 80th birthday, the family sent the packaged condom to Kaynes' company to be preserved forever and attached to a walnut base.

"Thanks for keeping this in your pocket," said the engraved plaque. It was signed "With love" by his six children.

Ellen Warren writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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