A Logger’s Boot
The birth and popularity of Dayton’s boots was spurred by the dramatic growth of B.C.’s logging industry in the post Second World War years. Over 25 pulp mills opened on BC’s coast in the two decades following WW2; as the need for loggers exploded so too did the need for quality footwear that could withstand their rugged work environments.
A Logger’s Shoemaker
Charlie Wohlford had a long career in the logging industry before becoming the manager of the Lumberman’s Social Club – a popular gambling and drinking establishment at 64 East Hastings. He had learned the craft of shoemaking from his Bavarian family roots, and gained a reputation for fixing logging boots to a better quality than when they were new. While bartending, he was often called on to help repair or recalk the boots. “As legend has it, one evening in the back room of the Lumbermen’s, a group of loggers aided by a case of whiskey, convinced Charlie to start building a line of quality logging boots. Rather than call the company Wohlford Boots, the name was rejected as too difficult to pronounce. Day as in the term, ‘Good Day’ was picked and evolved that fateful evening into Dayton.” (Dayton Boots blog).
Dayton Boots Opens on East Hastings
The Dayton Shoe Company went into operations in 1946, and the first Dayton Logger Boots were introduced the following year. Named the ‘Dayton 64’ (64 being the address of the Lumberman’s bar), it became an instant success, prized by loggers for is ruggedness, comfort and durability. Wohlford put up a small neon sign of a boot at the company store and factory at 2250 East Hastings. The neon boot is still there today, a remnant of Vancouver’s neon age.
A Worker’s Boot
The boots quickly became popular among other workers like longshoremen, construction workers, and fire and police forces. Dayton’s began to introduce other styles, including the red-heeled “driver boots”, designed in the early 1950s for milkmen who complained the black leather was scuffing their white milk trucks, and “Black Beauty” a 12-inch boot allegedly designed as a horse-riding boot for Charlie Woodward of Woodward’s department store.
“No Daytons Allowed”
The “No Daytons Allowed” signs began appearing in several B.C. bars in the 1960s, after owners began associating the boots with troublemakers who would use the boots to stomp on other patrons during fights.
“Back then, Daytons emerged as the premier choice for serious motorcycle bikers in the Lower Mainland. Often clad fully in leather and sporting the double sole engineer or Black Beauties, hard-nosed bikers began showing up in local drinking establishments where on occasion their Daytons served as an improvised stomping weapon in bar fights. Legend or not, soon bar owners made it very clear. Enough! In their minds, customers wearing Daytons were an early predictor of potential trouble and thus any patrons wearing Dayton were no longer welcome. For the next twenty five years, signs were created and posted extensively in drinking establishments throughout British Columbia effectively restricting Dayton Wearers from entering.” – “No Daytons Allowed” – Dayton Blog.
Made Local for Seven Decades
The business continues to operate locally, and has won acclaim for keeping their operations local while many competitors outsource production. CEO Stephen Encarnacao credits “the amazing reservoir of customer brand loyalty” who value the company’s commitment to make their boots locally. “We have met at least 12 people in the past two and half years who were named Dayton because their Moms and Dads were Dayton Wearers and Fans of the Brand,” he told Scout in 2009.
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