Charlie Wohlford from Salinas, Kansas, had worked with diesel engines which led him to the logging industry in the Northwest and later to Vancouver. After an accident while working on a steam shovel excavation, Charlie got into the business of social clubs (as well as running a cab company). Thinking that a logging boot manufacturing company would be profitable, he began Dayton Boots.
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. Shoe and boot manufacturing companies operating in Vancouver at the time included Leckie’s and Paris. Dayton Boots later aquired them both some years later.
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. The first store is listed on 950 Commercial Drive in 1947 with an office at 16 East Hastings St (the Holden Block/Tellier Building). In 1950, City Directories show the manufacturing of “Dayton Shoes” was at 2345 E Hastings, and in 1951, at 2248 E Hastings.
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. There are over 230 steps in hand-crafting a pair of Dayton Boots, a labour intensive process that very few of the world’s bootmakers still use today. Dayton Boots are hand-crafted using the same exacting methods in the same Vancouver factory store for nearly 70 years.
“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.
In 2023, a change of ownership brought the brand to its new name, Wohlford Boots.
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