January 9, 2008 BALBOA PARK – It was called the shoe tree, and it was one of San Diego’s strangest landmarks. Hundreds of pairs of shoes – sneakers, high heels, Rollerblades, you name it – hung from its branches. For some reason, people tossed their shoes onto the massive tree, which graced hole No. 2 at Morley Field Disc Golf Course for about three decades.
Wicked winds knocked the old tree to the ground. It had died years ago, but it was never cut down because of its popularity. Still, not everyone knew about the tree, one of 10 or so throughout Balboa Park lost to the winds.
NANCEE E. LEWIS / Union-Tribune Footwear festooned the landmark two years ago. “Oh yeah, it’s missed,” said Mitch Zunich, who works at the disc golf pro shop. “Everybody is pretty bummed out.” Zunich and other park employees suspect all of the rain-soaked shoes did the tree in. They said that when the high winds swooped in, the wet shoes served as anchors, pulling the tree to the ground. Yesterday morning, three workers used a chain saw to slice the tree into pieces. The shoes were loaded into two tractor beds – each about the size of a twin bed – and hauled to a nearby Dumpster. It took five trips to get rid of all the shoes.
Legend has it that the shoe tree started with a bet. The loser of the disc golf game had to toss his shoes into the branches. By yesterday afternoon, all that was left of the shoe tree was a single branch and a 6-foot stump. It looked as if the stump had been pushed over; the base was still attached to its roots. All of the shoes were gone, but there were two pairs of laces – one turquoise, the other white – strung around the branch. And what looked like a black handkerchief was actually a pair of Victoria Secret panties. “Somehow that’s appropriate,” a nearby golfer remarked. At some point last year, shoes started showing up on another tree. This one is on hole No. 11.