Symbol of gang territory?
Identifying the location of a place to buy drugs?
Designation of the scene of a gruesome crime?
Warning signs for low-flying aircraft? (Might work on a power line near the airport but hardly under Wasena bridge.)
Celebration of the last day of school?
Shoes removed from the losing victim of a fight?
Older shoes replaced by a new pair of sneakers?
Just everyday kid hijinks?
Lots of theories but few facts.
The practice of tennis shoes hanging a public place apparently started on power lines in some areas of the country years ago. Urban myths first claimed it was a marking of gang territory or locations to score drugs but police who investigate such things dismiss the theory.
Another popular legend claims the practice started as a celebration by joyful young men who wanted to mark the location of their first sexual conquest.
That might have made sense back in the 60s when I was young, single and working for the Roanoke Times.
Wasena Park was a favorite spot for parking with a date and exploring such things.
Of course if that was an accepted practice back then there might have been more than a few pairs of shoes hanging on tree branches at the Rocky Knob overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Or from tree limbs at the top of Buffalo Mountain. You could drive up there back in those days.
But parking isn’t as popular now as it was 50 years ago so the tennis shoes hanging under the bridge at Wasena Park could mean something else.
Or nothing at all.
The mysterious practice seems to be worse elsewhere in the country. The power company in Tucson, Arizona, says it removes five to 10 pairs of sneakers from power lines on any given week.
Police there say they have found no relation between crime and dangling sneakers.
Maybe tying the shoes together and throwing them up in the air to hang there indefinitely was just “something to do.”
Have a theory?
If the shoe theory fits….
And before you ask: No, I was not reliving my youth under the Wasena Park bridge.
I was helping a friend shoot a scene from a film he’s making in Roanoke.
And the scene had nothing to do with tennis shoes hanging from anything or with anything that may have gone on under that bridge now or in the past.