Using a stick or a cane makes walking easier," says Norman Simon of the Uncle Sam Umbrella Shop, at 110 West 45th Street in New York. "For one thing, you can't put your hands in your pockets. And if you walk with a cane you never become round-shouldered." Norman Simon is the son of Sam Simon, after whom the shop is named, and he is one of the most knowledgeable men in the country about umbrellas and canes. Sam was the brother of Adolph Simon who, as far back as 1866, set out to shield his customers from rain, hail and round shoulders. At first the shop was a modest one on the Bowery; today the midtown shop carries 18,000 umbrellas and canes, including many that are coveted by collectors. Uncle Sam's used to be canemaker to Charlie Chaplin and supplied gnarled, Harry-Lauder-type canes to Eddie Cantor and George Jessel during their early days in vaudeville.
The fact that there is increased interest today in walking for exercise and in outdoor spectating delights Norman, since the shop carries lines of canes and umbrellas for sportsmen that are of the highest quality and quite unique. An ideal umbrella for following rainy golf tournaments, for example, is a 16-rib nylon job with a single transparent vinyl panel (above) which allows a clear view of the goings-on with a minimum risk of getting soaked. The knob handle is made of molded lightweight maple, and the umbrella sells for $15. A smaller, "stadium-size" umbrella with 10 ribs costs $7.50. Umbrellas are available in the following solid colors: red, black, white, navy, orange, blue, tan, brown, green and gold. For alumni and students who wish to support their teams properly, combinations of any two of the above colors can be ordered. Delivery of college combinations of colors—like gold and blue—takes two weeks.
Another ingenious (and humanitarian) umbrella is designed to keep water from trickling down into the collars of stadium spectators seated in front of the owner. It is square, has four ribs and a hooked handle and costs $12.
The combined umbrella and shooting stick shown at left has a covering made of heavy nylon, providing shade under a hot sun as well as shelter from the rain. The handle converts easily into a comfortable seat, and the metal disk at the bottom of the shaft keeps the device from sinking too far into soft ground. It costs $15.
Golfers (and others) may find another shop item useful: a 16-rib nylon umbrella with a black, hollowed-out anodized aluminum handle. Inside the handle, which unscrews, is a two-ounce flask that can be used to carry the owner's favorite beverage. It costs $16.50.
Football fans may be interested in the unpretentious black cane with the hooked handle shown below. Made of anodized aluminum, it can hold five individual two-ounce flasks of any liquid needed to ward off the cold or protect the owner from the bites of snakes he may encounter in the stadium. It costs $8.50.
Although walking sticks can be made of any material, the majority of tweed-wearing, dedicated outdoor walking enthusiasts prefer the knobby Irish blackthorn stick shown above. It costs from $5 to $15, depending on its thickness.
For customers outside New York, catalogs can be obtained by writing to Uncle Sam at 110 West 45th Street. More than 25,000 catalogs are sent all over the world. If anybody gets wet or round-shouldered it will not be Norman Simon's fault.