I lived on the South Side of Chicago in the late 1940s, in the area now known as Bronzeville.
During the winter months at that time, the weather was cold and brutal. On one of those 10-degree brutal days, my oldest sister Geri was bored. She decided to treat me and our baby sister Shirley to a movie at the Regal Theater on 47th and South Parkway.
After we arrived at the Regal, Geri stopped at the candy counter to buy us a small box of popcorn to share and a box of Dots candy for each of us.
Towards the end of the movie, I asked Geri to buy me a Snickers candy bar. She said no. I kept asking her to buy me a Snickers candy bar and she became upset. She said she had spent all the money she had. She only had our bus fare home. I was not satisfied with that answer. I continued to ask for the Snickers. She got fed up with me and gave me my bus fare, and she said if I spent it on a candy bar, I would walk home. I didn’t believe her?”I bought a Snickers candy bar.
At the end of the movie, Geri and Shirley went home and left me standing in the lobby of the Regal Theater. I looked outside through the glass doors of the lobby. It was dark outside. The ground had an awful lot of snow on it, and it had started to snow again. I thought there was no need to ask anyone for bus fare because I was afraid I would get on the wrong bus.
Although I was 8 years old, I knew how to get home as long as I walked up South Parkway. So I decided I would walk home. The wind was blowing snow directly into my face. I could barely see, and I was cold too. I tried to read the house numbers as I passed to tell if I was walking in the right direction. I couldn’t tell if the numbers were getting smaller or larger. I was at 51st street when it dawned on me that nothing looked familiar. I had walked south instead of north.
So I started walking north in the opposite direction. As I walked I saw a man shoveling snow off the walkway in front of a house. I watched him for a while to see if he might be the kind of person who would give me a nickel so I could make a telephone call home.
He looked like my Sunday school teacher.
I asked him for nickel. I told him I wanted to call my mother. He didn’t question me about anything. He put down his shovel and reached into his pants pocket and gave me a nickel. I called my mother when I got back to the Regal. She said she was sending my brother Sonny to come get me. I probably waited about 45 minutes in the lobby at the theater. I thought Sonny should have come by then because it didn’t take 45 minutes to travel from 31st Street to 47th Street on the bus, even in bad weather.
I started walking again, but this time just to be sure I asked a lady on the street in what direction was I going. She told me I was walking north. My socks and shoes were soaking wet. My gloveless hands were freezing and I had to wipe my runny nose on my coat sleeve.
The weather was like something I would not want to be caught in at my age now. I was mad at Geri. I pictured Geri getting the whipping of her life for leaving me at the theater. At 14, she wasn’t too old for a good whipping I thought. I could hardly wait to be told about the terrible whipping. I recognized the statue of the soldier in the middle of the parkway at 35th and South Parkway. I felt better because I knew I was almost home. I turned onto 31st Street at the corner of South Parkway where Olivet Baptist Church was. After walking three more blocks, I was at 3113 Rhodes Avenue. I was home. Shirley opened the door for me. I walked into the living room where mother and Sonny sat on the couch listening to the radio and reading the newspapers. They gave me a glance and went back to reading and listening.
Geri and Shirley didn’t look at me, but they looked smug about leaving me at the Regal Theater. No one asked if I was okay. No one asked how I got home. No one cared to hear anything I might have to say. So, I changed into dry clothes and went back into the living room and picked up a magazine to look at. I imagined my family thought, as I did, this experience was a good lesson to teach me to take care of my needs before my wants.