Jehovah’s Witness Encounter by
100
(207 Stories)

Prompted By Door-to-Door Sales

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I was a little kid, maybe 4 years old, so my brother was probably 9 at the time, significantly larger than me. We had the kind of roller skates described by Melanie in her 1971 song “Brand New Key”; the kind that attached to our own shoes, then tightened with a key. We were skating up and down Briarcliff Road in front of our house in Detroit, just the two of us. Since I was with my brother, my mother trusted me to be outside without her supervision. Our street was full of playmates for us, but no one else was around at that particular moment.

Rick thought it might be fun to pull me along. I thought that would be swell too, so I wrapped my arms around his waist and away we went. He picked up speed, I tried to keep up, even as he pulled faster.

Suddenly, he hit a bump in the pavement and fell over backwards – on ME! I hit the pavement hard on my back with my much larger brother landing squarely on top of little me. Rick scrambled up, but I didn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. Rick was terrified. He took off his skates and ran home to get our mother, leaving me lying there, a few doors up from our home.

A clean-cut man in white shirt, dark pants and dark tie walked up the street. He had observed the scene and came to my rescue. He picked me up and carried me home. My stricken mother opened the door to the stranger with me in his arms.

I had the wind knocked out me, but wasn’t badly hurt. Mother and the strange man checked me out for broken bones. There were none. By this point, I was breathing again. They got my skates off me, gave me some water, I was moving around. When it was clear that I wasn’t harmed, Mother turned to the stranger to thank him for bringing me home. He accepted her thanks, but would not leave the house.

He was a Jehovah’s Witness, going door-to-door, selling his books and bibles. He tried to interest Mother in his books. Mother politely declined. He was polite, but insistent. He looked at little ME, whom he had just rescued. And he was inside our home. He would not leave.  Mother was grateful that he had rescued her little girl, but she absolutely did not want to buy any of his books. Among other points, we are Jewish. We had no use for his books or theology. On the other hand, she was home alone with two little kids. He would not leave our home.

And that is how we wound up with a series of Jehovah’s Witness books that sat on a back bookshelf, behind the door of our den from that day until we moved out of Detroit in 1963 when I was 10 years old. We never looked at them, they just collected dust. They reminded us all of a painful event and a warning to not let polite strangers into your home.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.


Tags: rollerskating accident, Jehovah's Witness
Characterizations: funny, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a great story to tell from this prompt, Betsy! I sure knew from Jehovah’s Witnesses — anyone who ever lived in Manhattan would see the huge “Watchtower” sign across the East River — but I never thought of them as “salesman” in the traditional sense. But, of course, they were, both in terms of their books and, somewhat more spiritually, their religion.

    I can only imagine how tough it was to get this man out of your house after he had come to your rescue. He probably thought that he had arrived by divine intervention. In any event, the books weren’t totally worthless, as you at least got this terrific story out of them.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      My poor mother just could not get rid of that guy. Though I was very young, I remember the trouble she had with him, and she was a timid person to begin with. But at least he did bring me home, so I guess I should be grateful for that. And here I am, more than 60 years later, recounting this story, as you point out.

  2. Marian says:

    Wow, Betsy, I’m glad we never let the Jehovah’s Witnesses in, but it’s fascinating that you have all those books. I had those roller skates as well, which could be deadly when going down the steep hill we lived on.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Probably everyone around our age had those roller skates, Marian. They were hard to control. We never looked at any of those books behind the door. They were the price my mother paid to get the stranger out of our house.

  3. Suzy says:

    We have Jehovah’s Witnesses ringing our doorbell all the time! You would think the mezuzah on our doorpost would discourage them, but apparently not! As John said, I never thought of them as salespeople, and I didn’t realize they had books and bibles to sell. The ones that come here only have little pamphlets. Sometimes I take them (and immediately throw them away) and mostly I decline. But I would never let them inside the house! Your poor mother! Great story, Betsy!

  4. Betsy, I’m amazed at how so many of this week’s stories are sparking such sensory memories for me. The minute I read your words “then tightened with a key,” I could almost feel the sensation of having done that with my skates countless times during my childhood.

    And what a story this is! I feel relief well after the fact that you weren’t hurt when your brother fell on you. I had a big brother that used to roll me in a barrel down our driveway and one time I almost got hit by a car. The driver got out to make sure I was okay. We think of those days as so innocent, we could play in the street, strangers were kind, but even then accidents did happen. We were lucky!

    Your story had such a twist…I wasn’t expecting that your mother would buy the books to get rid of the salesman. The fact that they remained on the shelf for so long makes me think your mother could always point to them and say, “We already gave” should the need arise, a Jehovah’s witness at the door.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      As you recount your brother rolling you in a barrel, I have to reflect that we all seemed subject to more bruises and bumps, but still survived, and none the worse for wear. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that somewhere. It is interesting that we are all feeling nostalgia with this prompt, but then, the only people going door-to-door these days are folks looking for signatures on petitions, at least in my neighborhood.

      Thanks for your concern for me and my mother, Barb. That fellow was truly persistent and finally purchasing his books was the only way my mother could get rid of him!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    That was probably a good lesson, Betsy, about the wisdom of letting door-to-door salesmen into the home. On the other hand, he did rescue you. Your story took me back to my own memories of those skates and wearing the skate key on a string around my neck. Probably not the safest practice either!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It is true, Laurie, that the gentleman rescued me. Then we couldn’t get rid of him so we were in a bind and bought his books. You are right, the roller skates probably weren’t all that safe either.

  6. Great Betsy, I guess he was a good soul and meant no harm – and he did carry you safely home – but I certainly understand that your mother’s concern.
    Buying his books were certainly worth the price to thank him and have him leave!

  7. Your story triggered memories of my mother alway inviting in the Jehovah Witnesses, who we came to know as they had tea and chatted with my mom. My mom loved to “debate” and discuss with them, from her own rather nature-based beliefs. Eventually they were told to give up on my mom, she was never going to be converted. Years later in my own home, I always chatted with them, but did not invite them in, just offered cheerful “I have my own beliefs”and then discuss the overlap. My husband would call out “your friends are here” and disappear.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      You and your mother were in a better position than my mother was, January. They didn’t have to negotiate with the man who had just brought home their injured daughter and got inside the house. I admire your mother for her debate skills. I’m not sure I’d have the patience to do such with the gentleman, but that’s what make the world go round. I think you were smart to have the debate OUTSIDE your house. I’m sure a civil discussion was interesting. It seems from a bygone era these days.

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