In the past I have posted things from my upcoming book “Days Remembered” and things from my first book as well. Now that Days Remembered is nearly done I am picking up book #3 (“Notes To My Kids”) again which is about my kids growing up. This piece is one of my favorites and tells a story that still touches me today.
How many kids have had the proprietor of a pizza place autograph a pizza box for them? One of mine did at Charlie’s Pizza one day near where we used to live.
Charlie’s pizza was a neighborhood institution on the east side of Fort Worth. For over 30 years Charlie and his family owned it and produced New York style pizza for we BBQ and Mexican food obsessed Texans. His pizza was always fresh and delicious, topped with fresh ingredients and a good thin crust. It was very tasty and we ate there frequently as did many who lived on that side of town. In fact one year it was voted as “best pizza” in Fort Worth.
Over time Roger was old enough to realize what Charlie’s was and asked for it. He also knew who Charlie was since we ate there many times. Roger would always be happy when we announced we would be eating there and ate his share of each pizza pie. Like us, it was one of his favorite places to eat, and remained so over the years.
However the most memorable thing about Charlie’s was the time Roger wanted Charlie to autograph one of the pizza boxes. Roger was very insistent about this so one day I asked Charlie to sign one containing a large pizza we ordered. Charlie looked at me funny and I explained why I was doing this. He smiled real big, whipped out a pen, and ascribed his John Henry on the top of the box. I took the pie home in its box and showed it to Roger. Roger loved it and kept the box for years, sauce stains and all, in his closet. It was a valued treasure in his little boy eyes even though it started as a plain pizza box.
Over the many years since then the box disappeared in moves but the act was not forgotten. A couple of years ago before he sold his business I was in the restaurant and like so many times before Charlie, now grey-headed, was behind the counter making pies. He took my money and I saw the stacks of empty pizza boxes behind him and asked him if he remembered signing a pizza box years ago. He paused briefly and said he did recall doing that with a big grin on his face. I refreshed his memory about how happy it made my son. He got a laugh about that and said no one had ever asked him to do that as long as he had been in business.
So a plain, ordinary pizza box, just one of billions like it, was signed and treasured by Roger like an autograph penned by a famous movie star or athlete. That small act of kindness by Charlie Langdon shows us that the star on life’s stage is not always someone well-known and famous but instead can be an average person. Indeed Charlie was an average person but he was still someone very important in the big, bright eyes of a little boy who liked his pizza.