“They all said that Louise was not half bad…….” – Paul Seibel
I like to think that Sweet Cider existed in three segments. Segment three was the last one, where we all had reached a socially acceptable level of maturity. We were “acting our age”. Segment two could be described as a little chaotic, but still we were becoming more responsible. Segment one, from 1977-84, was a period of incredible fun and hijinks. We were playing music regularly and partying just as much. The combination of being together all the time and being young and wild, was a fertile breeding ground for good-natured ribbing and practical jokes.
One of the early ones was Tom having the kids wake Walt up (it always seemed these things revolved around Tom and Walt) by throwing a bucket of cold water through the tent door on him at the Corinth Bluegrass Festival. There were many more, and to be honest it seemed like we were always laughing about one joke or another. Then in 1981 Louise came into our lives.
It was sometime in 1981 that Walt moved to an apartment on the corner of Perry St. and Campbell Avenue. It was located on the first floor, and Walt being Walt rarely locked his windows. Knowing this Tom, Walt’s brother Albert, and Al Zubal would on occasion enter through a window, generally when Walt was sound asleep, and wake him up. That in itself produced some funny moments, but the best was yet to come.
Albert had found a part of a female mannequin and thought it would be amusing to place it in Walt’s apartment. So late one night he made his way to Walt’s and put it in the living room. When Walt woke up he was shocked to see what appeared to be a bald naked presence on his sofa. As he cleared his eyes he realized what he was seeing, and assumed it was Tom who had done the deed.
Now it was Walt’s turn. He took the mannequin, put it in a plastic garbage bag and proceeded to Tom’s house, where in the middle of the night he put it in the trunk of Tom’s car. The next morning when Tom was about to leave for work, he opened his trunk and his eye caught site of the garbage bag. Not recalling putting it there he began to open it and jumped back in fright when he saw what appeared to be a human torso. After regaining his composure he opened the trunk again, looked a little closer and realized he’d been pranked.
At practice that week the entire story was told and retold, and we laughed about the whole incident. We decided then and there that the mannequin could provide many more laughs, and with the Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival coming up soon we were certain that our new “mascot” would enrich that event. We decided she needed a name, and there could be only one choice. We had been playing the song “Louise” by Paul Seibel for awhile, and the first line fit her perfectly: “They all said that Louise was not half bad………”
Louise made her first public appearance at the 1981 Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival. Tom had decided he was going to pay back Walt for scaring the daylights out of him and had procured a bra and wig for Louise. For that festival we had borrowed a fifth wheel camper and late at night on our first day there Tom put Louise in bed with Walt. Many pictures were taken of the event and that really set things up for the whole weekend. We gave Louise a chair to sit in in front of the camper, and the looks on the faces of the folks passing by were priceless.
Probably the highlight of Louise’s appearance that weekend was when we convinced Tom he should carry Louise in front of the stage during The Seldom Scene’s performance. During a break between songs, Tom carted Louise by the stage and the band, especially John Duffy looked on in amazement at the “moron with the mannequin”. Of course our laughter was uncontrollable and the story was retold at many festivals after.
Sunday as the festival was winding down and folks were leaving, we initiated what would become a festival ending ritual for the next few years, the annual “Louise fling”. We would each take a turn seeing how far we could throw Louise down the hill. Another chance for uncontrollable laughter, although I’m sure if we were to be psycho-analyzed some deep dark secrets may have been uncovered as to why we got such great enjoyment flinging the upper torso of a woman’s mannequin down a hill.
For the next few years Louise accompanied us to bluegrass festivals always having a place of honor in our campsite. Her saga was retold many times. Whenever we played the song “Louise”, we would always dedicate it to our mascot. Finally in 1984 at the Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival, now being held in Duanesburg, Louise met her demise.By this time we all had gone through many changes, and alas Louise had been tossed, burned and hacked at with an axe (once again psycho analysis may have been needed) and really was no longer the same as she once was. Times had changed, life was moving on and Louise and Sweet Cider needed to part ways. The last time I saw Louise she had been loaded into the trunk of someone’s car along with all the garbage from the campsite and was headed to the dump. That day also marked the end of the first seven years of Sweet Cider’s existence. I’m not sure we ever again experienced the same crazy carefree days that Louise helped foster. RIP Louise.