Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The church wasn't there when my family first moved into the area. The pastor and his family moved there the following year.
I didn't know anything about Pentecostal Holiness churches. I didn't even know how to pronounce "Pentecostal Holiness." It seemed like a mouth full. All I knew is that I saw a lot of church signs in the area with those words on it. But, come to think of it though, I didn't know anything about Baptist, Methodist, or any other kind of church either. I had been to my grandmother's church many time, and I loved going to her church. There, the music was energetic, loud, and enthusiastic. Her church was the standard by which I judged all churches. But, I didn't even know what kind of church it was. I had never thought about it. Church was church. While in Alaska, 1964-1967, I went to sunday school on the Air Force base where we lived, but they weren't in a church. Yes, there was a big church on the base, but Sunday School was conducted in one of the school buildings on the base. Not once had I ever been asked what kind of church do you go to. The word "Baptist" got stuck in my mind somehow. I guess that's because it was an easy word to pronounce, and many many many churches had "Baptist" somewhere in their names. It was while I was living in Ladson that I was asked, "What kind of church does your grandmother go to?" With confidence I said, "Baptist," but I was sooooo wrong. Her church was the "Assembly of God Taberacle" in Atlanta, Georgia.
Just like my family, the pastor's family had three children. The oldest son's first name was Ronald just like mine. He, though, was a few months older and a grade further in school than me. He was called Ronnie, and I was called Scott. It was Ronnie who visited my house one evening just long enough to invite us to a weiner roast on the church property. That was the first of many weiner roasts they had there. My sister, brother, and I enjoyed many more there over the next few years.
At first, the pastor's family lived in a trailor parked behind the house on the property. In the house was where they had Sunday School and worship services. Momma let my sister, brother, and me go there. Often, though, she told us to come home after Sunday School, and we got in trouble when we didn't do as she told us. At first, weeds filled the field behind (depending on how you were looking at it all) the house and trailer. Later, the field was cleared and construction on a new church building began.
While the new building was under construction, the pastor's wife began a nursery and a youth ministry in the house church. She also became the first piano teacher for my sister and me. Her nursery began taking care of my brother everyday after he finished kindergarten. At her youth meetings, she taught my sister and me all the books of the Bible. Every Monday, she taught us our piano lessons. Also, during the construction, the pastor asked Ronnie and me to do clean up work. He offered us a dollar and a half. We accepted. He ended up paying us two dollars.
I would call the diligence the pastor and his wife put into that church second to none. They often got a bus (I guess they rented it, but I'm not sure) and took us neighborhood kids to youth ralleys after which we stopped for hamburgers on the way home. Sometimes, they bused us to a roller skating rink. Once, they drove us all to a Valentine's banquet several hours away. Once, because several of us had participated and won in a local teen talent contest, they got us all to the state competition. They drove several of us to youth camps. That's all in addition to the weiner roasts we all enjoyed, the studying and preparation they did for Sunday worship services and Sunday School, the yard work and building maintenance they had to do, the daily taking care of the family, and the full time jobs they worked.
For one of those jobs, the pastor delivered doughnuts for Krispie Kreme. Ronnie invited me to go along with them on a Saturday. I met them at their house at about five-thirty in the morning, and all day we rode as his dad drove the delivery van from one convenience store to another until the day's work was done. Yup! We munched on a few doughnuts too.
For the next several years, we went through good times and bad. That neighborhood wasn't the friendliest place to be. Its kids could be hell raisers at times. I grew to hate it more and more everyday. My own mom and dad converted to Christianity through the ministry of a different church and we began to go there as a family for Sunday School and Church worship, so we weren't at the church across the street as often. The pastor's wife helped us find a new piano teacher, because of many demands on her time. As it turned out, both our families moved away from that neighborhood at about the same time in 1973.
Some thirty plus years later, Ronnie (now called Ron), the pastor's wife, and I have re-connected.
I'm sure they have different perspectives that could be added to all this.
Monday, March 12, 2012
I was a skinny, sensitive, sissy kid -- not violent, not tough (the girls coud beat me up), scared of snakes and frogs, not very smart, not very bright, walked funny, talked funny, took piano lessons, played (not well though) the flute in the school band, and could sing soprano (well, until I was about thirteen). I loved going to church and feeling as if I was making God happy and, well, as I look at it all retrospectively, feeling I was excelling at (and developing some sense of superiority with) something others my age didn't care much about. Still, I liked playing with hotwheel cars in the dirt, walking in muddy water, playing neighborhood softball, and just trying to get along with everyone. Trying to get along with everybody could backfire, though, when some of the people were fighting (in one way or another) other people in the neighorhood. My hypocrisy was as bad as any. I could be bratty and hurtful, say mean things, pick sides for no other purpose than to save face (and lose face with the other sides), then switch sides later for the same purpose, and make trouble for other people.
Many years later, I finally learned how to sew, and I became a pretty good cook.
Also, many years later, I asked my mother (we were having lunch togeher at Denny's) if she and dad ever thought of me as a "sissy." She said, "No. We sought to support you in areas where you excelled.... Whenever we thought we'd lost you, we knew where we could find you ... on the bench of a piano or an organ (in my own little world) playing songs we sang at church."
Mom took this picture, and I'm sure sure she thought the sight was soooo cute! Digital cameras didn't come along until after another thirty years. To get pictures, you had to send the film away to be processed. I don't know how long you had to wait for them to return, and sometmes not all the pictures you took could be developed into prints. Sometimes the flash worked. Sometimes not. Sometimes the film frame was good. Sometimes not. You just never knew until you got the print back in the mail many days (sometimes weeks) later.
See that apartment building back there? Two floors and a basement made each apartment. We lived in one like it not far from this one.
BTW: From all the walking on it, the snow got packed down so much, it was hard enough to ice skate on. But, in some neighborhoods, people made little ice rinks.
I wanted to wear one of those yellow scarves and blue uniforms just like so many other guys at school did.
See the second picture? Do you remember that moment? I sure do! While all the other cub scouts were swinging their swords at the dragon, I was struggling to get the dang sword out of the sling.
I guess it can be called one of those "Life's a bitch! We win some we lose some. Get over it. Move on!" lessons.
Telling lies, playing with matches, and arriving home late from school (and then lying about it) got me in trouble more than anything else. I hated the whippings I got. Even in retrospect, I view those whippings as having been overbearing. Yet, whippings were par for common parenting in every household I knew. Sometimes, it was with a belt. Sometimes a wooden kitchen spoon. Sometimes, it was one of those "Bolo Paddle" toys -- you know that wooden paddle toy with the rubber ball attached to it with a long rubber string.
A few times, I got a whipping because I was late arriving home from school for lunch. Yea, lunch. In Moose Creek, Alaska, I went to a school that was made up of three trailers each housing two grades taught by one teacher. We all went home for lunch and then returned to finish the school day. Wouldn't you know it? They installed three tetherball poles on the school playground, and boy oh boy did I like to play tetherball, even when I was playing all by myself. That was always more important than lunch. One time, Mom met me at the door with a yard stick in her hand as I was coming in late. Daddy, though, would always wait until bedtime, when I was in my PJ's, you know how thin they can be, to give me about five licks or so (I was crying too much to keep count). God, I hoped he would forget on some nights while we were watching TV. One time, I was near convinced that he did forget, but wouldn't you know it, my sister had to blow it! "Daddy, you going to give Scott his whippin'?" I guess that's what little sisters are for! .
I hated my third grade year at school mainly because I hated the teacher everyday from the getgo. On the first day of school she asked me, "You want another black eye?" I already had one due to a rock thrown at me by a kid on the playground near our apartment. I'll admit I simply was not interested in anything happening in that classroom. I didn't want to do the work. Just let me be! I'll sit at my desk and be in my own little world. But no! She was always on my case. She made us write "I shall have my work completed on time." twenty-five times for every assignment we didn't turn in. She kept count on the chalkboard, and I racked up hundreds. I tried to shorten the sentence to "I will do my work." but she would have none of that. She'd make us stay after school to finish our sentences. I never finished them, cause it was so late. School let out at four o'clock, and sometimes I was there until five-thirty. One time she used that as an example sentence during a spelling test. The word was "afternoon." Her sentence was, "Scott was here until five-thirty yesterday afternoon." All eyes were on me! God, I hated her!
We were living in Alaska on Eielson Air Force Base at the time. The year before, we lived in Moose Creek (I mentioned that above) which was a small village just down the road from the base. Anyway, we did the same go-home-for-lunch routine every school day. Snow started falling before Halloween, so for half of the school year the daily school rhythm was something like this. Get up. Get dressed with underwear covered by thermal shirt, long johns, thick socks on top of regular socks, and finally the regular clothes. Eat breakfast. Brush the teeth. Put lace-up boots on.
Put rubber boots on.
Put coat on.
Put knitted head cover and face mask on.
Put scarf on.
Put gloves on.
Put hood on.
Grab the book bag, and walk to school in the snow and cold wind.
Take off the coat,
Stay at school until lunch time.
Put on rubber boots,
Walk home. Take off the
and rubber boots.
Eat lunch. Put on the
Walk to school. Stay at school until four o'clock (if you didn't have to write sentences or do some other school work). Put on the
Walk home in the snow and cold wind. Take off the
and finally those lace up boots. We called them "Brogans."
Anyway, one day I arrived home late from school. It was after five-thirty. Mom and Dad asked why I was late. I said, "I stayed after school to help the teacher." I guess I didn't want to tell them that I had to write sentences because I hadn't done my school work (Somhow, they already knew I wasn't doing it). Well, Mom wrote me a note to take to the teacher. In it, she asked the teacher if it was true that I stayed after to help her. How did I know what the note said? I opened it and read it. The teacher never saw it. Why? Because I lost it on the way to school. Somehow, Mom managed to connect with the teacher by phone while I was staying after school again a few days later. How did I know that? That teacher came walking in the classroom door (I guess she had been in the office) laughing. "I was just talking with your mother. You're going to bed early for lying. LOL!" God, I hated her! I'm glad there was only a handful of other kids in the room. When I got home (after doing the put on everything and take it all off routine), I must've had that "I've been caught" look on my face. Wouldn't you know it? They (yea, they were both there within sight of the front door) had to ask (just one more time) for the truth. I was already crying before the first lick before bedtime.
On a humorous note, on another evening when I was my dad and I were scheduled to have another whipping session down in the basement (our apartment had three floors counting the basement), I was looking all sad and pitiful at the dinner table. Mom said something like, "Cheer up and maybe your dad will be a little gentle with you this time." Dad asked, "You wanna wait and get your whipping tomorrow?" Of course I said yes (hoping he'd forget about it. He didn't).
It was mostly my mother and father's decision that I repeat the third grade, still I hated that teacher. The following year, I tried to find her so I could tell her so. But, I guess she had moved on.
One day, the next year, I arrived home from school (not late though) to find Daddy vacuuming a cushion he was holding in his hand. It was one of those cushions that formed the seat of a swivel rocking chair. A few days before, I was playing with matches and the paper that I'd set on fire fell on the cushion and burned a few holes in it. Oops! No problem! Just turn the cushion over. Daddy asked me if I did it. I told him no. You can finish the rest of the story.
I will never agree that those whippings were not overbearing, but to be fair, Momma always made us birthday cakes. Daddy always brought presents home to us from his trips out of the country. He was in the US Air Force, so he went to Japan a few times while we lived in Alaska. They came to our school plays, our scout meetings, and found ways to get lots of presents under the Christmas tree each year (in later years Mom talked to me about how she'd go to the thrift store and piece so many occasions together). We went camping together. We went on vacations. We drove, camped, and saw sights all across the USA. They always provided us a home. We had all sorts of pets - dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, ponies, horses, mice, turtles, hamsters, and goats. They bought us our first cars, and gave us all the support we could ever ask for even after we left home well into our adult lives. The whippings stopped after we got so old and so big. But, during that short time of our lives when we were getting them, they HURT!
"How old are you?"
Many of them are vague as can be. For example, I remember great big colored lights on a tree at gramma's house, a house that later burned down (as I recall my gramma telling me.) I can't remember anything else about that. I can't recall that I knew anything about Christmas. It was at that house where I took one of those small white sample tubes of Avon lipstick and colored up and down, pressing hard and going fast as I could upon my lips, chin and under my nose. It was at that house, or rather in it, where (as I recall) my sister fell a few times while walking around in one of those walker-trainer things for toddlers. One more memory about that house is of an incident when I got in trouble. Mom had placed me in a car seat. As she was pulling away from the street curb where the car was parallel parked, I said something like, "Wait! Back!" I think I was mimicking someone who had said the same thing, or something like it, in a similar situation. I also think I was sorta thinking my mom had not placed my little sister in the car yet, so we shouldn't leave yet. Well, whatever I said, it upset mom. She replied, after stopping the car, something like, "What? Why? What's the matter? Hush!" Then, she proceeded with pulling the car out into the street until I said, "Wait! Back!" She told me if I didn't hush, she was going to leave me at home. Well, you guessed it! I didn't hush. I said, "Wait! Back!" one more time. Sure enough! Mom took me out of the car, and left me at home. Yes, I cried!
I wonder if my mom remembers that incident?
Another vague memory I have is of a casket with a striped flag on it being shown on our black and white TV. We were living in Maryland at the time. I can't say for sure, but putting other pieces of information together that I know now, I believe it was the casket of John F. Kennedy.