Thursday, June 22, 2006

First Baptist Church

Dora: There is a special bond that is made when people grow up in a small town. There is an even greater bond if you happen to grow up in the largest church in town - First Baptist. I have many memories from that experience. Jan, Nancii, Edie, Dora, B.J., Janet, Gracie and Judy were the girls in "our grade" who attended or skipped church at First Baptist. I can still see the huge banner that went from one end of the choir loft to the other- GIVE MORE TO DO MORE IN 64!. No pics of Jesus by it but the huge sign urging you to give to do more. I never knew to do more what.

The Baptist girls were all high spirited and mischievous with the exception of Janet. She was cut out to marry a preacher way back then. The rest of us were rather high strung. We went through Sunday school teachers and really gave them hell. I can remember Mrs. Emerson stopping the Sunday School lesson because we were talking about what we had done Saturday night. She stopped and said,"I will just shut up and let you girls talk". We said thank you and continued to talk and she cried and left the room. I mean I thought , 'We are going to hell for sure making a Baptist Sunday School teacher cry. Plus I knew my mother would find out about this. The Department leader was a lady by the name of Ms. Vegas. I never knew Mr. Vegas. She lived down the street from the church in a little blue house that looked like a doll house with beautiful flowers. She was a huge woman. Actually at the time she looked the size of the little blue house. She was sneaky about telling on us.

We would skip the opening class before we had to go to the individual Sunday school class. Where would we go? We went to the "little store" to buy candy and purple bubble gum. The store was located west of the church and I believe their name was Crutchfield but not for sure. There were occasions when I would take some of my give more to do more in 64 money from my envelope to buy even more candy. That would really make me feel guilty. Now Mrs. Vegas KNEW we were there because she would see us when we returned to our individual Sunday school class. BUT she would always go to my mother and say How is Dora doing we missed her this morning. I mean why she just didn't say I skipped rather than play the mind game is beyond me. I guess she wanted to appear more like a Christian by not looking like a tattle tale.

As the years passed and we learned how to drive, we went on to bigger and better things. BJ would drive and all of us would skip church and listen to it on the radio in case our parents asked what the sermon was about. We would go to Blue Lake, Wynne or where ever we could go in an hour. With B driving, we could have gone to Alaska as she drove like a Baptist out of Hell! One Sunday we had a flat. Jan was so worried. We were between Wynne and Forrest City. They were about to give the invitation according to the sermon on the radio. Dr. Phillips happened to drive by and stopped and change the flat. Jan and I were saying Please Lord help us get back before church is out and we will never skip again. We were afraid of what our mothers would say. Well not so much what they would say as the look they would give us. We pulled up to the church just as people were walking out the doors. We ran and tried to look like we were coming down the stairs and out with the others - but we were caught. I had to sit with mother in church the next few Sundays and Jan's mother made her sing in the church choir so she would know Jan was there. Those Baptist MUST have told jan she could sing and that is what led to her singing career. Kind of like Whitney Houston!

Next time we talk, I will tell you the stories of the Clarke family and how Phillip would get his tongue stuck in the Lord's Supper glasses. Till then have a good life!

Lin Turner: Miss Vadis was indeed gargantuan in size. When my parents were traveling, I stayed at her little blue house for weeks at a time. She had the first color television in FC prominently placed in the living room. I dreaded Sunday's when I was in her care because it meant going to the Baptist Church and being there all day long, or so it seemed, and then not being allowed to go out and play in the afternoon because,"we set aside the cares of the world and rest on the Lord's Day." Her idea of rest meant learning Bible verses, which was unpleasantly foreign to a heathen little Presbyterian. There was an upside to being in that house on Sundays though: Miss Vadis made homemade donuts every Sunday morning. I can still taste them today. Her donuts gave Mr. Faupel's donuts a real run for the money. There was a Mr. Vadis, in reality he was named Paul Isbell. On Sundays he holed up in his workshop doing woodwork and smoking cigarettes. Mr. Paul was a sweet natured man with depressive tendencies. As nice as the day is long, he might be called a no show since he was totally overshadowed by Miss Vadis.

Sherri Merrill: Before my parents built our house just west of town, we leased the house just down the street from Miss Vadis. She was the sweetest lady in the world, with a great sense of humor. Had the most beautiful creeping phlox I've ever seen. Every two years she would change her house from blue with white trim to white with blue trim. I never stole any of her flowers.

Anonymous: That's not what I heard :)

Maribeth Chism: I remember the highlight of Sunday School( I was Baptist,too) was when Miss Vadis would bend over and we would giggle because we could see her hose held up by the elastic garters and her legs!! Drew Woods would try not to laugh, because he was kin to her (he probably had done something else to be in trouble anyway).

B.J. said... Okay, we Baptists did do some driving on Sunday mornings in Daddy's Ford Fairlane 500. It even had "stereo" radio. I don't know how it worked, but every time we sailed over a bump on one of those gravel back roads headed back to church, there was a loud, stereophonic "clang" underneath the back speaker. Sally had the fast car, though. I'm sure we still hold the record for making the trip back from Helena to Forrest City in 28 minutes in her beautiful blue T-Bird with the portholes. Or, was that Dudly's car? Nevermind! 6/28/06
P.S. Sally, I'm sure Dudley musts have known by all the gas that was missing anyway.

Bogie said...
First Baptist was my church home from the time my family moved to FC right up to when I moved away to go to college. I remember Rev. T.K. Rucker and his family. He baptized me when I was 11 but was called to a church in LR when I was in high school. Rev. Sam Gash took the helm then and was there until after I married. I was supposed to be married at First Baptist, but like so many of us who are 20 going on 60 and knowing all there is to know about life my chosen and I eloped to Alabama to avoid the high cost of the wedding. Actually, we were so much in lust we didn't want to wait for the large wedding! Oh well. 7/8/06

First Baptist Church 2

Butch Ford: I have many memories of First Baptist Church. It was and is my family's home church. The original structure was on Washington, across the street from the Post Office. The building was sold to AP&L.
One of my earliest memories was of Walter Ferguson jumping up at the beginning of a service and shouting, "Yonder's Brother Ricker!" Walter was probably about two years old. He broke up the place. Brother Ricker's real name was Rucker, the new pastor.

After the congregation committed to building a new church building at its present location, I remember going to an outdoor revival with wooden benches on the empty lot where the church would be built. They hung strings of lights across the area. It looked like a used car lot. Angel Martinez was the evangelist. He wore a white suit and played a trumpet as part of his ministry.

Several years later, the church bosses invited a bunch of us to come to the sanctuary with our BB guns to shoot birds that had nested in the partially completed structure. Of course this was before the stained glass windows had been installed.The birds would buzz the congregation during the services and leave offerings for their trouble.

I remember a bunch of us were playing tag around the church during some mid-week event. With Doug Rucker or maybe Booger Montgomery close on my heels, I ran through the choir room which was up behind the choir loft and had doors on both sides of the Baptistry. I jumped down through the Baptistry which had four or five steps on both ends. I took one step and leaped out into the middle of the Baptistry. No problem, except that about a foot of water remained in the bottom. I had a hard time explaining how both shoes were soaked and my pants were wet up to the knees.

When we reached driving age, after Sunday School, some of us would go over to the little store and wait until church started. Then, we would take one of our parents' cars and ride around. Of course we would listen to KXJK as it broadcast the services "live from First Baptist Church." We would make a dash for the church when the invitational hymn started. We would park and walk up to the front steps and hang around, looking like we were just the first ones out of the church. That worked really well until a late arriver to church got my parking place. Dad came out and looked puzzled when his car was parked three spaces away from his usual spot. He never said a word.

Arne Thompson and I tried the quick dash to Wynne a couple of times. We almost T-Boned a huge German Shepherd just south of Colt. The invitational was about to start and his parents' 56 Ford was topped out. That stupid dog froze in the middle of the highway. As we skidded past him sideways, I looked him right in the eye from my vantage point on the front, passenger-side floor. We made it before the third stanza and never tried it again. Oh yes, we did go to church some, too.

Paul said...Now Butch, that account was truly funny. I always thought that Walter Ferguson COULD have become a TeleEvangelist if he had been so inclined - as it seems that he had the "vision and voice" gifts at an early age!I am beginning to wonder if adolescent Baptists in FC ever really attended church services?!
Wed Jul 26, 10:21:03 PM 2006
B.J. said... Paul,I can attest that we did in fact sometimes attend church. I can remember one Sunday when the kids in the balcony became so loud that Brother Gash stopped his prepared sermon and preached a whole sermon on the balcony. We all sat stonefaced when we realized the the entire church was focused on us.
Thu Jul 27, 11:02:15 AM 2006
Dora said... Bj, I can remember Al Harris mother passing me a note in church in the balcony. It was a Bible verse. When I got home and looked it up, it was about a time to be quiet! I use to put purple bubble gum in the offering plate for Dutch Meredith to get as it came back to him. Everytime I would see him, he would ask for purple bubble gum. I remember Brother Gash also doing that! Mother did not ask IF I was talking, she said Dora was he talking to you! I had to sit with her once again for about three Sundays. I had one sweet mother!
Thu Jul 27, 06:47:18 PM 2006
Paul said... The Balcony in the Methodist Church was a bit rowdy too. I would read novels and magazines that I got from a quick trip to the Broadway Drug Store between Sunday School and church. I remember several times when someone (you know who you are J & B)would crack a joke and we would all have to bite our cheeks to keep from laughing out loud. Unfortunately, the cheek-biting didn't work too well ...and we ended up making snorting sounds. I guess the congregation thought we had colds, since we never got passed a note with a Bible verse like in the Baptist Church. I remember one Communion Sunday when one of our group (who would later become a doctor) put fizzies in the Communion grape juice. Just thinking about that still makes me laugh and snort. Actually I don't remember the preacher or any of the church elders reacting at all. It was such a totally unthinkable and blasphemous act, that they were completely stunned and paralyzed.
Fri Jul 28, 07:50:34 AM 2006
Nan said... Many of us went to Campbell's store to load up on candy and gum during services at the First Baptist Church before we took off in a parents car for a spin. The Campbell's never told on us but they knew what we were up to. Good people. Once I had a wreck in my parents car with Judy Ferguson Smith when we were joy riding during church and the police had to walk down the aisle and tell my Dad, James Montgomery in the middle of church that I had a wreck. I did some fast talking to get out of that one. We always listened to the end of the sermon on the radio so we could tell our parents what it was about if the asked and they would ask. Surprised I was not killed my Daddy for that one.
Mon Aug 21, 12:46:26 AM 2006

Nan said... I think every age followed suit in skipping church at the First Baptist and going to Campbell's grocery store and loading up on candy and gum before heading off in one of our parents cars. Usually mine. Once Judy Ferguson Smith and I were joy riding during church and I had a wreck. The police had to go into the church during the service and get my Dad, James Montgomery, and tell him I had a wreck when he thought I was sitting in church. I did some fast talking. I am surprised Daddy did not kill me for this one. We also listened to KXJK to catch the end of the sermon so we would know what it was about in case our parents asked and they did ask. God bless them, they tried.
Mon Aug 21, 01:01:49 AM 2006

Bogie said: Aug 24, 2006: Hey you guys--------what gives with all this "skipping church"?? We of the more "meek" generations stayed for church and happily so!! (Yea right, and I have a bridge)! No, seriously, my Mom sat about mid-way on the left side. All us kids sat in the rear center. I think that's the way it's always been. Passing notes, jokes, and telephone numbers was really bad behavior when I was a kid! We even wrote notes in my Bible! Holy cow--that would get you grounded for the rest of the week! No picture show that Sunday afternoon! If you were lucky enough to be dating someone of the same religious convictions, you got to sit together--that was frowned on by most adults of the day--my Mom did bear up under the pressure though. I was dating a guy whose parents practically started that church and was in no way about to cause them or my parents any embarassment! (Not to mention all the punishment that I would be awarded with!) Besides, we didn't have a car to "ride around" in! My friends and I walked everywhere we went in FC. You couldn't any more get in it, start it up, and go without having to stop and get out only seconds later! FC wasn't exactly the cruise capitol of Eastern Arkansas!! A lot of the time on Sunday morning my Mom would drive me to Sunday School and home from Church, but some days I would walk and go by my friends house and we would walk together. But skip church? Not on your life--if I was supposed to be there--I was there!! Talk about a sheltered life!!

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