At the end of a summer pastorate in DeRuyter, New York we returned to Xenia Lee’s home in West Virginia. We had bought a “reconstructed” 1937 Ford that summer, a car of several colors. Our garden had produced abundantly, and we did not want to waste anything. Things that were not canned, we picked and bagged, then built a trailer to haul everything.
We were barely started on the trip when a tire blew out on the trailer. A replacement of that size was not available, so we had to buy a couple of new wheels and tires. Hours were lost.
Then, as we got into the hills and mountains of Pennsylvania, we discovered that the car had a bad clutch, which would slip under load. So we did a lot of shifting to second gear. Late at night we parked along the street in a Pennsylvania town and slept. Early the next morning we were awakened by some young people peering in the window and remarking, “They are asleep.” The rest of the trip was, thankfully, uneventful.
Our summer was spent living in the “cellar house” we had built during college days. Our plans were that I would earn money and go to seminary in Massachusetts in the fall. As it turned out, work was almost non-existent. Those plans were cancelled and we spent the summer gardening, canning vegetables, and using Uncle Oris’workshop to make a baby crib.
Finally, in desperation, I contacted our SDB Publishing House in Plainfield, New Jersey, to see if there was an opening for a Linotype operator, work in which I was experienced. There was, and we promptly moved to Plainfield. Again, we used the homemade trailer. We had managed to buy a low-mileage, like new 1934 Dodge sedan which served us well.
Our home in Plainfield was the upper storey of the parsonage. Wendell Stephan was pastor there at the time. We enjoyed being with them, homefolk from Nortonville. I enjoyed my work at the Publishing House through the fall and winter.
In April or May the following year, we received a call to pastor the Hammond, Louisiana church and to attend seminary at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. It was a delightful trip to Hammond, progressing daily from chilly spring to full fledged Dixie spring. Annita was our only child at that time. Robert and Ruth were born during that pastorate.
The Coalwells, “Aunts” Phoebe and Mabel, Mrs. Severence, the LeBlanc’s, the Raiford’s, Delorene’s, Reba Theilen, the Campbells, Davis’ (?)and others gave us a warm welcome and introduction to Southern life. The “Aunts,” who lived a block away, were very concerned if they heard Annita cry.
John Campbell, an alcohol victim, “adopted” Annita as “My Little Kegoochie.” She became uneasy when he appeared under the influence.
Persus and Earl Deland wanted to be helpful as Robert’s time for birth neared. They “moved in” to be present at the event. When the time came, we left the impression we were making a doctor visit. The parsonage was being re-roofed, so I left Xenia Lee at the hospital and with some kind of excuse came home alone and got up enough courage (maybe as a distraction) to work on the steep roof. When I got news that Robert was born, I think that Persus was displeased at our ruse.
When Ruth was born, Reba Theilen, a lovely young divorcee, cared for Annita and Robert while I was with Xenia Lee in the hospital. Ruth was a contented, happy baby.
Polio was prevalent at the time. At almost a year of age, Robert was stricken. He had been so robust and physically advanced for his age. Suddenly, he could not stand or walk. Our doctor, Wiggins, gave us the chance to state our fears, and he confirmed that was polio. Six months of care at Charity Hospital, a traumatic time for him and for us, followed. When he was finally released, home was strange to him and reorientation was difficult. Annita had an aborted case which did leave her with some problems in her early teens.
I truly enjoyed New Orleans Baptist. The first year there, I usually left very early in the morning to board the Greyhound bus from Hammond to New Orleans. Occasionally I would drive. It was a long, rough ride on the “sevanys road” as far as LaPlace.
Friendship with the Plainfield church members followed us by way of monthly aid toward seminary expenses and medical care. One of my seminary teachers, J. Was (??)Watts, heard of our polio experience. He had been crippled by it in years past, and took a personal interest in our case.
One of my favorite teachers was Dr. J. H. Kennedy, O.T. He was very precise and the model of a Christian gentleman.
My father died in the winter of 1951. It was a sudden, unexpected death. Under duress of grief, family health problems and studies, then pastoring at Oshdill (Athens, Alabama), I was overwhelmed. I tried to continue in seminary, but just could not keep it up. We resigned our pastorate and went back to West Virginia. After weeks of inactivity, I got a job at my favorite work: linotype operator. It proved therapeutic. I worked at the Huntsville Times, Huntsville, Alabama and pastored the SDB church at Oakdale.
We bought a four-room house in Athens, Alabama. It had a good sized lot, which I cleared and gardened. We added two rooms.
We received a call to return to the DeRuyter, New York church. With some reluctance, we left the sunny and pleasant south for the rugged climate of upstate New York. I was complimented by the staff of the Huntsville Times for leaving a comfortable income for the meager income of pastoral ministry.
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