Edgar goes to Seminary
We moved to Hammond in May, and Mom and Dad let Edna Ruth spend the summer with us. She returned home on the train in August. How good it was to have her there to help with Annita that summer. She went to South Eastern Youth Camp in Arkansas and that was a special treat for her.
Edgar and I chose a family doctor who had attached his private hospital to his office. I had told him my experience with Annita and he assured me he would be there for me and he was. With Annita my doctor had gone on vacation. Annita came early and I had to take whoever was on call at the time. Also, because she was early, I began to plan early, then Robert arrived two weeks after my due date. That seemed like a long wait to us.
Edna Ruth was in church youth camp and DeLands were staying with us a few days while the men put a new roof on the parsonage. I had a doctor check-up at 7:30 a.m., August 5, so Edgar and Annita drove me to my appointment. I had begun labor during the night so did not eat breakfast before we went. I figured I’d be in labor all day, at least, so I insisted Edgar go home, say nothing, help with the parsonage roof and come back at noon to stay with me. I was sure people would know I was in the hospital plenty long enough before this baby was born then. When Edgar got to the hospital Robert Edgar had just arrived. How excited we both were. We had a girl and a boy – a perfect start to our family. Edgar spread the happy news and I had many visitors. In five days I was able to come home in our car from the hospital. This was improvement, also.
The parsonage roof was put on and campers were home that day from camp. The five DeLands went back to New Orleans and we were a family at home. Edna Ruth was a great help the next week or two before she had to leave for home and school. It was so special having her with us all summer.
Robert grew like a weed. Annita adored him and kept him entertained for me. However, evenings he would cry from his 5:00 feeding to the 8:00 feeding, no matter what we did. Church members who lived close by often came over to try their touch at calming him. Feeding him every three hours and putting him to bed after his 8:00 feeding worked, for he soon slept all night until 5:00 a.m. We usually got up about then so that worked great.
When Robert learned to stand, he no longer wanted to sit in church. His morning nap was church time, so I took the carriage to church and he slept in it during the sermon, usually. We had theatre seats in church that folded so he could not lay on them. One Sabbath I was not watching closely enough and Robert had awakened, sat up, then stood and reached for the carriage handle bar, turning the carriage on its nose with a big commotion, then began screaming, of course. Another Sabbath, he insisted on standing on the open seat beside me as he held onto the back of the chair. Suddenly the seat folded with a bang, and Robert’s feet slid through. I tried to keep him calm and work his feet out but they were there to stay. Edgar was in the middle of his sermon, distracted with what was going on with his family. Suddenly Robert realized he was stuck to the seat and began to cry. Edgar announced a song while he and another man pulled the seat apart to release Robert’s feet. Edgar went back, picked up where he left off and finished the worship service. Such is the life of the Pastor’s family.
The summer Robert would turn one, we had Vacation Bible School in Hammond soon after school was out, then went to Metairie to housing developments near our church families that lived there. They helped us and we had Bible Schools in two residential developments with good attendance. The week we went back to Hammond, Annita got very ill with flu-like symptoms and it became very difficult for her to breathe at all. The doctor said I was crazy to take our kids into the developments: I deserved to have sick kids. One night we were not sure she would be able to keep breathing. Suddenly she took a deep breath and her breathing was back. How we thanked God for His goodness and ever presence. Not many days later Robert got sick. He was not nearly as ill and seemed to get better fast. Edgar suffered with a lot of muscle cramps and pain two or three days. Just did not feel good. Fortunately I did not get whatever it was, four months pregnant with our new baby.
All seemed to be okay by the weekend. The next week Edgar was directing Southeastern Church Camp in Metarie. He did not want to leave the family alone, seventy-five miles away, so arranged for me to help the camp cook. I always enjoyed cooking and it was nice to help in camp.
Southern Baptist Seminary had bought land in Gentilly and were moving its crowded campus. The student housing apartments were to be ready for occupancy by time for school to begin, so Edgar signed up for one. Knowing we’d be in New Orleans when it was time to welcome our new baby, I began going to a prenatal clinic at Women’s and Babies’ Hospital. My doctor was Dr. Blood. I loved her. She was pregnant with her first baby – twins, it turned out. Our babies were due close together, which was exciting. When I had a check-up, we stayed in Metairie after our Sabbath afternoon worship service in the Coalwell home. Edgar made calls in the area Sundays and then we traveled back home after my check-up on Monday. I was doing better this pregnancy.
My next check-up was during camp. Robert was very fussy during the night before and the morning of my doctor visit. He screamed with pain, but would seem to calm down if I laid him across my lap with his head hanging off my leg. He could almost go to sleep that way and maybe he did during the night. When babies are sick and obviously in pain, but cannot tell you where they hurt, it is really hard on everyone. I rocked Robert a lot that night and the next morning. I put Robert down and he walked off to play while I helped with breakfast. Robert was walking by the time he was nine months. He came to me again crying with his arms raised so again I began to rock him. When I finally put him down so I could prepare to go to the doctor, his legs were useless. I tried again. It was obvious he was not making them useless because he did not want down. Robert really could not put any weight on his legs. Edgar had another man take over as camp director and we left with Robert to see my doctor. I was fine, so she checked Robert and thought we should take him to Charity Hospital Emergency Room, which we did. The doctor there, after examining him, asked what we thought might be wrong with him. “We were afraid it might be infantile paralysis,” we answered. He looked at us and said, “It is polio.”
There was a polio hospital in the Charity Hospital complex. We were sent there to have Robert admitted. This was unreal and we were scared! In shock! Once in the PolioCenter I was asked to come into the office to answer some questions while Edgar took Robert to get him settled in his room. We followed orders! We were told there was a two week quarantine for new patients so we could not come to the hospital again for two weeks. Visiting hours were two hours on Sunday afternoon and again on Wednesday afternoon or evening. However any hour of the day or night we were welcome to call and inquire about him. Robert had never been away from us day or night since he was born. Two weeks seemed like an eternity. We left the hospital asking God to comfort Robert, to watch over him, prompting someone to love him and fill his special needs for us. “Pray without ceasing” became a reality and we grew closer to the Lord through this experience.
When we got back to camp and reported that Robert had polio the staff convened to consider whether they should close camp and send campers home. Parents were called and all wanted us to finish camp week, which we did. Betty Butler, now Pearson, was in camp, and she was the only camper to come to us and say how very sorry she was that Robert had polio. We learned later that a staff member asked the campers to not say anything to us about Robert. This began our long vigil – six months!
There was a terrible epidemic of polio that year and no one knew what caused it so people shunned places it might be. Our whole town, of course, knew our son was paralyzed with polio. We would see people walking down the sidewalk on our side, cross to the other side before they got to our home, then cross back again beyond our home. We understood. We could not feel bad about it or hurt.
The only hospital in all of Louisiana that would take a polio victim was the Polio Center in Charity Hospital. Charity was just that. There were no charges but we found you also had no rights. Two weeks is a long, long time night and day to wonder how your baby is and if someone is taking loving care of him like you want. We never knew the name of Robert’s doctor nor did we ever see a nurse. Only aides were available on visiting hours. They never knew anything: “we’re sorry.” We were, also.
Even though it was a long distance call, Edgar encouraged me to call the number they gave me. I did. I could hear babies crying and wailing in the background all the time I talked. I asked how Robert was doing and visited a little. I hung up and bawled. I did not believe one word that person said. It was all “canned” statements and not convincing. I was worse off when I called than when I just prayed and trusted. I did not believe they were being honest, anyway. I never called again.
Finally the day came when we could visit. We staid overnight with a church family Sabbath, after services. We were lined up outside the PolioCenter half an hour before we could get in the locked doors. We met and visited with other parents. There were eighteen babies in the large room Robert was in with the “under a year” babies. Cribs were lined up just so you could walk around them. We were glad to see Robert and he was so glad to see us. His pajama top had ribbons attached to the shoulders and these were tied to the crib sides so he could not turn over. If he was sitting up when we got there, those ribbons were tied to the top of the side rails to anchor him. First thing we always did was untie him and take him out of the crib while we were there. We took turns holding him and we played with him with toys we had taken after the first visit. Those two hours were soon gone and we were told to leave and the front doors were again locked.
Before long, we saw an article in our paper saying they needed volunteers to train to work in a local “Field Emergency Polio Center.” The Supervisor of Nursing at the PolioCenter would be teaching the six week course three days a week. A church woman and I signed up and were accepted. We rode the Greyhound Bus to the County Seat, Amit, Louisiana, where the class was taught.
I said nothing in our classes about knowing anything personally about polio. Our teacher began teaching with background knowledge they do have about infantile paralysis, research that is being done today and progress in discovering what causes it. Polio was a mystery and therefore the word was frightening.
For whatever reason, we were facing a real crisis. We had an epidemic this summer of polio, not only in children, but many adults were coming down with it and, “Our only Polio Hospital in Louisiana is over-crowded already,” she said. They were preparing to open “Field Polio Centers” in several areas of the state and we were being prepared to work in them.
Yes, I had taken “Home Nursing” courses in High School and they were very helpful through the years. I did enjoy nursing the ill, but secretly, I took this course in order to hopefully find out why Robert was kept in the hospital week after week and what and how they were working with him to help him recover. I wanted to be informed and able to care for him when we brought him home. I wanted to know what kind of care he was having today so I said nothing about Robert’s being in the PolioCenter now, one of those epidemic victims.
We hardly had a class that the instructor did not come down hard on the parents of children in the hospital now. Nurses were overworked and it was hard to get children cleaned up and ready for parents to visit. Parents brought and left toys that could choke or injure a child, they did not obey rules about giving their children things. She obviously had no use for parents. They were all in one category as far as she was concerned and they might close visiting hours completely since parents will not cooperate. We heard this in some form in every session, probably. I was glad she didn’t know I was one of those “parents” she loathed. We finished classes and I was ready to help Robert when we got him home. I also had a certificate of graduation and would be called if they opened a Field Hospital here. I never got the call but the class had prepared me for the telegram we received not long after. “The PolioCenter has been closed to visitors temporarily. We will notify you when you can see your child again.”
God is good. He had prepared me for this trauma. I felt like I “knew” why this had been done. We were saved from anxiety that Robert’s health was worse or something like that. “Pray without ceasing.” Yes, this is possible. I had learned to live and breathe communion with my Lord and Savior. Annita continued putting Robert’s dishes on his high chair every single meal. He was always with us in thought and on our tongues around the table at meal time.
One long week went by, then two, then three and four with no second telegram. When we were allowed visits, parents got to know each other as we waited and visited together outside until the doors were unlocked. In the grocery store one day, I saw another “parent” and I said to her, “When do you think we will ever get a telegram saying we can visit our children again?” She looked at me and said, “What are you talking about?” I explained. They had not received that telegram and visited their child every week. Now I was the one left wondering what was going on.
Edgar and I talked and prayed and planned to go to the Polio Center the next visiting day. We did walk in with the many parents waiting there. We knew very few of them. “Strange,” we thought. Looking around, we did not see Robert. Then I began to cry. It had been so long maybe we did not know him. We continued to look. We did not see any of the babies who had been in that big room with Robert or any of their parents. Very strange!! Finally we found a nurse and began asking questions. She finally looked at the records of patients to tell us where to find Robert. After an eternity she said, “He is not here. We have no record of him.” We were insistent. “We know he is here. We brought him here, we visited him here for over two months until we received a telegram saying visiting was closed temporarily and we would be notified when parents can visit again.” She listened and was sorry. Since we were insistent, she said we were welcome to look around and see if we could find him. Again I began to cry. Finally she said, “You could go to the main Hospital Administration office. They have records of who is in every center.” We went to the main office very confused and anxious by now and repeated our sob story. The lady there began looking but said, “No, he is not in the PolioCenter.” We already knew that. We were still insistent. She looked further and suddenly said, “Oh, a month or so ago some of the babies there got infectious diarrhea and some died. They moved them all to the InfectiousCenter. I will look at those records.” Sure enough, she found our baby and we were escorted to that building. On the way she said the records showed that over two weeks ago parents were to be informed they could visit again. Someone did not follow doctor’s orders.
We found Robert, finally, and he had lost so much weight we were shocked and wanted to take him right home with us then. We were told that if we took him out of the hospital before he was released, they would not accept him back again and no hospital in the state will take a polio victim. We could not take that chance so left him there. He was never moved back to the PolioCenter because it was so crowded. How we thanked God for His mercy and healing Robert of the diarrhea. We learned some of the babies had indeed died. Several, evidently. We prayed for comfort for those parents. God has been so good to us and our baby.
Seminary began and we moved our family into the apartments on the new campus site. Was easier now to visit Robert every visiting day, which one or both of us did. Edgar rode city buses and streetcars to the old campus across town for his classes. I typed at home for students so earned a little money. The PlainfieldChurch took us on as a “mission project.” We received a love check monthly from them and a “Care” package of goodies often. They had a local market deliver us a Thanksgiving and a Christmas food basket. We owe the parishioners there so very much. We often had encouraging letters and notes from brothers and sisters there. God is so good.
Thanksgiving eve (our meal was ready to go into the oven next morning) and I prepared for bed, but before I got into bed I began to ooze fluid so knew our baby was preparing to be born. I had had daily contractions for two months and the doctor said that week to come right to the Hospital if I had any signs delivery was close. We took Annita to a Church family to sleep over and went to the hospital. Ruth was born during the night Thanksgiving morning. We truly had a Thanksgiving Day. Again we realized how very much God had blessed us. Ruth was a good, healthy baby. She ate and slept for the most part those first weeks. No colicky crying times. That was a new experience for us after Annita and Robert.
In early December we had another telegram from the Hospital. It said, “You can take Robert home for the day Christmas and bring him back the day after if you want to.” We were excited, but then remembered Robert does not even know us now and it would just be added trauma for him and trauma for us taking him back. We told them we did not want to bring him home just for the day.
The next week before Christmas we received another telegram saying, “Due to your child’s condition, he cannot go home for the day Christmas.” What had happened? We had not planned to bring him home, anyway. More trauma.
The day before Christmas, we received a third telegram saying, “If you can be at the hospital before 3:00 p.m. Christmas Eve, your child can go home to stay.” En route to the hospital we bought clothes we thought Robert could wear. Other parents were already there. Each had received both telegrams, too. Did someone think that was a funny joke? I did not think it was funny. Ruth was exactly four weeks old when we finally brought Robert home to stay. Finally, all our family could really celebrate Christmas together.
Robert just sat in my lap, obviously scared, and we sang to him all the way as we drove home to our apartment. Robert had not known darkness so we left a small light on all night. Robert still cried a lot and when he was not crying we could tell he was crying inside. After Christmas Day we decided we should move back to the Parsonage before neighbors in the apartments began to complain about Robert crying. We also did not want Robert to be moved to a strange place again when we finally moved back, so again Edgar traveled by bus to seminary on Tuesday and back on Friday.
We had no instructions at all when we left the hospital about Robert’s care. Just a time to take him to the doctor. I was so thankful I had had the polio nursing course. It helped me to set up a schedule for Robert’s therapy each day. We decided to try the Sister Kenny wet heat therapy. Obviously whatever they were doing in the hospital did not help him begin to move his legs again. For half an hour three times a day, we rung towels out of as hot water as we could stand and kept hot towels on his legs, then did fun exercises with him to move the muscles in his legs, all the while saying what we were doing aloud, hoping his brain waves would begin to get the message to his legs.
How thankful we were that Ruth was so good. Annita gave Ruth lots of attention whenever she was awake that really helped, too.
In the spring, Edgar had a call to serve the Oakdale S.D.B. Church. That church body met near Athens, Alabama. He did accept that call and we moved after school was out. The church agreed to let him move back on campus to finish his seminary training and come to serve the church one weekend a month. His seminary classes were Tuesday through Friday, so it worked out all right.
The parsonage at Athens was in the country and a church member gave us a good milking cow for the summer. They also had a garden planted for us. We were all soon right at home there. That summer Mom and Dad came to visit. Merlin, Juanita and Carol also came for a few days. These visits were special. Ted and Bea Hibbard and their family stopped overnight as they moved from Alfred, New York, where Ted finished seminary, to Hammond-Metarie Churches as their new pastor. That was special having them there. They were special friends when we were in Alfred. They had six children so our children enjoyed them also.
Our cow pastured in our next farm neighbor’s pasture with his cows, so I, or Edgar if he was home, led her home morning and evening to milk. Annita, again, was my good, faithful “little mother.” She kept the children when I was milking in the yard where I could see them playing. The hardest time was the LONG week when Edgar was at church camp with our youth and I had to milk morning and night then. This was the week Mom and Dad came for part of the week. What a blessing that was to have them there. A church member gave us an Airedale dog. She was wherever the children were. That summer Robert learned to crawl really fast. He could keep up with Annita crawling. One day I heard Princess yipping loud and went to look. Robert was near the road and she would grab hold of his pants, then let loose long enough to call to me, then grab Robert again. We had no yard fence, so I began going outdoors also when the children were in the yard. That was a good lesson I learned without someone getting hurt, thankfully.
We continued hot water therapy with Robert, but only twice a day now. We were thankful to have him crawling. He even learned to climb out of his crib without falling onto the floor. Whenever he did this, he always crawled to me, wherever I was, beaming with pride because he got out.
Ruth was her happy self and before summer was over she was crawling with Robert. Annita was wherever they were.
That summer, we became really spoiled with all the milk we could drink, all the butter we could use and good buttermilk. All too soon it was near time to go back to Seminary.
We pulled a trailer with our furniture in it. We got into Athens and stopped to service our car. When Edgar started again, the rear axle broke and we were stuck. Thankfully we were close to church members, so we had a place to stay with Uncle George Bottoms’ parents while George and Edgar found someone who would weld the axle on Sunday. Took most of the day and we were on our way again. Seminary basic class requirements were completed, so Edgar was taking electives to get the hours he needed. He really enjoyed the first semester. I enjoyed typing for students. Again the PlainfieldChurch made our family their mission project. What a blessing that was! They sent monthly goodie boxes as well as a check each month. Wendell was still Pastor and, I am sure, encouraged them. He and Audrey through the years our children were growing up continued to buy our children each Christmas gifts and high school graduation outfits for boys and girls. Audrey also took Edgar and me shopping once a year when we lived in Ashaway. We learned to be thankful “receivers,” always appreciative of their thoughtfulness and generosity beyond what we deserved. We determined to live out our gratitude, also, by helping others whenever we could. It was a joy to fill needs of those around us.
I remember one Christmas when our children bought and made Christmas gifts for a neighbor family who were having hard times and had children the ages of some of our children. The children took wrapped gifts to their home Christmas Eve after dark, placed the gifts around the door, rang the doorbell and quickly hid in nearby shrubs until the parents gathered the gifts and went back inside the house; then they then ran home so excited. After that, they always “played Santa” to someone. That and going Christmas caroling were traditions at Christmas through the years.
All too soon the semester at seminary was over. Sometimes Edgar traveled by bus, sometimes by train, and at least once had a ride with other students who were traveling on beyond Paint Rock. Good fellowship as he traveled.
When Christmas vacation arrived, we all drove to Paint Rock. George Bottoms’ parents had sold their farm at Athens and moved back to Battle Creek, Michigan, and the Orland Sutton family had sold their farm and moved on beyond Paint Rock to Sand Mountain. Now our membership were mostly close Paint Rock, where the Butler family lived, so they were trying to build attendance for worship in the Butler home in the beginning.
Christmas vacation, the church scheduled a week of Evangelistic services with Edgar preaching, so Edgar really had very little “vacation.” Then in the middle of the week Edgar came down with flu and was very ill two days. He had a guest speaker those nights. Attendance was good all week. Some people continued to worship with others in the Butler home until they rented a building and later built a church building in memory of a son they lost in World War II.
Vacation was over all too soon and we returned to seminary for Edgar’s last semester work. Annita, then Robert, and then Ruth came down with chicken pox right after we returned to seminary. Later, we heard that one of the Butler children got sick the day we left. Early January Edgar was up all night putting finishing touches on his term paper and retyping it. I fixed his lunch, fixed breakfast, then typed while he ate, showered and dressed for class. I finished just in time for him to leave for class. Then that evening, about dusk, a telegram arrived saying that Edgar’s father died suddenly during the day. Edgar had to go alone to Kansas, so he flew, then returned on the train. He was sick when he got home and continued not feeling well all semester. Was a very difficult semester and he was glad he was only taking electives. He continued making passing grades but not as good as before.
In April, Edgar felt that he needed to quit school. We stored our furniture in Paint Rock, hoping to return and moved home with Mom and Dad, Rex and Beth for six months while Edgar got back on his feet. He had a good Osteopathic physician there who treated him weekly and helped him get a job as Assistant Director of the State Boy Scout camps. Being outdoors, busy with people, and enjoying interacting with the boys did him wonders and he regained health and energy.
July 20, actually the 19th, I called the camp and had Edgar come home. Richard Lee was born the next day with no problems in the OsteopathicHospital in Clarksburg. Again we welcomed home a healthy, happy baby. Richard, too, nursed then slept mostly the first few weeks. The second big excitement that summer was that Robert was finally walking, but he had big trouble going up and down the banks so hHHis doctor put him in braces, which were attached to his shoes and helped him keep his balance. How very proud Robert was to take steps by himself. We were just as proud of him.
Beth and Rex were such good help with all the kids that summer. Our family lived in the “cellar house” again, which we enjoyed. Was a blessing to be close to Mom and Dad, Rex and Beth. Neighbors gave me a baby shower.
Mae and Harry Lewis were married soon after we arrived home, so I was able to help with the reception at the house after the wedding. Mae and Harry graduated from college in May and they moved to Illinois where Harry had a teaching job. At the wedding we met Don Richards, Edna Ruth’s boyfriend.
Finally, Scout Camps were over and Edgar was home again to stay. By September he had gotten a linotype job in Scottsboro, Alabama weekly paper. We moved back and lived on SandMountain overlooking Scottsboro. Our lawn was “sand” and while the children loved it, I grew tired of it. Sand was everywhere inside as well as outside. I finally took up our living room carpet before sand ruined it.
Edgar needed other work because this job was not stable. He applied and got work as a linotype operator at the Huntsville Times, a daily newspaper. This job he loved and we bought us a new home in Athens, Alabama and moved in when the home was finished. Our home was on a dead end street – the last one. Robert continued to crawl if he fell. He could get there faster. Annita continued to be “little mother” to Ruth and Robert much of the time. All three loved to hold Richard.
We lived in Athens three years traveling to Paint Rock early every Sabbath Day. Ralph Soper, Minor Soper’s father, was Pastor in Paint Rock and their new church building was finally ready to worship in it. Some community people attended regularly and many traveled some distance to church. We all brought food to share and had a “pot luck,” usually in the Senior Butler’s home. More space there. Bob and Grace and family lived next door to his parents on the home estate. Their children and our children were best friends. Many were the good visits we had in their home and they in ours.
Edgar received a call to go back to DeRuyter as full time pastor. He accepted the call. We were eager to get back into full time pastoral service again but we had much to do in preparation. Our home had to be sold. We had bought a home, three rooms, bath and kitchen, then built onto it two rooms and a garage before Helen was born on September 24, 1952. Grandma Wheeler came to stay three weeks, and how nice it was to have her with us.
Robert had his first muscle transplant surgery the week Helen arrived. Grandma stayed until he could come home. Robert was in Birmingham, Alabama for his surgery and Grandma staid there until he could come home. He was in the hospital two days. Came home the third day, then we had to take him back to the doctor the next week and they put him in a leg cast for several weeks to let the muscle begin to attach to the bone in the foot. This surgery was to help Robert pull his right foot around pointing straight ahead when he took each step. Although Robert was able to walk, his right foot and leg did not grow like the left which came back strong. His right leg was always weaker. Robert never let that stop him. Whatever Annita, Ruth and Richard did, Robert did through the years: play ball, climb trees, whatever. He tried anything and most things he mastered. We were proud of him.
Our home sold right away. The Paint Rock church had no pastor then and they offered us the Parsonage, asking Edgar to be summer pastor until we left to go to DeRuyter. This we did, and Edgar continued to work at the Huntsville Times part time until we left in July or August. Before we left, we had ten days of hot weather that did not get down below 90 degrees through the night. Edgar had made a window fan in Louisiana and it made it so we could all sleep at night with air blowing on us. We were ready for cooler days.
Links to my site:
Home Page https://bibleartists.wordpress.com/