Edgar worked the night after Sabbath until the Sunday paper went to press, after 1:00 a.m. We planned to leave early Sunday morning, getting to Grandpa and Grandma Randolph’s in time for breakfast. Someone at the Times was going to drive our pickup truck with our things in it to DeRuyter for us. We were ready to leave in the morning and Edgar said, “Honey, you are going to have to drive the car. I will drive the truck and you follow me. You’ll get along good.” I had had a driver’s permit twice and driven quite a bit but never felt confident enough to even take the test. I remember I did go to Clarksburg once to take my test while still living in West Virginia and practicing parallel parking before we got to the Police Station. While parking a woman hit and dented a fender, so I went back home instead of taking the test. I had a permit while living in Alabama, but again I did not take the test. I did not feel confident enough. I just did not want to drive badly enough, probably. Because Edgar was away a week at a time for camp or Conference, he wanted to know I could drive if I needed to do so.
I did not have time to worry then about driving, and my mind was soon occupied with following Edgar on the highway. Some of the children rode with me and some with Edgar. Helen was almost a year old, so I took the girls and Edgar the proud boys. They were so excited riding in the truck. I got along fine on the regular highway. When we got into Chattanooga, two or three lanes of traffic were going each direction. That was scary but I had no problem. Then we came to a detour with Police directing traffic. Edgar was stopped. He talked to the policeman and told him his wife was following him in our car. I sat behind him thinking, “That policeman will be able to tell I have no license to drive. We are in trouble now!” He waved Edgar on and me to follow without stopping me. Big relief! We got to Grandpa and Grandma’s. They were living with Aunt Avis and Uncle Archie and LeMoyne, who never married. I was ready to stop and rest an hour or so.
During breakfast I said, “I’d like to be able to close my eyes and be up home.” We planned to be at Mom and Dad’s to sleep that night. Grandpa quickly said, “You had better not try that or you may be. That reminder jarred me wide awake and kept me that way through the day. Was a long day with no super highways like today. We traveled the two lane highways and it was constantly winding up and down the mountains. We were all glad for each stop we made at parks along the way to visit, relax, run and exercise as well as eat and drink food we brought along. Finally, we pulled into Mom and Dad’s driveway, thanking God for his protection and care throughout the trip, keeping me alert and able to drive safely all that way. That night when I went to bed my mind was still going around curves that ended with yet another curve in the opposite direction! We know how to appreciate the Interstate Highways through the mountains today.
Alois was due home from Korea the next day. I asked Mom and Dad if they thought he would be glad to drive our truck to DeRuyter. If so, we would leave the truck and all go on in our car, hopefully. I felt God protected me and others as I drove this far, but I did not “have” to drive any further if Alois could. Mom and Dad thought Alois would be glad to make the trip. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and thanksgiving.
Remember I said temperatures had not been as low as 90 degrees at night for ten days. We felt cooler air as we drove north all day. How good that felt. What good sleeping temperature in West Virginia. Next day we traveled on to DeRuyter and to even cooler temperatures. We had no clothes with us for cooler air. They were all in the truck. Church members thoughtfully brought in sweaters or jackets for all of us. It was wonderful to be back in DeRuyter where we had been during that summer while in Seminary in Alfred, New York.
This was a busy and good pastorate. Churches in the community joined in special services Christmas and Easter and CommunityBibleSchools. The ministers met together once a month for Bible study, prayer and planning. Edgar worked part time at the DeRuyter Gleaner, a weekly paper. I was asked to work at the bank but felt I was more needed at home, so turned them down. Alois soon came with our household belongings and clothes. Now we could really settle in. Our garden was producing and just waiting for our arrival. I was still able to get many vegetables and fruits canned for winter.
DeRuyter was a small town and everyone knew everyone. We soon got to know our neighbors. Edgar drove a school bus into the country and around DeRuyterLake, getting to know and love many children and their families on that route.
There were many adjustments to make and one was “school.” Annita began First Grade and Robert began Kindergarten – that was voluntary and not required schooling. Now Ruth became my “little mother” and helped to keep an eye on Richard and Helen. Whatever I was doing, they were all close by. Laundry days they helped hang socks and handkerchiefs.
Edgar noticed the school had an after-school “Adult Education” program with several choices of classes, including Drivers Education. He signed me, up then told me he had done it. He wanted me to be able to drive if it was needed. Never wanting to again have to drive without a license, I was glad to take the course. Book learning came first, then actual driving, ending with a road test like we could expect when we took our test at the Motor Vehicles. The instructor often marveled at how well I “shifted gears,” started out slowly and then picked up speed, etc. I learned to parallel park perfectly. I felt confident taking my test at last and did a great job, the policeman said. No checks against me. I never told anyone in that class I had driven before. I did tell them I’d had a learner’s permit twice before but never felt sure enough of myself to take the test. Now I could legally drive the car. What a great feeling of accomplishment that was! We were all so “proud” of Mommy.
The Catholic Church in town took their children out of school one hour a week for church schooling. It was called “Released Time” and was available to others who wanted it. The ministers worked together to rent a room in the Town Hall – the old DeRuyterAcademy – not far from school. Volunteer parents met the children at the school and escorted them to the Town Hall and back to school. A “Child Evangelism” team taught the Bible classes. Bible stories came alive on their flannel boards. I was impressed with lessons learned and truths taught when I escorted kids. A good experience.
We lived several blocks from the school and Robert and Annita walked. Thankfully they did not have to cross the highway, just side streets. We were in a snow belt and snow just kept piling up with temperatures below zero at times. The Principal at school lived across the street from us. He gave Edgar permission to pick up our children on his school bus and take them to school because Robert had too poor blood circulation in his right leg to walk in such bad weather. Neighbor children had to walk, so we never let Annita go on the bus. Edgar did pick up Robert when it was real cold. Parents took turns walking with all our area children.
How the children loved playing in the snow. They even made an “igloo” with us and played in it many days. Snow was piled so high along the highway we could not see the tops of cars traveling on the street in front of our home unless we were looking down our sidewalk or driveway into the street. Edgar said in places on his bus route the snow was higher than the bus where it was plowed off the road.
That summer vacation, the doctor scheduled a time “to take tonsils out.” All the children and parents went to a nurse’s home and the doctor took several children’s tonsils out on a kitchen table that one day. It was not a good experience for Robert or for me, seven months pregnant with Leon. As we waited Robert kept telling me, “I told you I did not want my tonsils out.” A church member had a heart attack that morning and they called for Edgar to come so I went with Robert alone. We remained overnight in the nurse’s home and went home the next day. Robert ate a piece of toast before we came home. I was shocked. He healed fast.
Robert kept having sore throats that turned into ear infections and was out of school a lot. He loved school and his teacher, Miss Pool, loved him. She told me once that she had to change her way of teaching and not “yell” at anyone but find other ways to get their attention. Robert always took it personally and was scared by it, “pulling into a shell to hide.” She said she needed to learn not to yell so he helped her.
On April 3, 1954, Edgar was called to ordination by the DeRuyter Church. The church was full with church family and friends. By this time Don Richards had married Edna Ruth, they had Dan, and they were at Alfred Seminary, so they drove up. Edgar’s mother came on the bus and stayed a while. I was so happy for all the loving help. I did not feel well a lot of the time. Area S.D.B. ministers and families were all there. Cousin Harold Crandall came from New York CityS.D.B.Church and Pastor Hurley came from Salemville, Pennsylvania Church. He had the sermon before the “Ordination Council” met. Edgar had given his statement of belief during morning worship. In the afternoon the “Ordination Council” convened and questioned Edgar about his beliefs. The Council voted unanimously to ordain Edgar. Ordination followed. I was so proud of him and know his mother was, also. She represented his home church and as such brought their greetings. Was a special day, full of blessing and memory builders.
Before long, Robert was running and playing in the yard. Wherever we lived Robert had an orthopedic doctor who treated him and recommended exercises or treatment. He took off his right leg brace. I no longer could keep track of where Robert was by hearing the “click, click” of his brace every step he took. With exercises, he was soon holding his own and keeping up with his friends running and playing.
Lucille Bana, a dear friend I met in the Drivers Ed class, came in to our home one day a week to help me however I needed help – doing laundry, ironing, canning, whatever. We paid her and what a blessing she was. When Leon Ashby was born on August 15, she staid with the kids and came each day for two weeks to do what she could. Again, what a blessing.
Our family doctor had a private “Maternity House” in another Registered Nurse’s home. She and her husband and their two children lived on the second floor. Her bedroom had an intercom in it that allowed her to hear the babies breathing down stairs. Patients had a bell to ring if we needed her. The doctor’s office and home was less than a block away, so very convenient. This was an easy delivery. I got along great and Leon was a healthy and happy baby who came home to lots of loving care and attention from brothers and sisters.
To help with the “after pains” in the Maternity Home, I was given Demerol pills. With each pill I felt more like I would pass out. I called the nurse and told her everything was spinning around. She called the doctor. My blood pressure was very low. The doctor left patients in his office to check on me. He said he came on his son’s bicycle that was parked at the back door. Immediately, he knew that I was having a bad reaction to the Demerol so I got a shot and soon felt better. I had codeine for a migraine headache once and the same thing happened. For years, the doctor had me wear a “medic alert” bracelet that said “allergic to Demerol and codeine.” The doctor said that, “in case of an accident I might be given a shot of Demerol or codeine, and that would kill me instead of my injuries.” I wore the bracelet! Edgar heard the doctor was called to the maternity home on an emergency. He was relieved to see I was doing fine when he got there and Leon was doing fine. Leon slept through the night before I left there. The doctor later told me that that was the only time he was ever called to the Maternity Home on an emergency after the baby was delivered. The nearest hospital was fifteen miles away. Only the very ill went there.
Rose Stillman (a cousin of Dad, Ernest Wheeler), who lived in Milton, Wisconsin, knew Edgar from college days there and she kept contact with us and took pride in our children. Later Annita, Helen and Richard knew her support and love when they lived in that area. Rose had a sister, Ruth, and neither of them ever married. Ruth proudly claimed Ruth as her namesake and sent gifts and clothing just for Ruth through her early years. When Ruth started school she sent a dress and a little drawstring purse to match. I made Annita an outfit to start school that year and Robert a new shirt. They all had new clothes for the first day of school.
Ruth began Kindergarten. Now half of our children were in school. Richard became my big helper and took “watch care” of where Helen and Leon were and what they were doing.
During one of Leon’s monthly doctor checks he suddenly quit breathing. I was glad I was holding him and in the doctor’s office. The doctor revived him immediately, but did not give him the shot he had planned to give him. The doctor just said watch and call if needed. He lived a few blocks away. A few days later just as I was putting Leon in his “doorway swing” he quit breathing again and I revived him, then took him to the doctor. He sent us on to the hospital in Cortland. He had pneumonia. He was in oxygen and on antibiotics several days. Lucille Bana helped at home and I stayed with Leon. Finally, we brought him home! We were happy to be a family again. God is so good. Leon began to put weight back on and all the family cheered him on as he developed and learned new things.
The years in DeRuyter were good years, both in the church family and in the community. New pastures beckoned us, however, and Edgar accepted a call to Salemville, Pennsylvania S.D.B. Bell Church. This was a more rural church, but the parsonage was close to the church on one side and up against the next door neighbor’s garden behind their home on the other. More than “close” neighbors. An older couple lived there. More than once when we had company in the house, in summer especially, we would see one or both of them right under our kitchen sink window which was open, eavesdropping. I thought about throwing a glass of water out the window more than once, then thought better of it. We laughed about it but did take note and remembered it as you will read later.
The Guyer family lived on the other side of the Fosters, who were next to us. They had children the ages of our older children and they played together a lot in one of our yards or homes. They were good friends and church members. We had known them when we lived in Plainfield, New Jersey. Small world! We were now about three hours’ drive from my home and in the same Association of churches. We got home much more often now. Holidays could be spent with our West Virginia family again, especially Christmas.
Again, in Salemville we had wonderfully supportive and encouraging church members and community people. Pastors worked together to reach all the people and fill needs. Members who had dropped out of church, or at least regular attendance, came back and soon the small sanctuary was full and more SabbathSchool rooms were needed, a study for the Pastor and a large Fellowship Hall. A big project, but many volunteers completed the extension on the back of the church. Men and women’s bathrooms were just inside the entrance toward the parsonage. Now the outside toilets could end their usefulness.
The parsonage was compact and cozy, but very drafty in winter. Down stairs, half the space was kitchen and dining room, combined. The other half was living room. Since Edgar needed privacy for his study, we got permission to partition it with removable walls. There was a back and front doorway, so this worked well. In the center, between the two rooms, was a stairway leading down to the basement and furnace heating our home, and upward to the bedrooms. There was a large bedroom and three smaller ones. One of them was converted into a bathroom. I ironed laundry in the bathroom to be near the bedrooms. A hallway was large between our bedroom and the girls’ bedroom, so we put a crib in the hallway. Leon slept in it a while until Willy needed it.
How excited Annita, Robert and Ruth were to get to ride the bus. It stopped in front of Guyer’s home, so everyone could stay warm or out of the rain until they saw the bus coming.
Mr. Foster was church janitor so had an “excuse” to come into our yard and on into the church any time of day or night. He was strict and angrily yelled at the children, so they did not like him. He would say, “One boy is okay, two is half a boy and three is no boy at all.” The two Guyer boys were usually in our yard as I liked to know what my children were playing and they seldom went to the neighbors.
One day Mr. Foster accused the boys of plotting to “kill” him by putting something on the outside basement steps to cause him to fall. We did find rocks covered with leaves that Fall day. The boys confessed they put them there and said they were sorry. They told Mr. Foster they were sorry and asked forgiveness. We thought that ended the matter.
Fosters talked on the phone a lot and seemed to thrive on gossip, and some other people welcomed it, so Edgar had a problem in the church family he could not seem to be able to resolve. The majority of the people were supportive and new people continued to visit and become regular in attendance. One day, Mr. Foster had a bad stroke and was bedfast quite a while. Edgar was in their home daily and at times he fed Mr. Foster and often carried him to the bathroom just off their bedroom. After we left, Mr. Foster died and the family called for Edgar to come back to have the funeral. He did and took Leon along with him for company. Leon was four years old.
Joe Boyd’s family was in the church. Beth came to visit and met Joe and his family. They may have gone to Senior Camp together, also. They began dating and after we left Salemville were married.
The year before we left, William Raymond was born. He was named for William Kagarise who was the father of two middle aged men in our church family. He had built barns for a living and worked most week days on the addition to the church building. He ate lunch with us right along and we loved him so Willy got his name and Grandpa Wheeler’s middle name Raymond.
Grandpa Will’s favorite expression seemed to be “close enough.” Edgar had been trained in home building by Uncle Oris Stutler, who thought that only perfection would do when building homes, so he would correct the “close enough” work until it was perfect to prevent a worse problem later. It was an addition to be proud of. We did feel badly that some families who disapproved of having meals in the church building, even the addition, left the church and worshipped elsewhere. I am sure there may have been other reasons, as well. That is always tragic when there are divisions of opinions and that causes a split in the body. That really hurt but time did heal the wounds.
William was less than six weeks old when the children brought flu home. Willy got the flu and was weeks getting over his cough. The poor baby would cough and cough until he was too tired to nurse. He did not gain weight like he should have so I was concerned. At last when we took him to the doctor, Willy had one of his coughing spells in the doctor’s office and the doctor prescribed something that cleared it up. Willy was three months old. Soon he was making up for lost time and gaining fast.
Christmas we went to Mom and Dad’s again. Our 1950 Ford sedan was uncomfortable traveling for the nine of us. So Edgar traded for a 1955 Ford Ranch Wagon. How we loved traveling in that car. Such a big difference. The children did not have to sit on each other’s lap.
While in Salemville, I was invited to go to another Church Mother-Daughter Banquet by a dear neighbor lady as her guest. I especially remember one year when another Pastor’s wife was the feature speaker. She shared her experiences and observations through the years as a Mother. She told a story that “hit home” with me. It began:
I set out to introduce my child to the Father. The first Mother was harsh, strict and constantly corrected and tried to whip her child into shape so he would be perfect and worthy to meet the Father. Finally they came to the Father and her boy hid against her legs and held tight, not wanting to meet the Father. He was too afraid.
The second mother constantly kept her child on the move. There was so much to learn and experience en route, and she wanted her baby to experience, see and hear everything. When he was tired and wanted to stop to rest, she rushed him on to the next experience. Finally they met the Father. Her son fell exhausted at the Father’s feet and went to sleep.
The third mother took her child’s hand in her hand to lead him to the Father. They ran and frolicked in the sunshine as they started off, then stopped in the shade of a tree to read a book she had brought along. She read to him and then listened and laughed as he read to her. They walked a little further and stopped to take in all the things the l loving Father had created and made for them to enjoy: grass, trees, flowers blooming in the meadow, birds that sing, the gentle breeze that blows the meadow grass and also the clouds in the sky. Again, they walked by the brook and walked and splashed in the cool waters to cool off, meandering on until they saw the loving Father. The boy ran on and left the mother to hug the Father and sit on his lap.
I was reminded of Jesus telling his disciples, “Let the children come to me and forbid them not, for such is the Kingdom of heaven.”
The speaker also reminded each of us we can decide what our day will be like when we awake each morning. She said she recites Psalm 118:24 as her first thoughts before she rises from bed early, before her children are awake: “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I decided to make that verse mine and I still recite it to myself and it sets the tone for my day.
These two parts of her talk made a lasting impression on me, as you can see. God was teaching me little by little how to live in awareness of His presence. God is good.
Duane and Adeline Ebersole were special friends and came to visit often. They had a son Richard’s age and a daughter Helen’s age. Cathy had long curls that her mother was very proud of. They often played together. One day, the week before Willy was born, Adeline and Cathy were at the parsonage. I was washing and waxing all the floors, so she insisted she help me and the girls went out to play. Cathy had long curls her mother was very proud of. As Adeline left, she went around the shrubs calling the girls, and suddenly began to scream near the church steps, scaring me. So I ran to her. I envisioned that Cathy had fallen down the church steps and was unconscious or worse. Helen had cut off each curl that had hung down her back earlier but we could not find the hair. I stupidly said, “At least her hair will grow back.” Adeline called to get an appointment to have Cathy’s hair cut right.
By evening everyone in the community knew what had happened. That evening Edgar and I went to their home and I apologized, knowing what I said sounded unsympathetic, and I was truly sorry and asked for forgiveness. I had found Cathy’s curls still intact in Helen’s doll suit case. Adeline said the beautician wanted to know who had cut Cathy’s hair – she would like to hire her for she did a good job and Cathy’s hair needed very little trimming. She was really cute with short hair. Adeline also asked forgiveness. Duane and Adeline and children came to Ashaway on vacation to visit us.
The day came when Edgar had a letter call and some phone calls encouraging him to say he would come to the First Seventh Day Baptist Church at Hopkinton, Rhode Island. His family learned he had accepted the call at the same time the church members did – at the close of a worship service.
Friends and church family kept our kids while Edgar and I drove a U-Haul truck to Ashaway and unloaded boxes and furniture into the rooms they would be unpacked in. Same day, we went back to Salemville by bus, loaded our car, picked up our children and drove to West Virginia and on. We spent three weeks visiting family from West Virginia to Kansas and places in between. Although we had moved Leon’s bed and Willy’s crib, when we got home to Ashaway they cried to go “home.” They had gotten homesick on vacation and never got to return “home.” My heart broke for them. “Why did I not think of that before we moved?” I should have known how little ones would feel. I decided we would never again take a vacation as we were moving.
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