Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Early Days (Chapter 3)

Jerry, Pam, Mike & Grandparents Rice

I am one of 27 cousins, counting both mom’s and dad’s side of my family. I was probably closest to Pam and Jerry on mom’s side. Pam was three years older than me and Jerry was about seven years older. And, I was probably closest to Karen on dad’s side. Karen is forever the oldest by 28 days! Yeah, I love to say that! 

Karen and Mike

I suppose it was on top of White Oak Mountain that I first experienced exposure to death. My Grandpa Gibson died in 1964, when I was just four years old. He had a condition called black lung and died of a heart attack at the age of 63. At that time, he seemed so old to me. But, I now realize how young he really was when he was taken from us.

I remember going to Tennessee when he died. The funeral home brought grandpa’s body to the house for the wake. They took down grandma’s bed and put grandpa’s casket in its place. Grandma had a walk-through bedroom. One door went into the living room. The other door went into another bedroom. That’s the bedroom I slept in. I was so young and I didn’t really understand everything going on. All I knew was my grandpa was dead. He was in a box they called a casket. And, he was lying just on the other side of the wall of my bed where I was sleeping. That was such a frightening experience for me.

Grandpa's Casket at Home
I remember walking up to the casket with my older cousins. They encouraged me to touch grandpa’s hand. I didn’t want to. But, I did. It was so cold. I’ll never forget that experience. And, until grandma sold the old home place, I could still envision grandpa lying in that casket in her bedroom. Mom and dad did not let me go to grandpa’s funeral. They were afraid it would be too much for me to handle. Isn’t that almost funny? They let me sleep on the other side of the wall where grandpa was lying in state. But, they were afraid the funeral might be too much for me.

Probably the most pleasant memories of my childhood were related to going to church. When I was about a year old, mom and dad started attending Dayton Gospel Temple. The church was located on the corner of Cass and Clay Streets, in Dayton, in the Oregon District. In the early 1960’s, this was still a pretty safe part of town. It was just starting to show the signs of decay that manifested itself in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Of course, now it is a trendy place to live.

Rev. Keith & Betty Hume
Our pastors were Rev. Keith and Betty Hume. Pastor Hume was somewhat short in stature, but tall in spirit and a handsome man. Sister Hume was one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever met. And, at eighty-plus years old, she still is. Sister Hume sang and played the piano and the organ. I was Sister Hume’s number one fan.

Our church was a historic building in a historic part of town. It had the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen. It had been built by the German Reformed Church in the 1800’s. The windows looked like very detailed oil paintings. I can remember sitting on those old, beautiful, hand carved pews. I remember the morning sun coming through those gorgeous windows. The eastern windows were scenes of the River of Jordan and the surrounding olive trees. The light was so bright you could hardly look at them.

Window From Gospel Temple / Urban Krag
c. 2009, Patricia D. Ryan
I remember the sounds during Sunday school. The building had three stories. And, it had virtually no individual rooms. It was all open space with portable fabric dividers. You could hear dozens of teachers teaching. All of their voices blended together in one glorious explosion of sound.

I remember the congregational singing. The organ and piano were the only instruments on hand. Sister Hume played the organ and Mother Hume (Pastor Hume’s mother) usually led the singing. I can still hear the echo of all that sound reverberating off those walls. In the background, you could hear the pops and cracks of the old radiator steam heat in the winter.

I can remember walking into church on Sunday morning. Bill Ackerman rang the church bell. It would pull him off of his feet. I also remember leaving church on Sunday evening. I can still see the warm glow of the church lights shining through the stained glass windows as I peered at them from the outside sidewalk.

Temple Trio 1964
Mom, Peggy Ackerman & Betty Hume
Mom used to sing with Sister Hume and Peggy Ackerman in the Temple Trio. Once a week, Peggy would pick mom and I up and we would go to the Hume’s home and they would practice singing. The Hume’s had a daughter, Melody, who was just a couple of years younger than me. Inevitably, Melody would coerce me into going to her room to play with her toys, which mainly consisted of Barbie dolls. That was pure torture for a three or four year old boy. But, Melody turned out to be quite a beautiful young lady. I didn’t mind, so much, spending time with her when I was in my teens. And, through the beauty of Facebook, Melody, as well as many other of my church friends, are still connected. Not only are we connected, Donna has been able to meet most of them and we are all now friends.

Donna, Mike and Melody
During my early childhood, I developed a great love for music and a deep faith in God. That passion has stayed with me my entire life. Thank you for taking the time to read this very special chapter that is dear to my heart in my Early Days series!

No comments:

Post a Comment