A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Singin' In The Booster Band

I guess it was called The Rock Church because that’s what it was made of, but the actual name was Waldron Assembly of God. I think it started back in the 1930’s with Rev. Bill Evans as the first pastor. I remember hearing names of other preachers that were before my time, like Bro. Taylor, Bro. Kinard, and Bro. Carlisle, but the first preacher I can remember was Brother Booze. Yep, that was his name, Nelson Booze. He and his wife Joyce were a young couple who came to Waldron to pastor, and I think the church really grew under their leadership. I was just a little kid, but my older brothers were pretty active in the church at that time, and I think they had a lot of young people going to church then. Sister Booze was very intelligent and I believe she taught at the High School in Waldron for a while.

After the Boozes moved on, in keeping with the established theme, our new preacher was Brother Teeter. Earl Teeter. Brother Teeter was an older man, white haired and about as big around as he was tall. He was a happy, jolly man who to me always seemed to be on the verge of bursting into a giggle. Bro. Teeter and his wife were wonderful people, and although we didn’t have many young people going to church at that time, they both had a profound impact on shaping my life.

In the early, early days, I remember incredibly that the men sat on one side of the church and the ladies and children on the other. We sat on homemade pews made of 1-inch slats of wood. We had church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Saturday night. And I don’t think my mama let me miss very many of those services. Throw in a two-to-three week revival a couple of times a year, and you’ve got a good idea of my church attendance schedule. Good thing, too; I think it took that much training to keep me on the straight and narrow.

After Sunday School on Sunday mornings, and before the preaching started, all the kids in the church went up to the front to participate in The Booster Band. Booster Band was led by Sister Margaurite Brewer, one of the greatest people I ever knew. We sang and “did the motions” to songs like This Little Light of Mine, The Wise Man and The Foolish Man, and my personal favorite, Climb Climb Up Sunshine Mountain. At the conclusion of Booster Band was the dramatic Drawing For The Fish. A fishbowl was prepared, with construction paper fish inside it on which was written the name of every boy and girl who had gristled up enough nerve to stand before the congregation and sing. One child was picked to draw out the fish. Whoever’s name was drawn was awarded the significant sum of fifty cents. Usually, if we had a visitor, they were picked to draw out the name and more often than not, were under the mistaken impression that they themselves were entitled to the fifty cents. This required a hurried clarification from either Sister Margaurite or Sister Trix Davenport, the Sunday School treasurer who was also The Keeper Of The Fishbowl. After the Drawing Of The Fish, we concluded by singing a heartfelt rendition of Into My Heart. “Into my heart. Into my heart. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart Lord Jesus.” I can still hear Sister Margaurite singing that song so sweetly.

We were hardcore; there was no luxury of “Children’s Church.” After Booster Band we dispersed to take our places beside our mothers where we sat for the duration of the service. Occasional drawing on a notepad was permitted, but we had to be quiet and listen.

Summers meant Vacation Bible School, which was always fun. One of my favorite teachers was Sister Audrey Tinder. One year in her class, instead of the usual plaster of paris plaque that everyone else was painting, we got to make these beautiful pictures of a rooster made completely out of various kinds of beans that were glued onto a piece of burlap that Audrey’s husband Eldrid had placed inside of frames. My sister and I both made one, a pair which would complement the identical sets of plaques that adorned the walls of our house. Since we were twins, that meant that Mama had to hang up two plaques each summer. But, since there was really no available wall space left, our bean rooster portraits had to be placed in my bedroom, leaning against my chest of drawers, until space could be found. One night, I kept hearing a crunching sound that I could not identify. As I was explaining it to Mama the next morning, a rat the size of a small puppy ran between us, slid on the kitchen floor as it made the turn to the hot water heater, and disappeared from sight. I checked our beautiful bean roosters, and much to my dismay discovered that my nighttime visitor had absolutely no appreciation for art.

I have lots of other tales to tell about the church, but I’ll save them for a later post.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Edgar Floyd and Streeter

Edgar Floyd and his wife Sophie lived just a few houses up the lane from our house. Edgar and Sophie were nice people; Sophie was possibly the meekest human being I have ever met. Edgar was more outgoing and loved to talk to folks. I guess they, like my grandmother and other old folks I knew, lived completely off their Social Security checks. Edgar did supplement his income a bit by mowing lawns.

Edgar did not have a tooth in his head, but legend has it that he could eat an apple down to the core by just gumming it. Never saw that happen, but who am I to doubt a legend? After a few successful years of mowing yards, Edgar was able to put together enough cash to buy a brand new Sears riding lawn mower. And it was a good one, probably top of the line. It had to be, because it was not only Edgar's lawn mower but also his sole means of transportation. You see, Edgar did not have a driver's license, but you could go anyplace you needed to go in Waldron via lawn mower; it just took a little longer to get there.

Edgar was a familiar sight to most Waldron residents, tooling around on his Sears lawn mower. On one of his visits to town, Edgar came across an abandoned dog, running around on Main Street and putting his life in danger from the traffic. Well, Edgar rescued the dog, brought him home on his riding lawn mower, and named him Streeter, because that's where he was from - the streets.

Edgar and Streeter soon became inseparable. They went everywhere together, and since Edgar went everywhere on his Sears riding mower, that meant Streeter went along too. But not tagging behind. Streeter sat on the seat in front of Edgar, his paws on the wheel, with what appeared unmistakably to be a doggie smile across his face. At some point, Edgar taught Streeter to bark whenever he pulled on his ear, which served as a rudimentary horn for this curious mode of transportation. It was a popular legend around town that Streeter had been trained to carry a dime into Robert Davis' grocery store and drop it on the counter, to be replaced by a bottle of Dr. Pepper which he dutifully carried out to Edgar. Again, never saw it happen, but who am I to doubt?

The Edgar/Streeter combination soon became quite well-known around Waldron. Everyone was Edgar's friend and Edgar always heartily returned the waves that he and Streeter encountered on their trips into town. If Edgar had a lawn to mow, Streeter would lie comfortably in the shade until the job was finished.

I never knew how Edgar managed to save up enough for such a good lawn mower, and I was completely surprised when, in about 1970, he managed to buy a car. It was a fairly late model (probably about a 1965) Ford Fairlane. But the purchase of the car required Edgar to take and pass his driver's test. He got a book from the local revenue office and set about to conquer the written test. I don't think he was worried much about the driving part of the test, after all, he had a lot of experience driving. One evening when I was walking home from my after school job at B & B Drug, I passed Edgar's house and he hollered at me to come over to the porch where he was sitting. He had his driver's manual out, and was studying the part where you have to recognize a warning sign just by the shape of the sign. He handed me the book, so that he could show me what the various shaped signs meant. Jabbing his finger at a rectangular-shaped outline, he said, "Now that one there, that's Naar Bridge." Yep, Edgar, you're right...Narrow Bridge.

Well, Edgar passed his driver's test, and made a good driver, and pretty much left his lawn mower behind. Streeter became a front seat passenger.

If you like stories with happy endings, you'd better stop here. Edgar began to have some neurological problems soon after getting his car. About that same time, the city of Waldron decided to try to get control of some of the abandoned animals roaming around town, and so they hired a dogcatcher. One afternoon, when the dogcatcher was seen in our part of town, Edgar felt the need to hide Streeter, and thought the trunk of his car would be a good place. I think he forgot about Streeter, and by the time he remembered he was in there, it was too late. The heat had killed Streeter. Edgar was heartbroken. I don't think Edgar was ever the same after that, his problems only worsened. I don't remember what year he died, but Edgar Floyd was a true Waldron Original.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Day UFO's Came To Waldron

The invasion was not a surprise; actually, it had been announced in the previous week's edition of The Waldron News. On Saturday, UFO's would be spotted over the city of Waldron.

Well, maybe not actual UFO's. But, on Saturday, an airplane was going to fly over Waldron and drop "UFO's" that were in fact paper plates printed with fabulous free prizes that were being offered by Buddy Gray's Grocery Store. Now, Buddy Gray's Grocery Store was a magical place, and I hope to write more about it in a later post. So many wonderful things could be found there, and with free prizes raining down on Waldron in the form of paper plates tossed from an airplane, Saturday was shaping up to be one outstanding day.

Early Saturday morning, after my usual Saturday Morning breakfast of a Cracker Sandwich and a Coca-Cola that had been poured into a bowl and frozen overnight, I cut short my cartoon watching so I would not miss The Event. I went outside and began to search the sky. Strangely, none of my friends seemed to be as excited as I was about this. Oh well, I thought, more for me. So, I sat down in the open field by my house and waited. And waited. The hours dragged on, it seemed, with no action from overhead. J.P. Hicks from down the street happened by and reported that he had seen a plane when he was downtown a little earlier, so my hope was restored a bit. However, more hours passed and I began to consider giving up. This was a perfectly good Saturday, I'd already missed Tom Slick on TV, and nothing to show for it.

But then, in the distance, I saw it. A tiny aircraft, and yes, I believe THERE WAS SOMETHING COMING OUT OF IT! It didn't pass exactly overhead, but close enough; probably a block away was a magical UFO with a fabulous prize printed on it. I had this one, I knew it. No one else seemed to be around. I quickly made the block on my bicycle, and after only a few minutes of seaching, I saw the paper plate in a ditch by the road. What would it be? A package of cookies? A carton of cokes? Maybe, just maybe...a box of Space Food Sticks??? With trembling hands, I picked up my treasure.

A free jar of Kraft Mayonaise with Pickle Relish mixed in. I didn't eat Mayonaise. I hated Mayonaise. I despised Mayonaise with every fiber of my being. Matter of fact, there was probably nothing I hated more than Mayonaise with the possible exception of Pickle Relish. And that was my prize. However, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I rode my bike over to Buddy Gray's and claimed my prize. I was a bit surprised to encounter J. P. Hicks again, who was there claiming his Mayonaise with Pickle Relish. In fact, they had several boxes of Mayonaise with Pickle Relish available to give away.

Well, the jar of Kraft Mayonaise with Pickle Relish went into our refrigerator, where it remained indefinitely. I would look at it from time to time. No one ever used it, it remained there untouched for a long time, no one really sure what to make of it. At some point, someone finally took the initiative to toss it in the trash.