Our family had increased to six with the birth of our fourth child while living In Ozark. I was busy substituting for the city school system, especially in the middle school to supplement my income. One day while teaching, someone knocked on the classroom door and I opened it. There stood Harris Winston and John Wiley English from the church in Elba, Alabama. Before I could say anything but “hello”, they said, “You don’t have to do this, come preach for us.” I hardly knew what to say to their request; but to make a long story short, we did move to work with the church in Elba in the summer of 1964. I shall never forget those two brethren who became dear friends of mine and the day they found me in the middle school classroom.
We had never really lived ‘downtown’ before we moved to Elba but our house was located just off the square and we were living in a ‘fish bowl’ for sure. One night at midnight I was awakened by someone walking on the sidewalk in front of our house, and I even remember the tune he was whistling! It was the song ‘Dixie’. I don’t know why I remember this event, but I do. And I smile.
“Don't Look Ethel!"
Our youngest son was still in the ‘potty training’ period of his life when all of a sudden he broke free from his mother’s grasp and ran out the front door and around the house he ran! There you have it; the preacher’s son streaking in his ‘birthday suit’ for all to see. His mother finally got hold of him as quickly as she could and back in the house she fled with child in arms!
“Did You Catch It?”
There were times that sister Ham and her daughter Nell would keep our baby boy. One day, while he was playing with some toys in their home across the street from ours, Nell said she was going to the bathroom and do some work on the commode because it was constantly ‘running’. She was gone for some time and when she returned to the room where our son was playing, he looked up at her and asked, “Did you catch it?”
You Shot Him Where?
Tim and Joel had been playing with friends down the street when they returned home suddenly and into their bedroom they fled! Their faces reflected great concern and both were nearly in tears. It might have been thought one of them was on the verge of certain death or critically wounded. So as a worried mother would do, Virginia went into the bedroom and found that the younger brother had his pants partially down and both were looking to see if there might be blood showing. You see, the older brother had shot his brother with a friend’s BB gun by accident (I think) and they were investigating if there might be the need of a doctor. Where did our son get shot? It was the same area of his body where Forest Gump (in the movie, Forest Gump) got shot during the Viet Nam war. We are very glad he survived the ordeal and is still alive.
Elba Clipper, November 7 1968, 'Brainstorming With Ferrin Cox, Editor
“Minister Raymond, president of the Elba PTA, is not overly fond of the song 'Harper Valley PTA' and his delightful five year old son has gotten wind of this fact. He reportedly has told friends that his father was going to ride in the Homecoming Parade with the secretary of the Harper Valley PTA and she was going to wear a mini-skirt!” (For young people to appreciate this news article, click HERE for a YouTube version. This chart topping song was recorded by Jeanie C. Riley in 1968.)
I've Been Running On The Levee
Elba was a unique town. Built along the Pea River, it was joined by the White Water Creek in the northern part of the town. There is a legend that the people of the town had been told, by an old Indian, not to build in its present location because of a flooding problem. To prevent this, the Corp of Engineers had built a levee three quarters around the town. The preacher’s house was just across the street from the southern part of the levee. One day I asked a young man to measure off one half mile for me. He did, and that distance ended at the railroad trestle. I began by walking, worked up to jogging, and, when I got in pretty good shape, I began running as fast as I could the last part of that half of a mile. I would arrive at home wet with sweat (poor people sweat, rich people perspire). There were several homes next to the levee and one day I didn’t run. Concerned, one of the neighbors inquired of my health. I didn’t know that people were watching me run on that levee. I did loose several pounds and was in pretty good physical shape for a preacher.
Right across the street, and in front of the church building, was the Big R where you could buy ‘fast foods’. That establishment stayed busy all the time. I believe it was a news reporter from the Dothan Eagle that ate one day at the Big R and, as he looked at our building, he saw the sign with a slogan I had placed there. It read 'REDEMPTION CENTER, NO STAMPS REQUIRED'. Now only you who are older will remember the time when you could collect green stamps and redeem them for some product you desired to have. Well, the picture of that sign and slogan got on the Associated Press (AP) and was published far and wide! In fact, I received cards and letters from people who lived in various states stating they appreciated the wording on the sign.
How Old Did You Say Your Son Was?
A teller at the bank where we began to do our business died suddenly shortly after we moved to Elba. I believe she was only about 42 years old at the time of her death. As a matter of courtesy and concern, I went to her home to pay my respect to the family because she had been so nice to me. While in her home, I heard two elderly ladies talking about the ages of their sons. One lady mentioned that her son was born 6 months before the flood while the other lady explained that her son was born sometime following the flood. Well, with my sense of humor, I was almost ready to ask their ages but being the ‘new preacher’ for the church I controlled myself and refrained from showing my ignorance and embarrassing the ladies and others. You see, it was not ‘THE FLOOD’ Moses wrote about in the book of Genesis. I learned soon afterwards that the older generation in Elba reckoned time before and after the March, 1929 flood that did so much damage to the downtown and residential areas.
“Will You Marry Me?”
You have to understand the setting and circumstance in which I was asked this question. Virginia and I married in 1955, when I was asked this question during the time we lived in Elba, 1964-69. I regularly visited the Elba Hospital and one day while I was walking down the hall, I was approached by a lady who worked there. She knew me since I had been preaching in the area for a number of years and she was a member of a nearby congregation. When she was right in front of me, she stopped and asked without any explanation, “Will you marry me?” What could I say?! I did answer her in the positive but I had to practice self-control in warp speed because I did not want to embarrass her for asking me that question. You see, I knew she was really asking me to perform the wedding ceremony for the prospective husband and her. Sometimes a preacher has to think quickly on his feet and not to answer unadvisedly!
‘Fall Back and Spring Forward’
I believe it was in 1966 that Daylight Saving Time began to be observed in most of the states. The first Sunday it went into effect, my, my, my ~ people were absolutely confused! We were living in a different house at that time, located north of town on the Troy Highway. I had a radio program on WELB that began at 8:30 on Sunday morning. As I was passing our church building, on the way to the radio station downtown, I noticed a car parked in the lot and recognized that it belonged to Jim and Jessie Free. These good people knew that the Sunday morning Bible classes began at 10:00 a.m. but for the life of them, they did not know what time it was! They were determined to be present for the classes even if it meant they were one and half hour early!
I am not talking about a person but a part of a dining table that revolves. It may have been the first time I had ever seen one and it was in the home of Carolyn and Lister Brunson. The lower part of the table was stable, that is, where your plate was located. The revolving part of the table was somewhat higher and that is where the delicious food had been placed. So the person would dish out the food of his choice, that was right in front of her/him, and when all who were sitting at the table had done the same, then someone would slowly turn the table in order for another group of bowls to be available for the fortunate person sitting at the table. In those days and especially during gospel meetings, the visiting evangelist and the local preacher and family would be invited to the homes of the members for a delicious meal. And I must say that the ladies of the Elba church were excellent cooks!