While a student at Alabama Christian College and a member of the chorus, it was on a trip to sing at a congregation in south Alabama that we passed through the small town of Elba. I remember well the statement that I made. I said, “I don’t think I would ever like to live in a town in south Alabama”. You have to remember that I was born and reared in northeast Georgia among the hills, ridges and mountains. This part of the state was too flat and too far from north Georgia. Well, after four years working with the church in Ozark, the family and I moved to Elba in 1964.
“Downtown, Everything Is Waiting For You" ~ Petula Clark
The business district of Elba is built around the County Courthouse. Actually, it was a ‘square’ instead of being a ‘round’. The church building and the ‘preacher’s house’ were on the south side of the ‘square’. At last, I thought, my beloved wife was where she desired to be – next to all the retail stores. But, alas, she wanted to go to Enterprise or to Dothan to shop!
How Long Is That Tie?
Soon after moving to Elba, the church conducted a gospel meeting with Harvey Starling as the guest speaker. Harvey would fit in with Redwood trees! He is one gentleman I have always ‘looked up to’ – literally! Virginia’s curiosity got the best of her one day, so she asked him where he purchased the very long ties that he wore each night. She got her answer when Harvey showed her one of the ties and how that his thoughtful wife had sewed extra material to his ties so that they would be long enough to reach his belt buckle. Mystery solved!
“What Time Was It?”
Now, Harvey Starling is the kind of preacher that can get his listeners excited. As we often say, he could ‘lather up’ the audience. One night, as he was preaching about the conversion of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16) and the importance of being immersed when one learns the truth, he really came down on the question, “WHAT TIME WAS IT?” The Bible students that were in the auditorium answered silently as I did – midnight. However, one brother was greatly moved emotionally and shouted out loudly “MIDNIGHT!” His sweet school teacher wife began to turn ‘red as a beet’. After the meeting that night I told Harvey that he asked the question as to what time it was when the jailer and his household were baptized and this brother answered him in like fashion as he was asked – with gusto!
Better Late Than Ever
The preacher’s house was very close to the church building. It was the first Wednesday night after the gospel meeting and our first time with the Elba church for the Wednesday night Bible classes. The gospel meeting met each night at 7:30 p.m. so we figured that the regular Wednesday classes began at the same time. Wrong! It was about 7:15 p.m. and I could see a brother standing in a classroom from our bedroom. I thought that Bill was practicing his lessons for his Bible class. Virginia was getting the fourth child ready so I took three of the children and told her we would go a little early for the classes. Well, when I opened the door to the auditorium where the adults were present, there stood brother J.O. (Judge) English teaching my class! Here I was, the new preacher, and late for his class! Thankfully, the good hearted brothers and sisters understood my reason for being late and everyone enjoyed a good laugh and permitted us to stay five more years.