Why Another Blog?

Over the years I have had various experiences in working with people. Some humorous and some not so humorous. If you know me personally, you know I enjoy a good, clean joke. In fact, some will say that it 'sounds like a Raymond joke' when they hear a particular kind.
True humor to me, is that which happens unplanned and unrehearsed. I believe that has contributed to my sanity over the 56+ years of preaching and working with the brethren. To try and have a positive attitude in life, to retain the pleasant and good memories of years past helps one physically, emotionally, and mentally. We read in Proverbs 15:13, "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken". Again in 17:22, "A merry heart does good, like medicine. But a broken spirit dries the bones".
I do "love life" (1 Peter 3:10). God is truly my "refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 45:1). I enjoy an "abundant life" because of Jesus Christ, who gave His life for me (John 10:10). I hope you find the following remembrances enjoyable and entertaining.

06 December 2013

Elba, Alabama ~ Part 3

A Lady Named 'Sweet'
Her name was Nettie Ruth Walker but everyone in the church called her ‘Sweet’ and that was indeed an appropriate name for this fine Christian lady. Once, during a gospel meeting, she took the visiting preacher and my family to a small café downtown on the corner of the square. She had asked the owner prior to lunch time to make some homemade ice cream so we could have it for dessert along with a piece of cake. I remember also that you could see one of the employees shelling fresh peas. Such was the life in a south Alabama town back in the 1960's.

‘A Time To Talk and A Time To Sleep’
The story I am about to relate occurred during a gospel meeting with the Elba congregation, when brother Clyde Fulmer was their preacher. I had been asked to lead the singing and we stayed in the beautiful antebellum home of sister Mollie Loftin. We were sleeping in the same room and one night while brother Fulmer’s oscillating fan was quietly moving the air on a hot summer night, I was engaging him in conversation, a very long conversation about important matters, I am sure. Finally, brother Fulmer said with a rather authoritative voice, “Raymond, it is time for us to go to sleep.” Then there was complete silence, except for the humming of the fan.

A Hole In One, Maybe Two
No, this has nothing to do with golfing. It was during a gospel meeting with brother Fulmer that he took me over to Andalusia to a shirt factory where you go buy ‘seconds’, and even ‘thirds’. When the family and I moved to Elba we would often go to the shirt factory and buy ‘seconds’ and if the hole was on the tail of the shirt, Virginia would buy ‘thirds’ for me and the boys. You couldn’t beat the price of $1.25 or less, depending on the number of holes. It was reported that if a preacher in Covington and Coffee counties refused to remove his coat it was because he was wearing a ‘third’. I often related how our sons would answer the question, ‘what size shirt do you wear’ by saying, ‘14 and a half irregular’.

Breakfast On Brown Paper
It is amazing that it is the simple things in life that you often remember. As a member of the Elba PTA I had to travel a short distance north of town on the Troy Highway, where a gentleman had pits where we placed 39 pork shoulders and cooked them for the school’s Halloween party. We would sell the meat and the proceeds would go to help buy supplies for the school, etc. I might also mention that my shift began at 2:00 A.M. on a frosty fall morning. When the sun began to come up, someone said it was time for breakfast. The suggestion was made that a couple of the men go to the nearest country grocery store and buy some eggs and (pork) brains for breakfast. It was then that I requested instead of ‘brains’ that they could buy me some ham. We cooked the eggs, brains and my ham over the fire in the pit. We had no plates so I ate my eggs and ham on a slice of brown paper that we would use to wrap the pork shoulders. But you know, that was one of the best breakfasts I have ever had in the environment and atmosphere of a beautiful autumn morning in the rural area of Coffee County.

“Matt, Are You Finagling?"
It was the era of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew and when politicians were running for offices in Alabama. Virginia and I had warned our youngest son, Matt, not to open the purses of the nice ladies he was sitting with before the worship assemblies in an effort to find some candy or chewing gum. As you can imagine, he did not heed our warning. One Sunday morning he was trying to open one of the ladies’ purses when Claire Winston asked rather loudly, “Matt, are you finagling?” and as quick as lightening he responded with “No, I’m for Wallace!” Of course, we had to delay the beginning of our assembly that Sunday morning.

A Kind and Generous Lady
Our daughter Angela was of the age that she could attend kindergarten but the money was in short supply for our family of six. It was then that a very sweet Christian lady by the name of Florrie Wright requested that she pay for the expense of our daughter enrolling in the local kindergarten. You never forget such kindness that was shown to our family by the good people of the Elba church.

“And Now I Present To You, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Williams" Or Was It Williams
I have performed scores of wedding ceremonies over the years but this one was different. You see, Glenda Williams married Douglas Williams on Saturday, December 18, 1965. When it came time in the ceremony to say, “I now pronounce you husband and wife” and to present them as “Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Williams” I was having difficulty in really knowing who was taking whose name. Now, Glenda said that she was taking his name but I am still wondering after all these years. You see, in this modern age, a young woman will marry a man with a different name but will retain her maiden name after the ceremony. This really is confusing.  In the case of the Williams, their children, when they were asked their last name could say with all certainty that it was ‘Williams’. But, seriously, I believe that Glenda did take Douglas’s name and that is Williams, right?

Trailers, Trailers, Everywhere
When we lived in Elba during the years of 1964-69, Dorsey Trailers employed about 1200 people. The town was filled with retail stores and times were good. Some of the older people will remember that a ‘WATS line’ (Wide Area Telephone Service) was the modern method of communicating via the telephone and the President of Dorsey Trailers had one in his office. Using the ‘WATS line’ you could dial the number of a person, or business, in any state in the nation without an operator to assist you. One day Sarah Gunter, who was the president’s secretary, told me I could come to the office and use the ‘WATS line’ to make a call. And for the first time in my life I used the WATS line and I dialed the number of a friend who lived in Michigan. She answered the telephone and we enjoyed a short conversation. I really felt privileged that I was permitted to use the only WATS line in Elba and maybe in Coffee County.

Those Were the Days, My Friend
During those days, a person could leave the keys in an unlocked car and not worry that someone would steal their automobile. Well, there were exceptions. I had parked in front of the Post Office, which was, at that time, located near the Pea River bridge in downtown Elba. I had left the keys in my car and hurried into the Post Office to mail a letter. When I came out, and much to my surprise, I could not see my car where I had parked it! Had someone stolen my only means of transportation? How could this happen in this idyllic setting in a small south Alabama town? Who was the culprit? I walked around toward the east side of the square and there it was. My question was who did this? Who had played this trick on me? I soon saw a familiar face and whose grin was a wide as a football field. It was my good friend and brother, Hershel Williams. Even today he will tell you this story about the time he fooled the preacher and enjoyed a good laugh at my expense.

We Were Pioneers In Making a Moveable Sign
Since I mentioned Hershel in the previous memory, let me tell you that the two of us joined together to make the first sign of its kind in south Alabama. The idea was not original with me because I had seen a picture somewhere in the pages of a newspaper or magazine; however, I had never seen a sign exactly like this one anywhere to the best of my memory. Hershel, an artist and painter, took a sheet of 4x8 plywood and drew a man-like figure, the location, dates and time of the gospel meeting on both sides. I borrowed a small trailer from someone and Hershel secured the sign with wires so that it set in the middle of the trailer. I would move the trailer to different locations around the square, and elsewhere in the town, several days before the beginning of our gospel meeting. A few days before the actual beginning of the meeting, I would park the trailer in front of our church building on the Troy Highway. It was several years later that I began to see similar modern day signs with movable letters on them that advertised events, sales, and products, etc.

How Cold Did You Say It Got?
Would you believe that on Saturday night, January 29, 1966, the temperature in Elba, Alabama was 5 degrees! It was only 12 degrees when we assembled on Sunday morning for Bible classes and eventually warmed up to 24 degrees later that day. In spite of the coldness of the weather, there were 4 baptisms that morning. After home Bible studies with the Jesse Miller family, Magdalene and the children, Jerry, Brenda and Linda were immersed into Christ for the remission of their sins on that extremely frigid morning.  I am thankful we did not have to ‘break ice’ in some nearby pond for the baptizing.

Baptizing Jesse Miller, Arm and All
There was a reason Jesse was not baptized on Sunday. He had been seriously injured while working for the state of Alabama. As I remember, he was injured when a steel beam struck him in the chest and his left arm. We thought it best to wait until the cold weather subsided before we immersed him. It was on the following Tuesday, with the help of a couple of brethren we lowered Jesse down into the baptistery. Now, I must tell you, because his left arm was heavily bandaged, we wrapped plastic bags around the arm so that it would not wet the gauze or dressing. Well, when I immersed Jesse I noticed that his left arm was floating on top of the water because of the plastic bags. So, while I had Jesse under the water I had to reach over and immerse his arm as well. That was my first and only time of having to baptize a person in that manner. Ah, the memories.

Was It A Miracle Or A Mistake
It was either Monday or Tuesday of the week when my friend Boyd Murphree, another gentleman, and I were playing a round of golf at the local Country Club Golf Course. We were on a hill overlooking a pond of water and teeing off on hole number nine.  We all hit the balls just right and they landed on level ground near the pond. Boyd, who was an excellent golfer, hit the ball in fine fashion and it went flying across the pond and up the hill toward hole number nine. The other gentleman had a problem with the pond of water that was before him and the first two balls he hit landed right in the middle of a watery grave for expensive golf balls. Then it was my time. I was determined to show these fellows that I could hit the ball over hole number nine and half way to downtown Elba. I must pause right here and confess that I had a serious problem when I tried to knock the cover off that ball. I raised my left shoulder, topped the ball and hit it as hard as I could. That golf ball skipped at warp speed across the pond to the other side and up the hill. The two gentlemen stood in silence as they stared, completely surprised at what they had just witnessed. The news soon spread throughout the community that the ‘church of Christ preacher’ had made a golf ball walk on water. Personally, I did enjoy the publicity momentarily but I knew down deep inside that it was simply a mistake I had made when I raised my left shoulder as I swung that golf club. But you know, that ball did look rather strange as it ‘walked’ across that pond. Nah, it was just a mistake. Right?

Up, Up, and Away
Lamar Rainer, a friend of mine and president of one of the local banks, called me one day and informed me that some of the dignitaries of Elba were invited to fly in a helicopter over Ft. Rucker and adjacent landing strips for the ‘fix wings’ and ‘rotary wings’ ships. He said the group wanted to ask me to go with them. I suppose their reason was since I was a preacher things would go well with us and the helicopter would not crash while we were in it. I replied, “Well, Lamar, I will be as scared as the rest of you.” I believe the name of that helicopter was called a Huey. We flew to various fields and one, I remember, was Tac One near Pea River where we enjoyed a delicious lunch together.

 When we landed back on the main post later that afternoon,  we all were invited to go to the Officer’s Club where we could order whatever we wanted to drink (and I don’t mean Pepsi Cola) since we were on Federal property. There was also a delegation from Daleville with us. We all enjoyed the fancy food that had been prepared for us. I asked Lamar to go over to the bar and get me a soft drink and he did. Several from the Daleville group drank alcoholic beverages but I want you to know that not one person from Elba drank anything but non-alcoholic drinks. I do believe it was simply out of respect for me and I have always appreciated their action.

To Build Or Not To Build
There was an ongoing conversation about the need to erect a new building because we had practically outgrown the present one. I really don’t know if the business across the street in front of the church building had any influence on the decision to purchase property in a different location, but the Big R might have contributed to the brethren making a positive decision. I remember one Sunday morning when I was really emphasizing a point that all of a sudden you could hear very plainly the announcement from the Big R, “A HAMBURGER AND A COKE TO GO!” You know, it was hard to keep your mind on the lesson when your thoughts would be influenced by smelling French fries being cooked and thinking of a tasty hamburger.

The Decision To Build
It was on Sunday afternoon, May 15, 1966, during a special business meeting that the brethren made the decision to have Christian Builders Incorporation of Nashville, Tennessee construct a new building on the recently purchased property on the Troy Highway. All the brethren were in complete agreement with this major decision.

Financing the Cost Of Construction
It was common practice in those days to sell bonds at a good rate of interest to finance the cost of erecting a church building. For that reason, we needed to sell $90,000.00. On Sunday afternoon, July 3, 1966, a small group of brothers from the Elba church purchased $35,000.00 worth of bonds. That was truly impressive and almost unbelievable! I remember I opened an envelope one day and a brother from Florida had sent a check in the amount of $10,000.00 to purchase some of the bonds. This poor preacher had never held such a large check in his life and I think I was so excited that I dropped it on the floor in my office, but you can rest assured that I quickly retrieved it.

Last Meeting In The Old Building
This building was constructed during the years of 1921-22 when brother W.T. ‘Tip’ Grider was the preacher. We assembled on Sunday morning, November 27, 1966, for the Bible classes and the worship assembly for the last time. That evening we met in the new building that was located across from the Elementary School on the Troy Highway. Bittersweet for many, I'm sure.

A Day To Remember - Sunday, December 4, 1966
This was the official beginning of our meeting in the new church building. The attendance for the Bible class was 158; worship assembly, 215; Evening worship assembly, 100; the monetary contribution was $840.00.  John Wiley English led the first song, “All Hail The Power of Jesus Name”, during Sunday School. Fred Young also led a song. Gerald Tucker led the first prayer. Harris Winston made the announcements and Grafton Young led the singing during the worship assembly and I preached the first sermon. Special memories.

That afternoon we had an assembly commemorating the occasion of the new building we had constructed for the use in the Lord’s work and kingdom. Approximately 425 people were present. Brethren Clyde Fulmer and E. R. Brannan were the guest speakers.

Gospel Meeting and Campaign
Sunday night, December 4, 1966, we began a gospel meeting in our new building with Marvin Bryant serving as guest preacher. Also, additional workers (at least 10 preachers and others) came during the week days to do ‘door knocking’ and set up home Bible studies. The meeting continued through the following Sunday. There were 9 baptisms and 10 confessions of sins and requests for prayers. Never underestimate the work of the Lord when brethren gather.

The Hong Kong Flu
That was the deadly strain of flu during the years 1968-69. The family and I spent the Christmas holidays of 1968 at my wife’s home in Wildwood, Florida. Sister Slaughter had the flu and we brought it home to Elba with us. Virginia got sick first and developed a high fever as we started home. Before we reached Elba, we were both 'sick as a dog’. We made it to the office of Dr. Kimmey and got shots plus prescriptions. We went by the drug store, got the medicine and I drove to our home. That Monday night was something else. We took aspirin to help ‘break the fever’ and we perspired throughout the night. I think we must have changed the sheets on our bed 3 times that night. I personally felt like someone was driving a stake through my temples and even think the hairs on my body were aching with pain. All of our four children got sick with the flu also. We survived but the weakness of the body lingered for a long time. Sadly, there were many deaths due to the Hong Kong flu that winter in our nation. Virginia and I are very thankful we all survived.

A ‘Big Doctor' In A Small Town
This memory is worth relating and should be written as part of the history of Elba. Dr. Kimmey was our family physician. He was the brother of sister Clyde English and the brother-in-law of Judge J. O. English. Later in the week, while our family was suffering with the flu, he was in the Elba General Hospital making his rounds when he went to the cafeteria to speak to sister Mary Hutchinson, who was the dietitian. She later informed us of what he said to her and it was something like this, “You know the Elliotts are all at home sick with the flu and we need to do something for them.” Now, you talk about doctors making house calls, this one is for the records. I opened the back door after hearing someone knocking on it, and there stood Dr. Kimmey. In one hand he had a baked ham and in the other hand he had a pound cake! You talk about life in a small town! We have never forgotten this act of kindness. Years later when Dr. Kimmey’s wife died, I wrote him a long letter and I mentioned this very thoughtful deed of  his when he made a personal visit to our home during the week we were very sick.

And The Lord Added To The Church ... "
During the 1950's and 1960's the church of the Lord grew numerically with great rapidity. One of the basic reasons was the conducting of home Bible studies with truth seekers. We used Tisdale charts and Jule Miller filmstrips along with our open Bibles. I must mention that Harris Winston and Roy Fuller were wonderful co-workers during the five years we labored with the church in Elba. I can’t recall all the Bible studies we conducted but I can say that many souls were obedient to the gospel and others were restored to the Lord and His church.

Our Decision To Move
It was truly heart rending to leave a congregation of people you loved so dearly. We were privileged to work with some of the best people on earth during our years in Elba. The majority of one generation of brothers and sisters we loved so much has gone to be with the Lord.  Our last Sunday with the church was on May 25, 1969. We moved to Greenville, Alabama on Tuesday, May 27, 1969.

When we moved to Ozark, Alabama in 1960, we followed a great preacher by the name of Ray Humphries. Ray and Joan were good friends of ours. Ray is now with the Lord, having passed from this life in the year of 2013. When we moved to Elba in 1964, we followed Jerry Humphries, another great preacher and the younger brother of Ray. Jerry and Margaret are still serving the Lord and are very active in mission work. They are dear friends of ours also. I thank God that He has used us in His kingdom as preachers and co-workers together in the teaching of His Word and the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ.

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