Many years ago a young couple was looking for their first house where they could settle down with their two children. First they looked in the town where the husband worked as a telephone engineer. Unfortunately, the prices were out of their range. So-in the words of every realtor -they looked 20 miles down the road to get more ” bang for their buck” and found their first home . It was a nice small community-good churches, good schools, friendly people.
Yep! That was us many years ago. We loved our new home. We loved our church. Our Sunday School class was terrific. We were all about the same age. We did things together like progressive dinners. The women had morning Bible study. In the summer the men played softball together. Y’all-this was the South. And slow pitch softball was the BIG summer event. We had so many teams that the church league had two sections. Some of the players from the carpet mills even played on the church league. We were HOT! We played usually twice a week. Frankly, it seemed like we just lived there.
Then one day our little community changed. ALOT. Jimmy Carter was elected President. And one of the Carter sons lived in town. Everyone knew the moment the Secret Service arrived. It was a dead giveaway. There was a man in a black suit with an earpiece walking down the cereal aisle in Big Star or Piggly Wiggly beside a young woman in blue jeans and a T-shirt. Their big SUV kind of car was spotless. Our cars and trucks were not. They stuck out like a sore thumb. Several weeks into their stint we noticed that they switched to a more casual dress-flannel shirts , boots and jeans. They were adjusting to small town life.
The subdivision where the Carter’s lived was under constant security. You had to have a reason to come down their street. Our progressive dinners were probably a nightmare for the secret service. The families on the street loved the security. They didn’t lock their doors for the entire Carter administration. One of the families had the most amazing little girl. She was an escape artist. At the age of four, she could unlock any door in her house. She could even undo the screws in her bedroom window screens and escape. Finally the family made Dutch doors with dead bolt locks inside in order to keep her inside the house at night. When she escaped, she never got lost because the Secret Service always were watching. And they would take her by the hand and take her home!
Ball season was always interesting because several agents were always there. They had huge black duffel bags. They had the biggest equipment bags we had ever seen. And they never opened them up! We could not figure that out until one day when a truck backfired and they jumped to open the bags. The bags contained an arsenal of weapons. Yikes!!
Several times during his Presidency, Jimmy Carter visited our little town. That was always interesting. First of all, we noticed right away that the barber shop painted its pole! New flowers were seen in window boxes. New paint was noticed. But the biggest impact was on our church! Because the service was not private, anyone could attend. So in order for the members to have a seat, everyone was issued a ticket. I still have mine. I had to show it to security in order to enter the church. My husband and children had tickets, too. When word got out about the tickets, news people began to call local residents and offered to purchase their tickets. Depending on where your seat was located, you could be offered as much as $500!!!! The members were shocked that someone would want to intrude on our time of worship. And to the best of my knowledge, no one sold out! And we had a fine worship the day the President visited.
Before church started, the President greeted members, shaking their hands and smiling at them. He had the bluest eyes and when he smiled at you, the smile went all the way to his eyes. He thanked me for welcoming him to our church and our town. He had a firm handshake. I noticed he sang during the hymn singing and he read from his own Bible. As I looked down from my usual balcony seat, I was glad that I had this opportunity to worship this morning with lovers of The Lord. And that Jimmy Carter had been one of them.