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Day 19: Oral Roberts and the Tent Meetin’

July was always a special month in Marietta. First of all, it was hot as blazes! Secondly, it was when the travelin’ preachers would rent a lot, put up a big old white tent  and gather everyone they could under the tent for several evenings of fire and brimstone. My Nannie loved tent revivals. She would always take me with her. And no preacher was as famous for preaching and healing as Oral Roberts.

First of all for you non-tent revival folks, a tent meeting  is nothing like Sunday service at First Baptist of Anywhere. My usual Sunday services involved a traditional service. We read responsive readings. We sang hymns from a hymnal. Deacons passed the offering plate. A choir with robes sang. The minister preached. An invitation was always extended to those who wanted to profess their faith and join the church.

A tent meeting was in a barren field but close to town and a place for parking. The sides of the tent could be rolled up for  ventilation. There were funeral home fans available. Chairs were hard folding ones. Every inch of space was used. The front of the tent church had a raised platform with a place for the preacher to stand. There was generally an area for a visiting choir to stand and sing. There were wide aisles that lead to the front for the healing part of the service. Lights on wires were strung across the ceiling. It was as bright as day inside.

People of all ages, all shapes and sizes were lined up easily an hour before the preachin began. When the barriers were moved to the side, people rushed to their ” perfect” place in the tent. The perfect place depended on what you wanted from the night. Did you need prayer? Did you need healing? Did you plan to speak in  tongues?

Five minutes before the service began, the tent would begin to get quiet. Then at the exact minute that the service should start, one woman would begin to sing “How Great Thou Art” all alone. No piano. No organ. Gradually more choir members would join in until every voice would be lifting in praise to The Lord. The hair would stand up on my arms.  The music almost took your breath away.

Then the preacher would step forward from behind the curtains with his Bible already open to THE PAGE. It was time. There were many preachers that did tent revivals but NONE were like Oral Roberts. N.O.N.E.  He preached and preached-sometimes way over an hour but it seemed like a flash. Sometimes choir members would provide  background humming. People in the audience raised their arms in praise. Amen was commonly heard. Sometimes I would find myself holding my breath.

Next came the invitation. People flowed from their row into the aisles and down to the front. Soon everyone was on their feet, praising, praying, singing. The final part of the meeting was the healing. Oral Roberts was famous for praying and healing people. I can close my eyes right now and see Oral Roberts saying to an attendee, “Throw your crutches away. Be healed!” He reached out and just touched others. He wept with those in line. He rejoiced with others.

Then suddenly, it was over for the night. People dropped money in baskets by the tent sides. Dimes. Nickels. Dollar bills. Pennies.  I would look up at the sky and see the moon and the stars.  And be thankful for the beauty of our earth.

Day 16: The Day the Secret Service Came to Town

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.

Day 15: The Queen of Seventh Grade

Once again tonight’s post is powered by Brookstone Dark Chocolate Pomegranate pieces ( no money exchanged hands) and pain medication!

My favorite teacher of all time was my seventh grade teacher-Miss Betty Sue C. She was not married. She had a twin sister. She was a graduate of Berry College and she was the school librarian. She was ramrod straight in her posture. She never raised her voice because she could do “the look”.   You know what I mean by ” the look”. Her penetrating stare could silence the most rowdy child of any age in a  nano second. The second a student turned the corner into her classroom, he or she would stop talking to friends and say, “Good Morning Miss C” and go directly to his or her seat. She would always stop and smile at the student and say hello or good morning. There were no class rules. We felt her presence and honored her as our teacher.

Miss C had the most perfect handwriting  of any adult I have ever know. Do you remember the handwriting books that children used in school? Well most of you probably don’t. Anyway, every student had a handwriting book and we would practice making our handwriting -well-just perfect. We had handwriting class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We could only use handwriting paper and every letter had to be formed exactly right. AND we used a pen. Not just any pen—- a cartridge ink pen.  Real ink that came in little cartridges. That you pushed into the pen. No ball points.  Miss C had a chalk holder that allowed her to make the blackboard look like our handwriting paper. She would write. We would practice. She would walk around and point out that you had missed the little point on the top of your lower case r. We all wanted to do our best for her. One afternoon as we had penmanship, she bent over and was writing the last line of practice when the most awful thing happened. She farted. Passed gas. Pooted. Whatever you call it, it was the most horrible embarrassing moment of everyone’s life. She quietly said, pardon me and continued her lesson. No one could say a thing. We were horrified for her. But just like anything else in her life, she handled it in a ladylike way and moved forward. As a 65 year old woman,  I have found that farts are pretty sneaky things. As you get older, they slip out before you know it. I am not sure I have the kind of grace that she exhibited that day.

In those days, the librarian was not a full time job. A teacher would teach all day and then after school do the management part of the library. Books had little pockets in the back with a card. Students would sign their name on the card  and the home room teacher would use the date stamp to show when the book should be returned. The system worked well. The librarian would review the checked out books and reshelve them after school. And she could have an assistant-ME!  So after school I would do whatever she told me to do. I reshelved a lot of books. I loved the library. I loved the smell of books. And the ink stamp.  The sunlight that filtered through the blinds. The oil wax that I put on cotton cloths and dusted the shelves. The quiet. I did get paid for my work. Every child in the upper grades could check out two books a week. Because I worked as an aid, I could check out an additional book each week. That was a real plus. And as an aid, I could check out books before anyone else. Yay!

Working as an aid had the advantage of an extra library book every week. And getting new books sooner was terrific. But there was also a downside. Miss C and I attended the same church and they had a library. Before I entered the seventh  grade, I could breeze in and check out two and be blissfully happy. But when I entered seventh grade, I would select two books and turn to face Miss C who would remember exactly how many I already had in my possession. And she would make me give her one back. Rats! So I began to check the church library schedule and then go when Miss C was not working! Problem solved!!!