Escape From Selmont Baptist

“At this point what does it really matter?”

Most of us have something in our past we’d rather keep secret.  I say most of us because there are exceptions to the rule.

My mother said there were certain things she’d take to the grave.  It wasn’t until after mom died that my wife and I discovered one of them.  Her real name was Perry Tallulah Haynes.  She dropped Perry like a hot potato. If not for an old birth announcement we would’ve never known.  I suppose when I get to ‘the other side’, I’ll be in trouble for spilling the beans!

I’ve kept something under wraps of my own.  When my kids were young I didn’t want them hearing the story.  Perhaps it would have triggered a similar event in their lives.  As Hillary Clinton would say,

“At this point what does it really matter?”

I suppose Hillary would be right in this case.

When I lived in Selma, Alabama our family attended Selmont Baptist Church.  This house of worship was fairly close to Craig Air Force Base where dad was stationed.  The year was 1959.

In Sunday school it was customary on your birthday to bring a penny for each year of age.  I’d just turned five.  Mom gave me a bright shiny nickel to use as a birthday tithe.  A nickel would buy a kid lots back then.

Sitting in class the nickel was burning a hole in my pocket.  It was also speaking to me in a most convincing manner,

“Hey Michael, you need a candy bar!”

The plan to voluntarily give up my money got harder and harder with each passing second.  After 2 minutes I couldn’t stand the thought.  Faking a trip to the restroom, I kept on walking.

Calculating that R&R Grocery on Highway 80 was a short distance away, I set off in pursuit of the noted candy oasis. Trouble is I headed the wrong direction.  Getting lost is something I’m skilled at.  I can’t tell you exactly how long I walked, but it must’ve been an hour or more.

When an older couple from our congregation rolled up in a cloud of dust I knew I was in trouble.  They told me countless people were beating the bushes fearing the worst. My rescuers drove me back to Selmont.

Outside, standing in the parking lot, pastor and other members were praying for my safety.  For several short minutes I was hugged and congratulated as being a hero; at least that’s how I viewed it.  Things quickly deteriorated on the way home.

I received a tongue lashing next to none and then the proverbial spanking.  It must not have been terribly harsh because I survived.  Undoubtedly to this day, ministers all over creation use my escape from Selmont Baptist to demonstrate what robbing God of tithes will achieve.

Yes, I learned a valuable lesson that day. It seems each time I hear a sermon on tithing, that blotched attempt at escape comes to mind.

One thing still has me scratching my head.  It’s hard to fathom candy bars only costing a nickel back then!

Say What?

“We from Alabama.”

It’s been several years, but I still remember this incident clear as day.  Living in Anchorage, Alaska at the time, I bumped into a man wearing an Auburn Tigers’ sweatshirt.  He was part of a church group visiting the 49th state.

Asking where he lived the fellow replied,

“We from Alabama!”

By his shirt I figured out that much. Inquiring again I asked specifically what city,

We from Alabama!”

By now I thought the visitor had hearing problems or was a bit slow.  Not wanting to come across as insulting I simplified my line of questioning.  I spoke slowly inquiring what town in Alabama he lived in.  It was easy to see I ruffled the man’s feathers.

“We from Alabama!”

This time he’d repeated things in a much louder voice. Seeing I still didn’t get it he started spelling out the first word,

“R – e – f – o – r – m, Alabama!”

Turns out I was the slow one.  It was obvious I’d been gone from the south too many years!  Reform, Alabama is one of those towns a person’s strangely drawn to.  Supposedly the place got its name in a most unusual way:

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In the early days when folks first settled there, some residents were known for their wild crazy behavior.  A certain Methodist pastor named Lorenzo Dow became miffed at locals for not attending his religious revivals.  The residents let it be known to Pastor Dow they didn’t need his preaching.

He was so disgusted by their attitude that he cancelled the remainder of his meetings. He disgustedly packed up his personal belongings.

Riding out of town on a mule, someone asked Lorenzo what the new community should be named.  Without blinking an eye he replied,

“Reform!”

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There must be some truth to the story.  What other reason could there be for naming a town that?  Evidently things have changed drastically, because on the internet I found 6 local churches located there.

Even though Reform is in Pickens County it’s only 30 miles from Vernon via Highway 17.  There’s a business in Reform I need to visit. It’s a second hand store called ‘The Mud Hole’.  My aunts talked of going there.

Photos show the building to be most unique.  Eclectic businesses like The Mud Hole are where you find one of a kind items. I love browsing in such stores.

Before closing this out, there’s one final item I’d like to share.  I was caught years ago forging my dad’s signature on a school absence slip. Mom warned me after finding out that if I didn’t straighten up, I’d end up in reform school.

I’m quite sure she wasn’t talking about a school in Reform, Alabama!

NO POMP & ALL CIRCUMSTANCE

“The atmosphere was lively yet somber.”

1972 East Anchorage High graduate Pamela Painter Jones mentioned a couple of years back, that those of us having interesting or funny stories from our tenure at the prestigious school should share them. Her intention I suppose was get them out there while folks can still remember. She was hoping someone would compile all the tales into a notebook for the 50th East High Reunion – Class of 1972.

For the past 2 years I’ve thought about such. Basically I came up empty-minded where exciting incidents are concerned. There was no last-second touchdown catch to win a football game or anything close. Fact is I didn’t play football, basketball, or hockey. Not that I didn’t have the ability. Unfortunately or fortunately I had to work after school.

There is one moment of sporting adeptness worthy of mention. It deals with my running cross country. During P.E. class we ran a root-laden trail through the woods directly behind East. The designated trail exited in plain sight of the building. I was no runner so having to traverse that course brought unwanted pain; hungry mosquitoes being the worst of it all.

One day classmate and good friend Jeff Thimsen asked me to follow him. Another student had informed my pal of a shortcut. That morning we were the only ones taking the secret path. Upon exiting, Jeff quickly noticed we were in the lead. I was sucking air like a fish out of water thus didn’t notice. East High star-runner Lonnie Wick was directly behind us instead of leading the pack like he always did. Jeff and I had terribly miscalculated our exit time.

Coach White seeing such angrily motioned us over for a chat. We ended up having to rerun the whole loop while the others showered. That miscalculation didn’t keep us from cheating. From that point on we learned to time things precisely and pop out in the middle of the pack.

On a more serious note: I had a flat tire in the school parking lot when it was minus 20 (we’re talking Fahrenheit). Through a desire to finish the job and quickly seek heat I was able to change things in less than 5 minutes. That was done with no gloves or hat on. I truly believe this is a school record although the feat was never recorded. Turns out I was more mechanically inclined than athletic. If I were to compare this mechanical endeavor to a sporting record, I’d say it’s akin to kicking a 90-yard field goal or pole vaulting 29 feet.

There’s another event coming to mind topping my tire swap extravaganza where bizarro nothingness is concerned. Before starting I need to ask this simple question: Who attended the Eklutna Lake Campground Party on Thursday night May 25, 1972?

I was there with Jeff Thimsen in my purple ’54 Chevy. It was drizzling rain and cold that evening. Newspaper archives show 39 degrees Fahrenheit. A group of maybe 5 graduates was parked close to us in a VW van. I remember most of their names yet shall keep them nameless.

A popular and attractive blonde walked over to our car asking if we had any papers. Being quite naïve, neither Jeff nor I had a clue what she meant. Thinking the gal might be contemplating starting a campfire, I told her I had some newspapers under my car seat. With puzzled look and gracious smile she replied,

“Thank you. Don’t worry about it.”

The pretty partygoer quickly scampered away to her bus.

Jeff and I hung around for maybe an hour trying to figure out why the party hadn’t begun. We were expecting a barbecue. Feeling hungry and finding no hot dogs, hamburgers, or Cokes, the two of us hightailed it to Leroy’s Pancake House. There we joined other stray cats from East.

I vaguely remember it being an all guy endeavor. The atmosphere was lively yet somber. Clinking spoons and forks hitting cheap porcelain plates could be heard throughout the room. Trying to liven up my own dampened spirits I ordered ‘Pigs in a Blanket’. The breakfast fare was a favorite at Leroy’s. Still is!

Somewhere around 2 a.m. after consuming ample dessert at Flapjack Jim’s, our basically mundane graduation party ended without incident under inclement weather. We were bloated from excess eating and also very tired from doing nothing.

By the end of summer I’d wised up considerably where street smarts are concerned. I figured out by then what papers my former classmate was referring to. She must have been talking about TP. Evidently the girl was too embarrassed to spell things out.

I’m sure that crumpled-newspaper under my driver’s seat would’ve worked just fine. Why she didn’t accept it will always remain a mystery?

GLUE

There’s one adhesive that I didn’t touch upon. This type of glue cannot be purchased from a supermarket shelf.

I first came in contact with glue at an early age.  It might have been pre-school?  I remember “paste” coming in a round jar.  The jar had a brush built into the lid.  Paste is terrible for actually gluing anything together. It has virtually zero holding power.

I recall some of the kids eating paste including myself.  If I were a paste manufacturer I’d add some nasty flavor to it.  Castor oil or Brussel sprouts perhaps.  Glue, since the 1950’s has come a long way.  Good ole Elmer’s still remains the #1 glue for elementary age students.  I like Elmer’s, especially the picture of a smirking bull on bottle.  I suppose the bull is happy because he isn’t a horse.

Elmer’s was easy to clean off hands which teachers and moms appreciated.  As far as strength goes, I found it worked fine unless you used too much.  If you squeezed out rivers of glue the paper became a sea of wrinkles.  No matter how hard you pressed the wrinkles remained. It was a delicate process. Sometimes glue ended up on my desk.  Days later it was fun to peel off. Mom often said that, “Messy”, was my middle name.  Several years went by before I came to realize what ‘use sparingly’ meant.

Super Glue was invented in 1942 but wasn’t readily available until the late 1950’s.  I hate the stuff.  It immediately dries causing much anxiety when fingers become stuck together.  Many horror stories have been written about Super Glue.  The worst involving a girl having her eye lids glued to each other.  The gal ended up having surgery to unstick them.  My wife thinks Super Glue is wonderful.  I believe this has more to do with name than anything.

In my teen years some kids sniffed glue. I never knew anyone to intentionally do that. My brother and I often put together plastic cars and airplanes using model glue. I recall getting headaches if we were doing such in an enclosed room for too long. Right on the glue label was a warning about proper ventilation. During my growing years the words proper ventilation were subjective to interpretation.

My favorite glue these days is Gorilla.  Gorilla Glue is great for many different materials. It’s strong like the name implies.  If you allow Gorilla Glue to dry on hands it is a pain to clean off!  I still have some stuck on the side of both thumbs and my arm.

Getting back to Elmer’s Glue.  I see they now offer the product in a spray can.  This would not have been good in my early years.  A girl sitting in front of me had long blond hair.  Her name was Nikki.  I only remember her name because she always tattled on me.

 As careless as I was around glue, a can of aerosol in my hands would’ve spelled disaster.  Spray glue has a tendency to drift. Ask me how I know? Hair stuck to the back of a desk would be painful; especially upon standing.

The good thing being, instead of surgery, all you’d need to undo things is a good pair of scissors.

There’s one adhesive that I didn’t touch upon. This type of glue cannot be purchased from a supermarket shelf.

RING OF FIRE

“Well my goodness gracious, let me tell you the news!”

I’ve never been blessed with musical ability.  Unfortunately I was bypassed completely in the music making department. I’m lucky to find a radio ‘ON’ button. 

When I think of Lamar County, Alabama and tunes, Johnny Cash and Wallis Willis come to mind.  There’s valid reason for it.  1963 is the year my brother and I received transistor radios.  Dad brought them back from Japan after a 12 month military tour in Korea. I believe we were only able to pick up one channel in Vernon.

The popular song back then, “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, played like clockwork each and every hour.  I loved the tune not knowing its true meaning.  Jim and I thought Johnny Cash was singing about an airplane pilot in trouble.

We tried to sing the words, or at least a small portion of them.

“I’m going down in a blazing ring of fire.”

Years later I heard a preacher say Johnny Cash was singing about going to hell.  Johnny’s daughter Roseanne disproved that statement, claiming lyrics were strictly about the transformative power of love.  I sometimes wonder what is the truth. Johnny Cash never commented publicly about the song meaning.

Johnny and June Carter-Cash performed many gospel songs towards the end of their career.  Johnny acknowledged finding God in a long dark cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1967.  The story is quite riveting.

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Johnny Cash entered ‘NickaJack Cave’ with intentions of never returning.  Drug abuse and alcohol had taken hold of his life.  When he crawled into that dark black hole he believed he’d distanced himself from relentless torment. Little did he know had his suicide been successful he was far from it.  Fortunately God had better plans for his life; saving him by grace.

Johnny said he had to get down on his knees and crawl, literally feeling his way out. Wife June stood outside the cave entrance waiting. She’d brought a basket of food and comforting hug.  June Carter-Cash was directed to the cave strictly by the Lord’s hand, having no idea where her husband had gone.

Because of God’s intervention, Johnny Cash miraculously was led out of the place without a working flashlight.  The dim flashlight he’d carried into the cave eventually went dead.

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Johnny Cash wrote a song about his experience called “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”.  It’s a powerful message with no sugar coating of words.  My favorite lyrics in the gospel tune are,

“Been down on one knee, talkin’ to the man from Galilee.”

Perhaps Johnny Cash’s best known gospel song is an old black spiritual tune, “Swing low, Sweet Chariot”.

Freed slave Wallis Willis wrote the lyrics around 1840. Wallis was called ‘Uncle Wallace’ by most people he knew.  He received his name from half Choctaw – half Irish – Mississippi slave owner Britt Willis.  

The song presents an uplifting message for those wondering if there’s life after death.  The hymn refers to God sending a chariot to take departed believers to their new Heavenly home. Slaves sang it in the fields and at religious services.  The old hymn is still heard at some traditional churches.  Opening line sounds like something a fire and brimstone preacher might use,

“Well my goodness gracious, let me tell you the news!”

Those are words that every Bible believing church should begin services with. They definitely get your attention!

What I find most interesting about “Ring of Fire” and “Swing low, Sweet Chariot” is that one speaks about going down, while the other mentions going up.

Something tells me that Johnny Cash is still singing the later.

NOTHING VENTURED

NOTHING GAINED

My mom collected S&H Green Stamps.  Stores back in the day gave out S&H Green Stamps for purchases. The more a person bought the more stamps they received.  Gas stations were big for giving out stamps to lure customers in.

S&H stood for Sperry & Hutchinson.  They were brilliant entrepreneurs in coming up with this idea. Some people have the knack for creative thinking.

Mom would take her stamps and place them into books designed to hold such.  It took several filled books before she cashed them in on anything of value. This retail marketing tool was used from the 1930’s until late 1980’s.  Because of inflation and changing times, S&H Green Stamps went the way of the dinosaur.

My first camera was obtained via S&H Green Stamps.  Don’t ask me how but I must have sweet-talked mother into getting it for me.  I remember my brother Jim and me finding loose stamps on grocery store parking lots.  Evidently some people saw no need to keep them.  As Mr. T would say,

“Foohs!”

These ‘found stamps’ were taped inside mom’s books rather than licking the attached glue.  Many times the small paper squares sported tire tracks. No telling what else was on them.

The biggest item I recall mom getting was a floor lamp.  I’m sure it took several books and many years before she had enough.  Stores these days offer similar promotions mostly through magnetic cards.  If you buy something, a set amount of credit goes into an electronic bank.  Walgreen’s currently has this plan.  They call it Balance Rewards.

You can’t cash in the Walgreen’s accumulation but you can apply it to other purchases.  My wife refers to these ‘Balance Rewards’ as hers. That’s okay with me.

I just read where S&H Green Stamps may attempt a comeback.  Some guy named Anthony Zolezzi bought the name and is working on a modern plan of reintroducing them.  Supposedly it was to be operational on Earth Day – April 22, 2015.  That day has since come and gone with no announcement.

Mr. Zolezzi is a renowned wheeler dealer so I suppose he’s still working out the bugs.  Like I mentioned earlier some people were born to be entrepreneurs.  Take that man Phil Swift hawking the waterproof spray able to plug holes in a boat.  Phil’s product is called Flex Seal and has been around forever.  It’s mere automotive undercoating with a fancy name.

By showing the public different uses for undercoating Phil Swift has made millions.  Flex Seal is now manufactured in various colors.  I’ve never been entrepreneur smart.  I’ve come up with ideas but never put them in play.  Maybe that’s a good thing?

A fellow I know came up with an idea for a board game.  It’s called ‘North to Alaska’.  This guy had 50,000 of them made using his dad as bankroll.  This was about the time electronic games became popular.  To make a long story short, the old man suffered a huge financial loss while son still has thousands of the games packed away in a warehouse.

I suppose you could say ‘North to Alaska’ went the way of S&H green stamps and dinosaurs!

Failure doesn’t upset me, yet losing hard earned dollars does.  The saying “nothing ventured, nothing gained” often comes to mind.  That might be good advice for young people, but to us retired geezers, “nothing ventured” seems the best way to fly.  This is especially sound advice when trying to hang onto valuable retirement dollars in an unstable economy!

Crazy Times in Gotham City

“When I asked what a sanitarium is, Grandma Hankins told me it was the ‘crazy house’.

These are interesting times we live in!  Never mind the good ole days, cowboy years, or even the Roaring 20’s. Today on a daily basis, I believe we exceed any of those periods of time where craziness is concerned.

Folks are coming forth claiming to be a different gender than they were born.  Other people are publicly announcing they’re of a specific race or color when it’s obvious they’re not.  I won’t go into name specifics, as more than likely you’ve seen these proclaimers on the 6:00 news. 

My grandparents talked about places called sanitariums.  When I asked what is a sanitarium, Grandma Hankins told me it was the ‘crazy house’.  The word sanitarium seems to have died a politically correct death.  Insane asylum is only heard on old horror movies.  Common rule these days seems to be allowing crazy people into the ranks of the sane.  I suppose psychiatrists believe this will make them whole. It won’t!

We see the results of this flawed thinking in the amount of mass shootings by mentally unstable individuals. The scary part being, supposed sane folks are out there trying to defend the actions of the insane.  They blame a gun for the crime rather than the person standing behind the gun. Tell me that isn’t insane thinking at its finest.

When a certain athlete came forth saying he was a she many influential people applauded his actions.  I have to look at these celebrities with extreme caution.  Flawed mental logic not only runs rampant in Gotham City, but in Hollywood as well.

“The Joker” actually comes across as mentally stable when compared to a lot of Hollywood kooks.  I realize what this world’s coming to and know it’s not going to be good for some people.  The Bible mentions bizarre things will come to pass in the later days. Those days are here.

Batman made wide sweeping turns in the Batmobile for a specific reason when confronting lunatics.  He knew he’d never win meeting these people head on. I try to do the same.

With Christians being killed worldwide, and main stream media not blinking an eye, hold on to your hat.  Things are about to get crazier around here. Rather than end my rant on serious note I’ll soften the blow.

The other day my wife found an empty Starbucks coffee cup in our car. She looked at me sternly before asking,

You think we’re made of money?” 

What she alluded to was the cup of coffee cost $5.00. In her eyes that was not being fiscally conservative on my part.  What she didn’t know was I had a free coupon for a medium drink.  I could’ve told her about the coupon and ended the conversation.  I chose a different route. 

“No biggie. I borrowed change from your change jar!” 

You must understand not even Robin could get away unscathed for tapping Joleen’s change jar let alone me.

Gotham City will be in slight turmoil until she figures out,

“I am “The Joker”.