Saturday, August 16, 2014

Family History 12: Joining Two Streams (My Parents)

1. After my Dad died, I wrote pretty extensively about his life. He was born in Thorntown in 1924 at his Dad's first church plant (I think it was a plant). Although Dorsey Schenck planted churches around some, I think they mostly lived in Indianapolis. I know Interstate 65 now goes over one of the houses where they lived (Parker Ave?). He went to School 51, if I remember correctly, and he graduated from Arsenal Tech High in 1943.

He would have liked to go out for track, even went to the first day of practice once, I believe, but he had to quit because he had to work in his Dad's store. I also remember him talking about how, in earlier days, his younger brother Maurice would get into trouble in class and he would be embarrassed when his Dad would show up at school in his butcher's apron.

He was impressed with his Dad's strength. I guess in those days Dorsey could pull an engine out of a car with a pulley and fix about anything mechanical of that sort. I think he could lift a whole side of beef.

Theirs was of course a very conservative home, even for that day. They did not go to motion pictures. They did not dance (Dad even sat out a square dance at school, if I remember correctly). They used a spinner to play Monopoly rather than dice (the "appearance" of evil). There was such a concern not to lie, that Eugene would not say "Lotto" but instead, "Must I have Lotto?" They did not smoke, long before doctors convinced the public it was bad for our health.

I guess they would try to stay up till midnight on New Year's Eve, which was hard. Sometimes Eugene would sleepily ask someone to spin for him when it was his turn.

2. My mother was born in Greenfield in 1926. Her father Harry at that time was pastoring an established Pilgrim Holiness Church. When she was less than a year old, they moved to Greenwood. From there he would go to teach at Frankfort Pilgrim College. His first stint there was from 1927-32.

I've mentioned some of my mother's early memories of those years here and there already. I've also mentioned the trip they took to Kernersville, North Carolina after FPC closed. The roads through Kentucky and Tennessee were of course gravel in the 1930s and the car could only go 25 or 30 miles per hour. I mentioned them stopping for the night and the car not having any windows. So a farmer invited them in for the night because of rattlesnakes. My mom remembers her mom jumping out with a block of wood to make sure the car didn't roll down the hill when the brakes weren't working well.

Kernersville didn't take that time, so he pastored in Bacova, Virginia for a year. Then they went back to Kingswood, Kentucky. Then to southern Indiana. There are more details scattered in previous posts. Finally, he would return to Frankfort when it reopened in 1939.

One story I think from southern Indiana is a particularly cold day when my mother forgot to take her gloves with her to school. On her walk home, there were two ways she could come. Unfortunately, her father took the opposite way and her hands became almost frostbite. When they finally met up, he took her to a nearby house to run hot water over her hands.

She also remembers a couple coming to her Dad to ask his forgiveness for, I believe, cheating him out of some property in Sullivan, if I remember correctly. She was told to leave the room for the discussion but I guess listened in a little anyway.

3. In the early forties, my Dad was in high school at Arsenal Tech (1939-43). He was set to go to Drafting school to become a draftsman when he himself was drafted into World War 2. I worked through some of his war training and memories in other posts.

My mother was at Frankfort Bible College from 1942-46. The President of the Bible College at that time (I forget the name offhand) thought she might be able to teach Greek and, I think, may have had her teach the class some when he was busy. I've heard her talk about a final in preaching when they picked a piece of paper out of a hat and then had to preach extemporaneously on some topic. I believe she outlined some book on the history of education to complete her credits for graduation.

She was the valedictorian of her class. I forget the precise topic of her graduation speech (have to get a reminder from her on that). I think she may have had her Dad in class in high school for a class on household safety. She remembers, for example, a lesson on not leaving things on the stairs so you won't trip. :-)

My Dad's sister Frances was also attending Frankfort and invited my Mom to come help Dorsey's church plant with piano. I forget who gave my mother piano lessons to begin with, but she can hear a tune and find her way to the right chords. I forget what the method is called (a lot of fill-ins today, I'm afraid). You make an octave of the melody with both hands and then fill in the chords and move with the flow. Over the years growing up, Mom could always find her way to the right key when a pastor would start singing spontaneously.

My mother spied a picture of my Dad in his army suit on one of these Sunday visits and the thought flew through her head, "I wonder if I would ever date him?" She would of course meet him when he returned from the war in 1946. His opening salvo wasn't particularly subtle, "A lot of guys my age are getting married these days and I wondered if you would go out on a date with me."

My mother was so unaccustomed to eating at restaurants that she actually picked the tip up to take to him the first time, thinking he had forgotten it. He proposed on the spot when he realized she would feel guilty to kiss him if they weren't destined to get married. At that time he was working, driving a truck for his older brother Vernon, who had started his own business. It required Dad to get up early in the morning, so I guess he actually slept through quite a bit of their dates together.

My mother's family didn't have a phone, so I guess he surprised her one day in late December 1946 on his way to his grandmother's funeral in Camden (Salome Miller). I guess she was embarrassed at how she and the house looked. By this time, I believe her parents were living in the house off campus, across the train tracks.

They were married in 1947. It was a double wedding at Frankfort Pilgrim Church. They drove south to Whiteland for the first night, and I guess Mom's brother Paul pursued them all the way to Indy to give them a little extra money for their honeymoon. He was working at the train station in Indianapolis at that time, if I remember correctly. They would then go down to Mississippi to some of the places Dad was during his basic training during the war.

Earlier posts:

1. The Revivalin' Twenties
In the Year 1920 (Dorsey Schenck, also see here)
From Quaker to Pilgrim (Harry Shepherd in 20s)
The Great Generation (my parents)

2. The Depression Thirties
Dutch Reformed Past (Samuel Schenck)
North Carolina Flashback (Eli Shepherd)
Wanting to be Rich (Oscar Rich)

3. Passing Generations
Old German Baptist Heritage 1 (Amsy Miller)
Old German Baptist Heritage 2 (Salome Wise)
The Dorsey Stream (Pearl Dorsey)

4. The Forties and Fifties
Joining Two Streams (My Parents)

5. The Divisive Sixties
Prophet, Pastor, and Professor (Harry Shepherd)
Flashback to Jamestown (Champion Shelburn)

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