The mind makes strange connections. One of these connections happened for me when a picture emailed by our daughter-in-law, Nancy, triggered memories of my childhood and of revivals that were held twice a year in the churches where my father served as pastor.
By way of explanation, for those unfortunate souls who do not understand the “good old days,” revivals were orchestrated attempts to re-save church attendees and, hopefully, redeem a heathen or two (or so it seemed to me as a child). Back in the day, a revival was a two-week series of services, inclusive of three Sundays. An evangelist (aka itinerant minister) delivered the sermons for each of the eighteen services.
It’s possible (maybe even probable) that minister’s kids have totally different memories of revivals than do church members. In those days, the evangelist, who generally came from some distance away, stayed in the home of the local pastor. This meant that some preacher’s kid (PK) gave up his/her room for the duration. At our house, that was me. I have to assume this happened because, being the least messy, my room was easier to ready for company. (I concede, before being challenged, that my siblings may have a different view regarding this topic.)
Mom was a great cook and slaved over a hot stove to ensure three well-balanced meals each day during revivals. Of course, church members pitched in by demonstrating 101 ways to use gelatin. I could have handled 101 ways to fix cherries, but the gelatin concoctions were sometimes a little much. Non-PKs may be unaware of this fact, but gelatin is not only a base for salads and desserts, but also for main dishes. Think tomato aspic.
So what was the picture that brought my past to mind? It was a picture of great-granddaughter, Emma, on a carousel. Some of my revival memories include being tardy for school and suffering the consequences because the evangelist needed to pray around the world during morning devotions, having to be quiet because someone was in a testy mood or needed an afternoon nap, getting to bed very late on ten school nights in a row because every “altar call” song had to be exhausted before the final amen of the evening, and wearing long stockings, even to play on Saturday, because you-know-who might disapprove of little girls’ bare legs.
The rare exception to these and other like experiences occurred when Dad pastored a church in Canon City, CO. I don’t know the first name of the evangelist but his last name was Bennett. Rev. Bennett liked kids. He even had some of his own back home and he apparently missed them. In the afternoons after school I would listen to his stories and watch as he illustrated them on paper. I was fascinated by the story of “The Little Engine That Could” and the pencil drawings of the struggles of the tiny engine as it attempted to reach the top of the steep mountain, all the while chanting, “I think I can; I think I can.” Finally, I felt the engine’s elation as it raced down the other side of the hill.
On the second Saturday Rev. Bennett stayed in our home he initiated a trip to a park in Pueblo that had a carousel. There, he lifted me onto a painted horse, inserted a nickel, and for the first time in my life I glided up and down while circling to the rhythm of unfamiliar music. Loved that revival!
Emma Ruth riding the carousel while grandma, Nancy Powers, watches.