Archives for December 2007

Tale #6 – The Day a Babe in Christ Met a Young Dark-haired Girl

It was July 4th, 1955. My buddy LeRoy Beckwith, Seaman Apprentice, as the Navy put it, rode beside me from Glenview Naval Air Station as I pointed my little black Chevy north toward the picnic park a mile or so the other side of Deerfield, Illinois. We were in “civies,” no dress whites for us this warm summer day. We were on liberty, no duty for either of us this Independence Day. What a relief.

Neither of us had ever been to a “fun day” at the Community Baptist Church. In fact, LeRoy had never been to one of their services. I had been there several times on Wednesday night and some Sunday nights, but we hardly knew any of the people. Pastor Wally Warfield had invited me to their Sunday School Picnic. “Come on out. There’ll be plenty of food and fun. You’ll like it!”– His invitation was friendly but not overbearing. I decided to ask LeRoy if he wanted to go with me. We agreed and so about 11 o’clock we showed our “I.D,s” at the main gate and the sentry waved us through. It was a thirty-five minute drive to where the pastor told me the park was.

As I pulled into the parking lot a few youngsters were playing softball. A thin early middle-aged man was tossing the ball toward children who were taking turns batting. They invited us into the game. We tossed the ball around with them and ran after the few that were actually hit softly into the little “outfield.” It was not much like a real game. There were a few young teens there, at least one I noted.

Before long it was time to eat. We had been told, “Just come. We’ll have plenty of food.” So we did. And they did! It was a good meal. As I recall there was a devotional time and a few more games. Then came time for “the ladies’ game.” We were encouraged to watch.

The six or eight ladies who were standing around looked uncomfortable, each one, in being the first to try the game. The object was to be good at throwing a rolling pin. I knew well what a rolling pin was. My Grandma Sasser had used one many time in my presence as she rolled out the dough for the many pies she baked at home for years. We all lived together. She was my second “mom.”

There was a grotesque-looking dummy stuffed into a flannel shirt and a pair of big coveralls. He was hanging from a tree, his “feet” about touching the ground. “Now ladies,” the game leader, probably the Sunday school superintendent, called out, “If your husband stays out late for no good reason, show us what you’ll do to him. Use your rolling pin.”

No one moved. No one wanted to be first. The leader asked again for a volunteer. Suddenly, from the side of the group, a dark-haired girl stepped forward. I remembered then that she had been on the “ball field” earlier that day and seemed to have the care of a young boy. I took him to be her baby brother. Later, I found out that he was. “Jimmy,” she called him. I had paid little attention to her. She looked very young and I had dismissed her from my mind.

Now this cute girl stepped forward and announced in a strong voice: “I don’t have a husband, but if I did, this is what would happen if he came in late.” Reaching out for the rolling pin in the leader’s hand, she grasped it and turned and hurled it hard toward the unfortunate dummy. To the amazement of everyone there, it traveled end-over-end and struck the “husband” in the mid-section. Instantly he was flung high in the air and his coveralls flew off and landed unceremoniously on the ground.

The young girl buried her head in her hands and fled to the back of the ladies’ group. I don’t remember how the wives there did, but to say the least they were out-shown by the reckless act of the dark-haired girl.

A few minutes later a lady spoke up as LeRoy and I stood around with some of the folk there. “Pastor,” she announced, I don’t think these young people have met” and she gestured toward the small group of teens who were there near us. Pastor Warfield gave our names and we nodded toward the young people whose names were announced. The cute girl was one of them.

It struck me that maybe some of them had older sisters LeRoy and I might get interested in. I quickly asked the group if any of them went to “Youth For Christ” in Chicago on Saturday nights. As I recall, they expressed interest in going but had, apparently, not gone before. We were able to make the arrangements for the following Saturday evening and got directions to the young girl’s house in Evanston, about twenty miles from the Naval Air Station. The lady who asked that we be introduced was a “Mrs. Shipley.” I realized she was the mother of the dark-haired girl named “Jane.”

As it turned out, Jane did have an older sister who was a nice Christian girl. She went with us to Youth For Christ. It was Jane, her sister, Sue, and a young girl friend of Jane. We visited and sang choruses and familiar hymns on our ride to and from Chicago. LeRoy and I rode in the front seat and I noticed Jane rode behind me with her sister and friend in the back as well.

Coming from a Lutheran church and being a babe in Christ, I knew many formal hymns but few choruses. One hymn we sang was “Fairest Lord Jesus.” I remember telling Jane that I knew the hymn as “Beautiful Saviour.” She inquired about the words. I began to recite them to her and I think she was writing them down. When we got to the words, “Truly I love Thee, truly I’d serve Thee” I became a little embarrassed. I was telling them to a sixteen-year-old girl. I was twenty-one. I froze on the words as Jane asked for them again. I wondered if that went through her mind too. Later I thought of the incident again. Suddenly she didn’t seem so young to me.