Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Can you spell Bus?

Laughter ruled at the annual reunion of Baptist Student Union members from the 1940s and 1950s at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Meadow Heights Baptist Church in Collinsville hosted us last Thursday and Friday and shared their lovely facilities and a great deal of their talent with us. One highlight for me was hearing the folk song from the 30s when one singer shared "Arkey, will you tell Okie that Texas said there is a job in Californie." How haunting that song was to capture the bravery and the hope and shared helpfulness during one of the most desperate eras of our national life.

Sentimentality and some sadness were present, but with Helen Galloway, our CEO extraodinaire, leading us, continual laughter quashed other emotions. Her extemp comebacks were fast and furious, wacky and wonderful, and she kept us enjoying ourselves.

One of the stories Helen told us was one she heard when she first joined BSU. A group of BSU students had gone to Ridgecrest on a chartered bus with BSU prominently displayed. They pulled out of a filling station and the mountaineer there exclaimed that those dumb college students did not even know how to spell "bus."

We missed those who were unable to come back from last year--some because of death. Before we listened to the song Prof Quinn sang for us a year ago, it was good to get an update on Phronzie Quinn and know she has a good caretaker. We prayed for George and Leona Davis who had never missed before, but were hindered from attending because of George's illness.

This reunion was started by the 1940s group, but they started inviting us "young ones." And we are glad they did. (The Lu Steele era group had met two or three times but had ceased meeting long ago.) I even enjoyed becoming Rosie (Martin) Parks' little sister again as her and Phil's friends asked about them down in Amarillo. I started college known as Rosemary's sister, but I got some revenge when she and Phil came back on campus after his four years in the Air Force. For a brief time, she got introduced as Sue's sister.

Using "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" as her theme, Helen had assembled fascinating decorations including a wonderful vintage car outside to greet us as we entered the building. And she couldn't resist a few in-print laughs tacked on the many chenille bedspreads and housecoats paraded on the walls of the fellowship hall where we enjoyed excellent soup and sandwiches Thursday evening and a lavish feast on Friday noon before we moved into the auditorium for a final song fest and the reminiscences of Jack Shelby.

One of the reunion highlights for Gerald and me was visiting back at the motel Thursday night with Betty Bettis Cox and Carol Smith. Betty had masterminded our meeting again when Gerald came back to SIUC from service, and Carol had sung at our 1956 wedding. But the richness of their present lives was what thrilled and inspired me. I felt energized hearing what they were doing with international students and impressed by their knowledge of what is taking place in the world. It is very good to get off the farm sometimes and see and hear what other folk are doing.

Wendell Garrison, Gerald's former roommate and a groomsmen at our wedding, was there for the first time, and we enjoyed meeting his wife Mary as we also enjoyed visiting with another of Wendell's roommates Ernie Standefer and his wife Doris. And it was great having Don and Helen Ruth Dillow back in Illinois after their move to Texas. Betty and they live relatively close in that big state, and she rode up with them. Helen Ruth wanted to come not only to see us but also a 101-year-old friend up in Springfield, whom she had to leave behind when they moved. All the music at the reunion was great. I teased Helen Ruth that she didn't play the piano for worship back at Pennsylvania Avenue (where Don was our pastor) like she did when she boogied down on the Route 66 song.

When Gerald and I were quite young back in Clear Creek Association, I can remember hearing an even younger Rayford Raby play the piano. Although I never saw him after that and was not acquainted with him at that time, I had followed his career in the Illinois Baptist where I recently read of his retirement. After studying at Julliard, he had become music director at an Alton church and was there for 44 years. It was a joy to hear him play again.

Another special friend I met again at last year's reunion (the first one we attended) was Becky (Ferris) Searle from our Johnson Hall days. And Betty and Darrell Molen, and on and on--too many special people to mention. One of the recurring themes in people's remarks was that the people in that room were the people who had shaped their lives. That was true for all of us, and it was good to be together with such dear and important people from our past.

We took off after the last session to continue our trip towards Notre Dame for the weekend. I was regretting having to miss the final sermon and also the Joy Singers who were going to make an appearance at our services at Center in the village of Crab Orchard that night. Cliff and Jane Sims were headed home to stop for that service. Come to find out, they drive over from Harrisburg to participate with the Joy Singers at Marion First. As we said our farewells, this was a final example of the way members' lives have intertwined and blessed one another down through the years.

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