Remembering the Revival
It wasn’t Mayberry. But it was a small West Tennessee community that resembled the famous television series. Parents raised their children by the Bible and how Andy Griffith raised Opie. It was a time when simple pleasures consisted of family and friends being together. People worked hard, played hard, and the school and church held the community together.
Thinking back to an enchanted era of my childhood, a big summer event occurred the second week in July. That’s when the Baptist church always had a two-week revival. As a child, I wondered, “Would God care if the revival was scheduled another week?” However, it was never altered. My father’s opinion to change: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Mother, being an excellent cook, was always asked to feed the preachers for a meal. This meant a meticulous house cleaning, waxing hardwood floors, washing windows, polishing the good silver and carefully taking down the company china from the top cabinet. Fresh sheets had to be changed in every bedroom. And why? What if the preacher’s wife felt a fainting spell coming on and had to lie down? She could be in any of the rooms when this happened!
The day before the meal, the 1950s GE refrigerator was filled with wonderful food. Picnic ham, fried chicken, crusty yeast rolls in a clover-leaf design ready to be popped into the oven, and mother’s well-known funeral potato salad – the recipe she always took when there was a death in the community. Then, there was Aunt Jessie’s sweet potato casserole, topped with marshmallows. For dessert, chocolate pie with meringue as high as a cat’s back – the kind that took half day to make and would be gone in five minutes! Although the garden was “in,” meaning that the vegetables were available, mother never served beets when the preachers came. Some time later she told me why: “One revival meal I served them, and that evangelist spilled beet juice on my good linen tablecloth. Never could get the stain out – not even with P&G soap!”
After the meal, we left the dishes in the sink, quickly dressed and hurried to the revival meeting. Those were the days of crinoline petticoats, and no proper Southern girl would think of going to an important event without at least two or three of the starched garments under a full-skirted dress. In order to make the petticoats stand out, they were dipped in Faultless heavy starch and spread over a low bush to dry. For the first few hours, the stiffness remained. However, in a matter of hours, they succumbed to the West Tennessee humidity.
In the heat of the night, windows and doors were left open. Thank goodness for the funeral fans donated to churches in time for the summer meeting! In most rural houses of worship, air conditioning was unknown. If you were lucky, you could sit next to someone with a strong arm who would keep the hot air moving. When the audience stood during a stanza of “Amazing Grace,” I noticed something strange going on in the bodice of my organdy dress. On closer inspection, I felt this uninvited guest jump and climb. To my horror, a large grasshopper had followed the scent of the starch and made its way under my clothing.
And with the doors open, the preacher’s dog, who lived nearby, decided to come to church, too. It wasn’t until the pastor asked the audience to stand for the invitation that the dog stood up – and slowly made his way down to the altar. I think the hymn was “I Will Rise and Go to Jesus.”