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Our high school was a new-fangled thing called “consolidated”—combining five smaller high schools into a small high school. We didn’t have drugs, much less “do” them. Alcohol, yes—that was always the excitement Friday and the big news Monday. Didn’t understand the giddiness then and don’t understand it now. But we didn’t have hard drugs. Narcotics came to my high school during the next years after I left.

High school in Small Town was a time when we all figured out a little bit more about who we were and who we hoped to be. We all wanted to be cool, at least that was true of the boys. Girls were harder to understand, then and now.

It’s hard to be cool, though, when your Latin teacher calls you “Rexy.” In fact, it’s hard to be cool taking Latin. Mrs. Burns called me that Freshman year, the next three years till I graduated, and for all I know till the day she went to heaven. Part Latin teacher, part Librarian, she taught the classics and was herself a model of all that’s classic in high school teacher-dom.

In Mrs. Burns’s class I learned—I kid you not—“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in Latin. Sure, I learned to conjugate Latin verbs—porto, portas, portat, portabam, portabas, portabat—but I’ve forgotten most of them.

I haven’t forgotten:

“Mica, mica, parva stella,
Miror quaenam sis tam bella.
Super terra in caelo,
Alba gemma splendido.
Mica, mica, parva stella,
Miror quaenam sis tam bella.”

Yes, Mrs. Burns forever bequeathed to me the ability to recite “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in Latin.

Our high school algebra teacher was Mrs. Crevey. She was as wide as she was tall, taught us everything we needed to know about algebra, and we were afraid of her. The idea of being “afraid” of a teacher seems quaint, but it’s true nonetheless, and I don’t mind admitting it. She was as good a person as she was a teacher. We learned a lot more from her than algebra.

I remember a high school P.E. Teacher who was little more than an over-large bully. Big voice, big strut, big nose, big ego, big nuisance. He lasted long enough for us to learn some adults never grow up.

Our high school quarterback was Dominic Capers, a couple of years older than me and a multi-sport athlete who went on to a career in the NFL. Today he’s the highly respected Defensive Coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.

Our cheerleaders actually cheered. No choreography. No sensual moves, not really, let alone the semi-exotic dance that passes for cheerleading in some school districts today. Kids think “current” is normal, which is to say erotica at times transposed onto cheerleading, so kids do whatever prevailing culture urges them to do. But where are their parents who know better?

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

In our town Small Town we were Protestant and Catholic with a sprinkling of Greek Orthodox. That was about it. We understood that certain church doctrines distinguished one from the other, but in our town back then, in day-to-day life we were more alike than different.

Our pastor was Rev. Harold House, a man more widely known as Howdy House. Another great name from our Small Town. What better name could a pastor have than Howdy? He’d been a newspaper journalist in his early years. I remember him as a kind and good pastor who preached the word in season and out.

Pastor was there to greet me when I went forward at age 9 to say I wanted to be baptized. He was also there when I stepped into the waters of the baptistery a short time later. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Pastor Howdy put me under the water, brought me part of the way back up, then put me under again and shook me. I’m not kidding. I don’t know if he thought I hadn’t gotten entirely “immersed” in good Baptist fashion, whether he was enjoying his own inside joke, or whether he was trying to take me out. But I got thoroughly baptized that day.

I grew up in a time when churches held Wednesday night prayer services. Pastor would do a short Bible study, than people would pray over requests and praises. Or maybe it was the other way around. In either event one lady stands out. I’ll call her Ms. F.

Ms. F prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. I mean she prayed interminably, at least it seemed that way to a kid. Forever, prayed for every missionary we’d ever heard of, prayed for everyone on the sick list, Ms. F prayed and prayed some more. She even quoted God’s Word to God, thinking perhaps he’d forgotten what he’d said. To my knowledge Ms. F’s prayers were sincere, so I don’t want to make fun at her expense. It was just tough for a kid to sit through prayers that lasted longer than the incidents prayed about. One thing’s for sure, though. Ms. F was a classic Small Town character and I learned a lot during those mid-week prayer services about the methodology of public prayer.

Mr. P also offered prayers for the ages. He was one of the co-founders of our church and had a white pompadour to make Porter Wagoner jealous.

Then there was Mr. and Mrs. W, both elderly, faithful, white coiffed. Coolest thing to a kid? They drove a shiny, black, probably 1960 Plymouth Savoy with huge fender wings. It was the batmobile pulling up in front of our church every service. Glorious to a kid.

Another Small Town character lived down the street from the church—Mrs. S. Her claim to fame is that, as far as we could ever tell, she never wore anything, ever, except a bathrobe. You’d see her at all hours of the day, on her porch, in her yard, going for the paper, in a bathrobe. There’s sometimes a fine line between lazy and leisurely. Determining which description fit Mrs. S is above my pay grade.

Church and characters populated the landscape in Small Town. There are fewer churches, fewer characters, and fewer small towns now.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

 

I remember church picnics where everyone went. From the newest baby to the 90-somethings everyone came. The picnic was usually held at a local park with a large pavilion in which tables were covered with potluck.

This was back when churches actually scheduled church-wide events, something almost unheard of today even in smaller congregations. Today we have options, so each generation if not each individual exercises their freedom of choice by going in several directions at once. It makes for comedy but not community.

Same can be said for versions of the Scripture. I’m by no means a “King James Version Only” guy (yes, there are KJV Only guys), but I do sense a trade-off, if not a loss, that’s come with ever multiplying presentations of the Holy Writ.

When I was a kid in Sunday school, “Jet Cadets” (What a name, right? I’ll tell you that story another time), DVBS, i.e. Daily Vacation Bible School, and later teen groups I memorized verses from the KJV. Those verses are still in my mind today, complete with all their “thees” and “thous.” In fact, they’re still in the minds of anyone over, say, 40 who memorized Scripture in his or her youth.

It’s amusing: a preacher reads his sermon text from the church’s selected newer version of the Scripture. He begins preaching. Later as he’s in full flight the Spirit of God brings a verse to his mind that he had not planned to use. He quotes it—in the King James Version, and this he does no matter what version du jour he read earlier.

It’s bemusing: The Church no longer has a common vocabulary. With each church exercising its Christian liberty to choose whatever version of Scripture the fellowship likes we move farther apart. If we memorize Scripture at all we learn different words and will not necessarily recognize the same verse from another version.

If this is a challenge within the Church, think how much more confusing it is for a public increasingly distanced from biblical knowledge.

It used to be that I could say “He’s willingly ignorant of that issue,” and people around me would know that I had just borrowed a phrase from Scripture. But if I say this now most people will not recognize the biblical allusion because most haven’t heard the language of the KJV (2 Peter 3:5, KJV).

Old black and white movies from Hollywood’s Golden Era feature many references to biblical themes, characters, verses, or theology. Someone says, for example, “That woman is a Jezebel,” and culture knew what that meant. Today’s films are mostly sanitized of biblical references, but even when they’re included many viewers miss the connection.

I was reading an editorial a while ago and the author said, “As Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Well, during the Civil War President Lincoln did say this, but he was paraphrasing the book of Matthew (12:25) and other Gospels.

I am not against different versions of the Bible, nor do I think it’s improper for churches to select the version that best fits their ministry. I’m simply saying that we’ve embraced this newfound freedom with little discussion of its implications for community long-term.

And I believe we’re losing or among young people have already lost a common language of the faith. We're increasingly pulled apart by the centrifugal social forces of culture and we have little remaining centripetal influences of the faith pulling us together again.

Maybe we need to resurrect the church picnic.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

In our Small Town, middle school wasn’t called Middle School when I was in the middle. I went to Junior High, Grades 7 and 8. I learned science in 7th Grade and diagramming sentences and writing in 8th Grade.

In 7th Grade I went out for basketball and in 8th Grade football. I discovered athletic prowess was not my forte, although I was pretty good at dodge ball.

In 8th Grade I was assigned the last seat in the last row in the corner, adjacent to an enormous old sash window on the building’s second floor. In those days we still opened windows. No AC, no screens, no lock-down-safety standards put in place by bureaucrats afraid a kid didn’t have enough sense not to jump out a window. Throughout the fall and spring I hung halfway out that window watching the street action, and during the winter I reveled in my special status as keeper –of-the-window-on-the-world.

Our 8th Grade teacher was the epitome of cool. His name was the wonderfully alliterate Chuck Chippi. Mr. Chippi, what a great name. He was an excellent and popular teacher who later capped his career as the district’s superintendent. He let me enjoy the back corner seat and hang out that window because, frankly, I was a good student.

Mr. Chippi could diagram any sentence ever written and apparently took great joy in this. So we all learned more grammar and syntax than we thought necessary for the pursuit of happiness Jefferson had said was our inalienable right.

Around this time I remember the first time my family went to Burger Chef, a new kind of restaurant where the service was quick, the prices low, and the food pretty good. Burgers and fries, what could be more American than this? It was the beginning of along relationship.

We didn’t know it then, but 8th Grade in 1965-66 teetered at the edge of a cultural innocence soon to be gone forever. Losing JFK was a terrible shock, but what stood before us in the next decade would be even worse than the violent loss of a popular president.

An interminable war in southeast Asia that caused us to turn on our own homecoming troops, more political assassinations, social unrest and riots in Watts and many other neighborhoods, a counter-cultural revolution that exalted love and peace over war but left us with hallucinogenic drugs, STDs, and moral relativism, college students gunned down at Kent State by National Guard troops, and eventually, a president resigning in disgrace. It was a “long national nightmare” as President Gerald Ford later described the Watergate scandal.

I was oblivious to this in the fall of 1965. But by the next fall when I entered high school things had changed enough I’d begun to notice. Each night when I came home from school I heard Vietnam War (“the living room war”) body counts on our black and white Philco TV and I watched “Star Trek.” This jarring juxtaposition continued throughout most of my high school years, and later a few boys from our town didn’t come home. An older high school friend who survived a tour in Vietnam was forced to shoot a child approaching a group of American soldiers with grenades strapped to his chest.

There’s so much more to the sixties we’re only beginning to understand the ripple effects. Small Town seemed insulated for a while, but it couldn’t last. Transistor radios came to our town and The British Invasion came to "The Ed Sullivan Show."

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

 

I came of age in a town with a Rexall drugstore. I can still see the classic orange and navy sign spelling the word in white neon. The store had one aisle but everything we needed.

Our town had a grocery store, two barbers, beauty salons, a shoe repair shop, local mechanics, and two ice cream stands. There were 12 churches and 13 beer joints, or about that. A sign at the edge of town said “3,000 Friendly People.”

Our Small Town lay along north-running Wills Creek, a stream that twists its way amidst the gentle, southern Ohio hills that still give the area its signature beauty. It wasn’t a big creek, but it was our body of water.

Small Town was a place where everyone went to church, or at least it seemed so. If you didn’t, people knew it and thought you were on the road to perdition.

We knew the baker, the barber, the grocer, the Police Chief. We knew where to get the best milkshakes, where a baseball game was always in play, and where to fish for catfish at “The Rocks” at the lake (an astounding six miles away).

Kids ran free but not wild. “It takes a village,” Hillary said, and conservatives pilloried her for it. But in our Small Town it was a lot like that. Do something you shouldn’t do and someone else’s Mother likely told you to straighten up or she’d call your Mom, who of course, she’d gone to high school with.

The only people wearing tattoos in Small Town were a few veteran sailors from the big war. The only people with un-naturally colored hair were a couple of elderly blue-haired ladies at the church. Drugs, when I was growing up, were something you bought at the Rexall to help cure your cough.

In Small Town, our elementary school was classically named for a Nineteenth Century President. I attended Lincoln Elementary School on Fifth Street. All the school buildings of my youth were made of dark red brick that screamed “Stability and Truth.” Two of those school buildings are still standing, relics of an ancient past.

In a wonderful symmetry I recognized only later my 1st Grade homeroom teacher was named Mrs. Holmes. I remember her as nice, thin, and that’s about it. But she taught me to read.

In 2nd Grade, I experienced the single greatest moral moment of my life, a tale I’ll reserve for another time.

I watched for steel pennies in the lunch money I helped collect in the 3rd Grade, learned geography in 4th Grade, figured fractions in 5th Grade, and was standing on the playground in 6th Grade when we got the news of JFK’s assassination.

When news from Dallas reached adult ears teachers quickly herded us into the main entrance hall. For the next couple of hours all students from grades four to six watched a small black and white television, the only one in the school, set high on a rolling cart. I don’t remember what I saw on TV, but I remember teary-eyed teachers, whispering adults, and a pervading quiet in the hall like we’d never known before. Two days later I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.

Later that year on the same playground I watched my first and to this day only “Girl Fight.” I remember one of the girl’s names yet today. Of the girls in my class she was the last one I would’ve ever thought capable of this. She and the other unfortunate went at it fang and claw for several minutes until large-bodied adults corralled them. It was quite a show. I imagine others on that playground remember it too. Forgive me for smiling as I write.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.