In the early years of my life I recall that my Dad was always booked solid throughout the summer to conduct Gospel Meetings. The majority of them required him to be away from home for the duration of …
In the early years of my life I recall that my Dad was always booked solid throughout the summer to conduct Gospel Meetings. The majority of them required him to be away from home for the duration of the meeting. As did preachers before him, he would board with church members and was sometimes paid for his services with a little cash and farm goods. Often the poor country churches had very little money available to pay the preachers. Many preachers then were more interested in the salvation of souls than a sizable payment for conducting the services. One payoff was that the good cooks of the congregation signed up to feed the preacher, and it was then that the old rooster would meet its fate and end it all in a frying pan. In addition here might be pork or beef from the smoke house where the meat was preserved.
There was always a big kitchen table filled with fresh vegetables and fruit prepared as only a country cook could deliver. A dessert of fresh peach or blackberry cobbler, apple pie or other desserts followed the meat and vegetable feast. For drinks, cold well water, sweet milk or buttermilk, and sometimes tea were offered. Ice was a rare commodity and drinks were rarely served colder than water from the well. Milk was often placed in lidded gallon jugs and placed in bucked and lowered by ropes into the cold water of a dug well. A good revival where there were lots of baptisms was payoff enough as the preacher was there to save souls and not to become prosperous. The Lord would provide!
Many churches provided toilets which were often needed after the long trip by foot, horseback, or wagon, or after a long sermon. They were usually placed behind the church building with the men's on one side and the ladies' on the other. It was not uncommon for there to be a lot of coming and going, especially with the younger crowd, during the services. The toilets were getting a workout although many times it was not as great a case of urgency as the departing person would want you to believe.
Small stands (shelves) were placed on the walls of the church buildings where kerosene lamps would be placed for lighting. After a period of time, the ceilings above the lamps would be blackened by smoke. In the wintertime there were those who had the assignment to arrive at the church building early enough to build a fire 1n the potbellied stove which was normally located in the front middle of the building with a stovepipe extending through the ceiling and roof. There usually a coal pile conveniently located outside. A coal scuttle and poker were usual1y stored in a comer along with the straw broom, various printed items, many times in disarray, and a box of dust rags tom from an old sheet.
Many of the country churches had cemeteries where families buried their dead. A chosen Sunday during the year was assigned to have a homecoming.and decoration. This would provide the occasion for the social event of the year. Relatives would gather for a dinner on the grounds and an afternoon singing. A long outdoor wooden table, under a shed, was usually constructed to hold the mounds of covered dishes which cooks would present as their offering to the occasion. There was always more than enough to feed all comers. Cooks always took pride in the compliments received regarding their cooking skills. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and other friends and relatives would utilize this time to get to know one another better and to catch up on the happenings since their last meeting. While the adults would stand around and reminisce, the youngsters would be involved in playful activities. For Sunday services the building would be packed as was the afternoon singing. It was commonplace for all extra available chairs to be set out in advance in anticipation of the crowd that would attend.
The best singers from miles around would never miss a good singing. There would be a person in charge who on which they would write the names of the ones normally had someone stand at the door with single slips of paper or small index cards who would record the names of those who expressed an interest in leading a song. Calling off the names on the cards 1n the order that they were received often required more time that the scheduled time for dismissal, but most song leaders would be allowed to have their tum directing their chosen songs. Many churches acquired enough song books in order that there be enough for all, but many times some were required to be shared. The singings were always joyous events.