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The White Station Wagon

My Dad was a “jack of all trades”. He made and fixed a lot of things. Afterall, with four children to feed, he had to figure out a way to make what little money he had stretch as far as he could. We didn’t have fancy swings in the back yard, but instead we had a potato sack swing. For those of you who don’t know what that is, well it’s a burlap potato bag filled with straw, tied off at the end (so the straw doesn’t come out), and tied by a long rope to a tree limb. The trick was to straddle the bag and hold it tight between your legs and hang on to the rope. Then someone would push you like on a regular swing. The fun part was that the swing not only went back and forth, but round and round, sometimes spinning out of control. It was all you could do to hang on and not fall off… and we DID fall off from time to time! Dad would swing us high enough that we would go above his head, and he was over 6 feet tall. To a six-year-old, that was high!! Our family spent many evenings before dark taking turns swinging in the back yard while Mom finished dinner.

Dad at this time also worked for Dr. Pepper and was the Pastor at Neal’s Chapel Baptist Church in Bondsville Arkansas. I remember well the long drives from Dell to Bondsville and back every Sunday. We had a white station wagon, and we could stretch out in the seats and sleep on the way. The wagon also served another special purpose that I remember. In the summer one year, Dad used it in our Vacation Bible School parade. The parade itself was a church sponsored thing where usually a couple of members would decorate their cars with streamers and such, then ride around town and invite people to send their children for a week of Bible study at the church. Dad decided we would use our station wagon and load it up with all the children that wanted to go and have a parade. He took black shoe polish and wrote V.B.S. and the dates all over the sides of the car. He took his time and wrote it very neatly, which was a good thing because after the parade, when he washed the car, it didn’t come off!! We rode around for weeks with V.B.S. written all over our white car in what had faded to purple letters!! He never did that again!

We didn’t keep that car much longer after that. One night, on the way home, we had a flat tire and had to stop on the side of the road. Dad changed the tire, closed the tailgate and we headed for home. Tracy, my youngest brother was only about 3 years old, and had crawled into the back and fell asleep. I remember waking up at home and getting out of the car, but Mom and Dad couldn’t get Tracy to wake up. He had fallen asleep with his face against the tailgate which may not have been closed well, and had been breathing almost pure carbon monoxide. Mom was panicking and Dad was doing everything he could think of to wake him up. Luckily, he did wake up and they fed him some ice cream to keep him conscience. Not long after that, Dad got rid of the station wagon.

Daddy Sang Bass, Momma Sang Tenor

 

I was about 6 years old when we stared singing together as a family. That means that my two younger brothers, Kevin and Tracy were preschoolers. Kevin would have been about 5 years old and Tracy would have only been around 4. We sang full length versions of songs, and they never missed a word…. not once! I remember vividly how Tracy would sit in the living room and sing along with the theme song to Gilligan’s Island. He knew every word.

Dad bought a PA sound system and we each had our own microphone. He color coded them with different colors of tape so we each knew exactly which one was ours. We also had regular rehearsals at home and he would record us on reel to reel and sometimes cassettes and play it back for us to hear. He also instructed us on singing courtesy. When someone sang a solo, and yes, both Kevin and Tracy sang solos as well and Lisa and I, we were to turn and give them our full attention. That way, Dad told us, the congregation members would give them their attention as well. He took the time to copy the words for each song into a folder and put them in order so that we had a complete program to perform. I remember using these folders once. We might have used them twice, but after that it was evident that we didn’t need them at all. We were well rehearsed and ready to go.

I have the reel to reel tapes at my house. The Panasonic player I have still works, but the quality of the tapes are fuzzy and distorted in places. The very first song on one of the tapes is the whole family singing “Turn Your Radio On”. We couldn’t have been much older than when we first started singing. If I remember correctly, this was one of the first songs we ever did. I listened to it for the first time in 40 years just about a year or so ago. We twanged out the song in true southern style, complete with thick accents and little voices mixed with Mom and Dad. It was the most beautiful music I have ever heard.