Friday, February 17, 2006

Abilene, Abilene, Prettiest Town I've Ever Seen

Now that I am living in Nashville, I cannot really adhere to that song title--Nashville is pretty even in its naked winter mode. No blogging for a few days.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Before and During the College Years

This again is for Maddie, Ella and Sam:

Lily Tomlin has been town recently, and advertisements for her show reminded me of my precollege year and those during the 4 years of college. Remember her skit as a switchboard operator with the "one ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies," etc.?

While in high school, I really had no thought about going to college or what else I would do. We had a counselor, but she did no college advising. My parents were poor, and I thought there was no way I could afford to go to college. My two best friends at the time--Marylyn Fletcher and Rodney Spaulding--persuaded me otherwise. Marylyn was already in ACU and Rodney was headed that way, so naturally I should go too. A small scholarship for being salutatorian impelled me to think about going.

I moved to Abilene the summer after graduation, lived with my Granny Tucker and began working at Foremost Diaries there. My aunt Lynette had worked there for years, and she helped me get in. I worked full-time at first. My job entailed working in the office as a comptometer (I don't know if they still exist) operator and filling in as switchboard operator when she went to lunch or coffee or was out sick. The board was one of those old-fashioned boards with wires one stuck in holes to connect the parties. I developed a pleasant answering voice there which I still have on the phone. Working for a year full-time and living with my grandmother enabled me to save enough money to begin at ACU (one always had to have the cash to register!) and to become a student majoring in English there. I worked full-time every summer and in the Foremost office part-time during the school months for 5 years, thus funding most of my college expenses. I later took out a federal loan for teachers which I paid back over a period of 10 years. I actually got a 5 year pin at Foremost with a diamond in it. One of the things I learned while working there was that I did not want to work in that kind of job for the rest of my life. There were many good things about the job--nice people and bosses. And we were right across the street from the Dixie Pig on Butternut in Abilene where we went for break every day. I remember a luscious lemon pie similar to lemon ice box but it had a meringue on top.
Yum! I also worked in the ACU library for a couple of years at night making more money. There was a semester when I did not have the money to begin, but my friend Rodney called his folks, and they sent the $100 I needed to begin that semester. I shall always be grateful to them for that. My folks were not able to help me very much, as I still had 2 younger brothers at home. A big day came when I went to the post office, opened a letter, and found a $10 bill my dad had sent.

Since I had no car, I rode the city bus to and from ACU every day to Foremost which was way on the other side of town. I often stopped at the Kresge store downtown for lunch which always included pumpkin pie with ice cream. I managed to graduate in the alloted 4 years with honors despite my having to work.

Of course I missed out on some things at college because I had to work every afternoon, but the blessing of going far outweighed what I missed. Maddie, Ella and Sam, what I want you to know is that college is "doable" no matter what the money situation is. And I very strongly want all three of you to begin planning earlier than I did to attend. Mommy and Daddy are already saving money for you to go, but you may have to work as I did, and that is not all bad.

I later had the blessed opportunity to teach at ACU, and my office was the same one my esteemed major professor, Dr. Jim Culp, had used. I marvelled at the blessings of God which had enabled me to teach at the college which I once thought I would never be able to attend.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Lizzie Belle (Isabell) Herndon Tucker

This is for you Maddie, Ella and Sam:

Your great great-grandmother Lizzie Belle Herndon Tucker was born on this day February 13, 1889 in Bosque County, Texas. She preferred the name Isabell which her friends used. Some of her children called her "Ip." I called her Granny Tucker. She was one of 14 children (7 girls and 7 boys). The siblings were: Joe, William (whom they called Charlie), Fred, Arch, Alma, Viola (Ola), Lena, Bud, Lawrence (called Jip), Arthur (called Toff), Daisy (who died at the age of 6), LuNettie (called Bobby) and Willie.(Interestingly, Charlie married a distant relative of your Poppy's, Mary Rowell. And Viola married her twin brother Reuben Rowell. Sam and I did not know that until after we married.) I later taught with Charlie's granddaughter at Austin Elementary in Abilene. In Lizzie's early lineage was
William H. Herndon, who practiced law with Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Ill. before he became president; William Herndon wrote one of the first biographies of A. Lincoln, and it is still used by scholars. Another notable was Ellen Lewis Herndon, the wife of Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president of the United States. In 1897 Lizzie moved with her parents William Samuel and Mary Ellis Lantrip Herndon to the Pleasant Hill Community of Jones County, Texas. Her father had heard that prime farm land was cheap there. Will first put his family in a digout in a bluff on his land while he began farming and building a house for them all. He eventually owned more than 2,000 acres there. In addition, he built a tabernacle on one corner of his land which he called Herndon Chapel. It was later replaced by a white church building. Neighbors who were members of the Church of Christ attended for years.

Lizzie was the oldest girl and thus became her ailing mother's primary helper. She would cook breakfast for the crowd, clean up the dishes and the house, and then go to the fields and pick cotton for the rest of the day. Her older brother Joe (5 years older) was an ogre who pushed her to work and pick more cotton than "the boys." After that, she would go into the house, cook supper, clean up, and then retire (or collapse) in her bed. She grew weary of all of that. In 1911, she and her younger sister Alma stepped out of the living room window (those were the days when the windows went from ceiling to floor) and eloped with their boyfriends. Two of Lizzie's brothers had helped the girls hide their trunks in a secluded area on the farm. Lizzie's husband-to-be picked her up in a horse and buggy belonging to Earl Scott whom Alma married.

Lizzie's husband was a newcomer to town and was definitely not appreciated by Lizzie's parents. Will promptly disinherited the girls and her brothers who helped them. I think the brothers who helped were Charlie and Bud. Turns out that the parents' opinion of Claude Edward Tucker was right. He was somewhat of a neer-do-well (more on that later).

In a story reminiscent of the prodigal son, Lizzie was reunited with her parents in this fashion: She and Alma had been banned by Will and Mary from returning home after the marriages. After about 2 years had passed, one morning Lizzie and Claude pulled up to the road leading to the big white house. Claude stayed in the buggy(I am sure he felt unwelcome still) while Lizzie began walking down the road home. Her father Will was sitting on the front porch and ran to her crying, welcoming her back home. He gave her a small cash inheritance and all was well. Will did not include any of his daughters in his will--just the boys when he died in 1918 at the age of 56. Mary lived until 1925 when she died of cancer. Her funeral was held on the porch of the Herndon home in Pleasant Hill.

Claude took it on himself to use the inheritance Lizzie was given to buy some land nearby which he eventually lost because he was a dismally poor farmer. They began to move around where he could find odd jobs. My mother, Pauline (your great-grandmother) graduated from high school in Rochester, Texas, where her dad owned a service station. Claude, who suffered from depression, never made enough money to support his wife and four children ( Who were: Hazel Pauline, Chloe Lynette, Otis Lee and Clarence Edward). He deserted the family and was eventually hospitalized after trying to commit suicide. They were never reunited, although Lizzie was heard to say that she never stopped loving him. He preceded her in death in 1957 and is buried with his family in Zephyr, Texas.

Lizzie and her children moved closer to home in Anson, Texas, where the children went to school. She rented out rooms in her house to boarders to make money during the Depression and all the children worked to help out. After the war in 1946, the family moved to Abilene, Texas. After all her children were married, Lizzie enjoyed living by herself in a duplex on Cedar Street where she raised roses and daisies. She had some company--Jimbo, a yellow canary who had a sweet song. She loved watching Days of Our Lives and General Hospital every day. Lizzie baby-sat your father occasionally and would bake sugar cookies which she called tea cakes for him. She hosted many family dinners replete with love and food in the small duplex. She lived near the Northside Church of Christ and walked to church through the alley for years. She was a life-long member of the Church of Christ as were her mother and father.

She died in October, 1982, at the age of 85 at Hendrick Hospital in Abilene. Cause of her death was congestive heart failure. She had been exceptionally healthy most of her life. She was the 10th of her siblings to die. She loved your Poppy (Sam Thomas), and he wrote a poem about her which he read at her funeral. Lizzie is buried in Elmwood Memorial Cemetery in Abilene, Texas.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Olympics

I am loving the Olympics. I thought the opening was especially beaufiful and the dove formed by the acrobats was spectacular.


I am disappointed that Kwan had to withdraw. She is a very gracious person.


Our first morning in the Otter Creek gym was wonderful--I saw a lot of people I did not know. I guess they were first service people. I think we had close to 900 people in the gym with 200 more doing children's worship, nursery, etc.

Well, I still want to go to Italy. Our "first big snow" was a dud.


More provocative bloggin later.

Friday, February 10, 2006


I just spent the better part of an hour taking labels off 8 red plastic plates, using warm water, liberal squirts of Goo Gone and lots of elbow grease. Why do merchants do that??????I know there are easy-peel labels out there.


I love the Olympics and am looking forward to the opening tonight. Makes me want to go to Italy tomorrow. But then I would miss our first real snow of the season.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I have always enjoyed writing of all kinds. In high school, I loved my Schaeffer torquoise or blue-black ink and a fountain pen with a wide nub. It made everything I wrote seem important.

The first job I had brought enough money to keep me in pen, ink and paper (Montage or Crane)for the month. I really didn't use it frequently--Bic Pens had not even been invented yet-just for reports and such. I didn't know anybody out of town, so I didn't write many letters. I did keep a little journal (not a diary--there is a difference) and wrote poems and essays there.

And here we are in the enlightened age writng on an Internet blog! How times have changed.

Incidently mothers and dads, one way to ready your child for school and help them get along in school is to provide a desk with a good light, lots of writing materials--different kinds of paper, note cards, newsprint, etc. (Some printing companies will let you come and clean out their wastebaskets for paper) Provide pens, pencils, crayons, markers, etc. to be used for writing letters, making menus, making advertisements, making note cards, and generally having literary fun. Who knows? They too may write a blog someday.

Incidentally, I recently traded my Martha Stewart Magazine in for a subscription to Writer's Magazine.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Harper Lee II

While we are on the subject of To Kill A Mockingbird--

I was interested and a little shocked to note which watching the movie Capote that Harper Lee was one of his best friends, a confidant, his researcher, and his conscience (at least in the movie). I really did not know that they moved in the same circles-- she is very shy and runs from publicity today--NEVER gives an interview.

In the movie, her book To Kill....had just been picked up by Lippincott for publication. The literati in New York did not know what to do with the book: "Was it a book for children or an adult book with children as main characters?" asks one character in Capote. They just did not get it. (Much like Madeline L'Engle encountered with Wrinkle in Time.) Of course both became young adult classics and runaway best sellers.

I enjoyed Capote--I remember when the book In Cold Blood came out, and we got a copy at the Cooper High School Library where I was assitant librarian. I read it then and thought it was certainly unique--a non-fiction novel. Philip Seymour Hoffman should win an Oscar for his performance as Capote. I thought the movie was just as good as Good Night, Good Luck. I don't know which I would choose for the Oscar.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Harper Lee

They are at it again. A parent in Brentwood put letters in the mailboxes of the parents of one particular Middle School asking that they sign a petition to remove To Kill A Mockingbird from the library and the classrooms of that particular school. The parent did not sign his name on the request--coward.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a genuine classic--it will be read for the next fifty years and more. The unnamed parent objected to the book on the basis of profanity, obscenity and racism==Yes, racism==makes you wonder if he read the book?
Admittedly, I have always pictured TKAM as a high school book, not middle school. But I believe with a good teacher and a reading circle in which the book is discussed, 9th graders can gain a lot from the book. Unfortunately, that is not how many current teachers do classroom reading. Mostly they assign a chapter, give a test(probably an Accelerated Reader test on computer) and then move on. This is a book that begs discussion and examination. And while at it, why not watch the excellent movie with Gregory Peck?

I don't know what the procedure is here for the removal of a book, but I hope the newspaper will follow the trail and report. It would be a travesty for the unnamed parent to get away with this.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Saying Goodbye

Over 1,000 worshippers said goodby to the Otter Creek Building today. It was a morning full of memories, old pictures, and sweet singing.

The theme was the faithfulness of God, and the importance of passing our faith on to the next generation. Beginning with the generation who attended the original Otter Creek as children and ending with a reading to the yet unborn member, the psalms read and hymns sung were so tightly integrated that the service just flowed so perfectly. I will have to brag on my son who planned most of the service. There was something for everyone from Rock of Ages to These are the Days of Elijah.

One particular song that really got me was Have You Been To Jesus. I don't when I had last sung this song, but it moved me as I remembered those old creaky wooden floors in the old church in Hamlin where my friends and I responded to God with this song and others.

And now on the bigger and better things for God.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


I had lunch with my friend Beth Williamson yesterday. We both love each other's children so much, it was a love feast. Beth is a good listener and one who always makes you feel good just for having shared conversation. She is insightful and has a good feel for things. Beth is auditing a class at Christ Community Church in Franklin. The class Spiritual Formation in a Post Modern Generation is being taught by Scotty Smith and is part of seminary training at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Discussing the class with her lit my fire and made me realize what I had been missing since I moved to Nashville--intellectual stimulation. It lay everywhere there--in my ACU contacts, at Highland in the pulpit and class, and in my spiritual formation group. I hereby resolve to take the next class offered at Christ Community.

I recently had the opportunity to see the Academy Award nominee Good Night, Good Luck.It is the George Clooney- directed movie about Edward R. Murrow and his fight with Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts of "Communists" in the 50's. Murrow was a part of my growing up days. I listened to him on the radio and television and admired him then. I remember having a very bad feeling about McCarthy when all that was rampaging through the news. The film is in black and white--that took some getting used to, but was appropriate. EVERYBODY smokes a lot in the movie, which made me realize how times have changed. Although I have not seen all the nominees, I definitely think this one is a winner--very thought-provoking. A movie for a thinking audience.


Otter cleared the building today. While things are not in their right places in the new building because the folks there were not out of some of the rooms, 409 Franklin is now home. Very exciting!

Friday, February 03, 2006


Prov. 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine...

After reading a recent Reader's Digest article about the value of laughter, I decided to spend some afternoon time watching reruns of "Family Ties." That program always made me laugh. Michael J. Fox is so droll. You are probably thinking that I need more to do, but wait and read the following:

Laughter therapy has been around a few years; it came into vogue after Norman Cousins wrote his book Anatomy of an Illness in which he claimed that laughing at old movies of the Three Stooges, etc. made him feel better. He found that 10 minutes of boisterous laughter brought him 2 hours of pain-free sleep.

One researcher has called laughter our sixth sense and he found that it helps dissolve tension, stress, anxiety, irritation, anger, grief and depression. Dr. James Walsh states that laughter is equivalent to small amounts of exercise. Other researchers say that laughter boosts the immune system and releases healing endorphins. Although the research is young, results are very positive.

God knew that. Prov. 15:15 "The cheerful heart has a continual feast..." Prov. 15:13 "A happy heart makes the face cheerful...."

William James wrote, "We don't laugh because we are happy; we are happy because we laugh." He needed to incorporate more laughter into the dreary, plodding novels he wrote.

So, enjoy Family Ties with me on the Hallmark Channel Monday.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Wedding in the Family

This one is for Maddie, Ella and Sam.

On this day (Feb. 2 Groundhog Day) your great-grandparents Ollis Elton Brandon (O. E.) and Hazel Pauline Tucker(Polly) got married in 1934. They were both almost 20 years old. Your Dad called them Paw-Paw and Granny.

They were married in the parlor of "Bro. Reeves, a minister of the Gospel" as the marriage license reads. I wish I knew more about all the event. I think they met at a party. Both lived in small communities surrounding Anson, Texas--He in the Hanna Community and she nearby in the "shinnery".

When they married, O. E. was a share-crop farmer and part-time clerk at a grocery store in town. She had graduated from high school at age 16, and gone to Draughton's Business College in Lubbock the next year. She had a scholarship to the business school, but when her father found she was using some of the money he was sending her to take dancing lessons, he came and got her and that was the end of her schooling. I don't know about the intervening two years; I wish I did.

They had been married for four years when I came along in 1938. When I was three, they moved to Hamlin where they lived until they died. Polly died from melanoma October 22, 1976 at the age of 62. O. E. died Aug. 26, 1990 at 76 of an aneurysm after surgery .

Although often operating below the poverty line in money, they had a good life with three children. Dad spent his life working in various jobs--he was a trucker when they first arrived in Hamlin. He hauled wheat, peanut hay, etc. He also worked for the Hamlin Hatchery driving a chicken bus to deliver baby chicks to farmers all around Texas. O. E. later became a carpenter--he learned the skill while working at Camp Barkley (a WWII camp outside of Abilene, Texas). Polly was a housewife, but went to work at a department store when I was in junior high and was the seamstress of 2 stores in Hamlin before her death. Her last job was seamstress and accounts payable/receivable clerk at Heidenheimer's Department Store in Hamlin.

I am so glad your dad got to know them. Granny Brandon loved him as much as I love you. She made a little coat for him, because she loved to see him dressed up. I will pass it down to you. Paw-Paw called your dad "Sonny-Boy" and loved to watch him play at our house in Potosi. Brandon was 5 when Granny Brandon died.

I miss them both.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Heaven can wait

Oh, well...I am going to rant a while; you may want to tune out.

My current peeve of the month is:

Worrying about the Sunday morning service running over the appointed one hour.
Last Sunday, we had a young man come forward who even apologized about "prolonging" the service. Then there is always the confession and the tacit apology given in second service for "running over."

In her book Keeping the Sabbath holy, Marva Dawn writes, "The corporate worship in which we the main event that puts us in touch with the eternal presence of God." She later says, "We do not go to church; we enter into a worship experience." Sometimes, it seems to me, that it is an experience some cannot wait to get out of. It is not easy for me to watch when people get up to leave after communion so they will not have to suffer through the final hymn and ministry moments. (Maybe that is fodder for putting communion earlier in the service, Brandon.)

I wonder what it is that is so important that they have to get to...lunch? football game? baby's nap? Now those are really important eternally. I know there are occasions when one must leave early; however, that is not under discussion. Lunch can be found in almost any restaurant until 2:00 p.m. Football games are very minor eternally. Babies can cope with missed sleep; they have for generations. Then there are of course, the people keeping the nurseries, etc. If those who have volunteered to keep those cannot stand it for a few minutes longer, then perhaps they need not to volunteer.

Where is there time for the flow of the Holy Spirit if the worshippers are always "on the clock"? Is there time given for people to truly respond to God?
Is there time for silence in the service? Are worshippers given time to let the exalted feeling of heart-felt worship linger? Is there time for a more prolonged communion service or are the emblems passed as if there were a race on? Is there time for greeting the visitors?

It seems to me the answer is to announce that the Sunday morning worship service will no longer be contained in an hour or even an hour and thirty minutes, but will proceed as long as needed. That would give those who are frustrated when the time runs over an opportunity to go somewhere else.