One of the only times that I ever heard of Grandma puttin her foot down was when she and Granddaddy married and they started to go to church together. He suggested they sit up front, but she was having no part of that. She might have just gotten married, and she might love him with her whole heart, but she was not willing to go that far. All the way up the aisle was too far for her Methodist sensibilities, indeed. But early on, my Grandparents made a compromise as all good couples should, and decided that the 7th row was as good a place as any… so that is where they sat. And that is where they sat as they had children, and then grandchildren. And I was the one that sat right between them. I must have had more of Grandma in me when it comes to the best idea of a worshippin spot. I preferred to do as the Methodists and sit in the back for the best view… not the best view of the preacher, obviously. I barely looked at him at all. But by sittin in the middle instead of the back, I wasn’t able to catch all the goings-ons that were going on. But I did have a pretty clear view of the most entertaining part of every Sunday morning. It happened just two rows up.
The 7th row on the right side where it was our custom to sit, was beside of Jesus and His last supper. Jesus is sitting there at the table with his disciples in the upper room. He’s got his big piece of bread and his glass of wine that he’s fixin to feed everybody and tell them that whenever they eat bread and wine they are to “Do this in remembrance of me”. That’s what the fancy script words above the picture say. And we were also supposed to remember my Great Grandparents Ben and May every Sunday. The window was dedicated to the church in their memory.
Years before I was born the church decided to put in new windows after a big twister blew out most of the old plain paned glass. The congregation went into high gear to raise enough for their big plan… the men folk went crazy makin and sellin apple butter. They would take turns stirrin and stirrin all of those apples and sugar and spices in their big copper pots… for hours and hours they would sit and stir. They must have made a thousand or more jars to sell all over the county. Seems like every store for thirty miles carried “Church Men Apple Butter” on their shelves. The apple butter was so popular it would sell out just about as quickly as the men could make it and the stores could stock it! And the women worked their fingers to the bone and nearly ruined their eye sight by stayin up into the wee hours stitchin on quilts and baby blankets and napkins and linens to sell in high-end gift shops to tourists who couldn’t resist “Quality Country Handiwork” as the tag on each piece said. The finery sold out more quickly than they ever expected. They sold their wares at the Historical Davy Crockett’s cabin gift shop, President Andrew Johnson’s home in downtown Greeneville, the Chattanooga Choo Choo Depot shop and the Famous Jonesboro Inn where United States Presidents past and present were rumored to stay when they wanted to escape for a comfortable rest and country cookin.
When there was finally enough money in the coffer, an artist out of Asheville was commissioned to make our church the “most soul stirring windows in Greene County.” Deceased founders of the church who still had family attending got “In rememberanced” and a dedication ceremony when the windows were finally installed made it official. And of course Granddaddy wanted his parents “In Remembrance” dedication window beside of his and Grandma’s family pew. On the bottom of the Last Supper window there is written in fancy cursive writing “In Loving Memory of Benjamin and Mayme Bishop Shelton”.
I can’t really remember much about them except the stories that I’ve heard… and I did go in their house many times before it finally fell over a few years ago . It was a two-story split log home and the floors on the first level were so warped and uneven that walking around on them made me feel all wobbly-legged. I reckoned that Great Grandma Mayme must have had to cut down the legs of her furniture to different lengths just so that everything wouldn’t tip. I heard a family from somewhere else had bought the property where the house had been, cleared out the rubble… old unclaimed furniture and ancient cook stoves and such… and built something modern with lots of windows and porches… and level floors.
Lookin at the stained glass windows of Jesus and all of the “In Loving Memory” names of people long since dead , kept me occupied for a little while of the uncomfortable church service hour. But my favorite distraction to pass the time sat two rows up beside Jesus’ empty tomb. A guardian angel in bright glowing white stands above the empty cave. A big round stone that must have weighed two tons has been rolled away revealing a shocker …The women who have come with all of their ministrations are huddle together, peekin inside at the nothingness. Their faces are strained with shock and fear. Jesus is gone! But above the angel in the same fancy script as at is written above The Last Supper window, are the words, “Do not be afraid!”
Right below those shocked Marys- at- the-tomb are the words “In Loving Memory of Francis and Peter Worth” , and right beside the window on the outside edge of the pew sat Mr. Campbell Worth. I never could tell if Campbell Worth had seven children or eleven or thirteen, or more or less. It was an ever-changing group, and they were all either older than me or a little younger, so I never got to know any of them very well at school or Sunday school. And every one of them were as quiet as church-mice too… so I never talked much to any of them except to say “hello” and “How do you do?” Granddaddy said that Mr. Campbell was kind-hearted but had a lot of bad apples in his family…some that were possessed by the demon alcohol and every now and then he and Mrs. Campbell Worth would take it upon themselves to keep their nieces and nephews while their own parents went off and were irresponsible…or figured out how to be responsible again. I didn’t know how many of the children were actually their own and how many had been inherited…it wasn’t something that nice people brought up in conversation. We were taught not to be gossips, so unless the Worth’s felt obliged to tell us about their business we didn’t ask… and the Worth’s for the most part didn’t talk about their business or anything else.
I didn’t know much about their family, but there was one thing about Mr. Campbell that was as predictable as clock-work. Mr. Campbell started every Sunday the same way in the same spot. At the beginning of the service he would be sittin up big and tall, pressed up against the corner of the pew. Mrs. Nellie, his wife and the pianist was busy playing all throughout the service. There was the processional, all of the hymns, the choir’s anthem, and finally after what seemed like forever, the recessional. Mrs. Nellie had her back to her husband and her big brood of familial children for the better part of the service, so lucky for Mr. Campbell, Mrs. Nellie had a terrible view of him.
Mr. Campbell was fine at the beginning of the service… an upright member of the congregation one could say. He walked in just fine, and stood up for the processional and the readings…but he would start to wilt right after he had to close his eyes for the congregational prayer. He started by stretching both arms up in a yawn…and then laying his left arm along the top back of the pew. Then he would bend his right elbow and rest his head on his propped up hand. Before long his eyes would start to droop and his mouth would start to sag open a little and his right arm would lose it’s 45 degree angle. It would slip down and down, and his body would start to slump in his seat bringing his head closer and closer to banging against that wooden side edge of the pew. But just at the last second, Mr. Campbell would catch himself up with a little snort, straighten himself to an upright sitting position, rub his eyes, look down the pew to make sure his charges were behaving in church, and then it would start all over again.
Sometimes he would sleep through the anthem, but usually the sound of his wife on the piano startled him like a gunshot, and he would try with all of his might to stay awake the rest of the service.
Besides counting white heads and crying babies, I would count how many times Mr. Campbell snorted in a service. It was impossible to concentrate on anything the preacher was saying with so much wiggling and squawking and Mr. Campbell’s near misses… and, of course, my intense discomfort caused by my Sunday Best Dress.