Religious and Moral Issues

Part 7:  Marriage And Family 

John & I were married June 1, 1935 at my Aunt's home in Des Moines.  My Aunt's Presbyterian minister had the wedding.

John had rented a small house in Hamilton, and moved his household goods in on May 30 (Memorial Day).  We continued attending Unitarian services in Keokuk.  We both taught Sunday School classes.  Esther was babtized there as an infant.  I think Bob was also.  I remember Esther managed to have a soiled diaper just before the Babtism!

      The Unitarian church had several ministers following Richardson.  Richardson and his bride I guess were kind to me.  They bought me a nice blue plaid woolen suit for college.  I can’t remember at this writing whether they were married before I entered college, and gave me the suit then; or if it was the following summer.

      Another minister was dismissed when it was rumored he was too familiar with one of the church ladies.  L.B. Traylor & wife, with a school age son and daughter, were in Keokuk several years.  He had been a Babtist minister and made the change over.  That must have been a difficult adjustment.

      When I had both Esther and Bob, it became more practical to stay at home on Sunday, although John and the older boys continued.  Before Bob was born I attended and also taught Sunday School.  Baby Esther spent the time with my Mother on South 10th Street.

      The Unitarian membership seemed to die out with no children around to grow into the offices and jobs.  George Berryhill, as Lay Leader, or president or ?, and John Wells as treasurer were two who presided over the final closing of the church.  The old brick building was bought by Four Square Gospel.  It was a rather quaint old brick – not red.  Furnishings in my memory were solid dark walnut.  It had a grand old pipe organ.  The big old pulpit was massive carvings and mouldings.  To me it seemed like a big caricature of a face – Big eyes, and ears, and an open mouth where the collection plate was placed.  To keep Jack and Dick quiet, we sometimes tried to draw a picture of it.  The art glass windows were also good subjects to try to draw.  The side windows were very tall and narrow.  At the south end, and perhaps also at the north end – high up in the peak – was a lovely circular “rose” window.  The glass was of pale colors so not to keep out too much light.  Several big chandeliers (huge) hung from the ceiling and over the center aisle.

      When the Unitarians disbanded, records, history etc were sent to a central office of the denomination.  Hymn books, dishes, chairs – all that sort of thing – were divided among church members who wanted them.  I think Valentine Dadant had considerable to do with that division.  We took several chairs, which we still have.  Two or three were rush seat ladder backs that I’ve been told were hand made because one can see slight variations in the work.  We also received three “captains’ chairs (bend curved backs).  I still have three ancient “china” plates – very chipped around the edges.  And I have many of the hymn books and other books.

      One set of Unitarian song books was rather new.  It had been used for Sunday School.  One of my favorites was.

                  “Who Thou Art I Know Not”   Harry Kemp

                              “Who Thou art I know not   But this much I know;

                              Thou hast set the Pleiades   In a silver row;

                              Thou hast sent the trackless winds Loose upon their way’

                              Thou hast reared a colored wall   Twixt the night and day.

                              Thou hast made the flowers to bloom   And the stars to shine;

                              Hid rare gems of richest ore   In the tunneled mine;

                              But Chief of all thy wondrous works, Supreme of all Thy plan,

                              Thou hast put an upward reach   Into the heart of man. 

      Another Unitarian song I liked very much – words by Theodore Chickering Williams, goes:

                              “When thy heart with joy overflowing   Sings a thankful prayer

                              In thy joy, O let thy brother   With thee share

                              “When the harvest sheaves ingathered   Fill thy barns with store

                              To thy God and to thy brother   Give the more

                              “If thy soul, with powrs uplifted,   Yearn for glorious deed,

                              Give thy strength to serve thy brother   In his need.

                              “Share with him thy bread of blessing, Sorrow’s burden share;

                              When thy heart enfolds a brother, God is there.” 

      With the disbanding of the Keokuk Unitarian church, we were without a church home.  We did know the local Protestant ministers by sight – and to speak to casually.  We knew them thru school events, thru Boy Scouting – and Girl Scouting for I was Hamilton’s first Girl Scout troop leader.

      I also knew lovely women from the various churches because of my active membership in Home Bureau – now call Home Extension.  I had the feeling that Bethel Presbyterian was sort of “High Society” or Social elite of this small town.  The Christian (Disciples of Christ) were staunch hard workers and Conservative or Fundamentalists.  I knew the Methodist minister’s wife, Mrs Floyd Brewer, thru Home Bureau.  My memory says husband John knew Floyd Brewer from some local connection and had invited him to join X club.

      X club was a purely local (Tri State Area) organization of educated men who met once a month to exchange ideas.  They were from many types of career or occupation:  Engineer, Lawyer, businessman, minister, teacher, etc.  A paper was prepared by each member in turn for presentation at a meeting.  The other members then evaluated the ideas expressed in the “Paper” and either built upon the idea or tried to tear it apart.  In this club, Rev Floyd Brewer and John became friends.

      The older tall lanky minister of Bethel Presbyterian – I probably remember his name next week – liked children and tried to make friends.  But with pre-school Esther and Bob (or young elementary) he resulted in scaring them.  This was before the time of house delivery of mail.  Esther and Bob delighted to run from our car into the P.O. with the P.O. box key to get our mail twice a day.  Frequently this Presbyterian minister was at the P.O. steps at the same time.  He placed his long legs wide apart and stretched out his equally long arms as if to block the path of the children.  This tended to scare Esther rather than be fun for her.

      Well, one day the children and I were waiting a bus (depot near 9th and Broadway).  We were expecting Grandma Huff.  This minister was also awaiting the bus, and continued his efforts to be friends with Esther.  He asked her what Sunday School she went to.  Esther replied “I don’t go to any.  Mamma won’t let me!”  That was like a bomb explosion for me to hear Esther say that!

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