Parents & churches

My parents weren't very religious ... or more accurately, "churchly", if that is an English word. (The German word is "Kirchlich"- which means "Churchly".)

Anyway, they had cause to be reluctant about churches.

My mother had been raised as a Southern Baptist. The whole family were in that church, which other religions in the South referred to as "Hard Shell Baptists". Very stiff and stern about some things. Like dancing, for instance, and my parents had actually met at a dance. My father was an Episcopalian. When my father started courting her, she got him to attend a "revival" in her church, one of those things where some avaricious minister ranted and raved about sin, the devil and fire and brimstone for three days, and hit on the most affluent members of the local population for big donations to avoid everlasting roasting.

At this particular revival according to my Dad, it being a hot, sultry summer afternoon in 1925 when the press on the Scopes Monkey Trial had reached fever pitch, the preacher removed his coat, loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves, took a long draught of ice water, dramatically banged the glass down on the podium, and in a stentorian voice, announced: "Well, you might find some of my ancestors hanging by their necks, but you won't find any of them hanging by their tails!"

Daddy went into hysteria, could not stop laughing, and my mother had to lead him out of the church. She never went back. I guess she couldn't show her face anymore among the Hard Shell Baptists.

Her father, my grandfather, at the next family dinner, characterized Daddy as "A Ree-publican, a Piss-copalian and a Bucket Shop Operator." (This was a highly insulting remark. It was not merely a slur on Daddy's religion, but on his profession ... he was a stock broker employed by E.A. Pierce & Co. which at the time was the largest American Stock Brokerage Company ... later merged as part of Merrill, Lynch, Pearce, Fenner, Bean and Smith, or something like it, as I recall. A Bucket Shop was an illegal stock market gambling establishment where participants didn't buy and sell actual stocks, but bet on the market.)

Daddy never went back there either, until my Grandfather had been run over by a Southern Pacific freight train. My mother told me the train had been barreling at 80 miles per hour through town one night during a blizzard and her father had a fur hat pulled down over his ears. Daddy told me the night was clear but my Grandfather was too drunk to notice the shrill whistle of the steam locomotive. He used to say his wife's father had been killed by a weasel ... he was crossing the track and didn't hear the weasel.

(From this distance in time, having known most of those people, I am impressed that my parents stayed together at all. They must have really loved one another. I miss them.)