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Saturday, June 17, 2017

When TV "Came In"

Phil Lister, pictured above in 1957, loved to play "cowboys" -- loved to act like the cowpokes he saw on TV. 

Dad bought our first television in 1954 when I was seven. My younger sister, Shirley, and I virtually welcomed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans into our small, shingled house in rural Taylors, S.C. We loved our black-and-white, 24-inch-screen TV.  

We soaked up “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” featuring Rusty, a boy orphaned by an American Indian raid, and Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd dog. They lived on an army post called “Fort Apache.” We loved watching Westerns!

Mom and Dad liked “The Jackie Gleason Show” and “Dragnet.” Dad relished “The Life of Riley” starring William Bendix. A U.S. infantry veteran who fought in Germany in WWII, Dad smiled at “Riley” and his television predicaments. My parents also liked “You Bet Your Life,” a quiz show starring Groucho Marx.

Not everyone thought highly of “telly-vision.” A few pastors referred to it as “helly-vision.” I recall this joke from those days when TV sets came with “rabbit ears”(two extendable antenna on top):

An older lady bought a TV. One day, she looked out a window and saw her pastor arriving. She ran and threw a bed sheet over the TV that sported long “rabbit ears.” She welcomed her pastor and they sat to chat. Looking around the room, he saw the sheet and realized the two points poking upward beneath the sheet were antennae. He told the lady, “Well, you can hide the Devil, but you can’t hide his horns!”

“At the start of the decade [1950-60], there were about three million TV owners; by the end of it, there were 55 million, watching shows from 530 stations,” says Steve Wiegand, adding that the average price of a TV set was about $500 in 1949 but by 1953 had dropped to around $200.

Families huddled and watched shows. In 1954, the Toledo, Ohio, water commissioner reported that water consumption surged at certain times because so many people were simultaneously using their toilets during commercial breaks on the most popular shows.

Before TV came to our house, Mom persuaded Dad to read (several nights each week) to our family from “Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old.”   

Somehow, TV started replacing those “devotional times.” Instead of hearing how David defeated Goliath, we watched fictional Marshal Matt Dillon dispatch bad guys in “Dodge City, Kansas,” on a program called “Gunsmoke.” Instead of learning about Moses leading the Children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, we watched “Major Adams” lead actors in covered wagons toward California on a program called “Wagon Train.”  

Someone said, “Bad things seen on television may prove harmful, but TV’s greatest danger may lie in what it replaces.”    

During my fifth grade year at Mountain View Elementary (Greenville, S.C.), Mrs. Barton, a good teacher and a Southern Baptist, asked us to write something and read it in front of the class. Gladys King stood and read about her imaginary trip to the “Gunsmoke” version of Dodge City, where Matt Dillon was “the law” and Miss Kitty, Dillon’s friend, owned and managed the Long Branch Saloon.

“I walked down the street and met Marshall Dillon,” Gladys said. “Then, we went into the Long Branch, and I met Miss Kitty, and we had some beers.”

“Gladys!” exclaimed Mrs. Barton.

Gladys reddened, smiled sheepishly and finished her story.

Later that year, Mrs. Barton asked Kenneth Salmon a history question, and he gave an answer.

“That’s wrong,” Mrs. Barton said.

“I goofed,” Kenneth said. 

“Where’d you hear that word?” Mrs. Barton asked.

“I heard it on TV,” Kenneth said.

Mrs. Barton didn’t smile and went on with our lesson. 

 Pictured above are Genelia and Hovey Parker with their daughter and only child, Marian, who married Clifton Lister. Clifton and Marian have two sons: Phil and Mark.
    Shown above is a March 1957 photo of Phil Lister. He was around age seven in this photo.

I was about ten years old when I rode my bike a mile from home to visit Phil and Mark Lister. Phil was seven years old; Mark was three. Their parents are Clifton and Marian Lister. Their family then lived next door to Marian’s parents, the late Hovey and Genelia Parker. Hovey was my maternal grandma’s brother. He owned several acres and had fenced in a pasture for a horse he bought for Phil and Mark.  

“Hey, Steve!” Phil said, after their mother invited me into their house. “Let’s go to the basement and play cowboys!”

Many Westerns entertained us during those black-and-white TV days – stories about Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the Cisco Kid and Pancho, Tex Ritter, Annie Oakley, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Many of us owned cap pistols, holsters and cowboy hats. Back then, we could tell who were the good and bad folk on TV Westerns.

Phil and Mark were wearing shorts; I had on long pants. We clamored into the basement and dreamed up a cowboy drama. We began acting out a scenario, but, after a while, Phil wanted a fight scene. I soon was laughing and “fighting off” Mark, with my back toward Phil. Suddenly, I felt something “ka-blam” me in the back of the head. Whoa! I placed my left hand on the rear of my skull and brought that hand around for a look. Have mercy! Blood was flowing. Phil ran screaming for his mama. Like a shadow, Mark ran behind him.

On television, Phil had seen cowboys get into fights, pick up chairs, and break them over the backs of opponents. When we began play-fighting, Phil picked up a straight-back chair and whopped me on the back. One leg of that chair caught me on the head. I still have a scar. (Some chairs used on cowboy TV shows were made, no doubt, to break apart, but the chair Phil used was not a fake TV prop.)    

Their mother, Marian, quickly brought me a towel for my head. She was thin and frail, back then, but she grabbed Phil by one arm and somehow laid hold of a long hickory. She jerked Phil out into the yard. I stood at the basement door, and Mark and I watched as Marian and Phil whirled round-and-round in what seemed like a kind of maypole dance – Marian was the pole; Phil was the not-so-happy dancer. As Marian laid on lashes, Phil circled his mother, who had a firm grip on his arm. As he tried to avoid stripes landing on his bare legs, Phil yelled, “I seen it on TV! I seen it on TV!”

Television can provide information, entertainment, inspiration and virtual companionship, and TV ads influence choices and decisions. I recently viewed 14 commercials during only one break in a program.  

Alfred Hitchcock said, “Seeing a murder on television . . . can help work off one’s antagonisms. And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.”

Neil Postman said, “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”

According to “Wikipedia,” Postman's best-known book is “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (1985). Postman warns of a decline in our media’s ability to share serious ideas and argues that TV replaces the written word and demeans and undermines political discourse “by turning real, complex issues into superficial images, less about ideas and thoughts and more about entertainment.”

Groucho Marx said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on a set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Writer Jess C. Scott said, “People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.”

When I mentally search for an example of TV’s powerful influence, I think about the scar on the back of my head and about Phil’s mother lashing his legs as Phil yelled, “I seen it on TV! I seen it on TV!” 

 The above photo shows Mark Lister (left) and his older brother, Phil, as they pose with the famous Roy Rogers in 1993. Phil and Mark are singers and guitarists who worked for years in Nashville, Tennessee.  

"Bag Man"

“Bag Man” treks the sidewalks of a shopping hub in our area of North Carolina. Wearing long pants and a light gray coat and hat or, at times, a skullcap, he carries a backpack with perhaps 15 or 20 translucent plastic shopping bags attached. Some bags hang from his pants and pack and float like ethereal appendages to his body as cars pass, emitting exhaust-pipe breezes.

He’s evident: a young black man, medium build, maybe late twenties or early thirties, walking along . . . at times seemingly talking to himself or to an imaginary person.

I ask about him in Harris-Teeter grocery.

“Somebody said he stays at Motel Six,” an employee says. “If you try to give him food, he won’t take it – not even packaged food. They say he has some money.”

Two major highways intersect where Bag Man trods. Several fast-food stations, three drug stores, a grocery, a bank, and other shops provide backdrop for Bag Man’s stage. Once, my wife and I turn a corner, and he stands close by, under a dogwood near a bank office, shielded from noonday sun, resting from a shopping center reconnoiter.

Who is Bag Man? I don’t know; don’t know anyone who knows. He’s somebody’s son.

I’m in Walgreen’s one day, standing at checkout. I smell strong body odor and suspect Bag Man is near. I’d detected that same smell as he passed by me in Harris-Teeter. I look around but see no one like him. I look down, to the right side of the cash register, out of the way of where feet pass on the store exit path. There, stashed for his return, lay Bag Man’s backpack, bags attached and flowing from canvas straps. I don’t know if his backpack reeked or if his body odor lingered in the air. Bag Man was probably buying water to quench thirst derived from making his rounds, traipsing the shopping area on a scorching day. I take my receipt and head out the door.

Bag Man is familiar to many people in our area. He’s a “public figure,” whose disability is paraded before those of us who clamor on a clogged and busy “life’s highway.” And Bag Man is a reminder to us all that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

"A Second Chance" -- by Eva Crain, My Mother

Pictured is Eva Crain, my beloved mother.
This article is condensed from a March 1975 account written by my mother, Eva Crain, a former Faith Temple Church (Taylors, S.C.) member who worked at Roger Huntington Nursing Center in Greer, S.C., for over 20 years and died in 1989 at age 67.  

As a child, I was carried to church. At age 12, after accepting Christ as my Savior, I was baptized in an outdoor pool close to Double Spring Baptist Church where we attended.

After high school (Mountain View High School, Taylors, S.C.), I failed to trust God to keep me after he had saved me. I let Satan make me doubt that I had ever been saved. Through the counseling of our pastor and Scriptures, peace and assurance flooded my soul at about 19 years of age.

The first desire of my life after finishing high school in 1938 (when there were only eleven grades) was to go to Winthrop College to be a home economics teacher. I (one of eight children) was reared on a farm. My father said he wasn’t financially able to send me to college but would let me commute to a junior college, if I could find someone to ride with. I decided I’d stop my education, since I couldn’t go to college and stay.
My father consented for me to work in a sewing room. I’d said I’d never marry, but a certain young man changed my mind…for which I’m very thankful. (Eva and J.B. Crain married after he completed U.S. Army basic training.) My husband spent 18 months in Germany. God answered prayers and brought him home safely. After three years of marriage, God blessed our home with a son and then three years later, a daughter.

I thought about being a registered nurse, but that plan did not materialize either.

For 18 years, I was content to be a housewife and mother, though after the children were in school, I worked in a sewing room for a while. When efficiency experts came to the plants, I wasn’t able to make the production they seemed to think I should be doing. I was also sick part of the time. The doctor couldn’t discover the cause for several years, so I just went on hurting and working.

The doctor treated me for gall bladder trouble, but my condition worsened. A specialist took x-rays and found a large ulcer. I really had a battle with Satan. He tormented me with the thought that I wouldn’t make it through surgery. After a few days of torment, I prayed and believed God would see me through. I accepted the words of Paul in Philippians: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain . . . .” God had been with me through forty years, and if it was his will for me to go to heaven, it would be my gain. I feel God guided the surgeon’s hands, and my health has been better with a third of my stomach (left) than before.

After meditation and prayer, an inner Voice kept telling me there was something better in life. There was a new nursing center being built near our home in Greer, and the Voice kept telling me to apply for a job there. I went to work two weeks before the building was opened and worked two years as a nurses’ aide. One day I heard about a program for Practical Nursing. I investigated and found they would take women up to 45 years of age. I was nearing 45, so I knew if I was to fulfill a desire I had since school days, I’d better get busy.

I started to school a week or so before our son entered his first year of college. When it came time for my books to be thrown at me, I felt I just couldn’t start back to school, but my son said, “Mother, you wanted to do this course, and you’ve got to stay in.”
So, I buckled down to the fact that it was God’s will that I was in nursing school and by His grace and help, I’d do the best I could. It proves out one of my favorite verses of Scripture: “He will do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think . . . .” 

I don’t claim to be perfect, but I feel that by obeying God’s voice after asking His help to go into nursing, I have come the nearest to being in God’s perfect will than ever before in my life.                      

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Grocery Shopping on Thursday, "Seniors Day"

On Thursday morning, April 27, 2017, I rose around 8:00 a.m. and decided to grocery-shop early, rather than wait until after exercising at around 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. at Gold’s Gym.

I shop at Harris-Teeter (HT) in Aberdeen, N.C., on Thursdays to get the Thursday “seniors day” five percent discount offered to folk over 60.  

So, “I washed my face and combed my hair and stumbled down the stairs to meet the day” (words from “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” a song by Kris Kristofferson).

Actually, I ate a bowl of cereal and “pilled up” (with legal prescription drugs, of course) after “washing up” and combing my hair. We have no stairs in our ranch-style house, but I identify with Kristofferson’s phrase: “stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.” I battle arthritis and neuropathy.

The HT parking lot was almost empty.

“I’m getting ahead of the madding crowd,” I thought, musing about times I shopped late on Thursdays and found “marked down” items had been scarfed up by old folk like me.

“Those selfish seniors,” I’ve thought, when I’ve seen empty shelves where bargain foods had rested. Old people can turn on each other when “savings” are involved.

I scurried, making good time inside the store. Near the milk, I took out my typed list of stuff Carol and I purchase. We don’t buy certain things every week, but, during my weekly grocery gathering, I unfold and peruse my listing of over 60 products we attempt to “keep in stock” at home.

I hadn’t forgotten anything we needed. I pocketed my list and headed to checkout.

“Oh, no,” I thought, when only two checkout registers were open and customers stood three-deep at each station. “No matter when you come here, they’re going to adjust the number of checkout stations to the number of people in the store.”

Waiting in line, I looked behind me and saw a gray-haired man I’d noticed at Gold’s Gym. We’d never met. Gym folk tend to go about their gym business and ignore each other. I remembered, however, that this man had smiled when we’d passed each other in the gym.

“Hi, I’ve seen you at Gold’s Gym,” I said.

“Yes, I haven’t been there enough, lately,” he said.

I learned that “John” (I’ll call him that) is 71, a year older than I am, and that he teaches college science courses.

“I retired from Gulistan Carpet as it closed,” I told him. “I have some arthritis and neuropathy, so I don’t do the treadmill, like I see you do at the gym. You’re doing well to be still teaching at your age.”

“Yes, they don’t want me to quit,” he said.

A large, decorated sheet cake lay in his shopping cart, and he held a bouquet of red roses.

“I’m organizing an honor society meeting at school,” John said. “It’s harder to get college kids together than it is high school kids, I think.”

By this time, my cashier had begun checking my groceries. John and I continued to talk. John had only given me his first name, though I had given him my full name. “Only giving a first name” is perhaps a way to seem “intimate” but retain some anonymity in “the information age.”

As my cashier continued working, a clerk from the store’s information counter motioned John to her station. He had only two items, so she hoped to help him process quicker.

John moved past me to the information counter. He and I finished our transactions at the same time.

“I’m sorry,” I said, as I pushed my shopping cart near to his. “I should have let you in front of me at checkout. I wasn’t thinking.”

“Oh, that’s OK,” he said, smiling.

“Good to meet you,” I said.

“You, too,” he said.

I was glad I’d shopped early and crossed John’s path. When I see him at the gym, I'll feel closer to him.  

Perhaps I’ll get in the habit of shopping early on “seniors day” at HT. Maybe next Thursday, I’ll rise with the sun and “wash my face and comb my hair and stumble down the stairs to meet the day.” 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Bad Habit Is Hard to Break

This morning I drove to The Barber Shop in Aberdeen NC. My usual hair-cutter, Linda, was not there when I arrived at 10:30 a.m.

“She called and said she’d be in after lunch,” a young man-barber said. “She said she wasn’t feeling well this morning.”

Three barbers (two gentlemen, one lady) were unoccupied, waiting for a customer.

I thought, “Should I let one of them cut my hair?” I’ve done that before when Linda was absent. I think they’re all good barbers.

Keith – sitting in the first chair (by the door) of seven barber chairs in the shop – was tap-tapping on his phone, perhaps searching the internet. He’s part-owner of The Barber Shop, along with Kim, the lady who works three chairs away from him.

I sat in a waiting-area chair and looked through a section of “The Fayetteville Observer.” In a few minutes, I said to Keith, “I’ll try to come back this afternoon.”

“OK,” he said.

I drove to Granny’s Donuts, a block away. An apple fritter and a buttermilk donut “called to me,” “speaking” from the array of goodies displayed in a glass case.

I bought, for Carol, a cinnamon thingy cooked in the shape of a honey bun. I ate my two tasty “forbidden fruits” before I arrived at home.

“Carol, I brought you a cinnamon thing from Granny’s,” I said, closing our front door.

“I don’t want it,” she said.

“OK,” I said.

I poured a half glass of milk and ate the cinnamon-flavored pastry.Then, I sat at my computer and felt guilty for eating three things I didn’t need. (I had eaten a bowl of cereal before driving to The Barber Shop.)

I thought, “I’ve developed a bad habit – going to Granny’s Donuts after a haircut.”

I looked on the internet and read this about “bad habits”:

“Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. They jeopardize your health – both mentally and physically. And they waste your time and energy.”

“Amen,” I thought, while musing about how I often agree that something is true, yet I seemingly can’t muster the will power to act on that truth.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Bear Ended Their Picnic

Pictured above are Frances Hawkins Crain (left) and Fred E. Crain. This photo was made in the 1940s.

(This story, “The Bear,” took place in 1946 and was told in 2015 by Fred E. Crain to Larry Steve Crain, his nephew.)

Fred E. Crain and Frances Hawkins Crain, who married in November 1945, took a trip to the mountains with some of Fred’s relatives. All these folk lived in the Sandy Flat and Mountain View areas of Greenville County, S.C. They drove to Gatlinburg, Tenn.

“Our trip was either in the spring or fall of 1946,” Fred says.

The group included Fred and Frances and his mother and father, Lillian and Carl Crain, in Fred’s car. Lillian’s brother, Hovey Parker, brought his wife, Genelia, and their only child, Marian (now Marian Lister, age 85 in 2015), in their car. Lillian’s sister, Lucille Langley, rode with her husband, King Langley, in their car with their only child, Sarah Jean (now Sarah Jean Talley, age 85 in 2015).

Newfound Gap is on the line between N.C. and Tennessee, Fred says.

“Newfound Gap (el. 5048 ft./1539 m.) is a mountain pass located near the center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. …Situated along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the state line crosses the gap,” according to “Wikipedia.”

“Cherokee is on this side,” Fred notes, referring to the South Carolina side. “It’s 16 miles to the top from Cherokee and 16 miles on to Gatlinburg. It’s 16 miles to the top, each way.”

They stopped at Newfound Gap but drove another eight or nine miles, toward Gatlinburg, to a picnic area. The party was “in short sleeves,” according to Fred, and planned to eat at outdoor tables.

“I drove a 1940 Chevrolet, 4-door, black,” Fred says. “King Langley was driving a green 1935 Ford. It was polished. King worked at Southern Bleachery. He had his hair parted in the middle and was always neat. He called Lucille ‘Lude.’”

They all enjoyed a picnic meal and were talking as they continued sitting at tables.

“King saw a bear coming down a hill, toward us,” Fred says. “We all ran and got in our cars and watched as that black bear ate from our tables. When he finished, he made his way back up the hill. We all got out and cleaned up the picnic remains.”

Saturday, January 14, 2017

If Jesus Came to Your House

Lois Blanchard Eades’ poem titled “If Jesus Came to Your House” touched me when I heard it on the radio in the 1950s.

Woodrow Wilson “Red” Sovine partially sang but mostly recited Eades’ poem on the 1956 recording I heard. Sovine died in 1980, after recording many sentimental “trucker songs” such as “Teddy Bear,” a tale about a crippled boy who lost his truck driver father in a highway accident and kept his father’s CB radio to contact truckers. Sovine recited the popular “If Jesus Came to Your House” with great feeling and with heart-rending, instrumental music playing in the background.

Here are some of the words in that poem:

“If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two, if He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you’d do? Oh, I know you’d give your nicest room to such an honored guest, and all the food you’d serve to Him would be the very best.  

“And you would keep assuring Him you’re glad to have him there, that serving Him in your home is joy beyond compare. But when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door, with arms outstretched to welcome in your heavenly visitor?

“Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in, or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they’d been? Would you turn off the radio and hope He hadn’t heard, and wished you hadn’t uttered that last loud nasty word.

“Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out? Could you let Jesus come right in, or would you rush about? Oh, I wonder if the Savior came to spend a day with you, would you just go on doing all the things you always do?”

In her poem, Eades asked if the listener would talk his usual “talk,” if Jesus was sitting in the living room, and she asked, “Would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?”

Eades continued, asking “If Jesus came to your house, would you sing the songs you always sing and read the books you read, and let Him know on which things your mind and spirit feeds? Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you planned to go, or would you maybe change your plans, for just a day or so?”

Eades ended “If Jesus Came to Your House” with these thoughts: “Would you be glad to have Him meet with all your closest friends, or would you hope they’d stay away until His visit ends? Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on, or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone? It might be interesting to know the things that you would do, if Jesus came in person to spend the day with you!”

When I first heard that poem, I was nine years old and pictured Jesus walking up the driveway of a typical 1950s house. I imagined Jesus with a dark beard and wearing a light-colored robe and carrying a shepherd’s staff. I thought of his image as being right out of the “Sunday Pix” illustrations I had seen in Sunday school.

I imagined the lady at that 1950s home looking out her window and seeing Jesus headed up her driveway. I could mentally see and hear her say, “Have mercy!” Then she began scurrying and hiding magazines and books and turning the radio dial from a station playing “Your Cheating Heart” to one playing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

I imagined that she cautioned her young son and daughter to be on their best behaviors. I wondered if she hoped her husband wouldn’t return from work until Jesus left, because hubby wasn’t too humble and might let slip a bad word. I felt sorry for the bedraggled woman that I imagined.

Today, as I recall (maybe in a more spiritual way) Eades’ “If Jesus Came to Your House” poem, I envision Jesus visiting the “house” of someone who has not accepted him. I imagine Jesus standing at the door of that person’s “house.” That “house” is that person’s “heart” (the place of deepest meaning, thought and emotion in each individual). I think of Jesus’ words found in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup (eat) with him, and he with me.”

If you have truly accepted Jesus as Savior, he is already inside your “house,” and he wants to live in every room of your “humble abode.” Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).