Archive for March 2014

Before Norwegian Cruise Lines, there was Art and Jan…

What was the first vacation you ever took with Mom, and where did you go?

 
The first one that made me realize what an awesome woman I had married was a mission trip when we went to Huron, South Dakota. We traveled up through Oklahoma, Kansas, and then in to South Dakota. This was when we lived in Quitman. We did a great deal of sightseeing both up and back home.  If memory serves me right, we came back down through Missouri and Arkansas.

 
The folks in Huron (a very small church) had been door knocking, and the folks we stayed with were a couple (I think they were Lutherans) named Art and Jan Andersen. Jan was studying the Bible correspondence course and had opened her home to us. This was my first experience with a purebred Norwegian family. They were definitely steeped in the traditions of their culture!  Quite an experience for a couple of kids from Texas!

I Get Around

How many states have you been to?

 

I’ll just list them, and if that produces a story worth telling….I might elaborate! (Not me!)

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Louisiana
4. Arkansas
5. Kansas
6. Alabama
7. Florida
8. Georgia
9.Tennessee
10. Kentucky
11. Indiana
12. South Dakota 
13. West Virginia
14. New York
15. Pennsylvania
16. Virginia
17. California
18. New Mexico
19. Colorado
20. Missouri

Some of those states I’ve been in several times over the last 72 years…in fact, a bunch of times!  If I think of any others I’ll let you know.

I’m not nearly as well-traveled as my wife, daughter, two elder sons, grandson and my granddaughter.  :-))

Jon and I love hanging out on Concord Road.:-))

I had a Fiat over this Italian Girl…

What is the first family vacation you remember?

 

All the ‘vacations’ we went on with mom and dad were generally in connection with gospel meetings or singing schools. One such trip was to Poughkeepsie, New York for a singing school and gospel meeting at the church where Brother ‘Shack’ Hartsell’s daughter lived. They lived out in the country on a polled Hereford ranch called “Clove Creek Farm”. The family stayed in town, but I got a job working out on the ranch which was owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., son of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt the president who preceded Truman.

Roosevelt was the U.S. representative for the Italian Fiat Motor Company. There were 2 other college students there, also.The other boys were Ivy League–one attended Cornell University, and the other went to Princeton. One highlight I remember from that vacation was when we helped Mr. Roosevelt plan a picnic for some guests he was entertaining from Italy. The man was a ‘bigwig’ owner of the Fiat company coming to visit, and he wanted to see ‘Clove Creek’. His name was Gerabaldi…a famous Italian! The reason he wanted us to help him with the picnic was that Mister Gerabaldi was bringing his 16 year-old daughter with him, and Mr. ‘R’ thought we could help entertain her! This was the summer before my senior year in high school, and it is so hard to describe the anticipation we three boys had all that week. Wow! An Italian girl! We could just see a Gina Lollibrigida (Jimmy Durante used to call her Gina Lolibrigidigger) or a Sophia Loren! Both girls were Italian actresses (and luscious pin- up girls)! Remember, we were 17 and 18 year-old boys….anyway, after a week of anticipation, the day came, and their beautiful, long, luxurious limousine came rolling up to the farmhouse, and out stepped Mr Gerabaldi and our dream girl! She was a little, short, fat, Italian….the farthest from what we’d been expecting! I can’t tell you how fast those boys retreated and let me be the host for Miss Gerabaldi! We rode horses through the pasture, all the way up to the highest spot on Clove Creek, which was a beautiful view of the whole place. We (us boys) had gone up there earlier in the week and mowed out a spot for us to spread this very romantic picnic lunch! And here I am, with this little fat Italian girl whose feet don’t reach the stirrups, who’d never ridden a horse before. Can you imagine what I’m feeling? Disappointment is an understatement!

I’ve never been the greatest horseman myself, but that was a ride I’ll never forget. Mr Roosevelt was a giant man (about 6’7″ tall), and when he and Mr Gerabaldi came driving up to the picnic spot in his pickup, he had changed clothes and had on khaki pants and shirt. When he squatted down to where we had the checkered tablecloth spread for the beautiful picnic, his pants split, and one long, bony knee protruded, and the whole crowd was petrified…except Lanier…I fell out laughing! And guess what? Mr. Roosevelt did, too. He and I just ‘connected.’ I had no idea, really, what an important man he was, even though he was the son of a president, an international businessman, an influential politician in his own right…and me, a little nobody from Louisiana, sitting there laughing together about his split britches! He talked with me about my future, dad’s singing schools, and even had me sing some Southern Gospel music for him. The Italians and the other boys all were the audience for these two ‘new friends’! I suppose that’s why this vacation is one of my most memorable early vacations. Clove Creek was built by some movie actress from the early 1930s, and our ‘barn’ was originally a movie theatre with little twinkling lights in the oval ceiling (which also was painted to look like a night sky). Mr. R. told me that the actress who lived there hosted her Hollywood buddies there back in the ’30s. I checked the Internet, and Clove Creek still exists. I’m gonna have to do a little more research.

Anyway, also a part of that trip was a visit to Hyde Park (FDR’s residence), and I even got to see West Point. More importantly, our trip took us back through Kentucky and my mother’s birthplace…even the old single-walled house where MaMaw was born, up in the mountains near Nicholasville, Kentucky. We also visited the cemetery where both her parents (my maternal grandparents) are buried. We even got to visit with her Aunt Susan, who lived on a tobacco farm near the banks of the Kentucky River in one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. Aunt Susan lived down in the river bottom, and mother’s family lived way up the mountain. I Also got to meet MaMaw’s double first cousin (brothers married sisters–a typical hillbilly practice). His name was Homer Benton. I had never been inside a tobacco barn until that day at Aunt Susan’s. I had seen pictures of them, but it’s a totally different experience to see how it’s cured and the smell…I’ll never forget! Even tried chewing tobacco after that trip!

J.D. Harkrider

Since he was mentioned several times in her dad’s last post, Karen “googled” J.D. Harkrider and located the following:

Longtime resident of Nacogdoches’ Hotel Fredonia celebrates 102nd birthday

Posted: Oct 24, 2013 6:01 PM CDT
Updated: Oct 24, 2013 6:01 PM CDT
By Donna McCollum – bio | email

23784142_BG1NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) –
Hotel Fredonia in Nacogdoches has the honor of serving guests every day. However, the staff isn’t shy to say they treat one guest better than others – especially Thursday.

J. D. Harkrider, an 11-year resident of the hotel, has been listening to “Happy Birthday” sung to him for 102 years. Each year it just keeps getting better. “I have enjoyed a good life these 102 years, but the first 23, I was pretty rowdy then,” Harkrider said.

This quick-witted gentleman has slowed down, but not much. “You’d be surprised at the people that don’t believe I’m as old as I am,” Harkrider said. Sometimes he has to show his driver’s license to prove his age. He’s got two more years on it. Good thing. The former car dealer, among a lot of other trades, just bought a new car.

“I don’t drive at night, but daytime I go where ever I want to,” Harkrider said. He’s flying out to a great granddaughter’s wedding later this week because it doesn’t interfere with visiting his favorite ball team. He still goes to the Atlanta Braves spring training games. Harkrider said he goes to about 18 games each year.

The rest of the time, the sports fan enjoys the place he plans to call home for the rest of his life. “I’m gonna die here,” Harkrider said. “There’s not an employee here that doesn’t want to do something for me.” The gestures come back in so many ways. “He’s very uplifting for me,” said Susan Pack Reents, the owner of Hotel Fredonia.

Especially when it comes to aging, something Harkrider says others complain about way too much. “Some of ’em are afraid of it,” Harkrider said. “I am not. I’m ready to die when the Lord gets ready for me.”

The faithful husband attributes a good Lord and a good wife of 66 years for his longevity. “And she’s been gone soon be 13 years, and I haven’t been interested since,” Harkrider said. But when asked if he notices the young ladies in his hotel family Harkrider quipped, “Looking don’t cost anything.”

Harkrider can be found most any day at the Hotel Fredonia restaurant during 6 a.m. breakfast, or a noonday lunch. He welcomes company at his reserved table. Anyone joining him is guaranteed a fun history lesson.

I Gave My First Car the Blues

What was your first car, and was it new or used?

 

My first car that was my very own was a 1950 model 2 door Ford coupe that my dad bought for me when I went off to college at Nacogdoches. Up until then, I could always use the old ’52 dodge for dating, etc. while I was in high school.

Dad, as always, played a little surprise trick on me for me to get the Ford. As we were driving from Louisiana to SFA, Dad said, “I need to drive on down to Houston and see Bubba about some business.”    He left me there in Nacogdoches at Shaw’s Dry Good’s Store, where I was to work. He told me he’d be back after lunch, and we’d unpack my clothes, and I’d meet my landlord.  My understanding was that I would walk to work until I could afford to buy myself some type of ride.   To my surprise, that evening your Uncle Bubba came driving up in that little Ford.   Dad had bought it for $150 and was giving it to me for a graduation gift.  Wow!   It was totally unexpected….and the only stipulation was that I had to drive uncle Bubba back to Houston.  

Regular gasoline only cost about 10-12 cents per gallon….very little expense for me to have that fine little automobile.  I wanted to change the color from black to metallic blue, so–genius that I was–I sandpapered the black finish. Then I painted the whole car with aluminum paint, sanded that, and then ‘wiped on’ a light blue automobile paint.   It was definitely different (not exactly as I’d planned, but I was still mighty proud of, it because ‘I had done it all’).

Dad loved the way it drove, stick shift and all, but he never was wild about my ‘paint job’. About a year later, he gave me a 1951 Cadillac he and mom had purchased from Mr. JD Harkrider there in Nacogdoches. Brother Harkrider was an elder in the church there where I was leading singing. I was still driving that Cadillac when your mom and I got married in 1962. We had our first date in that car August 20, 1961….interestingly at a little drive-in on the property that your brother Jon just recently purchased.

After we married and moved to Quitman in 1962, we bought our first car together, a brand new 1961 Volkswagen.  We bought it from Brother Harkrider in Nacogdoches, and it cost us about $1900.   That was the car we had when you were born, and you had your first ride in it coming home from the hospital.   Wish I still had that car!  :-))

Tastes Like Chicken

What is the first place you remember going out to eat?

 

We traveled a lot, but you had to know PawPaw. It was cheese & crackers and summer sausage.   We just didn’t eat out hardly at all.

He raised the older boys through the depression era. It was red beans, cornbread, rice and gravy. The meat was always roast beef or fried chicken, depending on which one was on sale. We had no freezer until I was about 14. Meals were delicious, but very predictable.

Now, pies were the surprise for us. Mom didn’t cook a lot of cakes.  She had quite a collection of pie recipes.   And, when she discovered macaroni & cheese, wow!

Eating out would have been such a luxury that you would think I’d remember it, but I just don’t.   We just ate in the car while daddy was “Rolling ’em, boys!”

My favorite memory is the original El Chico restaurant in Tyler, Texas, where your mom and I ate ‘all the time’ when we lived in Quitman, Texas. In fact, you probably were ‘nurtured in the womb’ at El Chico! I’m not kidding, our idea of dating were those trips to Tyler where we nearly always wound up at El Chico. I think they spread out from Tyler to Dallas, and then all over Texas…even Huntsville! :))

I Brought Home Bacon from the Piggly Wiggly

What was your very first job?

 

Dad had an interesting and very Biblical concept with regard to jobs! “As long as you’re putting your feet under my table, you have a job–because,if any won’t work, neither shall he eat!” There was  a certain amount of job security in that….cows to be fed and milked, chickens to be fed, eggs gathered, and the yard mowed.

When I first talked dad into letting me work away from home, it was a stocking job at a Perry’s Five & Dime store in Orange, Texas.  I wàs in the sixth grade I think…

#2  Gas station attendant
In high school, I worked for Brother Kendrick, one of the elders in Haynesville, La., pumping gas at his Esso gas station.  I remember gasoline cost 10 to 17 cents a gallon back then (1956).

#3  Dry goods stocker & Clerk
Next job was working for Mr. Nobel Shaw in Nacogdoches the summer of 1959 as a freshman in college. Got my first car that year also, a 1950 model flat head 8 cylinder engine.  All that freshman year, I had a job leading singing at the Mound & Starr Church of Christ.  They paid me! 🙂

#4  Grocery clerk
In 1960, my brother Eldred prevailed upon me to move to Fort Worth, live with them, attend TCU in the fall, and lead singing at the Southside Church. To help make ends meet, Eldred got me a job working for a friend of his, Jack Moulton, who was the manager of one of the Buddies Supermarkets, a grocery chain in Fort Worth.

#5  Piggly Wiggly assistant manager
In the Fall of 1960, after the Fort Worth plans didn’t work out, I found myself moving home to Dad’s in San Antonio to attend San Antonio Jr. College.   He told me that, no matter what, my bedroom was always mine; but after age 18, living at home I had to pay a boarding fee (help with the groceries I consumed). I went to the Piggly Wiggly store down the street from the folks lived and applied for a job. My experience with Buddies payed off. Before long, I’m the assistant manager in that store…which payed off for me the next year, when I moved to Madisonville in 1961 and got my job with Mr. John Dean Carter.

(A LITTLE SIDE NOTE)
Just up the street from the PW Store in San Antonio was the Jefferson Church of Christ where Uncle Paul, Aunt Eunice, and my cousin Mike attended church. Their preacher (who I met frequently in the store) was named Frank Dunn, who often had his cute little teenage daughter shopping with him.  Mike worked with me and introduced me several times.   I encountered the name Frank Dunn again in 1967, when Clyde Thompson (EX 83) told me the story of his life.  When Clyde was in prison, he was baptized by Frank Dunn, who was the preacher for the Huntsville Church of Christ.   He also married Clyde and Julia,and–to top it all off–that little girl following him in the grocery store was named Holly…the same girl who wrote ‘Daddy’s Hands’ while she was a student at ACU. Pretty cool…don’t you think?

I Made a Lotta “Do” (Re, Mi) as a Kid

How did you learn to lead singing? Were you taught by someone?

 

My daddy, M. Roy Stevens, was widely known in the Churches of Christ for his voice, song leading, and his ability to teach others how to read music (do re mi fa sol la ti do).  We had a poster board with those shapes on them near our kitchen table. He would make Nancy and I sing the scale and intervals, with his idea that the scale is to music like the alphabet is to language.  I can still hear him saying, “Now remember, Do is shaped like a housetop, Re a bowl, Mi a baseball diamond, Fa a flag (or a pennant) Sol an egg, La a rectangle, Ti an ice cream cone…and then you’re all the way back to Do!”…..and then he’d make us sing it….over and over. We were being trained to sing when we were little, even though we didn’t appreciate until much later.

Brother Roy was in demand all over our brotherhood to teach singing schools, and his little son was right there with him, soaking it up by osmosis!   One of his famous quotes that was indelibly imprinted on my young brain was, “There’s nothing better than good acapella singing, and nothing worse than bad acapella singing!”.

The seventh grade was probably one of the most important years in my musical development. At 13 years old, my voice started changing and getting much deeper after I passed the squeaky stage.  Dad had an 8:00 Sunday morning “remote” radio broadcast from one of the classrooms at the 9th & Elm Church of Christ in Orange, Texas, and he needed help in the bass section of his live chorus.  Guess who? I felt pretty important!   Nancy, too…she was singing alto!  The older folks were amazed how these two ‘kids’ could read music They just didn’t  know how much of himself he had poured into us.

Another thing about the 7th grade was that I joined the junior high band, because I wanted to play the trombone like my hero brother, R J. He could literally make a trombone sing. Our band director (a legend in his own right) was a curly-headed Italian musician named Cermenaro. Everyone called him Mister C.! I never heard what his first name was…..but he was a great teacher! The first thing that each section had to do was to learn to play ‘scales’ on their instrument…. And, you guessed it….a light bulb went off in my young brain!  ‘This is just what my dad had been teaching me…Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do… “The alphabet of music…a language all its own!”

I can only imagine how thrilled Dad must have been when his young son came home from school that day so excited, because everything he’d been teaching me finally made sense. From that day till this, I’ve loved to sing, to lead singing, to write music. I like to think that, in all that, I’ve made a difference in lots if lives, just as dad did, RJ did…and now Tim, RJ’s son, is teaching singing schools and preaching in gospel meetings ‘full-time,’ just like his dad did until his death in 2012.

Probably one of my proudest moments as a dad was when our kids “Concord Road”, recorded those two CDs for our 66th birthdays! I hope I live long enough to see someone in our offspring put together a recording of Concord Road, their mother, their spouses, and all their children singing together…. Wow!, I’d even volunteer to lead singing one more time just to hear that group sing!  …..and, I have a feeling that the man who taught me to lead singing just might be ‘smiling’ down from Heaven.

I Surrendered to God…and the USAF!

What age were you when you decided to follow Christ?  What do you remember about that?

 

I guess I thought that, because God’s word was so much a part of everything that went on in our lives, that I was just a Christian by birth. But at one evening service, my little sister walked down the aisle to the front, made her confession to the church, and my dad baptized her.

I didn’t let Nancy beat me at anything, and lo and behold, she beat me at becoming a.Christian! I was 12 years old. My dad and I did some serious talking that week, and I was baptized a week later. I don’t think I understood real repentance and commitment until after I started preaching, and I think my real conversion took place one day down at Wilson Shoals on my mail route.  

It was during the Vietnam War, and fighter jets from Barksdale AFB would ‘fly that crooked Trinity River’ to practice before going to Vietnam and Cambodia.  Johnny Price’s mailbox, Rt. 2 Box 30, was right on the.riverbank, and one day one of those jets flew right at treetop level right over my little International Scout mail wagon!   It scared me so bad because Peter said whenever men are wondering “Where’s the promise of His coming?” And responds to his question with, “The heavens and earth which are now, will pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.”  By then, I’d been preaching long enough that I was familiar with that scripture, and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is it!’  I really expected the fervent heat any moment, and I’d always hoped I’d have time to say one last little prayer to kinda ‘clean up’ anything I might’ve missed asking forgiveness for. You see, I really didn’t understand ‘grace’ back then. Anyway, I opened the door and fell out on the ground on my face, begging God to forgive me for all those unconfessed sins.  Not long after that, I had brother Gaylon Embry baptize me…as a man who still believes that I had “my road to Damascus experience” at Rt.2 Box 30!

I was far too immature at 12 to truly understand what real repentance and conversion is all about.

The Christmas Angel

Karen, I just had a memory flashback of Mama telling me about her first Christmas living with her sister Sallie when she came to Texas after her mom’s death when mom was just four. There were 9 Benton boys and 3 girls (First girl named Sallie, the second one named Hallie, and then the last two, Tamar and Bill). Mom said that first Christmas, Uncle Henry and Aunt Sallie were so poor that, with one eye open at night, she saw Sallie tiptoeing toward their beds with an apple and an orange for each kid. Sallie told them the next morning that Santa had brought them the night before. Mom said that, as she grew older, she often looked back on that so fondly–that Aunt Sallie had opened her home to take care of her three younger siblings after their parents died. Mom often told her memories of the train ride to take her daddy’s body back to Kentucky to be buried by his beloved Mary.