VBS — 1950s style
Each year, as the announcements start rolling in for Vacation Bible School, I can’t help but think about attending Vacation Bible School when I was a kid back in the 1950s. (For those of you who can’t do math real fast, that’s 60 years ago and I am doing good just to remember that I even went to VBS!)
Today, everything is so slick and planned — everybody has a theme (some of their stuff must be “canned” or come off the Internet), they give away doo-dads, the productions get bigger and bigger every year — and some even charge a fee. I wonder what some of them would do if they had it as we did — no frills, no air conditioning, just bring a sack lunch and enjoy the fun.
My remembrances are centered around the First Methodist Church on the corner of Forrest Avenue and Church Street in East Point, our neighbor suburb to the north. Methodists weren’t “united” back then ...they were just plain old Methodists. We sang from the Cokesbury Hymnal (the only song book we had) and the songs ranged from joyous and foot-tappy to sad and dirgy but most were memorable. I still remember the words of some. Well, actually many, if I’m honest about it. Many are no longer included in the current hymn book and I miss them.
Also back then, churches, homes and schools were clustered in neighborhoods so a good pair of feet was the only mode of transportation necessary. We walked to school and we walked to VBS.
I lived on Pinehurst Drive off of Connally, as did Judy Javorsky, one of my best friends, so we headed out in the mornings, walked down Connally, took a right on Semmes, picked up our other friend, Nancy King on the corner of Spring, went a block or so, turned left on Forrest and were at the church in another block or two. As I said before, we had our sack lunches and, I think we wore shorts. Can’t remember if we took an offering or not. Some of the kids were really poor so I would guess not.
We not only brought in the kids who were members, but others in the neighborhood who would just tag along. Everyone was welcome.
I do confess that I don’t remember everything we did but when I first started going (when we moved back to East Point from Atlanta), I do remember learning about Bible drills. It was my first experience and man, was that fun!
The “leader” would yell out a book, chapter and verse and the first one to find it and read the first three words won. Sometimes we did individual competitions and sometimes team, but whichever it was, it was fun and educational.
Judy taught me to put my thumb in the middle of Psalms, as that was about the middle of the Bible. That way you could flip either way faster. That will sure teach you the books of the Bible and where they are fast. After we read the first three words and the winner was recorded, we had to read the whole verse and, sometimes, even give our interpretation of what it meant. I think I learned more about the Bible in VBS than anywhere else.
The other thing I remember is the singing. Jane Flemister was our age but she could play the heck out of a piano. We sang church songs and fun “kid and teen” songs (some of us really weren’t quite teens and some were young teens but we mixed well). I can’t remember if it lasted one week or two but it sure was fun.
The church provided drinks (Kool-Aid) while we ate our sack lunches and we played games in the big gym on the top floor. You know it must have made an impression on me if I remember it after this long.
Judy died a few years ago after a valiant battle with cancer and I talked to Nancy on the phone not too long ago. We are trying to get together for lunch with another neighborhood friend. She went to the Baptist church’s VBS but we were still school and neighborhood friends.
Other friends have gone on to their great rewards and some are still around ... some are even on Facebook. We’re all now in our 70s and all we have are our good memories.
When I was doing your announcements, I noticed that one church here, The Summit, has VBS for everybody from “4 to 94.” Now that’s a novel idea. Maybe I should check them out.
If I do, do you think they might let us old-timers do Bible drills?
Judy Kilgore is religion editor for The Citizen. She can be reached at JodieK444@aol.com.