Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Church Search, Lost Underground and Blasting Toward the Future

The problem with moving is everything doesn’t move along with you, especially when you go from one state to another. In our case we moved closer toward my job, but everything else we were involved with in some way stayed behind. One of those that did was our church, both Lowndes Free and Laurel Hill Bible Churches became too distant. Some might think it easy to find a new house of worship, isn't there just bout one on every street corner? Yet it really isn’t, unless you feel you can settle in anywhere with a steeple on the roof.
When we lived in New Jersey, we had been members of Laurel Hill Bible Church and during those years we became friends with Ray and Pearl Van Der Veer, their son Rusty and daughter Beth. Dr. Ray was not the pastor of Laurel Hill. He and his wife were Directors of Cedar Lane Missionary Homes, which sat up on a ridge behind Laurel Hill Church. These were modest homes where missionaries could live when home on furlough from the field or in the area to raise their support to return to their mission grounds.

Ray was a very kind and gentle man and his wife was very down to Earth. He had once been a church pastor and several years earlier started a church in Delaware. It began inside a movie theater, but eventually had its own building. It was called Bible Baptist Church. Amazingly, it was located one mile from where my wife and I had come to live, walking distance. It seemed the logical place to go.
I decided to attend services, but Lois did not join me. She had grown reluctant about attending churches, but more about that later. When I walked in Sunday morning I heard someone playing Ragtime-type Gospel songs on a piano. This was old time, toe-tapping music. It turned out to be Bible Baptist's minister and he could really tickle the ivory, as they use to say. I knew his name then, but am uncertain about it now, so I won’t use what I believe it to be. I don’t want to besmirch the wrong person. You see, I knew the man. Back in Jersey I had been the Publicity Coordinator for the College Crusade for Christ’s “I Found It” crusade and I met him during my duties in that capacity.
I was required to attend the weekly meeting of local pastors whose churches were involved. I was the only non-cleric there. This particular man was one of the preachers. He headed up a small church there in Camden County. He was younger than anyone else, except myself. He had a head of thick, curly brown hair and I suppose you’d say he was handsome. He was tall with broad shoulders and carried himself with a kind of athletic swagger. In truth, he reminded me of Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry.
I was put off by him the first day I met him, just something about the guy that seemed off-kilter. There were also rumors and whispers circulating behind his back that I never quite picked up on fully, but they were far from praiseworthy. (Hmmm, I never realized how much Burt Lancaster looked like Cosmo Kramer!) 

When I came into Bible Baptist and discovered this man was their new preacher, even with his jazzy piano playing, I felt compelled to find somewhere else. I didn’t return there after that first Sunday. As it turned out,  there may have been more to the Elmer Gantry allusions than just his looks. Something happened and he left that church sudden and hurriedly. By the time that scandal came about I was already a member elsewhere.
I didn't find a place for a while, so had to do without a place of worship. We wanted a Bible centered church to raise our brood in.  I passed a large church (for Delaware anyway) quite often and one day thought why not give it a try. It was another Baptist church called Bethel Baptist and its motorcycle-riding minister, Gayle Ryle (right) had been the founding pastor. This was something of a coincidence and perhaps a sign. I had attended Bethel Methodist Church, admittedly reluctantly, during my teen years and it was the church where Lois and I were married. Now she and I would be going to another Bethel.
It didn't take long before I went before the pastor and board and became a member. Lois started attending regularly as well, although less enthusiastically and she never formally joined as a member. We became quite active, going to Sunday School, both Sunday morning and evening services, and eventually Wednesday night prayer meeting. We were soon involved in other duties within the church, especially myself.
Of course, our children were taken there as well. Darryl was still a baby at that time. Noelle was just over 2 years old and went into the nursery, except she suffered terrible bouts of separation anxiety and would cry. No one there was able to console her and eventually we were simply asked not to bring her. Laurel was 4 and she didn’t seem to have any trouble adapting.

In the beginning of 1982 we weren’t attending the Wednesday night Prayer Meeting and Bible Study because I had classes at Widener University on Wednesday evening. 
Yeah, I was still attending college and doing very well. For the Spring semester I made the Dean’s List again. I pretty much made the Dean’s List most of the time. To be named to the Dean’s List you had to have a grade point average of 3.50 or higher during the semester. My cumulative average was up to 3.32, which meant I had steadily improved at Widener since the GPA of the credits they allowed me from Temple and Camden County College had been an even 3.00. My overall Widener only GPA was over 3.70. I felt it was most realistically possible I could obtain an overall 3.50 by graduation and receive a Cum Laude; in fact, I aimed at bringing my overall score up to that 3.70 level by then and receive a Magna Cum Laude degree. My old high school teachers would be stunned.
Reality sometimes steps in and slaps us upside the head. That Spring 1982 Semester was to be my last. I dropped out of Widener after it. There were multiple reasons for this decision. My job was now fairly demanding. I had three young children needing more of my attention. However; the biggest reason was my wife was now very much against my continuing in school. She wanted me home more nights without the demands of homework and study. I argued a college degree would be good for our future. I applied logic, or what I thought passed for a good argument. I had completed 88 credit hours. I needed 120 to graduate and that meant only a bit over two and a half more years. That was too long, she felt, after all I had begun going to evening college way back in 1963; nineteen years was enough. I pointed out I had skipped some years along the way. I probably had attended classes but 15 years. She just rolled her eyes. I said if I increased my course load from 12 credits a semester to the limit of 15 and maybe did some summer sessions, I could cut the time to 2 years or less. That didn’t win me any reprieve either. She was quite upset about me going to school anymore at night.
With three kids, this didn’t seem all that unreasonable, I admit,  and I was pretty tired of the ritual myself. I had most of my required courses in several disciplines. I was enrolled as an Accounting Major, but with a couple of choices in my remaining classes I could graduate with several degree options: Accounting (of course), Finance, Sociology, Economics (hard to believe) or English Lit. I needed two courses in Accounting, Tax Accounting and Mergers and Acquisitions. I had very little interest in taxes and saw little point in taking Mergers and Acquisitions. See how little I knew. Mergers and Acquisitions became a big deal as the 1980s progressed. At any rate, I had made my decision and my college career ended with my last final exam that Spring.
Having those free nights felt really good.

Leaving the college institutions did not mean I was done with education. I was to find myself constantly enrolled in training through the bank. Also, looking back at the two and a third years I had been at Wilmington Trust on the dawning of 1983, I saw I had mostly done everything they were teaching me at school in real life anyway. Meanwhile, I had overseen the acquisitions and installations of various pieces of equipment at the bank: Burroughs Remittance S-3900 Processors, Bulkfile Shelving, Microfilmers, Copiers, Digital Data Entry System, Tracing Film Readers, Automated Mail Extractors, DDA Statement Insertion Machines, Encoders, Shedders, On-Line Hi-Speed Sorters, Statement Signature Verification and Non-Bulk Power Files. A lot of this was heavy banking equipment, some of it was small machines and some were upgrades to existing equipment. It required a good bit of research, meeting with various vendors and a lot of financial analysis to justify any changes. I did some quality and productivity studies and written a half-dozen books on new methodology and theory for the bank. I had no idea how far afield my job was about to take me and the extend I would become involved beyond just looking at new equipment. Although such things would remain part of my duties, I was about to become the employee participation expert, a developer of training programs and the person constantly introducing new ideas on the cutting edge of technology. The years I would spend as the Operations, Methods and Project Manager of Deposit Services and Data Preparation were to be very exciting and rewarding indeed, and would make me a star.
The annual BAI Productivity through Automation, Technology and Human Resources conferences would be a mainstay of my development for over the next dozen years. In 1981 I had been to Dallas and to Atlanta in 1982. On January 15, 1983, I was flying to Houston, Texas.
My mom and grandmother drove down to our home to help out Lois with the kids They left a lot Urban Undulations.
of snow up in Bucktown and would get another three inches overnight. They were surprised to find we had no snow in Delaware, but it was bitter cold. By the time they arrived at our house, I was already on a shuttle bus headed to the Philadelphia International Airport. I took an Eastern flight to Texas. Almost every time I traveled anywhere on bank business I was on a different airline. Eventually it inspired a poem I called, “Travel is Broadening”.  It was published by "Second Saturday Poets", Jo Allen, Editor, in March 2003. It’s in my 2001 Collection, Urban Undulations.

                                    First time I flew was American Air
                                    Straight to the airport in Dallas Fort Worth.
                                    I thought what opportunity to have
                                    Experiences beyond my own home
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    I took Continental to Arizona
                                    And a bus trip north to the Grand Canyon.
                                    It was ninety-two degrees in Phoenix,
                                    But from the bus stop window I watched snow
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    I flew Delta to Atlanta of course
                                    And stayed at a complex called the Omni.
                                    On Sunday I took a long walk downtown.
                                    Empty streets, no wait at the restaurant
                                    Where I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    TWA took me to chill Florida.
                                    The beach was lonely because of the cold.
                                    The unusual freeze led to disaster.
                                    At lunch I heard the shuttle exploded
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.
                                    It was Northwestern to Los Angeles,
                                    With a stopover in Minnesota.
Near Mann’s Chinese Theater a man stopped
By my table with a Rolex for sale
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    United took me to mile high Denver.
                                    I rode the van to the mountains of Vail.
                                    Paddled a raft down the Colorado,
                                    A fond adventure I contemplated
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    Every airline seemed like any other.
                                    Each hotel had the same lobby décor
And a picture hanging above the bed.
I wonder where the regional color went
As I sit and eat my Big Mac and fries.                        2001

After enough of these trips the uniqueness had worn off.

My first full day in Houston, a Sunday, I was sick, with fever and chills.
I don’t remember the name of the hotel where I stayed and in which the conference was held also. I do remember on Sunday the lobby was filled with runners as was the street out front. There were tables set up where food and drinks were being served because of the event about to occur. For some reason I hit the marathon circuit with my conferences schedule. Every year, where ever I went, they were running their city marathon. This was Houston’s.

As you can see, it was a bit chilly there that morning.
I guess I shook my illness off by Monday, because while Lois took Laurel to Nursery school, I was down in the ballroom center attending the conference. I heard that night that  the kids all had colds.

Despite a full conference, I did manage to get out and see some things in Houston, although on my first outing I got dazed and confused. It rained a lot while I was there and you know how I like to get out and walk about. I wasn’t going to go ambling about in the rain, but I was told by someone that there were concourses running beneath the city. There was even an entry into the underground world right from the hotel lobby, so I ventured on down these steps, went through a door and began walking about beneath Houston.
These concourses were not big wide tunnels like the ones in Philadelphia. They were narrow and plain, more like hallways. They went off here and there in many directions. Along the way were doorways with names upon them, such and such bank or so and so department store. You went through a door and up some steps into these various stops. There was also an occasional stair up to the street.
I wandered along for a while, but it was getting boring and a bit claustrophobic. I then realized I had turned so many corners I wouldn’t know my way back and the names on those doors meant nothing to me. I came to a street exit and I went up into the daylight air. The rain had stopped, which was good, but I had no idea where I was or where my hotel might be found. After all, this was Houston, I had never been there before. I didn’t know the streets and because I had gotten here underground I also didn’t have any landmarks as guide posts. What a feeling to find yourself lost in a strange city not even knowing what direction to go. I wandered about the streets and somehow I stumbled across the backside of my hotel.

I decided after that to stick to tour buses. I took an ever present Gray Tour bus out to the Johnson Space Center. It rained again as we went. It rained a lot when I was in Texas. It had rained when I was in Dallas two years earlier, too. You could see the whole skyline of Houston from the bus once it got out a way from the city. You can see it was pretty overcast.

The Johnson Space Center Tour was fascinating. You could walk through a mockup of the space shuttle, see all the generations of space suits, the control center, even, if you wished, eat astronaut food or buy packets of it, ice cream, just add water. Yum! It is well worth the trip.

I flew back to Delaware on January 20.

There was a lot on my own horizon. I made a purchase for Christmas, a family gift (but really more a gift to myself) that hinted toward the future. It was the Atari 401 Computer.

No comments: