Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Church Youth Group Part II: P&O and Destination Unknown

The little details of Sunday night at MYF have faded from memory, but I remember it as a whole and some of the events vividly.

1. When I was a sophomore, the church provided a place for just for the youth to gather. In the basement of the church  was a large, unused classroom. The decision makers, whomever they were,  allowed the youth to paint the walls [we chose purple and orange], set up a donated ping pong table, and festooned the perimeter with tables and chairs, and a couple of old sofas.

We loved that room --- called it the P&O ---we played rock and roll, had viciously competitive ping pong tournaments, and created small bits of havoc, I’m sure. I know that each week or so, some adult, would run off a couple who sat down there with the lights off [I? Never.] or would find some of the youth hanging out and skipping church service [the building had many places to hide, trust me].  Like all things involving young people, it needed supervision.

On the stairs that led to the basement were stacks and stacks of big Civil Defense [end of the world rations] sealed barrels.  At one point, some one pried open the lid of one to peruse the contents [packs of stale crackers and powdered milk] and other times, in order to show their manliness, the guys punched the barrels [to see if they could dent them -- they could].

Other times, we pulled those barrels into the P&O to sit on if we needed extra, and there was a carefree-ness and a casualness to perching on one in our short skirts -- another habit that didn‘t buy us Brownie points. We were not necessary good custodians of what we were given -- but most of us were grateful for the space. It became a refuge and an attraction for youth who didn’t go to church at all. The room gave us place -- and we needed the space.

Because of some of the mentioned problems, the P&O provided much drama and discussion [division and dissension as well] for the church elders. Church members complained about the noise, worried about the lack of supervision, and believed that it was a haven for heathens and attracting an “element.” My daddy went to bat for the youth and our hangout as he believed the church either provided a safe place for us or we would find a place, perhaps less hospitable and desirable. The room won out, but the battles for it were numerous and constant.

2. Once a month the parents provided this outing for the youth called “Destination Unknown.” After the worship service on Sunday night, we piled in cars --  before seat belts -- as many of us as possible crammed into one car and headed out to members of the church’s home to have dessert.  Driven by one of the church’s career bachelors, Billy's car filled first as he always allowed us to ride in the back with the hatch open and our legs dangling out like refugees.

We never knew where we were going: the best part being the little parade we created as we traveled. The lead car, knowing the destination,  and then the four or five behind, with the hooping and hollering youth, would meander in and out of streets around the church and the outlying avenues, deliberately keeping us guessing for ten or fifteen minutes until the host home was revealed. This ten or fifteen minute fete of “riding around” was nuts as we honked the horn, hung out the windows, pounded the roofs and in general, acted as bad as we could for church-going youths.

Once we got to the “destination,” some mother plied us with cookies,  cake, or ice cream. Such a little thing, but in that time, the excitement of that church field trip thrilled us. Obviously, we entertained easily.

3. In the warm months after Sunday night church, the guys gathered in the church parking lot and played basketball.  On a lone telephone wire pole in the middle of the lot, a church member hammered a handmade goal, and it was the youth group of my era that made this a hangout place. While the guys played HORSE or half court basketball, the girls sat on parked cars, sipped bottled Cokes, and chatted and analyzed the boys like they were difficult math equations.

I always hated it that my daddy was the first to pick us up and take us away from the fun. One time when my brother Ken and I were driving ourselves to Sunday night church, we stayed too long [we were in the family car -- the only one].

When we weren’t home on time, or what my daddy considered “on time,“ he walked the mile or so to the church to get us. I’ll never forget when I saw my daddy walking up the street that led to the church  parking lot, the feeling of dread so rooted in my stomach I thought I would puke. Madder than forty wet hens, his anger for “our not coming home on time” resonated deeply; my dad was a natural worrier, and it was this concern, coupled with the anger, that fueled his walk.

My daddy had a no-nonsense reputation, and when he showed up, the crowd of youth gathered in that parking lot parted like the Red Sea for Moses as he approached. All of those young people who knew my daddy didn't want to cross him -- it was a quiet respect, one of which I didn't appreciate at all at the time.

During the week, when church was closed, the church parking lot became a hang out for the youth of Sylvan Hills. On any given evening, the youth of the area stopped by to see if anyone was there, and in many cases, someone was ........

Hanging out? At a church? Yes, we did, and in the long run, we were/are better for it.

Other events that we looked forward to -- opossum hunts, church intra-murals, and living in the steeple.

But that, my kind readers, is for another blog.

Thanks for reading.


  1. From NSB:

    Just want u to know that your blog brought great memories back, Peter and Laura in a Christian love embrace on the bus during choir tour of Florida (1970), endless viewings of the Cross and the Switchblade (every one including rivers of tears). Gosh we were so cool.

  2. From my brother: Loved it.

    Why was it called the p&0 room?

    A choir note: I remember Dad saying they asked him about being in the choir [since he was tall they must have thought he probably had a deep voice].

    He thought that was funny... because if they had heard him sing prior to asking him that question,
    they would have never asked him.


  3. Love the old photos and of course the stories...

    P&O? purple and orange? just a wild guess.

    And what a blessing to have had a daddy that loved you enough to come a lookin' for ya.


  4. Memories!

    We could commiserate on the basement room of the church, the young youth pastor and hanging out. Did your group ever take a bus trip?
    Was the preacher's kid the worst of the group? I had many of the same feelings about the non-church goers-but only until I had a car, and options!
    It's nice that my kids still want to go to youth activities. It makes me glad that all those hours at youth group weren't wasted. (must have resonated somehow!)

    Great Stuff as usual.

  5. Loved the pictures on the blog! I imagine you were a bit of a wild child too :)

    Haha. I can only imagine how awful it was when your daddy walked up the road. Ahhh... Haha

  6. Thanks Harriett, for that little trip down memory lane. It made my day! The pictures were great too! I wish I had 1/3rd of the pictures that I have lost or misplaced over the years... We do need to get that group together soon..Much love to you for doing this! We were cute right?

  7. I loved reading this post about MYF. It brought back similar memories for me even though I was in a different MYF in another part of town a few years down the road. Summer retreats = rising before dawn to board a bus with no A/C to ride 7 hours to St. Simon's Island for a week at Epworth by the Sea. Piling in a caravan of dilapidated old cars for our after-Sunday-night-church trips to the local DQ to get this new thing called a "blizzard". All night lock-ins where the goal was to stay awake for the long haul. Good times! Crazy, but good.