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.