Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Bulletin Boys

Kenneth and Hunter, circa 1959
When we moved to Atlanta in the late summer of 1954, our first home, a rental, lay on the west side, a once prominent and affluent suburban area [not that had any impact on why we settled there]. While Daddy and Mother shopped for a house they could afford, we lived in “West End” on Westmont for six months and long enough for Hunter  to enroll in kindergarten and for my parents to choose a church. As religious church-goers, no pun intended, my parents took us to nearby West End Christian Church, a small but growing congregation [when we joined in the process of building a new sanctuary] of young families and well-heeled Cascade Heights dwellers.

I have no memories of “Westmont,” but Mother and Daddy fondly referred to their first house by its street name when they talked of their time there, and Hunter and Margaret both retain some vague memories.

By Christmas of 1954, my parents bought a house about ten miles south of West End on Oana, but we remained faithful attendees of West End Christian; each Sunday in rain, snow, sleet, and heat, we rode the roads, crossed the railroad tracks, and passed other churches to get there.

Kenneth's SS class, circa 1956, fourth from right pointing finger;  mother stands in the background on left
My SS class, circa 1956, fourth from left [Probably making that boy cry!}
In the fall of 1962, my parents changed us to a neighborhood church, Mary Branan Methodist, when Hunter, the oldest, began high school. They believed at this formative age it would be best for him and all of us to “have school friends who attended the same church.” Leaving West End Christian, my parents left behind many friends, most of whom they stayed in touch with as well as visited for the next thirty years.

I hold many, lovely memories of West End Christian: its Carrom game table set up in the basement, the cement pad adjacent to the new sanctuary where we played “Simon Says,” the gravel parking lot, the huge heating and air turbines in deep wells, which we climbed among, along the east side of the sanctuary, its full immersion baptismal fount with the white curtain and loud, wooden stairs, the weekly passing of a silver, communion cup tray with  teeny glasses and wafers, the fashionable hats and dresses worn by the women, the stained glass windows, the covered passageway between the old and new sanctuary, and my brothers’ collecting the bulletins.

Margaret's SS class, back row, third from left, circa 1956

Hunter's SS class, second from right, circa 1956
Highly competitive children, we played to top one another in anything and everything. Even though no serious blood was shed, my childhood teemed with arguments. We poked, prodded, pushed, yelled, fought, and made ugly faces at each other as standard daily fare. As my sister’s childhood friend Terry once told Margaret:  “All I remember about ya’ll is the fighting.” What a legacy!!

With there being four of us, only separated by a five year span, the birth order and rapidness placed my two brothers three and a half years apart. They slept in the same room where they issued ultimatums and threw down gauntlets, they later shared a paper route where they argued about work equality, and at some point in their young lives when we attended West End Christian Church, they initiated a crazy, made-up, competition over whom could collect the most bulletins after church.

bulletin sample

Neither of them remembers exactly how this “collecting of bulletins” began. I imagine this: after church in the parking lot, my parents stood with their friends and talked and talked and talked. Sometimes, they hung around for thirty or forty minutes, maybe longer, catching up on weekly events --  sharing stories of work, child-rearing, and their favorite conversation with other adults  -- “ain’t it awful?” My parents could do some talking.
Mother on left, gabbing, like she liked to do...:-)

I, who was always hungry [used to savor the communion wafer!], perhaps tugged at my mother’s skirt wanting to go home and being shushed for it. They stood around as long as others were willing, and my siblings and I would just wait. Patiently? No. But wait? Yes.

Sometimes, we waited in the car, but those stories?  Later.

My bored brothers sought entertainment, and one of them created the idea of returning to the sanctuary and picking up bulletins.

So, it began.

At first, they waited good-naturedly for most of the parishioners to leave before they ran up and down the aisles, in between pews, slipping and sliding on the tile, and picking up the bulletin from the hymnal slots on the back of the pews where a member had stuck it, diving under pews to retrieve them from the floor where they had carelessly been dropped, plucking them from the end of the pew where they had hung on a cushion, and of course, just simply pilfering them from a neat stack left on a table in the vestibule by the ushers.

ETA: Kenneth told me that they took those from a drawer in a table in the vestibule until they were told that the extra bulletins were taken to "shut ins."

Eventually, that policy of waiting stopped, and they began their competition as soon as the minister said the “amen” of the benediction.

With a war whoop and a manic rush, they dashed in between exiting church members, and vied to up the other by grabbing as many as possible; this brother versus brother became a weekly ritual.
Kenneth and Hunter, circa 1962

I have a distinct, comical memory of my brother Kenneth lying on his stomach, hands and feet splayed, and scooting rapidly and awesomely, I might add, under the pews grasping at fallen bulletins.

From time to time, I would help one or the other – probably Kenneth since he was closest to me in age, and we naturally aligned a type of defense against the older two –who were smug in their “being older” experience.

In addition, my brother Hunter, notorious in the family for his sound beatings of us in board games and cards, seemed always in need of a loss.

Kenneth and I were better athletes, so I’m guessing we gave Hunter some competition at least in the dash part, but Hunter, cunning and cerebral, probably mathematically figured out how to gather the most “church news” by dividing the rows of pews by the number of attendees or something; I don’t know if Margaret ever got in the game or not – she appeared pretty prissy and probably above it. Separated by age to me by three years, she seemed vastly removed from me and more like an adult.

After my parents stopped their chatting with their friends and we drove from church, my brothers in the back seat of the car counted the bulletins they collected and tallied their totals at each other with pride:  “I got 94” or “Ha! I got 106.”  When we got home, they filed the bulletins in the deep drawers of a lady’s old, dressing table used in their room for storage.

Did they have a score card? A money bet? Did one or the other have to pick up a chore for the winner? At some point, this competition turned into a team effort, but when did it change from competition to collusion? That answer is lost family history.

Why did they do this? I don’t know, and they don’t either.

Did my mother eventually make them toss the bulletins when they cleaned their room?

I don’t think so because I, being a natural snoop, looked in those drawers and remember seeing the bulletins so tightly packed that I could run my fingers across the tops of them as if they were manila files.

Mother probably thought the collecting of church bulletins wholesome – better than comic books or baseball cards. And, of course, they were free!

Over the years, they must have accumulated thousands.

Then they stopped.


When we changed churches? Sooner that that?

In my memory, those bulletin boys still run those aisles. 

Margaret [on right] in front of West End Christian church entrance, circa 1959
Mother and Daddy, circa 1954 :-)

ETA: After reading this, my sister emailed me and told me that "I was not too prissy and slid under those pews for my share of bulletins.  I actually think Hunter and I were the first ones to do it."

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wedding: New Orleans Style

Wedding attired and bucked up for the drive into NOLA for Chapman and Margaret's wedding, we didn't know what to expect. We did seem to be in a little Twilight Zone meets formal wear episode as my family caravan-ed into the crowded, party filled streets of the area of New Orleans known as the French Quarter. Narrow, one way streets, restaurants and bars spilling onto the sidewalks, [a lot of the streets leading to the French Quarter were under construction], we battled our way down, parting teeming and swelling crowds, parked the cars for twenty bucks, and hoofed to Woldenberg Park for the exchange of vows. 

Park nuptials? Second line to the reception? Hankies? Umbrellas? Blisters?

Well, you haven't been to a wedding until you've been to a New Orleans one.

Chapman and Margaret married at 5 o'clock in the afternoon at Woldenberg Park on the green space of the upper French Quarter on a perfect, spring day with the water of the Mississippi lapping soundly behind and a blazing blue sky for backdrop.

The invited guests, gathered on the grass, parted for the bride on the arm of her brother, and the Reverend yoked the two in matrimony in front of a hundred or so friends and family and three or four hundred tourists who gaped, watched, and then not only took photos but videos of the whole thing.

When the minister announced them as husband and wife, the horn attached to some type of party barge sounded long and frog-croaking deep [perhaps prompted by a cell phone call] and the wedding invitees chuckled.

Perfect timing, I'd say.

Following the Second Line to the Napoleon House [love this fun tradition -- and before the night was over would observe three more Second Lines following brides and grooms], we dined on plates of shrimp gumbo and other spicy appetizers.

A DJ spun some tunes, and I laughed out loud at Chapman and his engineer friends singing and dancing to a set of 80's tunes queued up and blasted for dancing.

I dunno why it seemed so funny, but to watch them mouth the words to songs like "Billie Jean," "She Blinded Me with Science," and "She's a Beauty" struck me as hilarious.

Weren't they like toddlers when those songs ran the top ten on the radio? Cuz, I was really young. :-)

Never mind.

Photos follow.

 the fab four

 the cousins wait

 David and brother Ken

 Margaret and her family

 the bride

 Sunglasses and hat moment..

 Kenneth and his family [minus Amy who couldn't make the trip] :-(

 the umbrellas aloft [almost] the Second Line to the reception

 Hankies high

 We pause to sing... "the saints go marchin' in"
No lie.  :-)

 the amusing cake topper --- bride and groom hugging and looking at their phones -- bwha

 Chapman's awesome tie


 the newlyweds...

 view from the Napoleon house

 Bryan and Nora

David and Andrew

Then it was over.

Now, who's next?  James? Glenn? Stephen?

The New Orleans Wedding

Well, I'm finally gonna post some pictures and make some comments about my number 1 nephew's [sorry, 'phews, remember the Christmas present he got me?] wedding.

Chapman and Margaret got married at the end of March.
[I'm late. I know. Embarrassingly late.}

New Orleans.

Undiscovered country.

At least for us. :-)

We drove to NoLa [a new acronym  for me]  or is it NOLA? because we could. :-)

We rented a house on Tchoupitoulas Street that apparently was the hospital, truck, and car windows rolled down and thumping music playing route. At first, the location seemed jarring [coming from our cul-de-sac, quiet world], but after a while, we grew used to the noise of city streets. It took us the whole time we were there to learn to pronounce the name of that street even though locals and my nephew Stephen, who said "the GPS lady said it like this," corrected us over and over. How do I know the GPS lady is right?

BTW: You know why the GPS voice is female? I do.

Spacious, clean, and inviting, the rental lined up like the row house it was with my siblings' and their family's rentals -- we literally were all in a row and in and out of each other's houses for the three night stay that we had. Rather communal and friendly living like that, we were amazed at the neighbors who said hello and at one point invited us to a pig roast.

The beautiful Audobon Park was a mile away, and we walked its tree lined, duck and bird filled pathways on more than one occasion. It's quite breath-taking with its huge trees, splashing waterfowl, and impressive, stately, magnificent houses with spectacular gardens and stone work.

The groom hosted the rehearsal dinner there on Friday afternoon, a crawfish boil, that excited the local guests and made believers out of some of the "visitors." I ate tacos myself, because well, I don't do crawfish. :-) Also on the menu, grilled sausage, corn on the cob, and other sides to complement the fare.

For dessert -- an ice cream that makes you wanna slap your momma. Famous in NOLA, the Creole Creamery served up heaping mounds of the delightful dessert in flavors of  king cake and sea salt caramel. Totally amazing. Indescribable, it's so good.

We had a roaring good time as people ate, watched passer-byers, the 'phews played some yard games --- and my feet hurt in my stupid, not for the park, sandals.


 Brother Hunter loads up supplies for rehearsal party at the park.

Paul carries the Boom Box, a staple at every party.
A few phews and their pretties head out for the festivities.

 Bocce Ball, anyone? Is that Latin?

 Sister Margaret, I, and Hunter pose, while Hunter holds his gargantuan Creole Creamery dessert.

 Other side of family -- Aunt Donna, Cousin Phyllis, Nora, and the groom, Chapman, holding dessert. Not kidding about the cold "hit" it was...

Bridget, Angie, and Kayla  


 Bride Margaret taste some of the sausage. Unknown wanna-be in photo leans in...
 There they are!

 David curbs his enthusiasm.

 Some kind of technology involving Smart Phones, Instagrams, hash tags, and photos from the party magically appeared on this elaborate television screen set up. 
Cool, but beyond me. Phew Bryan did it along with the groom.

 Speaking of -- Chapman, Nora, and Bryan

Glenn and Bridget

 Chapman's hilarious t-shirt
(he's known for his amusing choices of t-shirts ]
His bride, who bought it,  called it a "Public Service Announcement."

 Nora and her favorite aunt :-)

the cousins, bride and groom in center, gather for the much detested photo opportunity
[note to them: some day, you'll thank us]

Next up. Wedding Day.