Transcribed by Pat Cummings
March 5, 1953
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We will try this week to refrain from anything concerning the old family records. We wish first to give some personal remembrances of some rather trying experiences through which we passed as a boy preacher in the years long gone by.
The writer was “licensed to exercise whatever gift he might have” in a public way by Mt. Tabor church on the fourth Saturday in July, 1911. There followed months of trying to pick up enough courage to try to preach my first sermon. I was exceedingly timid and bashful, characteristics which perhaps the younger generation has no idea that we ever possessed. However, it is only too true that we were perhaps the most bashful young preacher that ever got out to carry the word. We blushed then so easily as a timid girl of 15. In fact, we do not know of a child anywhere half as bashful as this writer was when he was a young man of 20. In 1907, while attending the Bowling Green Business University, we had gotten hold of a copy of the “Blunders Of a Bashful Man,” which we had devoured eagerly. We soon decided that we were doomed to be as bashful as poor John Flutter, the hero of the story, if it had a hero.
In that book we found episode after episode of the foolish, silly, and uncalled-for deeds of a bashful person, and we walked in some of them. One of them we recall was that John was invited to a gathering in his hometown, where there were several young women present. John went into the room where these young women were before he knew where he was really going. In his great embarrassment, he plumped down into the first chair in reach, to find that one of the young ladies had placed her sewing in that particular chair. He soon learned to his consternation that he had indeed made a terrible mistake, for he had sat down on a needle. But he was too bashful at the first to rise. He undertook to carry on a conversation with an old maid. He asked the elderly lady how her mother was getting along, and then happened to think that her mother had been dead for 20 years. About this time, as he moved, the needle penetrated deeper and John let out a cry of “Ooooh,” whereupon the old girl asked, “John, are you sick?” Poor John Flutter got into one scrape after another and all of them were due to his terrible state of bashfulness. So Cal began to feel that he was cursed with the same trouble. And he did make some fool blunders that will live in memory through the years. We had a terrible time trying to appear sane and rational when about the girls of forty-odd years ago. We blush even now when we think of some of the very, very silly things that we did.
So our efforts to enter the ministry were beset by awful fears that we would make some blunder that would indeed make the writer the laughing stock of the whole country. We had taught school for about four years when we finally did get up enough courage to make our first preaching effort. But to go back some three years before that time, we recall that our first school was in progress in the autumn of 1910 at Dean Hill, on the upper end of Salt Lick Creek of Cumberland River. To our horror we saw the Superintendent of Schools, J.C. Nichols, approaching, driving a horse to a buggy. Just below the schoolhouse was a cedar thicket of perhaps three acres. We came as near “as peas,” as the hillbillies sometimes say, leaping out a window on the thicket side of the house and hiding until the Superintendent had left. We decided that this would not do and that we had to “face the music.” That visit of the Superintendent was very pleasant, and our fear and dread soon subsided. He was a good man and had our best interest at heart as a beginning teacher. He is still living and is located near Gallatin. The writer learned to love Joe Nichols back there forty years ago and more, and treasures the good things that he said and the good advice he gave.
We had for nearly four years felt, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel,” and yet we hesitated and hesitated. Finally we made our first effort at Defeated Creek Baptist church, located in the village of Difficult, Tenn. We have described that effort (?) in previous articles. We had the thought back there that if we could once get started in the ministry, that is, to “break the ice,” we would have no further dread. But we have found situation after situation in which we would have preferred almost anything else to the task before us. We could recall many, many occasions of dread, of fear, of timidity, of a foolish bashfulness, but we refrain.
We wish to give a few things of another sort, about which we have known and with which in some measure we have come in contact. We refer to the cooking and housekeeping in many homes in the years long gone by. The art of cooking and keeping the home has improved perhaps more than any other one feature. Forty years ago when the writer entered the ministry, there were many, many nice homes where the cooking and housekeeping were above reproach and were as nice as they could be. But on the other hand, there were five times as many filthy homes where no care was used, and where the housekeeping and the cooking were disgraceful, as there are today. We attribute much of the improvement to the teaching our girls and young women have received in high school, especially from their instruction in home economics.
Two score years there were but few homes that had screen doors. Consequently, flies were a filthy pest that had to be met in many homes. The writer has already related the episode of the passing of the butter through the swarm of flies in a home in West Tennessee. We have reported this and will not again at this time bore the reader with a repetition of same.
We recall an episode that happened within the past 15 years. We were serving as pastor of a country church in Kentucky. On one trip we took with us our wife, Mrs. Betty Jenkins Gregory, and our two boys. We finished our preaching effort and the family was invited to go home with a brother, who insisted that I drive my car to the rear of his home and park it. We did so, and the wife said: “Brother Gregory, we can’t stay here!” I asked the reason and she said, “Yonder are three chickens walking about on the eating table.” I replied that we could not back out and would have to spend the night there. We got through with supper and I had an appointment to preach that night at another church a few miles from the home where we were putting up for the night. I left the wife and two boys at the place where the chickens had been walking about on the dining table.
That night when we got back to the house, we found the window in the front room, with a coal oil lamp burning and an odor that only those who have lived in another day and time will be likely to remember. I cried, “What in the world is that smell?” The reply from the wife was: “This place is alive with ‘chinches,’ and I have been catching them off of the bed and burning them.” Only those who have smelled a burning chinch will understand fully what the writer is trying to make clear to the reader. We lived through that night although we slept but little. We went back to that same home on one or two other occasions, but we managed to go there for the mid-day meal only.
There used to be a lot of criticism of the preachers on the grounds that they went only to the “white houses.” Now perhaps part of this complaint might have been justified, but we do not know of scarcely a man anywhere who just loves filth and prefers a dirty home to a clean one. The writer has gotten so that he can eat almost anywhere, having learned the “hard way.” This does not mean we love the flies, the filth, the poor housekeeping and etc., but one must become all men to all men that he might win some.
Good housekeeping in the long ago ran somewhat in families, and so did poor housekeeping. We recall three extremely bad communities from a standpoint of cleanliness and housekeeping we visited every one in these sections while we were pastor there, but we had a dread of some of the eating and the sleeping.
On the other hand cleanliness in the home “ran in families generally,” although there were some exceptions. We recall two sisters in the years gone by. One of them was a most excellent housekeeper, nice and clean in cooking and it was a pleasure to go there. On the other hand she had a sister who was the very opposite of the good housekeeper. The good housekeeper made this remark once in our hearing: “There are too much soap and water in this world for women to be filthy as some are.” And we agreed with her 100 percent.
Among the said situations are those in which poverty has gotten in the way and the housekeeping and cooking are the best that can be offered. In such situations, we are in complete sympathy and have no complaint whatever to make. None of the above is intended to afflict the feelings of any person. We are seeking to tell of those who ought to be doing better, whose lack of clean homes and good housekeeping is not due to poverty but to laziness and carelessness.
We recall one of the preachers of some years ago, who preached a sermon on the dirty housekeeping of some of the sisters. But the writer has never been that brave. Yes, we are sure that a sermon now and then of that sort is a good thing and ought to be preached.
We recall a lot of events that were painful at the time, but are now laughing matters and do not bring us any regret on the passing years have healed whatever hurt they may have caused. Our good friend, Elder C. S. Massey, was never particular about his food, except the quantity. He had as soon eat butter at a filthy place as any other food. We used to envy his “don’t care attitude” in matters of the sort above set forth. Other preachers have been somewhat finicky, about their eating. We belonged in this group, we suppose. The matter of being particular about one’s eating is largely a matter of one’s bringing up.
We recall one mother who cooked three or four kinds of bread for her boys. The result of years of much humoring or petting of children in matters of their food will make them critical of all eating except such as their mother did for them. We had that eating “complex” for years and that our own mother having been the very best cook in her entire community. She “spoiled” her children in this respect and the writer’s brother and sisters have all been affected thereby in varying degrees. Because the writer has had to eat anywhere and everywhere, we have managed to “get by”, but we confess that poor cooking with us even till today is a sort of abomination.