Forty-two years ago this summer, that would make it 1969—for those like me who find it so hard to subtract since we passed the year 2000—the Rex Scoles family moved to Joplin, Missouri. When we moved here we had no place to live, no job to begin, six children, ranging from 12 down to less than 2, and the promise of maybe $50 per week.
We stored most of our belongings in Walter and Mary Woods’ garage and moved what we absolutely had to have to live into the four rooms at the back of the church. Mother and Daddy’s bedroom doubled as the living room. The kitchen was also utilized for “spit baths,” after heating some water on the stove, and hanging a blanket across the doorway. The other two rooms held the children and their clothing. That was before there was a restroom upstairs and it was a community project to go to the bathroom in the basement.
We kids thought it was a great adventure, living in the back of the church. Mother and Daddy tried to make it that. I remember on Sunday mornings after getting all dressed and combed, going out the back door and walking down the sidewalk, around the corner and going into the front door of the church. “We walked to church this morning!” we would tell the parishioners. And we were grateful to God.
God provided a job for Daddy through the connection of Ralph Hood to his nephew, Gerald, who had a heating and air conditioning company. God had prepared Daddy for that job the previous year when he worked for Grandpa Smith and learned the trade. Back then, the salary was $2/hour. And we were grateful to God.
God provided a house for us to buy and Grandpa Smith provided the down payment. The renters had to move out, so we lived in the back of the church until they did. For “real” baths, we would drive over to Miami to Grandma and Grandpa Scoles’s house on Saturday afternoons and get that weekly task accomplished for eight people. We got to see Grandpa and Grandma Scoles pretty regularly. And we were grateful to God.
I still remember the day we moved into 1101 S. Monroe. I’m sure Walter and Mary helped, no doubt glad to get their garage back. That evening, Mother cooked our first meal in the new house. I don’t remember what was on the menu, except that we had a big bowl of mashed potatoes. Some helpful little girl carried it over to the table, but it slipped out of her hands and crashed on the floor. I can’t remember which one of us angels that was, but as an adult, I have remembered it as a “moving experience.” I remember several of us cried.
The house at 1101 Monroe grew as we did through the years. The carport changed into another bedroom and bathroom. The storage room was turned into Daddy’s office. The new concrete slab we poured was added onto and made into “the new room.” At first it was going to be a screened in porch, but since that didn’t happen, a screened in porch was added later. The front bedrooms were enlarged and the porch with the swing changed the front of the house. When everybody was big enough to help, the garage was added and the prophet’s chamber upstairs. And we were grateful to God.
Walter and Mary helped with many of the building projects. They were the ones who would come by without warning to see what we were up to. Sometimes they would play ball with us—we used to have room in the backyard to play baseball—over the fence was automatic out and the pin oak tree was third base. Sometimes Mary would fold clothes with us if it was laundry day and that was what we were doing. I loved everybody in the church, but I think I loved them the most because they were there in our lives more than anybody else. We loved it when they came over bearing fresh apple pies Mary had just made. She occasionally brought apple pies randomly, but mostly when we had revivals and hosted the evangelist. Once when she was gone to Kansas City at the start of a revival, Uncle Walter brought over apple pies. We kids were convinced his apple pies were as good as Aunt Mary’s! It was some time later when we found out Mary made them for us before she left for KC. For years, every time they brought over pies, we asked which one of them had made them!
When we moved here, the church had theater seats. They were not the padded kind, either. There were three seats in rows on either side and five seats in the middle section of rows. There was a tiny vestibule before coming right into the church. In the back right corner was the stairway to the basement. It was open with a railing around it. The walls were white painted. The church got a much-needed facelift after Big Ray Smith was here for revival. His posterior was a little snug in the theater seat. The particular seat he was in had a loose, sticking up screw. It was more difficult than usual for him to get up and come to the platform. As he went, some noticed that his big Bible was over part of the back of his pants! I believe, and I hope it is true, that his suit had an extra pair of trousers. It was a good thing if that was true.
Years later, Big Ray told me that he carried a piece of fabric from that pair of suit trousers in his Bible to remember that service by. The devil may have intended to distract Big Ray and keep him from preaching the truth, but God came in that service and Big Ray never forgot it. And we were grateful to God.
Anyway, after ruining Big Ray Smith’s suit pants, there was nothing to do but modernize the church sanctuary! The entrance to the basement was changed by adding a wall and door and turning the stairs around. Carpet was chosen and laid. It was red with black flecks in it. And what a wonderful day when the pews were delivered!! Later the drop ceiling and paneling were put up. Our church looked brand new! And no one ever ruined their suit pants on the seats again! In later years, as the congregation aged, pads were added to the pews, the red carpet was replaced with gray, the vestibule was enlarged and the stairway changed completely, and the outside ramp was added for wheel chair use.
I remember the Sunday School teachers. Aunt Lucile Woods was the beginners’ teacher for many years. Mary Woods, Opal Hudson, and Mary Roland were some of the children’s teachers. Lee Ferguson and Walter Woods were youth teachers many years.
We sang “Everybody Ought to Love Jesus, and Everybody Ought to Go to Sunday School” and collected pennies, nickels, and dimes in the penny march every Sunday.
Memories of my childhood at Joplin church:
I remember our parents telling us kids to behave so we wouldn’t get voted out! This happened more in the springtime of the year, and we really tried to behave during the spring. On annual meeting nights, we had to leave early before “the pastoral vote” and went home in fear and trembling, waiting for the call that said whether we could stay or were voted out.
The baby of our family had the habit of falling asleep in church. One time we left him there, asleep on the floor after the service was over. It was totally accidental, and so emotionally disturbing that some members of our family claim it never happened and is a figment of my imagination!
Who could forget how fast the Joplin church used to sing? At least everybody else thought so. We thought all the other fellowship area churches drug their song services!
Sister Hudson told how long ago the Joplin church needed a pianist, and she prayed and the Lord taught her to play the piano! (Which she did until the end of her life, except for a couple years when she stepped aside to let me get some experience.)
I remember Brother Charley Roland coming up to put in his birthday offering and offering to play a tune on his harmonica. However, he could not play it with his teeth in, so out came his handkerchief to put his teeth into while he played. Mother would cover her mouth and tuck her head, shaking it just a dab.
The sharp noise Mother made snapping her fingers when we were misbehaving in church.
The look that made you sure a spanking was forthcoming when we got home.
The many times when God’s presence came, and you knew you had “been to church.” A couple times I remember the words that brought the glory: “Thank God for Jesus” and “All that I have is yours.” God came and melted us all together.
The church people I remember from my childhood: Claude and Dora Smith singing “I’m just checkin’ up on my payments to the Lord!”
The old ladies who sat in the middle section: Sister Stretch, Sister Ada Belle Chapell (our own special midget lady), Sister Connor, so tall and thin, Sister Sovey, Sister Kilmer, Sister Stephens, who had to hide from her husband to read her Bible.
Walter, Mary, and Nancy Woods
Lester and Lucile Woods
The Allen Family
The Rolands and Frankie Copher and family
Lee, Kay and Steve Ferguson
Ralph and Winona Hood and Retha
Brother and Sister Lineback
LF and Dorothy Sams
Sister Bessie Jewell, who was completely deaf, but lip read so well.
Ed Sumpter and his mother Sister Sumpter
There have been others through the years that have been part of the church but these were the ones from my childhood.
I remember when Frank Hudson got saved. We had prayed for him for years, but I had rarely seen him before he got saved. He was under conviction and told his wife he wanted to pray to get saved at the church. They came up to the church and he prayed at the altar. Long years before he had blamed God that their little baby boy died. It had been an obstacle for him for years. But that day all stumbling blocks were taken away. There was hardly a service he did not testify in. And when he prayed, I had to peek a few times to see if Jesus was there beside him. He talked to Jesus just like that. He testified that he learned to pray as if Jesus was sitting on the chair next to him. He was such a blessing in the few years before he went home to heaven! And we were grateful to God.
The area churches and especially the area pastors were always so special to us. The preachers’ suppers, Singspirations, revivals, the youth meetings, and youth rallies are wonderful memories.
I always believed that I had the best preacher in the world for a pastor and father. Only God knows the number of hospital visits he made through these 42 years, the home visits, the times of praying for people, helping people out who were in trouble, interrupting a chess game with a child because someone needed to talk to the preacher, the hours of study, the hours of prayer, crying with the grieving, preaching funerals, attending visitations, sitting in the hospital during surgeries… Daddy was there for his flock.
And we were grateful to God.
We kids didn’t know if there were problems in the church. Any problems were not discussed at home in front of the kids. We thought we had the perfect church. We were loved and appreciated and taken care of. And we were grateful to God.
Our mother was there for us at home. She enjoyed the Ladies’ Prayer Meetings while we were at school. She made the ends meet with the money from the church and daddy’s job. Looking back, I find that amazing! We had a secure and loving home. We didn’t have the privilege of Christian school, but we had the benefit of a Christian home where we talked about all the problems of school and people there who made fun of us for being different. We heard good advice: “If they are talking about you, they have a good subject.” “Don’t hold onto grudges.” “Don’t repay evil for evil.” “Payday doesn’t always come on Friday.” And we were grateful to God.
Mother started babysitting to have more money for giving. Her love language is giving, I’ve discovered through the years. She babysat countless children, many of whom are grownups now; one, Donald Wayne Lansaw, in the Joplin Tornado made it to heaven ahead of us. After Daddy retired from his day job, together they helped train many children.
We were loved; we were cared for and prayed for by our parents and the church people.
Time would fail to tell of all the evangelists and missionaries who were fed or stayed at our house. We were blessed by those associations. We were blessed to grow up as preacher’s kids, raised by one of the best preacher and wife combinations in the world. At least we think so! We love you, Mother and Daddy! And we are grateful to God.