For as long as I can remember, a pew close to the front of the church has had a group of women all lined up receiving the Sunday message. Their numbers have dwindled a little over the years, but the regulars; Pauline Nicholas, Cozy Brooks, and Mary Gordon Brooks can be counted on to be in attendance almost every Sunday.
The ladies were cooperative during my interview. They constantly reminded me of how “their memories had faded and they didn’t remember much from the old days”, but one memory led to another and before I knew it we had been talking for almost 2 hours and I had three pages of notes. So let’s get started.
I met with the ladies at Pauline’s house. They had prepared for the interview by having many old and valuable pictures available. I asked the questions and the laughter and “oh yea, I forgot about that” stories began to flow. When asked of their earliest memories of the church, Cozy guessed she moved her membership to Holly Grove around 1950 when Rev. Farris was the preacher. Cozy felt joining the church was a good thing for her young daughters. She remembered, as most of our older members do, the “Big Meetings” or revivals of the old days when the church was filled to capacity. She then began to discuss a “well over at Matt Lloyd’s across from the church”. All three ladies had fond memories of this well, as they stated “a lot of courting took place at the well.” As we continued through the interview, this well continued to come up over and over again.
Pauline’s Earliest memory of Holly Grove was back to the time when she was 11 years old. Although her parent often attended Elpis, Pauline and her sisters typically attended Holly Grove (at this point I heard more about this well, I think there was a connection in the message). Preacher Graybill baptized Pauline at Shelton’s Mill. She remembered in the old days how the preacher only came to Holly Grove once a month (rotation was between Elpis, Salem, Springfield, and Holly Grove). Pauline remembered getting to church was often an adventure in itself. Pauline stated “once my sisters started courting, getting a ride to church was much easier… many times we would ride on the fender of an older sister’s boyfriends car.” Although it sounds crazy today, they all remembered this as being great fun.
Mary Gordon remembered going to the “Big Meetings” in a wagon (better than walking). She apparently was known for having trouble with her shoes/feet and any time a ride was available this was a treat. Mary Gordon also remembered the fancy buggies that everyone had at church. All three if the ladies spoke at great length about the “shiny paint”, clean windows, and tassels of the many buggies that came to church. They remembered the horses being tied to trees and people would count the number of horses at church much the same way cars are counted today. The ladies all remembered their father saying “there were a whole lot of horses at church today.” Then the well came up again, Mary Gordon remembered the boys and girls all drinking from the same dipper (scandalous) and that 15 to 25 people would gather at the well to socialize. She also remembered being baptized at Shelton’s mill. She was baptized at 13 years of age and was joined by Ethel Lloyd (Alfred Lloyd’s sister).
When asked about happy memories at the church, Mary Gordon remembered the big wood heaters whose smoke pipes extended around the church and how the old church was always warm. She remembered the wires holding the pipes and how the men of the church would sneak tobacco and spit in their spittoons during services. She also remembered how thankful she was that her daughter was able to play the organ at Holly Grove at the age of 13.
All of the ladies spoke of the “Big Meetings” at Holly Grove. They looked forward to the revivals, as they did with most of the events at Church. Pauline stated, “you looked forward to the big meetings as much as Christmas.” It was a wonderful time, Cozy remembered how all the women would bring food and a large table was setup outside. They stated, “the food stretched from end-to-end.” Pauline and Mary Gordon’s mother would usually pluck a chicken and prepare pies for the occasion. At dinnertime, the women would carry food to those who were standing under the trees, and everyone would eat standing up. The fellowship of these events was memorable. The revivals were generally packed and many of the people had hand fans to cool themselves during the services (those with the “palm leaf fans” were especially fancy, Pauline had one to show me). People opened the windows of the church so those outside could hear the message. The children of the church sat on the floor, yielding their seats to the adults. It was a wonderful time.
The ladies spoke of the families who attended our church. They spoke of how the individual families would each fill a pew and how some even took up more than one. As for the old church, the ladies (as do all the older members) spoke of how they loved the old church, but also spoke of how the congregation banded together and decided to build a new Church. They stated “the decision wasn’t easy, but all knew the old church had served its purpose and it was time to move on.” They remembered the contributions to buy the pews in the old church, and how with a little effort, the $100 per pew was contributed (these are the same pews we have in the church today).
Pauline remembered that while the new church was being built, services were held in the old Holly Grove Firehouse. They remember the heartbreak of a great storm that came through while the new church was being constructed and how it “blew down” some of the construction.
Pauline remembered one incident with her older sister Berta. The story involved Fran Lacy as a very young child coming to church one Sunday. Once services had started, Fran noticed “Aunt Berta” and in a very loud voice said “HI!”, Berta, without thinking, returned the greeting in as loud a voice. This embarrassed Berta and the ladies all got a big laugh when recalling this story. They noted that for Berta to do something like this was quite the exception making it even funnier.
Other Memories we discussed involved Sunday School teachers. They all had memories of teaching or running the youth group (members remembered include Nell, Bertie, Phyllis, Anita, James Noel (who helped), Carolyn). The group would get together and sing and once even had a car wash. They also remembered “The Christian Endeavor” events. These events included, but were not limited to; Singing, Visiting, and praying with shut-ins. They would go from house to house on summer nights. The four Wiltshire girls would sing together and have great fun. By this time Berta was “courting” Andrew, so the girls had a steady ride. Pauline and Mary Gordon stated there was some “courting” going on at the Christian Endeavor. Cameron Bagby and Andrew Lloyd were the leaders of these events. Pauline also remembered one of her best Sunday school teachers was her sister Myrtle. She said, “you had better pay attention to Myrtle, because she would give you a test (and grade the test) following the lesson.” They also remembered Zelma Lloyd and her great talent at teaching the lessons of the Bible.
The ladies stated how the church was a big extended family, and “if someone was in need, the church gathered together to help.” As fires, deaths, and sickness came upon church members, they were taken care of from within. The ladies reflected a while on how they have seen many of the members of the church pass on. They also told how they watched many of the young members grow-up, stay in the church and raise their children within the walls of Holly Grove. As for the church today, the ladies feel it is doing great. They enjoy the activity at the church and feel the growth we have experienced is wonderful. They also touched on the current unity of the church, and how it is running as smooth as ever. When asked what would keep the church on track and assure success in the future, without much hesitation they all agreed… “Love is the Answer.”
(Interview conducted by Byron Wilson in 2001, The Ladies have gone on to heaven)