Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Those hazy, hot, humid days of summer

It isn't summer yet, but the weather is very much summer(ish). Over a week of hazy, hot, and humid days evokes memories over 60 years old. Yes, 60 years.

I know NJ schools are open longer than those in the Midwest where schools have been closed for at least a week.

I recall that immediately after school was dismissed for the three-month summer vacation, the next week started a two-week Vacation Bible School. The thinking was that it was still early summer and the dogdays hadn't quite reached NJ. Wrong.

Also, VBS began at 9:00 a.m. the thinking being that children were used to getting to real school by 9 a.m., so getting to VBS by 9 a.m. would not be difficult. Also, it was cooler before noon than after noon. Wrong.

At least from a child's perspective. Personally, I always looked forward to being able to do what I wanted to do, be able to sleep longer, be able to sit on the cool(er) front porch and read, etc. But I did like VBS.

VBS started with a "pep rally" each day. Dad would start us out with a bevy of songs and flag pledging and scripture verse memorizing. Then we got the project for the day. If we returned the next day and had one of the five best turn-ins of the project, we received a prize. I can only recall winning one prize that I really, really wanted and that was a sheriff's badge. The project? Write out the 10 commandments in my best handwriting. Not only did I write out the commandments (shortened version that appears on many courthouses), but I included all the other words in Exodus 20 as well. I was determined to win one of those badges. And I did. That was my "Western" summer. I had a holster with a cap gun, my sheriff's badge, my rope which I learned to used quite well, actually, and I had a baby brother who would sit still long enough that I could lasso for practice.

We all were ready after the "pep rally" to head downstairs for our lesson and handcraft project. These were the days before air conditioning was common, especially in churches. So the basement provided a lot of heat relief.

The lessons were themed, I suppose. I only really remember the Moses to Ten Commandments to Joshua series.

The handwork projects included woodcarving -- we made bookends. This included varnishing them, carving them, and putting them together with a screwdriver. Teacher help was available, but as I am not a very patient person, I did my own, proving that an eight-year-old could do something a little difficult.

VBS at Mt. Calvary. After the first day of getting "in the groove" so to speak, it was two weeks of great fun, adventure, and friendship.

Oh? And did I mention the wonderful snacks? No? Well, that's because they weren't real good, but the teachers tried. I recall the really bad homemade root beer. I mean it was really bad, but the dear lady who made it faithfully each year for all us children, was thanked by one and all, regardless of whether we liked it or not.

I pray that this year's VBS programs will be as much fun for the children who attend as they were for me when I was a child.


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