Between September 68 and June 72, I lived in Stanford, KY. It’s one of the oldest towns in the state, with its origins dating back to the time of the Revolutionary War. When I was there, it was a typical, somewhat sleepy South-Central Kentucky town of about 2500, the seat of Lincoln County. We moved there just before my sister’s 3rd birthday, when my father was called as the minister of the Stanford Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). My first vivid memories occurred there: learning to ride a bicycle and then cutting my ear on our mailbox after losing my balance; my sister and I languishing on the couch after getting the mumps; learning to read (my mom told me I loved to study the phone book and TV Guide); being the 2nd grade representative in an elementary school-wide spelling bee and getting eliminated early when I didn’t capitalize the personal pronoun ‘I;’ having a prominent role in my kindergarten play; Dad breaking his ankle sliding into a base playing softball; Mom doing an extended tour of duty as a substitute for a teacher who was ill; playing the 45s of “Spirit in the Sky,” “Sweet Caroline” (my mother’s middle name, and the one she went by), and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” on the hi-fi.
I’ve gone back only sporadically over the years, at best once a decade as of late. This past Sunday was one of those times. To a reasonable extent, things look unchanged downtown, though I’d say there’s been a recent effort to spiffy it up. They’ve gained about 1000 residents since my time, and there’s now plenty of Walmart-type retail and fast food available on the US 27 bypass. The elementary school where I attended 1st and 2nd grades has been torn down; still on the site is the pre-consolidation city high school–that’s become the Board of Education building. We drove by my old house (just like the one in Florence they would buy 11 years later, it’s a one-story ranch with a walkout combination basement/garage and driveway sloping down the left side and behind). Somewhere along the line, someone built a deck on the left side, outside the door to the kitchen, and put a chain-link fence around the back yard. The apple tree my grandfather had given me is no longer to the right of the house.
The family and I attended church, too. It was the first time I’d been inside since August 84, when Dad was invited back to preach as part of their sesquicentennial. The sanctuary felt familiar. I told a man who greeted us about my connection to the church’s past when we entered, and my presence was announced during the service. Afterward, several people who remembered me, my sister, or my father came up and spoke. One of the long-term members turned out be both an uncle to a math major I taught over a decade ago and an in-law of one of my wife’s college math professors. The interim minister, his wife, and three sons all were graduates of my employer. I had an enjoyable time.
There was one noticeable difference from almost fifty years ago. No children were in attendance (my almost 17-year-old may have been the youngest one present), so they skipped over that moment in the service created specially for them. There may have been some little ones in the nursery. But here’s a picture of 3-5 year olds at SCC from 69.
Granted, this was taken on Easter Sunday, but it’s an indicator of what’s been happening in mainline Protestant denominations over the last several decades.
With my parents’ deaths, I’ve discovered that I want to revisit some of the places of my past, not only to try to shake loose some memories but also perhaps to re-form a tiny thread of connection. I’d found among their effects a print of the church (pictured in the header above), apparently given to them when we visited in 84. On Sunday, I returned it, hoping that a current attendee might enjoy having it.
It’s hard to know when I’ll go back again, though I’d guess it’ll be in less than ten years. Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago, oh yeah, I know!–but there are fragments of them yet residing in my brain. Whether it’s names of the neighborhood kids, things that happened in my back yard, or events at school, I still want to retain them and perhaps extract even more.