Recently, Dad and Mom and I drove to White Plains, Alabama, to visit the church where Dad often worshiped as a boy. Though he grew up in Atlanta, he had lots of relatives in While Plains, which is a “bare” mention on the map. In fact, if you blink, take a breath, or for that matter turn your head, you have passed through White Plains. We stopped at an abandoned grocery store where Dad told me that he once sold freshly gathered eggs to the owner for thirteen cents a dozen. Before we drove away, I asked him, “Dad, where is White Plains?” He smiled and said, “You’re standing in it!”
Dad begins to tell the story that we had heard so many times. Still, whenever he tells it again, we always draw near and listen as if we were hearing it for the first time. He was fourteen years old and had been drafted by his Grandfather and the other men of the community to help clean the graveyard at the church. Shortly after sunrise on the day of the event, his Grandfather tapped lightly on the door to his room and told him it was time to go. The horse and wagon had been readied and Grandmother was standing ready with breakfast. Aunt Ollie (Grand Daddy’s sister) was there and she packed him off with a fresh homemade biscuit stuffed with cured ham. “This is for later, Jack, when you get hungry,” she told him as she folded the heavy piece of paper over and wrapped the small package up with a thin piece of twine. Once they arrived at Sweet Home, Dad jumped down from the wagon, greeted the other men, and he reached down and put his mid-morning snack in what he thought was a secure place—under the buck-board of the wagon. After a couple hours of hard work, he turned to his Grandfather and said, “Grand Daddy, I think I’ll go back and eat the biscuit Aunt Ollie gave me.” His Grandfather nodded and said, “Go, ahead,” and Dad returned to the wagon only to find that his biscuit was gone! “I remember thinking, ‘How did that horse get my biscuit? But I realized the horse did not take it because it was hitched to the tree. Someone else had. We were in the middle of the depression and many people did not have anything to eat.” In the above photo Dad is standing in the exact spot where his Grandfather’s wagon had been parked and where his biscuit was stolen.
Dad looks down at Aunt Hat’s grave. Uncle Belton—”Uncle Belt” her beloved husband—is buried beside her.
Here’s another view of Sweet Home Methodist Church. I noticed the attendance board in the front of the church had only 32 people listed for the first Sunday in June. I love the two separate entrances. In the old days, men would enter on one side and women on the other.
We walked through the unlocked church door, and the first thing my Dad said was, “My Grandfather taught Sunday School in this room.” His words took my breath away because I knew I was standing in the place were my spiritual heritage was born. “Are these the same pews that you remember sitting in when you were a boy?” I asked. “Oh, yea,” Dad answered. “It’s all the same.”
Then I asked Dad to sit down were he naturally would have sat. Mom said when they had visited together after they were married, they sat over to the right side. But we noticed that Dad had taken a place down front. “So, you sat down here?” I questioned. He responded: “To hear the preacher, we did.”
Just a sweet country church that at one time was lit by . . .
In the back of the church, I found a stack of really old Methodist hymnals. The piano was a Kimball and the choir “loft” was comprised of a couple of pews lined up to the right of the pulpit.
Here’s the serpentine road that leads away from Sweet Home and toward White Plains. I’m glad my mother was with us. She knew exactly how to get us back to the main road. If not, Dad and I would still be wandering along dirt roads. Our sense of direction must be identical!