During the darker days of “The War” (to the “elders” of today’s society that always means “WWII.”) gasoline was stringently rationed. Drivers were issued “A,” “B,” or “C” decals to put onto their windshields and a rationing book filled with coupons that could be redeemed only on a week by week basis. An “A” sticker entitled the driver to, as I recall, three and a half gallons per week. The “B” and “C” drivers got correspondingly a little more but no one could get enough gasoline to drive as much as they might want to. I learned years later that there was a flourishing “Black Market” in gasoline in the bigger cities but such an appalling offense against patriotism simply didn’t happen in our part of the country.
We belonged to a small denomination which had the longest name of any church in Christendom and it was a name that was recognized by few people outside the church. As a child I was always a little bothered by that long name and secretly wished I had a short, snappy answer to give when someone asked what church I belonged to. It seemed so simple for others to say “Baptist,” “Presbyterian,” or “Catholic,” etc. The nearest congregation for us was 16 miles away in Coffeyville KS. Since Dad’s 1941 Ford burned a gallon of gas about every 17 miles, a round trip to Coffeyville, (whose main claim to fame is being the place where the infamous “Dalton Gang,” who specialized in making illegal withdrawals from banks, were ambushed and gunned down by Coffeyville citizens) would easily use up most of one week’s ration. That surely contributed to my parent’s spotty church attendance.
One summery Saturday afternoon, Dad, Mother, and some now-unremembered church member were sitting in our back yard talking about whether or not they would attend church the next day. I was nearby listening to the conversation. In a burst of sanctity I spoke up, saying, “Don’t you think that if you go to church, God will take care of the gasoline?” It may have been an inspired thing to say but more likely I was just trying to put a sanctimonious face on myself. It did have an effect, however. Dad decided we would make the drive to Coffeyville the next day. It would be nice if I could say that some extra gasoline ration coupons came Dad’s way in some quasi-miraculous way, but they didn’t. He managed to get by with what he had.
When I was around thirteen I was packed off to a one-week church camp down in Oklahoma during the summer. It was a fun week with swimming, nighttime campfires, sleeping “barracks-style” in open-air camp buildings and of course a heavy dose of praying, hymn singing, and studying. As expected, when my parents came to pick me up I was feeling ardently sanctimonious and filled with a firm resolve to be “good”. “The World,” though, soon closed in around me and I quickly became the boy I had been before I went to the camp. The only memory I have of anything I learned during Church Camp are a few words to a little campfire song we sang. It told in a lugubriously funny way the problems faced by an African “Cannibal King With a Brass Nose-ring" and his dusky girl friend who were separated by a crocodile infested river. The song would be condemned as virulently racist today. It was a vastly more innocent time.
Love it - and I so agree it was a vastly more innocent time. I can't remember the last time I saw the word "lugubrious[ly]" used anywhere; how delicious. But - you really musn't leave us all hanging: what WAS the name of this church that you boast has the longest name of any in Christendom?
Well ... I didn't want to bring any controversy into my little memoir but the name was "The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," which differs from the Mormon Church (I believe, I may be wrong) only by the addition of the word "Reorganized" to the name. There's some interesting and controversial church history concerning the church founded by Joseph Smith and events following his death in a Carthage IL jail into which I won't enter. If you can find a Christian denomination with a longer name, let me know. :-) The "Reorganized" Church "split" sometime in the last twenty years. I was far removed from it by then. I only know that the larger segment of it became the "Community of Christ." I think there is still a smaller segment using the "Reorganized" name but I don't know all the facts - haven't been that interested.
To clarify: I was referring ONLY to the name when I wrote that the "Reorganized" Church differs from the Mormon Church. There are probably some notable doctrinal and theological differences.
I have had an education with this story. It's great to hear the details of how gas was rationed and particularly how people managed their gas. Talk about an innocent time. When going to church was the cool thing to do, man.
I had no idea of a "reorganized" LDS church. All great stuff Don.
"The War" permeated ALL aspects of how we lived but the patriotism was the norm so we put up with whatever it took. Few people know of the RLDS church. There is fascinating and controversial history about what happened after Joseph Smith was lynched by stoning while being held in jail. The majority of the members of the LDS church went to Utah under the leadership of Brigham Young. A smaller number stayed together awaiting the time when Joseph Smith's son would be old enough to assume church leadership. They ultimately made their headquarters in Independence MO. That's the church in which I was raised. Sometime in the 60's or 70's the RLDS split up. I was far removed from it by then and don't know much about the circumstances or details. Only thing I know comes from the fact that one of my "first loves" (who did me wrong big-time) was an RLDS girl who, after the split,became a preacher in the "break-off" segment called "Community of Christ."