The Gothic “Home is Where the Heart is”

April 6, 2009 - 1,177 views

Our apartment in the Gothic at the School of Theology in Alfred was waiting for us on our return from Schiff. A bedroom and living room were ours and we shared the kitchen and bathroom. Paul and Ruby Maxson lived in the apartment opposite our wing and Earl and Mabel Cruzan had a third living space. Luther Crichlow cooked in our kitchen, too. Marion Van Horn had left the Gothic to live with his new wife, Erma in her Alfred home.

Furnishings for our apartment were sparse but it might be said that we could have lived on love. The first visit paid us by Madeline’s parents, Dad Watts insisted we needed a better bed and bought one for us.

My Boy Scout work took me away from Alfred most week nights and I worried about the fire hazard at the Gothic. There were no fire escapes and the only exit from the second floor was by a long hallway and wooden stairs. I secured a length of very heavy rope that would reach from the bedroom window to the ground. Tied on one end to the heat register pipe, it could be thrown out the window for a person to slide down to safety. Instructing Madeline in how to accomplish this feat in case of fire was comforting to me. Fortunately, it was never necessary to use it.

Madeline’s first visit to Dr. Hitchcock was cause for deep concern. He feared that her condition was not normal and that she might not carry the baby to successful birth. It was our first brush with frightening realities that, in this case, did not prove to be true. Dr. Hitchcock served us faithfully and well through all our years in New York State. We had great confidence in him.

Perhaps our first rather serious disagreement should be documented. Newell Babcock–Calvin Babcock’s father–was an inveterate trader. He traded for the pure joy of trading and when he visited us he brought “trading stock” we would haggle over as I offered what I would exchange.

On one such visit Newell brought a nearly-new Corona portable typewriter that he had traded some radio parts for with an oil-worker friend. He was willing to sell the typewriter for $25.00–perhaps a third of what it was worth. Although I owned a Remington portable typewriter, I was certain the Corona would be marketable on the university campus at a good profit.

I bought the typewriter with our last $25.00 without consulting Madeline. She was incensed over, and uncomprehending of, how I could use our only dollars in such a transaction. I quickly had the Corona appraised and soon sold it for $35.00. There is no doubt in my mind of the rightness of Madeline’s rationale regarding this episode. She found it in her heart to soon forgive me.

Madeline’s adjustment to life in Alfred as a “theolog’s” wife was most gratifying to me. We had never seriously discussed whether she could become a Seventh Day Baptist or not. I believed that if becoming a Seventh Day Baptist was right for her to do, she would do it–without argument or pressure from me. Her fifty-six plus years as a devoted, dedicated Seventh Day Baptist give credence to the soundness of my thinking on this point. Dean Bond deserves credit for giving Madeline helpful counsel in matters of her Christian faith.

Madeline was excited when Mr. Frank Crumb, editor of THE ALFRED SUN, invited her to write a weekly column in his paper focusing on what was happening in the Gothic and the School of Theology on the Alfred University campus. She titled her column, GLIMPSES OF THE GOTHIC and the weekly series began December 9, 1938. We believe her remuneration was five cents per line. She bought a baby carriage with earnings from the column. Here are two poems she composed. he first one was in the May 12, 1938 column, the second in the May 19 column:

Ah, I must have a garden
With flowers blooming there.
Flowers that will tint the morning
And scent the evening air.

My love will plant my garden
And love will keep it neat;
Love for each little flower-face
Nestling at my feet.

For love is rarest beauty
And beauty brings releaser
For every pain or anguish
This loveliness brings peace.

Now I must plant my garden
And quickly make a start,
Exchanging thoughts for flowers
And plant–A garden in my heart!

The rain slid down our pointed roof
And ran across the eaves.
It fell so softly no one knew
It washed the May-born leaves.

I never have in all my life
Seen such a gentle rain.
There was no lusty, blowing strife,
No pounding on the pane.

Then all at once, the sun shone bright,
As if it did not know
The rain still fell so clean and light
Upon us here below.

The pine tree leaves hung bright with drops,
The grass was glistening so;
And all out-doors was glad to see
The lovely promise–a rainbow!

Imagine how proud Madeline’s published writing has made me always.

A happy experience of our year in the Gothic was getting well acquainted with uncle Alvah, aunt Mary and cousin Fucia. Uncle Alvah offered to pick up our $600 loan with a bank in Hornell and have us pay him in monthly payments without interest. We accepted his generous offer and this arrangement gave us opportunity to visit them every month when we made the payments. We were pleasantly surprised when uncle Alvah gave us clippings from the BUFFALO EVENING NEWS with excerpts from Madeline’s GLIMPSES OF THE GOTHIC. The column, LIFE ‘ROUND ABOUT US used Madeline’s material several times, and credited her for it. Fucia sometimes sent us home with a loaf of her fresh-baked bread.

Our plans and program in study and Scout work changed when Percy Dunn accepted the position of Executive for the Manhattan Boy Scout Council in New York City. Steuben Area Council asked me to work full time for them while they searched for a successor to Chief Dunn. With Dean Bond’s approval, I took the assignment in Scouting and continued to carry one course in school. There was concern by some of my professors that I might never return to the ministry. Dean Bond felt that the experience in Scouting was excellent preparation for serving the church. I have always appreciated his confidence in me.

On June 3, 1938, I took Madeline to the hospital in Hornell and Anne was born. I was alarmed at seeing our baby for the first time when they brought her from the delivery room. Never having seen a new-born, I was fearful that she might not be normal. As a Boy Scout Executive, perhaps I would have preferred that our baby be a boy. What a blessing Anne has been to us–and still is! I tried celebrating by smoking a cigar with Crich and Van. It didn’t go well at all.

While Madeline was in the hospital I woke one night with severe pain in my side. Fearing it might be appendicitis, I called Dr. Hitchcock. At his suggestion I walked about a block to his office and he took me to the university infirmary. In the morning I went to the hospital with Dr. Hitchcock and my entrance into Madeline’s room no doubt shocked her. There were ten days of intermittent sickness and testing in the hospital before my problem was diagnosed as a strictured tube from a kidney to the bladder. Two medical students observed the glystoseopic procedure that located and corrected the problem. Their interest made a painful experience more bearable for me.

One night, when Madeline and I were both in the hospital, I got out of bed and walked in my sleep down the hall toward her room. The night nurse on duty caught up with me and escorted me back to bed. When she asked where I was going I said, “I’m going to the farm”. Hospital gowns being what they are, I was embarrassed and greatly relieved to get back in bed. The next day Miss Crandall, the supervisor of nurses, visited me in my room and said, “I have a problem.” When I asked what the problem was, she replied, “All my nurses want to be on night duty.” The doctors who came in enjoyed the story, too.

Coming home to Madeline and baby daughter Anne was a joyous occasion. Ruth Powers, Madeline’s Bride’s Maid, came from West Virginia to help with our new baby. My recovery from the hospital experience was rapid and complete. I’m sure an anonymous member of the Boy Scout Council Board paid a major part of the hospital bill. We were prepared to meet the expense of Anne’s birth but not a ten-day medical and hospital bill.

Before the 1938 camping season began Wally Hill came to Steuben Area Council as the new executive replacing Percy Dunn. I was camp director at Camp Gorton again and was successful in recruiting two new staff members who were high school coaches in area communities. The two coaches and I rented a cottage on the lake near camp and our wives, with baby Anne, lived in it through the camping season. Dick Lambert, Arkport coach, and his wife, Beulah, became close friends. We were deeply saddened when Dick contracted polio and died.

The relationship between me and Wally Hill was not smooth. My complete loyalty to Percy Dunn and his method of operation made it difficult to adjust to a new Executive. I vigorously opposed Wally’s idea of changing the name of Camp Gorton. He did not accomplish that innovation. The 1938 camping season was successful and it was good to be back in the Gothic with Madeline and Anne, carrying a full seminary course. Now I was doing half-time Scout work again.

At some point during the fall semester in 1938 we were called upon to make a decision that would impact our lives in exciting ways. Dr. Edgar Van Horn had resigned after a long pastorate in the Second Alfred Church in Alfred Station and the church had “called” several ministers without success.

It was like a “bolt out of the blue” when Mr. Lynn Langworthy stopped me on the street in Alfred to inform me that Second Alfred Church was about to issue me a “call”. I was elated and stunned at once. It was significant that I was perhaps a year from receiving the Bachelor of Divinity degree. I felt greatly honored to be considered for so fine a pastorate but the $600.00 salary offered seemed woefully inadequate for our family needs. We had very few furnishings for a parsonage and we were still paying for our automobile.

In a meeting with the trustees of Second Alfred Church, I expressed a genuine enthusiasm for accepting the “call” but shared with them my feeling that $600.00 was hardly a subsistence salary. With the exception of one trustee, they asked among themselves, “Who thought a Pastor could live on $600.00?” Asking what my financial requirement would be, I suggested $900.00. They quickly agreed to that figure and I accepted the “call”. It is interesting that the one trustee indicated that “His financial concerns are no business of the church. He should either accept or reject the “call”. This person and his family chose to attend the Alfred church during my pastorate.

It is my memory that Madeline and I moved to the parsonage in Alfred Station about New Year 1939. The congregation welcomed us with a party to which they brought many useful gifts. Deacon Palmiter, Erving Palmiter’s father, gave us a rocking chair that must have been a treasured possession.

My first efforts at preaching were traumatic for me. The perspiration would drip off of my nose and chin and if I wiped it off it would come out again. By sheer will power I persevered and in time overcame the problem.

Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick inspired me in those days. I listened to his radio sermons regularly and read his books. Again I cut back my course load at school and so took five years for the three year course, graduating in 1941. In my first days in Alfred Station I leaned heavily on Dean Bond’s counsel.