Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thanks ... I Needed That ? ? ?

Woodie J. Hamby was my dad. He was a no nonsense type of man. Oh he had a great sense of humor and he enjoyed a good laugh. I even saw him cry when our family went to the Jefferson Theatre to see the movie, “Lassie Come Home.” But, Dad wouldn’t put up with too much foolishness, especially from me. Since I was full of foolishness he had a full-time job.
One night, I had a lesson brought home to me that as I look back was a great lesson. If there was a quote to go with the story, it would be, “Thanks, I needed that.”
First I should explain that my family was a conservative Christian family. We went to church every time the doors were open. This included Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and any Gospel Meeting that came along. Other churches called them, “Revivals.” Anyway, some of these would run every night for up to two weeks. So, there was a lot of “church attending” in my family.
And all of this was fine except for one thing. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of going to church so much. Let me hasten to add that I always enjoyed church once I was there. I just didn’t like dressing up in a suit with a bow tie and all of that kind of stuff. I was eight years old and really had rather been playing at home climbing trees or some other exciting adventure.
One Wednesday night, I decided within my heart that I was not going to church. We called it, “Prayer Meeting.” Somewhere along the way those meetings came to be called, “Mid-week Services.” I had been thinking for a few weeks that Sunday mornings and Sunday nights really were more than enough and that Wednesday nights were just altogether unnecessary. And forget those Gospel Meetings or Revivals. I had made my decision. However I had failed to inform my dad of the “New Me.”
Now for the crunch time. Our family owned a 1938 Plymouth. When you shut the doors on that old car, you could them slam for half a block. On this particular Wednesday night, all the family was dressed and ready to head out to the church house. My sister went out to the car, my mother went out to the car and I sat down in one of the easy chairs in our living room. My dad, thinking I also had gone out to the car went out of the house and closed the door. I heard the lock turn. Then I heard the car doors slamming as everyone got into the vehicle. I sat there in the living room thinking, “This is easier than I thought it was going to be.”
I listened for the car motor to start up. It didn’t start. What I did hear was the car door slam. Then I heard a key in the lock. And in came my dad. He sat down and began talking with me. He stated that he knew I was eight years old and plenty old enough to make my own decisions. He continued explaining how that I should want to go to church without feeling like I had to go. Then he said, “Now I want this to be your decision. Are you going to church tonight or not?” I replied, “No, I think I’ll stay home.” Dad said, “Git in the car.” Guess what? I went out and got in the car. All our family went to church.
And you know what else? I’m 72 and still go to church and love every minute of it.
Thanks, Dad … I needed that …

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Call It "Christmas" ... That's What It Is ...

Christmas … there, I said it or rather I wrote it. Seemingly I neither hear nor see that word as much anymore as in years gone by. Since everyone does not believe in Christmas, it has become more prudent to steer clear of that “offensive” term.

Even though I am a Christian I do not believe that December 25th is Christ’s actual birth date. The reason is because no one knows the exact date he was born. I do believe that he was born and yes, I do believe he was born of a virgin. These are some of the important issues with me concerning his birth.

Our nation continues to observe the birth of Christ on December 25. The Spirit of love and giving is emphasized during this season. And I agree that Christmas has become too commercial. That’s what happens when mankind gets a hold of a good thing. But that another story for later.

The other day I was looking for a Christmas tree. Wasn’t planning to buy one, just looking around. There were no advertisements with the word, “Christmas.” The ads read, “Holiday Trees,” or Season’s Trees. Then there was one ad that simply read, “Trees.” I respected that ad more than the others.

There was another ad with Santa Clause holding a sign that read, “Season’s Greetings.” Even Santa could not bring himself to say, “Merry Christmas.” I realize there are other religions with their times of special observances. Some are even observing their special times during this month of December. But Christmas is the only observance that has a tree. So if someone is selling a Holiday Tree during December, it should be called a Christmas Tree. That’s what it is.

Advertisments have a great influence on our thinking. We are a nation of buy and sell, profit or loss, supply and demand. Christmas has become a commercial giant for retailers. This is OK in our free society. The problems develop when we get carried away with the business of making money. This leads to our forgetting the true meanings behind the Christmas story.

But it’s not just Christmas. Little by little we are seeing our true values being tucked away into the vault of yesteryear. Prayer in the schools. Controversies over the Pledge of Allegiance and bickering over the phrases on our currency and coin such as, “In God We Trust.” Can you believe that the greatest nation on earth founded upon a belief in God is gradually permitting the removal of God from society? In many a town, the Bible no longer can be displayed in the town square nor can there any longer be a manger scene on the front lawn of many a courthouse.

This I can say with all assurance. The nation that removes God from the lives of the people will suffer dire consequences. That nation will fall heavy and flat on her face. To put it plainly, the nation that rejects God will not long endure.
I was moved to think on these things from a poem written by Juanita McCaslin Dugger. You did not know Juanita. She was a dear sweet lady who held close the values of her dedicated Christian life. She saw the Christmas tree as symbolic of the cross Christ. A portion of her poem reads:

"A crown of thorns was upon His head
And blood from His side ran free,
Yet He gave His life to save the world
As He hung on that first Christmas tree."

Juanita Dugger passed from this life just two weeks ago but what a beautiful concept she left with us.

You see, it’s OK to let Christmas be Christmas. That’s what it is.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year ...

Well I am in Little Rock visiting grandkids so will update my blog in few days ... I do not have the current column on my daughter's computer so will post by the coming weekend ... anyway, have a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year ... I may have a column in the Beaumont Enterprise on Christmas morning (Tuesday), if it prints ... otherwise, my next column will be on the following Saturday ...
God Bless You All ...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Little Rhythm Can Go A Long Way ...

September of 1941 was my very first month of school life. I loved school. I loved Mrs. Ruth Hill, my first grade teacher. When she announced that the class was going to hold try-outs for a Rhythm Band that would play for our Christmas program, it seemed like a great idea.

I did not really know what a band was nor did I know what “rhythm” meant. I only knew that it sounded like fun so I volunteered for the try-outs.

The instruments consisted of four kazoos, four triangles, four tambourines, some rhythm sticks and a bass drum. I was hoping for a kazoo but the girls took over those as well as the triangle section. Then I thought it would be neat to play a tambourine, but those were assigned before they got to me. It was beyond hope that I would get to play the bass drum. Lionel Roberts got the nod on that.

There were several pupils waiting to be assigned to an instrument. Mrs. Hill told us that there was room for only four more band members. Several of us were going to try-out for those four rhythm stick positions.

Each stick player held two sticks; one in each hand. The idea was to strike the sticks together on beat number one. Rest on the second beat. Strike the sticks again on beat three and rest on the fourth beat. Then repeat the sequence starting with number one.

This was confusing to me. First of all I could not figure out why we needed to count. Secondly, I could not figure out why we just counted to four and then started over with one. Why didn’t we keep going right on up … five, six, seven, etc? I had never heard of four beats to a measure. In fact I had never even heard of a music measure.

Mrs. Hill let me try-out several times but I did not connect. It was pretty embarrassing because, Jimmy Miggs, Johnny Davis, Jerry Carter, James Ermis and others were picking it up just fine.

Basically, this is why I became a topnotch auditorium stage curtain puller. At least that’s what Mrs. Hill told me one day. She said, “Winston, you are one of the best curtain pullers we have ever had.” I beamed, went home and told my mother about how good I was at pulling the curtain.

Later, in December of that same year, my family visited aunt Hazel and uncle Fred who lived in Glenmora, Louisiana. It was cold and they had their pot-bellied wood stove going full blast. At bed time, they fixed me a pallet on the floor in the living room across from the stove. I lay motionless listening to the wood burn. It had a rhythm to it. I listened and began to count. All of a sudden, it dawned on me about
rhythm, counting, and about measure segments in music. In fact, I began hearing a beautiful melody in my mind. Ever since that night, I can turn on music in my head. If I want to hear a symphony orchestra or band march music or country or even a jazz combo, all I need is to call it up in my mind and listen. What is really neat about this is I can listen to songs I already know or I can call for original melodies. Beautiful melodies of classical, country, march, jazz or whatever flood my soul.

One of the most gratifying things about all of this is that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that should I return to the first grade and try-out for the rhythm band, I would pass the audition.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On The Run But No Fun ...

I was a good boy as a teenager living in Beaumont back in the 1950s. No smoking. No drinking. No dancing. No promiscuous activities. Good grief … Nothing …

You see, our family lived in a glass house. Dad was a prominent C.P.A. with offices in downtown Beaumont. Also he was a strong leader (Elder) with the South Park Church of Christ.

My mother was a popular Sunday School teacher at church and also a substitute teacher for Giles Elementary School. She was active in the P. T. A. and local politics. Every time Ted Walker, Sr. ran for some local political office, my mother would knock doors handing out brochures supporting Walker. She even put signs on the side of our car and drove around South Park honking the horn.

Then there was my sister. Ann Lowell was four years ahead of me in school. She was popular with the boys and had an impeccable reputation. She was a member of the South Park High School Cadets Drum and Bugle Corp. She sang with the Melody Maids. She made excellent grades in school. I never knew her to do anything the least bit wrong. Well, she did take me riding in our dad’s new 1950 Olds Super 88. Several times, we hit 60 mph on Elgie Street. She made me promise never to tell anyone. So since I promised not to say anything, I have to write it. I never promised not to write it.

And then there was me. I really wanted to try some daring things but refrained from doing so for the sake of our family name. But some of my friends and I managed to pull some little stunts just to say we had done something “bad.”

One night, Linda and I decided to go parking out in the Spindletop Oil Field. Spindletop had a reputation for being a lovers’ lane. It was not considered proper to go parking anywhere but especially at Spindletop. Linda and I wanted to pull a stunt that we could be proud of. So, we parked at Spindletop. For about two minutes. It was so dark out in the oil field that we became scared and immediately headed back to civilization. Linda was so thrilled that we had parked even for two minutes that she bragged to her older sister who told their mother. Their mom gave me a good “talking to” the next time I was there. She told me that if I had to park in the car at night with her daughter to do so in their driveway. I felt pretty embarrassed about getting “chewed out” by my girl friend’s mother. Linda thought it was funny.

My junior year in South Park High saw another “bad” highlight. On the night of the junior-senior prom, Mary and I tripled dated with Jimmy, Joy and another couple. After the movie, since we did not dance, we loaded up in my dad’s Oldsmobile. We didn’t know where we were going but it was our special night to stay out really late. So, what boast-worthy action could we do without really doing anything sordid?

We three guys decided it would be really sophisticated to take the underage girls across the state line. Actually, we three guys also were underage. So, we drove to Orange on highway 90 and crossed over the Sabine River bridge into Louisiana. That was not too exciting. Everyone went to sleep but me and I had to drive.

Anyway, it was fun being a wicked teenager growing up in Beaumont during the 1950s. I may work up the nerve to confess other horrible deeds at a later time.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise