I’ve shared through the years many Christmas memories in the Parker house. One that I don’t recall mentioning was the Living Christmas Tree at the First Baptist Church in Tulsa.
The Southern Baptist affiliated church featured a large sanctuary and every year, the chairs in the choir loft were removed and the floor to ceiling Christmas tree was put into place.
Choir members, dressed in their robes, would climb the stairs and fill the rows around the tree. The lights on the tree would come on and the sanctuary would come alive with the sights and sounds of the Christmas season.
I sang in the choir as a youngster and I took part in one of the Living Christmas Tree productions while in high school. I am thankful it was not a speaking role. I think I carried gifts into the sanctuary.
The church started the production sometime in the early 1970s and it went on for a number of years.
As a youngster, I participated in RAs (Royal Ambassadors) at church, a group for young men based on the Boy Scout model with a Biblical perspective.
Every fall, the RAs would take the church bus to the John Zink Ranch north of Tulsa. We hiked into the rugged woods and climbed rocky ledges. The day was filled with Bible study and topped off with a hobo meal of hamburger, onion, potatoes and carrots, which we made and cooked over open coals.
As I got older, I enjoyed sneaking out of the Sunday morning service and spending time with the custodians on staff. I found a chair in the boiler room and visited with the custodians as the pastor preached on the radio.
For a number of years, I helped out in the audio visual room with Mr. Ed on Sunday mornings. I helped take down the microphones after the service and a few times, I got to run the television cameras during the Sunday service.
The church shared the cameras with three other churches in Tulsa. Each church used the cameras for three months and then they moved on to the next church.
I remember one time while operating the camera on air I fell asleep during the service. Mr. Ed in the sound booth was un able to wake me from my slumber. It was kind of embarrassing.
The church served a meal on Wednesday evenings and my mom, brother and I usually ate supper there. The rolls were the best part. They were so good with butter.
When I got into high school, my good friend Rob and I would skip the church meal and walk several blocks to the Coney-I-Lander for three Coney’s with cheese, chips and a cold Pepsi. The restaurant featured old wooden school benches that served as seats.
Outside of church, I took piano lessons starting in the second grade. My cousin Mary Gail Jackson was my first teacher. I later took lessons from Mrs. Murry, who lived west of Downtown Tulsa. My mom saved money from babysitting and bought a piano for me to play.
I stayed with the piano at least through sixth grade, maybe a year longer, before losing interest.
I learned how to play Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World,” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” I also mastered Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” all of which I played in spring recitals.
Looking back, I kind of wish I hadn’t given piano up. I often remind myself that it’s never too late to start again.
Back to Christmas. It was my job each year to decorate the Christmas tree in my boyhood home. We always bought a live tree. I set up the tree, decorated it and placed the family manger scene at the base. I still have the manger and the figurines of Joseph, Mary, the Baby Jesus, the Shepherds and Wisemen, which my Mom bought at the local TG&Y Five and Dime store. I think she paid a dollar for the manger scene and no more than a dollar for each of the figurines.
I entered some of the figurines in the antique division at the Iowa State Fair this year. I didn’t win a ribbon with the manger figurines, but did win four other ribbons for antiques I entered.
Anyway, the manger is in rough shape these days. I’m hoping to have a local craftsman build me a new manger that looks similar. I have a lot of great memories and I hope your Christmas is filled memorable moments, too.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.