Going to Church, Newark Delaware in the 50’s

My family attended Newark United Methodist Church every Sunday except the monthly communion Sunday.  Mom and Dad said the communion service was too long.  Personally, I liked the grape juice served in itty bitty plastic cups.   But that is all I liked about church.

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When I was very small Sunday school was kind of fun.  I remember playing  “The Farmer in the Dell” in the church parking lot. Debbie Fieldhouse was in my class.  She taught me how to tie a bow with my hat-string.  The hat-string was a continuous loop, not two individual strings.  It was a blue winter hat with white fake fur trim.

On the Sunday school room wall was a picture of Jesus.  I now think of that guy as “surfer boy Jesus.” He was strawberry blond with blue eyes.

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Can’t you picture him, riding in a Woodie, surfboard on the roof?

As I got older Sunday school began to bore me.  The church sanctuary was on the second floor.  Daddy would hand me change for the donation basket, then he and mother would head upstairs. There was a brass letter slot on the wall into which people could drop their contribution checks or envelopes. I would slip a nickel or dime through the slot, sneak out the front door and take myself down the block to Rhodes Drug Store.

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Once at Rhodes, I’d climb up onto a spinning soda fountain stool.  Using the rest of the money intended as church donation I’d buy a cream cheese sandwich on white bread.  The sandwiches always came with a pickle slice on top.  I never ate those.

The waitress was a very short black woman with the most bowed legs I’ve ever seen.  Mother said it was from rickets.  Keeping an eye on the clock I’d happily work my way through the sandwich and be back in the church lobby by the time my parents came down from the sanctuary.

Following the service, in the vestibule, Daddy handed my sister Marilyn and me our weekly allowance. My family would then cross Main Street to the Newark News shop.  We called it “Newark News Stand” but I see in the photo below that wasn’t the name.  The News Stand was a very narrow store.  Some of the magazines were wrapped in brown paper.  I didn’t know why.  They also sold cigarettes, tobacco, and other smoking stuff.  Everyone smoked then.  My parents smoked Kent cigarettes.  Later they moved on to Tareyton.  I started smoking at sixteen when I swiped Tareytons from their packages.

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Marilyn and I spent our allowance money on comic books.  My favorites were Little Lulu, Betty and Veronica, and Casper.  Marilyn usually chose Mad Magazine.  Mother’s friends disapproved of comic books, but Mom reasoned that it got us to read–which was a good thing.  Both my sister and I continue to be avid readers.

And my sister continues to be an avid church goer.  Me, not so much.  I’m more likely to spend Sunday morning perched on a Starbucks stool.

My parents never knew I skipped church on a weekly basis.  It wasn’t until a few years before mom’s death that I told her.  She was suitably horrified.

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