Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Day for Memories

Our home was never in one place. We lived in twelve different places, serving Baptist churches in Texas, Missouri, and Florida during our almost fifty-year ministry. Our children do not have a "home" where they all grew up. Our homes were parsonages in many different towns where we served.

Our son, Steve, is here for a visit from his home in Cologne, Germany, and he wanted to go back to a couple of those places and see where he grew up. So Monday morning we left early for a road trip to visit two of those places, Sedalia, and Bogard, Missouri.

We stopped first in Sedalia at the New Hope Baptist church. A man stepping out of his car immediately noticed that we were not regular church members, so he welcomed us, asking if he could help us find anything. My husband put out his hand and said, "I'm Marvin Nobles", and the man clapped him on the shoulder and yelled, "Charlie and Juanita!" as he enveloped him in a bear hug.

We found out that this 60-year-old man had been a teen-ager in that church when my husband was pastor there. His mother baby-sat our children, and both of us remembered his father's sweet smile. We went inside, visited with him and the pastor and secretary for a while, and had a great time of fellowship. Even though the church had a new building since the time we were there, we felt the sweet spirit that remained.

We drove around in Sedalia, recognizing schools and other places we remembered during our stay there: the home of the lady who taught Steve to play the piano, the State Fair grounds where we went many times during the summers, the houses of friends of our children, the local library where Steve began his love of knowledge, businesses-- just remembering.

We drove on to the First Baptist Church of Bogard. We had not called ahead; we did not even know who the pastor was, and when we got there, nobody was at the church or at the parsonage where we had lived from 1960 to 1965. So we drove around the town awhile, finally ending up talking to the postmistress, the only person we could find in this small town.

None of the stores and businesses we remembered were there, only the shells of the old buildings on Main Street, where we used to shop for groceries or do business at the bank. Even the body shop that did a lot of business when one of our church members ran it was shut down. Sometimes we saw open doors, but the old buildings were filled with trash. Not a soul could be seen anywhere. Even the school across from the church had been torn down. All that remained was the old ball field, the fence still intact around an overgrown plot of ground.

We saw vacant lots where houses used to stand, houses in which friends and church members had lived. The streets that we remembered as black-topped or paved were now dirt roads. Even the farm land around the town had eroded. It looked like Bogard had been forgotten. A loaf of bread of a jug of milk could not be purchased there. The postmistress told us the only thing you could buy would be a can of soda at the only gas station left in town, and you would have to stand outside to buy it.
 We did not get to go into the church, since nobody was around, but we hope some people remain to worship there. We noticed the outside of the building had been recently refurbished, though, and it looked like people still cared about it.

We sadly drove away. Seeing that place reminded us of what years of neglect will do. The population of the town had decreased to only 164, according to the roadside sign. The people left to get better jobs and better opportunities, and those who remained were left with nothing. Any kids living there were bussed to school in Carrollton, the county seat town about ten or fifteen miles away.

Bogard's opportunity seems to be gone. Where there was once a thriving community, now there is only desolation. A church that used to have 100 or more in attendance now seems to have a dwindling congregation. People who live there have to go somewhere else to earn a living or to get things they need.

We passed an old, long-forgotten place where I used to buy gasoline. The Phillips sign was still on the side of the building, but the door was locked. The broken window showed years of neglect. The gas pumps were long gone, and the driveway was broken up and filled in with grass. I remember that station because it was there, during our stay back in the 1960s, when I first recognized that age was creeping up on me, just as age has crept up on that little town through the years.

Site of the old service station at Bogard
People always called me "Miss" in my younger days, but that day, with four little ones in the car, I drove in to get gasoline, and the attendant said, "What can I do for you, Ma'am?" I remember the shock when I heard that word. Only older women were called "Ma'am." I used that term in respect when talking to older women. Now I was the older woman, even though at that time I was still in my 30's. I thought, "This is the end of my youth. I'm a matron now!"

It is sad and shocking to see what time and change bring to a town or a person. But that day has come for the little town of Bogard, Missouri. What a difference fifty years has made.


  1. I think I told you this when we talked about Otterville, but I used to live in Sedalia too for two years. I loved it. :)

    It is so sad to see what happens to some little towns. It is hard for them to survive technology and changing economies. At least you have your memories. Thanks for sharing the photos. This was a great post!

  2. Thanks so much, Margo. It was fun to do.