I was nine years old in 1952. Our Baptist Church was only a couple of blocks from our house—not that child safety was a concern in 1952—and I frequently walked back and forth. Nine-year-olds sometimes, perhaps more often than not, say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people.
At nine years old, I said the wrong thing. I remember exactly what happened. It was Wednesday evening and in addition to the bi-weekly service, our church was having a banquet to celebrate the recent spike in attendance by people who had joined our church family. Part of the banquet consisted of an election to choose a king and queen for the Sunday school classes of each age group. For whatever reason, I was elected king—which is where all the trouble began.
The women’s group who had organized the banquet and other events were making a big deal over me and the girl chosen as queen. We were asked if we would be in church on Sunday to stand before the congregation and say a few words welcoming the new members.
Of course, my “queen” answered in the affirmative. When their attention shifted to me, I made a terrible, although innocent, mistake.
I told the ladies that I didn’t believe my parents would let me be the center of attention of the whole congregation because I didn’t have any good clothes to wear.
Man! I got home and explained about my being chosen as king; so far, so good. However, I then motored on and told my parents about the request to stand before the congregation and my response that I couldn’t because I didn’t have any good clothes.
My mom and dad were struck speechless, but only for a moment; then they went ballistic. While it was true, my folks were proud and simply could not abide the charity—which was coming, sure as hell—from the women of the church.
After they recovered their wits, they had a quick conference and mom took off walking to the church. I found out years later that she had caught the pastor while he was still at the church and assured him we did not need charity. The pastor understood perfectly and promised to have a word with the well-intentioned women of the church.
I did attend church on Sunday and welcomed our new members, while decked out in my new shirt and pants. As I said, it was years later before I found out exactly what happened and how I had almost put my folks in an embarrassing situation.