Here’s Mother’s new pastor’s wife costume. At Daddy’s request, she’d already raised her plunging necklines and toned down the amount of cling in her skirts, but this was as far as she was willing to go. She left honky tonks behind to follow him, but she never renounced her fondness for clothes that were shiny.
My brother and I heard Daddy’s carefully chosen words about the proper apparel for each church occasion and when Mother stepped outside the parsonage to go to the funeral that day, we caught a glimpse of his expression in the second it took him to hide his surprise with a compliment. He told her she looked so beautiful he should take a picture. She beamed. He clicked this one and off we went.
It was a summer funeral on a day hot enough to require the use of the paper fans provided by the funeral home.
Past rows and rows of men in dark suits and church women wearing black and brown and navy, Sister Fern, a beacon glowing in satin and perspiration, stepped near the coffin to sing.
One of the songs requested often for funerals during the 1950’s in the Deep South was “Whispering Hope.” Mother loved a church organ, but not many of our churches had one, and when she recorded her first album this is the only song she recorded with an organ.
Here’s “Whispering Hope,” written in the early 1900’s and interpreted here in the 1950’s by Sister Fern Jones with The Revelators Quartet.
My brother and I were not happy little harmonizers on The Glory Road. Daddy was following his calling to preach, Mother followed her calling to sing, but we two believed our true calling was to amble down a country road somewhere that led to a house of our own, a school we’d go to every day, and friends who’d know us from one year to the next. Just because you can sing harmony it doesn’t mean you always want to.
We were on the tent revival circuit, booked for months in advance and from time to time the family needed to refresh our presentation. Daddy said we’d best practice before we get to Amarillo. He enticed us into learning our parts by singing songs we liked on the radio. We started off with The Sons Of The Pioneers’ Tumbling Tumbleweeds and when we had our parts down on that one, he switched to What A Friend We Have In Jesus in the same key.
Long stretches of Route 66 through the Deep South offered nothing to look at except tumbleweeds, giant puffs of them rolling free on the highway or stuck to a fence. Daddy played a game with them.
A huge tumbleweed clump was minding its own business somewhere in Texas and as we got closer it loomed about half-a-car size. The motion of our big old sedan invited it to dance. It floated up and plopped on the windshield, covering the view. Leslie Ray said, Daddy you better stop but Daddy said, watch this.
Instead of stopping and freeing the thing, his game was to keep driving and speed up, then brake quickly trying to get it to release itself. Man against nature. It wasn’t safe, but not much about car travel was back then.
Here are The Sons Of The Pioneershelping two young Gospel Gypsies learn harmony.