Remembrances of the Albion Seventh Day Baptist Church in Honor of its 175th Anniversary

Remembrances of the Albion Seventh Day Baptist Church in Honor of its 175th Anniversary

Sep 26, 2017

by Carole Loveless Jaworski

My remembrances of the Albion Seventh Day Baptist Church go back to World War II. I was four years old in 1943 when I came to live with my grandma and grandpa, Ruby and Robert Gaines, in Albion, WI. By that time, my father, Robert Loveless, was serving in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, TX. My mother, Leora (Gaines) Loveless, had taken a war-time job at Borg Industries in Delevan, WI, to make home front ends meet. As part of the job, she and other war-time workers lived in a dormitory on site.

At the time I came to live with my grandparents, my grandmother was the Albion SDB Church pianist — later to be the church organist when an organ was purchased for the church after the war.

Ken Van Horn, the first pastor I remember, became the Albion SDB Church pastor in 1944, living in the parsonage with his wife, Doris, and son, Rodney Wayne, daughter, Arlouene, and son, Floyd, through the war until 1952.

Sometime in 1944, my mother returned to Albion and she and I, and later my brother Allan, lived above Marsden’s General Store across the street from the parsonage.

That same winter, Ken Van Horn began a yearly tradition of flooding the parsonage’s front lawn for an ice skating rink. I got my first pair of ice skates that year — strap-on-your-shoes, very flat, double-runner ice skates — about the same thickness as a pair of metal pie plates (with approximately the same performance) strapped to your feet. I remember each evening strapping on the skates, clunking down the second-story steps of our apartment, crossing the street to the parsonage, stepping over the low snow banks to the ice, and learning how to skate. Through the years it was awesome fun for all of us and so much better than ice skating on Saunders Creek — which was narrow and subject to patches of thin ice, often resulting in spills and wet feet.

While I lived in Albion, from 1943 until I was a senior in high school in 1957 when we moved to Edgerton, the Albion Seventh Day Baptist Church was one of the three centers of town. There was the Albion State Graded School, a two-room school with grades 1-4 in the “Little Room,” and grades 5-8 in the “Big Room.” I have tried repeatedly to find out when the school was built. The only thing I know for sure is that my Grandma Gaines (Ruby McCarthy then) graduated from the 8th grade there in 1909 — so it was definitely there since 1901 at least — and I suspect it must have originally opened sometime in the mid-1800s. There was also the Albion Town Hall, next to the church, which was the site of school Christmas programs, box socials, plays, movies, and social events of all kinds, including square dances. While

I was in the Albion School “Big Room,” it was an overflow area for church SDB Vacation Bible School classes, immunizations, voting, and many other events. The Albion SDB Church was a town hub not only for weekly Sabbath School and church services each Sabbath morning, but also as a center of community-wide social events held in the large social room and kitchen in the church basement. These included the church’s famous chicken dinners, wedding anniversaries, parties of all kind (including one I remember with a magician); teen socials and many other fun and wonderful activities.

Sabbath School (for children) and Vacation Bible School were held in the church’s upstairs loft area — closed off from the main church auditorium below by a set of privacy doors that were securely fit in place when children were present upstairs — or opened up completely to serve as an overflow balcony to church services below when a crowd was present. I remember how wonderful it was to have the whole church packed with people, including the loft area, during Quarterly Meeting Services when the Milton and Milton Junction churches joined our services in Albion.

Most memorable for me in the loft area was, not only the view from the balcony to the church sanctuary below, but the furnishings. There were at least two — maybe three — sandbox tables (maybe 3 by 5 feet each) with colored, free-standing cardboard cutouts of characters and buildings from the Bible. These could all be moved around in the sand, creating new scenes endlessly. The other fascinating furnishing was the old pump organ. If one pumped hard enough, long enough, and pressed the right keys, one could make music.

The church bell could be rung from the upper loft. I remember the rope hanging down from the bell tower above the ceiling. The bell was rung each Sabbath morning, calling the townspeople to Sabbath School and, one hour later, to church service. The bell’s melodious ring was a wonderful sound each Sabbath morning, reverberating throughout the town and calling the community to church. Once you heard the bell, you knew you only had a few minutes to walk across Albion Park to the church.

I was baptized when I was 12 by Ken Van Horn. The baptismal font was beneath the floor on the right-hand side of the front of the church.

I remember one exercise our Sabbath School (or Christian Endeavor) class had at church while Ken Van Horn was still pastor. It was to read the entire Bible. To help us in that endeavor, we were given a folded four-page cutout pamphlet that looked like — and was in the shape of — the Bible. Inside were listed in order all the names of the Books of the Bible, with each of their chapters represented by little numbered square boxes. As we read each chapter, we colored in each box to indicate that we had read it. In that way, which was very easy to track and fun to chart, we all were able to read the entire Bible.

Christmas programs at the Albion SDB Church were wonderful. The men of the church were always able to find the tallest, most beautiful tree to adorn the right-hand front of the church. Because the church interior was a soaring two-story open space, the tallest tree would be perfect. Once the men put up the tree, the church’s older children and teens had the joy of decorating it. Everyone brought wrapped gifts to place beneath the tree for Christmas evening service, which was always followed by opening gifts. Lovely memories.

When I was in 8th grade, Ken Smith became our pastor, serving as our minister through my high school years. It was a wonderful time. His weekly messages were the finest things I had ever heard. His children’s messages were appreciated, admired, and taken to heart by all.

To put it into the context of the times, it was a little like when John F. Kennedy became President and everything felt better and brighter.

Ken lived in the parsonage with his wife, Dorothy, daughter, Linda, and son, Scott. It was there that the youth group Ken formed for all young people living in Albion – not just members of the church – met weekly. That youth group brightened many lives. Ken also served as one of the counselors at Camp Wakonda during my teenage years and he was a wonderful addition.

While serving as Albion SDB church pastor, Ken won a research scholarship from the Edgerton Rotary to travel to Scotland. He later became a professor and eventually President of Milton College.

While the pastors of the church were men, I remember most strongly the women of the Albion Seventh Day Baptist Church. Their faces are still vivid in my mind. I would like to mention all their names here — but hesitate to in the fear that I might inadvertently forget to mention one of them. They were all special and I say a nightly prayer for them all.

I went away to college after high school and after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1961, I married and never lived in Wisconsin again. But I am still a member of the Albion Seventh Day Baptist Church. Memories and love hold me there.

My mother, father, and grandparents are all buried at Albion Evergreen Cemetery. I have a plot beside them.

Someday, I will come home.

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