I am not talking about the meal that occurs at noon but the products from the company by that name. Older students know exactly of the two products of which I am speaking, namely peanut butter and syrup. You would find them placed on the tables in the dining hall at just about every meal. When there was not anything else you could eat there was peanut butter and syrup. At least it was something that would stick to your ribs. We did not realize it then but these two items were very nutritious containing protein and iron, etc., but we looked at these products that kept us from starving to death. How sad that they no longer make peanut butter with the label of Sunday Dinner!
To be fair about matters, I suppose our dinner was good, however, things really changed for the evening meal. Before you left the dining hall after the noon meal you were given two baloney sandwiches to carry with you to your dormitory room to feast upon when those hungry pangs would strike you later that day. When times were so bad and funds were so low the report is that brother Rex Turner would weep because he did not have enough money to buy food for the students in the dormitories. Brother Joe Greer, who was a farmer, would regularly bring eggs and vegetables for us to eat. Eating reminds me that I ate in the dining hall for a total of 5 years, 3 in high school and 2 in college so that should qualify me as a connoisseur of sorts. I developed a philosophy during those years: ‘Where there is free food there is Elliott’ - in homes of friends and brethren.

Who can forget this greasy spoon that offered a delicious hamburger steak with piles of French fries for $1.25? And then there was some of the most delicious fried chicken you could ever eat – if you had the money. The cafĂ© was located at the corner of Highland Avenue and Panama Street and was right on the way to the Panama Street church building. I can still see George coming out to talk with some of the customers while wearing his dirty apron. Often we would walk from the campus on Ann Street to attend the Sunday afternoon assemblies at the Panama Street congregation and we had to walk right by George’s Place. You could smell that chicken cooking and having eaten only your baloney sandwiches you would nearly starve to death. We usually had a singing/training class an hour before the evening worship assembly that most of the students attended. If some of the students received money from home and could afford to eat at George’s Place they would eat there late Sunday afternoon. We would be sitting in the theatre seats in the auditorium and singing. When those students would enter the building you could smell them because they smelled like George’s Place and it was pure torment thinking about fried chicken and trying to keep your mind on singing.

In those early years at MBC students were required to attend worship assemblies at the Panama Street congregation and perhaps the Chisholm church where brother Ed Holt preached. Brother Rex Turner was the preacher at Panama Street and was for about 25 years. I was overwhelmed with his advanced knowledge of the Scriptures and his use of the English language. Most of what he said would generally go right over my head. Maybe some of that knowledge finally found its place in my heart. I felt loved and accepted at this congregation. I made my first talk in the training class that brethren Turner and Greer conducted. Well, it wasn’t a talk. I had to memorize the first chapter of I John which consisted of 10 verses. The Sunday that I was scheduled to speak for some unknown reason I got ‘deathly sick’ and could not attend the class. However I finally got up the courage to stand before the group and quote those 10 verses. But I was so nervous that a cloud of fog filled my eyes that I could not see anyone even on the first row. There is no way to estimate the good that training class did for young men and boys over the years. The Panama Street congregation will always have a special place in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls who regularly attended the Bible classes and worship assemblies over a half a century ago while students at the Montgomery Bible School/College. I cherish those memories of times when we were young and students who attended the Panama Street congregation.

Panama Street church building, 1949

Included in picture, L to R: ____ , Martha McCoy (Catrett), Jackie Turner (Long), Conway Skinner, Mary Turner (Hargis); On steps: ____ , Byron Laird, Marvin Wiser, Felix Catrett, Laverne Wiser (Leonard); bottom of steps behind Mary: _____ , Opal Turner, _____ , Rex A. Turner, ____ , ____ .

No I did not say ‘pit stop’ but Pepsi Stop. You see the Holmes family lived in the apartments at the foot of Ann Street hill. Brother Holmes sold snacks and drinks in the State Buildings and he always had soft drinks available and scores of the students knew this fact. I was one of them and I took advantage of my friendship with Patricia and Barbara and many were the times when I invited myself into their home. We still laugh when reminiscing about the good times we enjoyed during those visits.

During the 1940s and early 1950s while I was a student, the annual lectureship was conducted in the Panama Street church building. Usually we would ride in a school bus but several individuals who had automobiles would drive over to the building. I had the privilege of hearing some of the outstanding preachers in our brotherhood at that time. One occasion that stands out in my mind was hearing brethren John T. Lewis of Birmingham and Gus Nichols of Jasper speaking on a subject on which they had strong disagreement. Yet when the two of them departed the church building they left as close friends. Someone has said that ‘big’ men can have difference and still be friends. It is the ‘small’ men that you should be a matter of concern. The noon meal during the lectureship was held in the dining hall on the Ann Street campus. The ladies of the various congregations in Montgomery would provide the food. I remember that L.E. Wishum and James Watkins would almost race in their cars to see which one would get there first.

1 comment:

Jennifer Carlton said...

Marvin Wiser was my grandfather, although I was born after he had died. I have been doing some family research and was thrilled when my google search turned up this blog with a mention of him, along with the photo showing him and my Aunt Laverne. I would love to hear any other memories anyone can share from those days. My grandmother, Gladys, drove a school bus to help support the family. My grandparents and 4 children moved to Montgomery from Tennessee when my mom, the youngest, was about 5.