1943-1945 by Bethel Watts

In the fall of 1943 my sister, Ruth and I traveled from our home in Birmingham to Montgomery in order to attend Montgomery Bible College. I had attended, Dasher Bible School in Dasher, Georgia the year before. W. O. Norton, the head of Dasher was moving to Montgomery to become the principal of the high school department of MBC. Montgomery was nearer my home and because I had a crush on Brother Norton's daughter. I decided to continue my education at MBC.

MBC had opened the year before with a few students. Willard Willis, Curtis Duke, Van Ingram and James Turner are the only ones I remember that was there the first year. All were faithful gospel preachers.

My first meeting with Rex Turner and Leonard Johnson was in a building at the corner of Highland Ave. and Panama St. They, along with Phillip Hunton, had a printing shop and were working on a religious paper that they continued to published for several years. The name of the paper was, “Sound Doctrine.”

Brother Hunton had been involved in the printing business and had taught a class at Dasher the year before.

Later I found that Brother Turner had been born near Warrior, Alabama. This is the same place my father was born and Brother Turner had attended school with one of my uncles.

My memory is vague as to the details of my first few days in Montgomery. I remember staying in the home of Herbert Dickey for a few days. He owned a barbershop and was a big supporter of the school. His daughter, Jean, attended MBC. After that Billy Murrell and I, along with Flavous L. and Nellie Rose, stayed in the two story building on Ann Street that would later serve as class rooms when school started. Ann Street was unpaved and could get mighty dusty or muddy, depending on the weather. The four of us had attended Dasher Bible School the year before. Flavous and Nellie were in their early thirties. Flavous was a tailor by trade. He had decided to go back to school and become a preacher. He was with me the year before when I tried to preach my first sermon in Chiefland, Fla. And it is a good thing because I ran out of anything to say after about five minutes. Flavous finished for me.

Just before school started, the school purchased a house near the south end of Ann Street near Fifth Avenue to be used as a dormitory for the boys. I think about eight of us moved in. One room had an outside door. Eulie Brannon and I picked that room. I had met Eulie at Dasher the year before. Hollis Donaldson, James Chastain, Billy Muriel, Carl Stuckey and Lester Starling were some of the other boys staying there. Thomas Weaver was the dorm keeper. This was before he and Bernice were married. She was in her last year at Harding College.

Sometime after we moved into the house, a small building was erected on the lot to serve as the kitchen and dining room. The first cook we had was Minnie Britt. She was replaced by Lafayette and Doris Chastain. Brother Chastain was attending MBC and preached in the surrounding towns when he had a chance.

There was no dorm for the girls and to my knowledge Ruth was the only girl from out of town to attend MBC that year. I checked with her and neither of us can remember how the arrangements were made for her to stay with the McDonald family. The McDonald’s lived on McQueen Street which crossed Ann Street about three blocks north of Highland Avenue. There were Mr. and Mrs. McDonald, Iris and John. Later on Jane was born into the family. Iris was Ruth’s age; John was a few years younger. Ruth and Iris became great friends and Ruth not only stayed with them that school year but also during the 1944-1945 school year. Brother McDonald was a great supporter of the school. Sister McDonald was Joe Greer’s sister.

My parents lived in Montgomery in 1947-1949. Some of the brethren started a congregation at the Starke Military School. The reason I mention it is that John McDonald and my Dad served as Elders together. Years later, John McDonald’s son John and I served as Elders together at the Timberlane church in Tallahassee, Fl. Small world.

Like so many of the other students I had a paper route. It was on Woodley Road and the area south of Woodley behind Huntington College. I got up at 3:30 am and delivered about 150 papers each morning riding my bicycle. I later checked the distance and found that I traveled about ten miles every day. Many of the students and even the teachers had paper routes. I doubt the school could have made it without the income from the paper routes. They all made a huge sacrifice in order to teach at MBC.

Sister Beulah Sessions taught Algebra and her class was the first class after lunch. Several times I remember sitting there with no air conditioning trying to stay awake and sometimes failing to do so. She was a kind hearted Christian woman that understood why we got sleepy.

On some Sundays Eulie and I would go to small rural churches near Montgomery and conduct the worship service. At times we would hold the service in someone’s home. Most of the time, we would have to do it all; lead singing, teach a class, lead the prayer, preach and serve the Lord's Supper. The majority of the group was always women and most of the time the men present would not participate in the worship service.

Most of the places we went were between Montgomery and Luverne; down dirt roads, off of Hwy. 331. We would get a ride with one of the teachers or older students who were going to places like Highland Home, Luverne, Opp and other places south of Montgomery to preach. Sometimes they picked us up on their way back to Montgomery. Several times we would have to hitch a ride back to town. One time we were stranded on Hwy. 231 late at night. I remember walking by a black church. They were singing. One song I remember was “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms.” They put their hearts into it and we enjoyed listening while waiting on a car to come by. We thought we might have to walk home but someone finally gave us a ride.

One of the first trips we made was to a family named Moore. Several Christians were meeting in their house on Sunday for worship. They lived down a dirt road, off of Hwy. 231, a few miles north of Highland Home. We caught a ride down to the dirt road. We walked about two miles to the house. As we approached it we saw a young girl standing on the front porch. Eulie said, "that is a mighty pretty girl." The girl's name was Merle Moore. We were at her grandparent’s house. A few months later Merle started attending MBC. Not too many years later, she and Eulie were married.

Brother Weaver played the guitar and he would often entertain us with his playing and singing. The McDonald family would invite all of us from the "dorm" to their house for games and snacks. Brother Weaver would play the popular songs and we would sing along with him.

Eulie and I read about someone; I believe it was Thomas Edison, who would sleep thirty or forty minutes at night. He would then get up and study for the same amount of time. He did this all night. This sounded like a good way to get our studying done so one night we tried it. One night was enough. I slept through Sister Sessions Algebra class the next day.

One morning I got up to work my paper route. I went into the bathroom and Hollis Donaldson was in the bathtub asleep. Hollis helped someone deliver papers so he, like the rest of us was sleepy most of the time. He had taken a bath and then just gone to sleep. Lucky for him it happened during warm weather.

Toward the end of the school year I purchased a used Cushman motor scooter. One day Eulie borrowed it. He and Billy Muriel were going some place when a car turned in front of them. Eulie was driving and he went over the handle bars and hit the car just behind the rear door. Billy slid off the back of the scooter and was not hurt. Eulie’s head made a big dent in the car and he had a slight concussion. It did more damage to the car than to Eulie.

When school started in the fall of 1944 my family was living in Lenoir City, Tenn. I worked in a drug store during the summer. Dad purchased me a 1932, 4 door Chevrolet sedan. Ruth and I loaded up and drove to Montgomery for our senior year at MBC. Ruth again stayed with the McDonald’s and Eulie and I moved back into the Dorm [house] on Ann Street. I went back to my paper route. Brother Rose had taken care of it during the summer. Even though I now had a car I still rode my bike to deliver papers.

Eulie and I now had transportation. We continued to go to small congregations and to private homes to preach on Sundays. The Chevy served me well but Dad replaced it after a few months with a 1936 Ford Coupe.

At that time Brother Turner was preaching in Alexander City. Sister Turner had wrecked their car and it was in the shop. [Can you imagine, the president of a college only having one car?] The next Sunday I volunteered to take him to Alexander City. Eulie went with us. After the morning service, Brother Turner came over to me and said, "I need you to perform a wedding". He explained that a young lady that had attended MBC the year before wanted to get married. The problem was her parents. They wanted her to marry the local banker’s son who was of the Catholic faith. She wanted to marry a young man she had met at church. He was a Christian, in the army, and about to be shipped out. Brother Turner told me if he performed the ceremony, some in the church might not like it. The young lady’s parents were members of that congregation. He said that I could perform it and would probably never see any of them again.

We ate lunch with a family from church and after lunch we were sitting in lawn chairs in the front yard. The young lady and her fiancé [I will not give her name] came up and I performed what was probably one of the shortest wedding ceremonies on record. I never saw the couple again but I asked Brother Turner several times over the years how they were doing and it appears their marriage has been a good one.

Now here is the rest of the story. A short time after the couple left, a Deputy Sheriff drove up. We were still sitting in the yard. The Deputy walked over to us and said that he wanted to warn us that the father of the girl that just got married was threatening to use his shotgun on the preacher that performed the ceremony. Brother Turner pointed to me and said that I was the one who had done it. Brother Turner was laughing so hard he was shaking all over. At the time it was not funny to me. I was a little concerned.

We went back to church that night and did not see any of the girl’s family.

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