From Then To Now
I came back to Gideon once in 1991 and sang at Carroll Dee’s funeral. I couldn’t believe he was gone at 50. It had been such an honor for me when a year or so before that Carroll Dee had come to St. Louis unannounced and appeared outside my office on the 15th floor of the Missouri Pacific Building where I was a programmer/analyst. He was so proud to tell me his story and I was so proud of him. What he had gone through to establish that business of his and how close he came to losing it at one time made me shudder. But now he was a millionaire. We were best buddies out on 4 ditch and challenged each other every day as to how much cotton we could pick. I left right after harvest that year of 1956.
Billy Walker preached Carroll’s funeral that day. I couldn’t believe how tall he was and what a nice beard he had. We got to talk a lot after the funeral. He had an old truck he drove but he said inside it was tuned so fine. He had that truck because he took it to Mexico every summer and drove way back into Mexico’s rough country to evangelize the natives. That way, the rough guys wouldn’t even know he was American and so didn’t bother him and his old truck. He neglected to tell me that he also rode motorcycles.
I was so proud of him. A Professor. I was reared in church with him. Jack Campbell was our Sunday School teacher.
Then I passed through Gideon again on Labor Day Weekend of 1993. I heard Mr. Day was giving away pictures of Mrs. Day’s students. I was her student in 1950-51. Turns out that she evaluated every student on the back of their picture. I turned mine over: “Bad Boy/ Sweet when he wants to be.” I laughed, but only for a moment. I saw, in my minds’ eye, my oldest boy sitting on the graduation stage of Mississippi State University with a football field filled with graduates. My son set up there with the current president of the United States. He had a white yoke over his black gown. The top business graduate of 1989 also. I saw my younger son walking across the stage at the University of Texas and receiving his Law Degree from the Governor of Texas. He had won the Chancellors award. Evidently that’s what National Merit Scholars do.
No teacher had ever thought of my boys as “Mean Boy”. But I knew that Mrs. Day had told the truth about me. That’s why I dreaded coming back to Gideon. Too much pain.
I graduated in the bottom 1/3 of my 1959 class at Soldan High School in St. Louis. I had never cracked a book in all my school years. I don’t understand how I even graduated. Through a miracle I obtained a clerk job on the railroad that summer. Soon my brother encouraged me to take the Dale Carnegie Course. That and starting to church the previous December started my turn around. During that first year, I decided that God might be calling me to be a minister. I decided to go to CBI in Springfield, Mo. It was an unaccredited Bible College but I couldn’t have gone to a regular college. I got dropped into the cauldron but for the first time in my life I was a serious student. Didn’t know how to study. I would concentrate a while and then get the blues (depressed). I felt the unction to go downtown and get some sort of soft music. I did. Didn’t know who the choir was nor what they were singing but, boys and girls, it was what I had to have. The first movement was “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”. Perfect! And I was comforted. Back at the books again in a little while and then back to the music. Brahms’ Requiem. The greatest music I’ve ever heard. The next movement was “Man is like grass and soon fades away”. I owe a lot to CBI.
After one year I decided that I wasn’t cut out to be a minister. Too selfish, but now I could go to a regular accredited college. The battle continued. I finished my Bachelors in 1965 and my Master’s Degree in Business in 1976 (went at night).
I have the sweetest wife that I can imagine. Forty-one years. Plays the big big big Pipe Organs and Directs Music in Church. I sing tenor. Well, she also was the Manager of Operating Systems at Missouri Pacific. She was on the loaded side and I was on the empty side. Trains have loads and empties you know. If you work with loads though you make more money!
God bless all of you. I know that when I see all of you that you will put me in my place. You just can’t help it. But it’s ok. I was a mean boy, don’t you know.