Doc & Cedar – Part 2

MY HEROES

Doc

My first recollection of Doc Clearwaters was from the Mission Farms Conference grounds on Medicine Lake in suburban Minneapolis. I remember seeing him standing next to his sleek Chrysler automobile in the parking lot near the rustic headquarters lodge on the conference grounds. He was probably in his early 50s at the time, and he cut an impressive figure. Doc always looked good, and in the summer I remember he wore classy two-toned oxford shoes. He impressed a young guy!

Our family evidently was invited one Thanksgiving, probably in the late 40s to the Clearwaters’ home on Crystal Lake in Robbinsdale. I vaguely remember that time, probably because I was out-numbered by the girls that day. My sisters, plus Jane Clearwaters, would have made me the “odd-man out” on that occasion. Today it is amusing to me that the future love of my life was less than two blocks away from me on that Thanksgiving Day. No, we didn’t know about each other yet – but our lives were already crossed in God’s providence.

It was in my freshman year in college that I was drawn into the ministry of Fourth Baptist Church and would be profoundly drawn into the legacy of Doc Clearwaters. A freshman quartet that I organized was invited to sing at Fourth Baptist in the spring semester. It was at that time that I got my first glimpse of Connie Cutlan – who became the girl of my dreams.

Connie says I acted like I was “hot stuff” because I was leader of the group and did all the introducing of our songs that night in the church service. I must have been within the bounds of propriety, because her youth pastor vigorously lobbied me to join their youth group camping trip headed to Wyoming that June. I went – and I was hooked – on both the young lady and the youth ministry of 4th B (as all the young people referred to their church in that era).

The Western Camping Trip of 1960 became the first step in an adventurous ride over the next five years during my remaining college career and the first two years of seminary. Connie and I began a five year dating relationship that was immersed in the 4th Baptist youth ministry. Many times I would have to wake her up from falling asleep on the backseat of the church’s Ford Econoline van after delivering a load of teenagers home following a youth activity.

Even though my time was primarily devoted to assisting the youth pastor, affectionately known as Nelson, I had many opportunities to interact with the Doc during those years. I remember once describing to someone the difference between the leadership styles of Nelson and Doc. I explained that, “Nelson would command and say, ‘Take this to the cleaners!’. Whereas, the Doc would stroll up to me and say, ‘Do you know anyone who could take this to the cleaners for me?’” Both of those scenarios actually happened…and I ate it all up.

Youth Singspiration at the Clearwaters’ Home

Notice I use the descriptor, “the Doc” in referring to Dr. Clearwaters. That was a universally shared title, or designator, for him among the young people and church members. It wasn’t that we were differentiating between “Docs”, but it was a term of endearment or respect. He was “the” Doc at 4th B. No one ever referred to him as Pastor Clearwaters, and rarely as Dr. Clearwaters. We all felt comfortable in calling him Doc…or the Doc, in almost any situation.

Years later Don Nelson would compose a poem that memorialized the spirit of those years which ended with these lines:

Then the “Doc” and Roger and Nelson,

Will know the labor was not all in vain;

As these young people sweep downward,

from Glory To share His Millennial reign.  

Cedar

My first memory of Uncle Myron – and Aunt Thelma – was from Lake Nebagamon. They purchased property several years after the Maranatha Bay community was established and therefore built their cabin after most of the other places were constructed. Actually, the original group did not build traditional structures, but they acquired surplus WWII barracks from an Army base in Louisiana and had them shipped via rail to the northwoods of Wisconsin. After the War lumber was scarce and these units came in pre-framed 16’x16’ sections that allowed the property owners to create adequate summer cabins rather quickly and inexpensively.  

However, by the time the Cedarholms’ were ready to build their cabin, they had the opportunity to build from scratch. So they did. Even though they had never built anything in their lives – they built their cabin in the woods from a “do-it-yourself” plan. I remember going down the line to see them building after dark, by the light of a kerosene lantern. I thought they were hilarious – but I was impressed with their determination and energy. They built the cabin and that place became a major part of my life, and the lives of many others.

Every summer my dad would take our family to Lake Nebagamon around the 4th of July and we would stay at the cabin until Labor Day weekend. Dad would go back to Minneapolis for church duties and come in August for his vacation time.  I literally lived in the water each week day at the lake. It was there that Uncle Myron first taught me to surf board behind his 14 ft. Larson aluminum boat powered by a 25hp Evinrude outboard motor.

Uncle Myron’s Original Larson Crestliner

The very next summer he taught me how to water-ski as he pulled me many hours around the lake. In another year my water-ski time diminished because he expanded his teaching capacity to include all of the youngsters in the Maranatha Bay summer community. On one fine summer day over 25 kids and grown-ups were counted waiting in line for their chance to be pulled on skis by Uncle Myron.

That year I got my own 14 ft. Larson boat – or our family did, but I was the ruler of that boat and its 15 hp Evinrude that could pull a skinny 14 year old kid like me. Soon I was the water-ski legend of the Bay because I could dazzle with a slalom ski and I even learned to ski backwards.

But my entire prowess was directly the result of Uncle Myron’s careful and consistent teaching and mentoring. As I got older into my teen years I would urge him to let me pull him on the water-skis because I knew he was a marvelous athlete and skier. But no, he would not hear of it. His focus was on pulling the dozens of youngsters and oldsters who lined up at his dock each day for a ride.

In 1954 my dad moved our family to Chicago when he accepted the pastorate of the large Marquette Manor Baptist Church. Life changed for me as I was introduced to the rough and tumble south-side of Chicago. On the first Monday of October in 1957 my life took a dramatic turn. My dad had left the day before – after the Sunday morning service – on a hunting trip to Canada with the chairman of the deacons. On that fateful Monday we received word from the seaplane base in Kenora, Ontario, that they had lost contact with the small Cessna 180 airplane carrying the pilot, my dad and Mr. Gossage. The next day I came home from school and learned that the plane had crashed and there were no survivors.

It was Uncle Myron who broke the news to me in the living room of our parsonage on 71st Place that my dad was in heaven. The Cedarholms, along with several other close pastor friends, had quickly gathered at our house to support my mother and our family. Dr. Cedarholm preached my dad’s funeral service in what I have often referred to as the greatest gospel service I have ever known. The church was packed to overflowing and Cedar preached a strong message and grown men walked the aisle to trust Christ as Savior.

Great friends at Maranatha Bay, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin. Bottom: George Carlson, Myron Cedarholm; Middle: Larry Pearson, Henry Lovik. Herb Gotaas, John Mostert; Back: Herb Lockyer, Jr., Mitch Seidler.

After my dad was killed the relationship with Uncle Myron intensified as he became somewhat of a surrogate father to me. I remember that once he had taken me to a polo match because he thought that was an experience every teenage boy should have at least once in his life. I also was a regular recipient of his urging to stay busy in sports, music, church youth activities – and not to be spending too much time with the girls. He always said there was plenty time later to spend time with the girls. I didn’t always heed that advice, but I always respected his concern and involvement in my life. I think there are literally hundreds of others who experienced his genuine enthusiasm for mentoring each one of us personally. That was Cedar.  

Cedar and Doc at the height of their ministries

Doc & Cedar – Part 1

INTRODUCTION

I began writing this short memoir about two of my heroes several years ago. I encountered difficulty due to time constraints – but also due to a conflict in my heart. I wanted to write something that reflected what I believe to be the human side of the two men, but I wanted my account to be helpful and not hurtful.

Richard Volley Clearwaters and Blaine Myron Cedarholm were larger than life real men of the 20th Century. They had foibles like we all do, although during their illustrious careers it seemed almost sacrilegious or disrespectful to speak of any hint of imperfection. Some of that was because of the day and age in which they lived and served, and the positions of leadership that they occupied at the time.

It was Doc Clearwaters who said a number of times that we all have feet of clay. But it is difficult for younger men – especially former students and adherents – to address their respected elders on a matter of difference or in the case of definite disagreement.

I loved both men, although at times both of them exasperated me as a young man in the ministry. But they were godly men who had a profound godly influence on my life and on the lives of countless others.

Doc & Cedar working together

This reflection is somewhat of a healing journey for me. The healing has more to do with the disappointments of what might have been, rather than a need to reconcile feelings toward either man.

Gerry Carlson, March 2017

Doc and Cedar

Two of my dad’s closest friends in life were Dick Clearwaters and Myron Cedarholm. That is how he referred to them within my hearing as a boy. With a few others, they were among his most intimate personal friends and were compatriots in ministry – especially during the early days of the formation and development of the Conservative Baptist Movement. Dad served for eight years with Dr. Clearwaters at the Northwestern Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, and was a close ally and confidant with Dr. Cedarholm during the first decade of the Conservative Baptist Association.

Myron Cedarholm, and his wife, became “Uncle Myron” and “Aunt Thelma” to me as a young boy due to their close friendship with my parents and family. As I grew into teen years he became “Uncle Cedar” and then, just plain “Cedar” in my adult years.

Doc Clearwaters was an early role model for me, along with a host of famous preachers who were friends of my dad. He was my wife’s pastor all through her growing up days, and the father of one of her close girlhood friends. Connie stayed overnight many times at the Clearwaters’ home during her youth, and her mother was a weekly luncheon companion of Mrs. Clearwaters. 

By the time I was entering the ministry I was very comfortable in my relationships with both Doc and Cedar. They were heroes, and both were highly esteemed mentors in ministry. I had a natural respect for, and easy access to, both men – even after they became estranged from one another.

When my dad was killed in a plane crash in 1957, both men became special figures in my life. I was just 16 years old at that time and it was only two months after Pillsbury Conservative Baptist Bible College opened in Owatonna, Minnesota. Dr. Clearwaters was the founding president and chairman of the board of the college. One of the last things I remember my dad talking to me about was his encouragement to consider Pillsbury when I graduated from high school. In less than two years I enrolled as a student in the third class entering the college.

My dad, Dr. George Carlson, was a pastor and theologian, with an earned Th.D. degree from the Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago. Initially he was assistant pastor and then pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Chicago, where the organizing meeting for the fledging Conservative Baptist Movement was held in 1943. In 1946 he moved to Minneapolis to become pastor of the Lake Harriet Baptist Church, and teach part time at Northwestern Seminary.

My dad, George J. Carlson, at the parsonage of Lake Harriet church.

During his time in Minnesota dad became a leader in the C.B. Movement alongside Drs. Clearwaters and Cedarholm. Dad was for three years the president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention, and a Vice-President of the CBA. He also served under Dr. Clearwaters at Northwestern, when Doc was Dean of the seminary. This was in addition to his responsibilities of being pastor of Fourth Baptist Church.

Dr. Cedarholm became the General Director of the Conservative Baptist Association in the late 40s, but also in the early 50s became one of the property owners at Maranatha Bay on Lake Nebagamon in northwestern Wisconsin. Maranatha Bay was an association of thirteen property owners who built summer cabins on the picturesque lake shore. My father, along with Herbert Lockyer, Jr., organized this wonderful summer retreat for Christian leaders and their families.

Mine was a truly good and godly heritage.

First Four Presidents of Pillsbury
Dr. R.V. Clearwaters, Dr. Monroe Parker, Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm, Dr. Joseph Rammel

Remembering, Reunion and Grace

Easy paths and an absence of trouble are not always the places where believers are called to travel. Often difficulty and struggle come to our lives, bringing heartache, disappointment, and pain. Sometimes those trials come at the most unsuspected time. But as we look back, we can see the hand of God and the guidance of His grace, in shaping and directing our lives.

Sixty-four years ago, just after my 16th birthday, I remember my dad taking me for my driver’s license test.  Little did I know that within weeks he would be taken to heaven through an airplane crash.  Just before he died  I remember him telling me that a new college was opening that September in Owatonna, Minnesota. I was vaguely aware of the existence of the old Pillsbury Academy in that town because dad had served on the board of that institution when we lived in Minnesota.

After his death, the remembrance of that conversation was like a message from heaven to tell me to enroll in Pillsbury College following high school. Dad was a wise and principled counselor. He never tried to intrude into the leading of the Lord in my life, but he faithfully provided guidance and encouraged me to pursue the Lord’s leading.

These thoughts swirled in my head this September in 2021 when Connie and I returned to the Owatonna campus of the former Pillsbury College that closed in 2008. We had the privilege of joining about 450 folks who were former students, faculty, staff, and supporters of the college for a reunion. Together we remembered what God did on that campus where many of us were trained to be servants of the Lord. 

My college years were filled with wonderful experiences. There were friends, all kinds of activities, classroom learning, and opportunities to serve the Lord on weekends.  But I must confess I was not the most diligent student during those years. My lifelong friend Gordy Lovik, who was ultimately my seminary professor, had to deliver the message to me from the seminary faculty that they were not impressed with my college grades. Even that was a gift of God’s grace to motivate me to achieve a much improved academic record in my graduate studies. 

The journey through the years has provided me with some unusual twists and turns in my relation to the various epochs of Pillsbury College.  In the second decade of the college’s history, I was drawn into the controversy that gave rise to the emergence of Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wisconsin. Because my family was intertwined through a close friendship with the two personalities at the center of the conflict, it was my lot to endeavor to navigate respectful relations with both men and schools.

Later, in my professional involvement with the American Association of Christian Colleges, I was placed in a position to help and encourage both institutions. It was the presidents of those two schools that provided the impetus for the launching of the AACC in 1985.  Even later, I was given the daunting challenge of taking the presidency of Pillsbury at a very stressful time in the history of the college. My one-year presidency was not a successful venture in the short term, but it provided me a rich experience in learning and living lessons that I now fondly recall as part of my Grace Journey.

At the recent reunion, I was able to speak briefly, along with two of the other former presidents, about my experiences as president. I’ve often referred to that ten-month tenure as my suicide mission. It was a difficult time, but it was a grace-enabled period in my ministry. I brought to the reunion a notebook full of student pictures that were prepared for me that year. The picture book was our daily guide and means of remembrance to connect with the students and pray for them. One of my great joys since that time has been to meet some of those students in our travels and learn of God’s gracious work in their lives.

God meant all of this for good. Looking back it is easy now to see God’s grace evident through the entire process – even the painful parts. It was a special blessing this past September to join a grateful crowd at the Pillsbury campus to give glory to God. We remembered God’s goodness and recounted His faithfulness and sustaining grace. It is truly all about His grace.

Reflections From the Road

We recently returned from a five-week trip of a lifetime to celebrate my upcoming 80th birthday this month. The trip was planned to precede my actual birthday so that all our family could gather before school began for the fall semester. We visited many friends along the way, but our main purpose was to spend extended time with our family— especially our four special granddaughters.

Our 5,325-mile trek culminated at the Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells area. We had a fantastic time as a family staying all together in a huge rustic log cabin, and enjoying a few action-packed days. Aside from some interesting drama that caused us to “improvise, adapt and overcome,” we had a fabulous time. The capstone to the trip was a memorable birthday dinner at the premier restaurant of the resort. Our little three and half-year-old granddaughter wondered why Grandpa’s birthday went on and on…but she can’t imagine the memories that will live on for years to come.

During the trip, we passed through several states, cities, and smaller towns. I came away with some definite impressions and observations that led me to take notes and plan to write my reflections. Here are some of those thoughts:

PROSPERITY

Everywhere we traveled there seemed to be evidence of prosperity — at least the appearance, or “shell” of prosperity. The highways, shopping mall parking lots, entertainment venues, and vacation locations were teeming with vehicles and people. Americans were out — unmasked and masked — in droves, everywhere. Still, at a closer look, there were obvious cracks in the outer veneer.

Large “anchor store” spaces were obviously empty in most shopping malls. Even the famous Mall of America has store closures and has resorted to clever concealment of large empty spaces. Lesser strip malls are often severely lacking or are barren wastelands. And everywhere the ubiquitous “hiring now” signs cried out from fast food shop doorways to prominent help wanted banners on larger businesses.

Then the evidence of aging and deteriorating infrastructure were all over the place. City streets in the environs of the embattled Twin Cities seemed to be in especially bad shape. We steered clear of the problematic areas where violence previously erupted, but the signs of wear and tear on public roads highlighted the conundrum prevailing in cash-strapped municipalities.

People were out spending and enjoying their prosperity, but it seems to be only skin deep.

COMPLEXITY

Maybe I am showing signs of my age, but travel seems to be much more difficult than we’ve previously encountered. We drew on many years of experience traveling for Positive Action for Christ when we were still working. I believe right now things are much more complex all over the country. We visited familiar areas from the past and found expanded highway interchanges and roadway challenges. Metropolitan expressways were especially daunting.

Then there was the lingering, and in some cases surging, influences of Covid on so many facets of life. Hotels offered grab bag breakfasts, instead of the usual fare. Many restaurants still prohibited indoor seating, and the confusing signage on doors often gave unclear guidance about mask policy and social distancing. The majority of patrons were going about their business without masks or concerns about distance. However, some individuals, or whole families, steadfastly wore masks, but still entered into proximity to maskless people. It was bewildering at times.

UNCERTAINTY

We also encountered disappointing customer service situations where telephone personnel or online systems seemed incapable of helping at all. We continue to struggle with several issues after we have returned home. One thing we learned was that most companies are shorthanded and struggling to find workers, or to cover their customer service operations with the overworked and under-supported staff that they currently employ. The refrain seems to be: “Go to our app or website to get your problems solved,” and that medium just does not provide individualized solutions at all.  

There was an underlying feeling of uncertainty due to the possibility of civil unrest, continuing divisive politics, mixed messaging about Covid, and the unpredictable effects all of these things are having on a tenuous economy. In spite of all of this, people were going about the business of their daily lives.

ACTIVITY

Everywhere we went people were out enjoying summer to the fullest. Families were traveling the highways and jamming the fun places far and wide. And the truck traffic was abundant. I have a theory that trucking has increased on the interstates to supply the distribution points for the online ordering that then gets fulfilled through more truck and delivery traffic to the consumers. At the same time shopping areas seem to be alive with eateries, niche shopping enterprises, and creative entertainment ventures.

SPIRITUAL VITALITY

The most encouraging aspect of our trip was the ministry we were able to participate in among family and friends, and the churches that we were privileged to visit. All of the ministries we visited were vibrant and vital – even during these challenging times. We met, and heard, for the first time the new pastor at Calvary Baptist in Chattanooga, where our daughter and family worship and serve. Pastor Powell assumed the pastorate during the Pandemic and he is bringing blessing and leadership to that large work.

Then we were greatly blessed to share in an unusual and thoroughly encouraging Sunday morning at Pastor Bruce Cournoyer’s church in Madison, Wisconsin. Our son Kirk joined us as we participated in an outdoor service followed by a cookout with the folks of Calvary Bible Fellowship. This warm and growing body of believers was not able to use their usual rented facilities on that morning, and so one of their members hosted the church family at their beautiful home and yard in the country. What a delightful group!

The next Sunday found us at the historic Fourth Baptist Church in suburban Minneapolis. This is the church body where Connie grew up. It is where we met and were married and served before launching out into ministry 55 years ago. However, today Fourth is growing and prospering in their relocated facilities in the expanding western suburbs, while their sister church Family Baptist continues a vital urban ministry in the city neighborhood. Both bodies of believers are serving and showing evidence of health and effective ministry. We were especially struck by the large attendance and marvelous congregational singing on a summer weekend. Pastor Morrell’s expositional message was so practical and it is easy to see why the Lord is blessing that work.

Our final church opportunity was unusual because it was the annual meeting of Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, Wisconsin, where we attended for a time when serving at Maranatha Baptist Bible College. What a blessing that service was to us! Our dear friend, and faithful tax accountant, Corey Pfaffe gave a stellar church treasurer’s report with great news and spiritual discernment. His presentation was a testimony to the goodness of God during the last year and a half of faithfulness on the part of the Lord and His people. Pastor Bob Loggans gave a wonderful challenge in the service and then treated us to fellowship at Culver’s with his wife and dear friend Char Cedarholm.

We also spent time with many treasured friends and family members along the way and shared memories of past ministry experiences with them. They were all a great blessing to us. What a joy in each one of these experiences to see how God is faithfully sustaining and using His people to declare His glory.     

Grace Outside the Beltway

In January of 1984, Bud Weniger let me know he was taking the presidency of Maranatha Baptist Bible College. I instinctively knew our family would need to move to the Washington D.C. area so that I could fulfill the next step in the ministry where God had placed me. Our home in 1984, and the office for the American Association of Christian Schools, was in Normal, Illinois, where Bud was my boss at AACS, but more importantly pastor of Calvary Baptist Church.

It was not practical to keep the office in Normal long term because I would continue to work under Bud after he moved to Wisconsin. AACS needed to either move to Watertown, Wisconsin, or to the area of the nation’s capital where a good bit of my work activity was focused. I realized right away that the D.C. area was the only logical choice. Thus began a year and a half journey to Northern Virginia.

My responsibilities with AACS, as Executive Director, required me to travel extensively. Within a few months of this turn of events, I was appointed to the Exemplary Private School Recognition Project committee by Chuck O’Malley, Executive Assistant to the Secretary of Education for Private Education. That appointment increased my travel to Washington to once a month over the next year. At the same time, I still traveled all over the USA and Canada on behalf of Christian education. It simply made sense to relocate the AACS office to the DC area and to move our family there so that I would be home more often. That was the plan.

By the summer plans were beginning to take shape and so we took a family vacation to the Washington area to introduce our kids to the beauty and historical significance of our nation’s capital. We also intended to begin house hunting.

That trip was memorable. First, because we followed the advice of a colleague to book lodging in a short-term apartment complex for a week that turned out to be a mini-nightmare, but we survived. Second, we met our valued real estate agent, Ken McKeehan. Kenny owned White House Real Estate Company and was extremely knowledgeable and well connected in the Northern Virginia housing market. He was also a wonderful Christian and member of the church that became our home church, and he became a dear friend.

On one Sunday afternoon, Kenny gave us a tour of possible homes and quickly steered us to the Pleasant Valley subdivision in western Fairfax County, just south of Dulles Airport. It was there we found a split-level model home that led us to say, “Yes, that will meet our needs nicely.” In December of 1984, we signed a contract to have a new home built. Even though in January the price jumped by $10,000, we had a locked-in contact at the original price. God’s grace led us and we moved in by late June of 1985 right after Kristy graduated from high school. It was a whirlwind.

It was through Kenny that we were introduced to his neighbor and close friend, the legendary NFL football coach Joe Gibbs. It was the coach’s wife Pat, and son Coy, that became our close friends, although we met Joe and their other son, J.D., on several occasions. Our youngest son Chad was a classmate of Coy, and they played football together for several seasons. Connie and I would sit with Pat at the games and we came to have great respect for Coach Gibbs and his family. They are an amazing story of God’s grace. We treasure the memory of those Friday night football games when we sat with Pat Gibbs watching our boys play. The coach was always pursuing a Super Bowl, and the Redskins won one the season just after we left Virginia.

The move exposed our family to the “fast-lane” lifestyle of the sprawling Washington-Baltimore metroplex area. Our house, in the suburb of Chantilly, was 30 miles straight west of the U.S. Capitol, but 20 miles outside of the Capital Beltway. For three exciting and taxing years, we became very familiar with living and struggling in the “outside the Beltway” environment.

As we were planning to move I determined that I needed Connie to join me in the AACS office. A close friend in ministry warned me that might not be a good idea, but I learned quickly that it was the right idea – and thank the Lord we walked that stressful part of the journey as a team. We worked together opening the first Washington area office for AACS at 10195 Main St., in historic downtown Fairfax, Virginia.

Several years before moving Connie and I began to take evening walks due to the example of her parents following her father’s heart attack. In Pleasant Valley, Virginia, the walks through our subdivision became a regular exercise in receiving God’s grace. Looking back we see how God taught us the sufficiency of grace during that time of struggle. In remarking about modern day advertising a current Bible commentator observers that marketers preach the, “power to escape weakness in leisure, but Christianity offers power to endure weakness in love.” We found that to be true.

Today every time we watch a newscast reporting on the political struggles and tensions in Washington, D.C., we hark back in memory to our three years living outside the Beltway. We enjoyed immensely the beauty and history of the area, but we remember the suffocating traffic and congestion, plus the pressures of a fast-lane lifestyle. It took its toll on our health and family.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. During those years we were privileged to participate in the growth and maturing of the Christian School movement. We met many fine Christian educators, valued leaders, and servants of the Lord. We also rubbed shoulders with many hard-working politicians and dedicated public servants. The Lord allowed us to make life long friendships with wonderful Christian people who live and survive in the Washington area. We realize now that God was gracious to help us survive that environment, and after three years escape to Wisconsin. We learned to trust God and walk with Him in a deeper way.  

Connie and I took many day trips to well-known and lesser-known historical sites, and I always loved seeing families enjoying the Capitol Mall – which I think of as America’s “Main Street.” I am afraid the area is even much more stressful today, but I know the ability to survive from 1985-88 was due to God’s grace. We found that truly, “God’s grace is sufficient” for our every need. To repeat an old gospel song, “We wouldn’t take nothing for our journey now.”

Grace & Guidance for Learning

The good old days are gone. But many good lessons of the past have been profitably passed on. Likewise, valuable wisdom skills are transmitted from generation to generation. These legacies are worth treasuring. Most of us do not disparage the influence of our grandparents – but we often thoughtlessly discount the past. The cherished personal memories we have received from those who influenced us and guided us often transcend the latest whiz-bang fads or eye-popping technology.

Dennis L. Peterson is a friend of mine who is an author and historian and a former editor and educator. He blogs and passes on many valuable insights from lessons that a study of history affords and the wisdom that can be gleaned from family heritage.

Recently Dennis wrote an article entitled The Ring. Here are some interesting and excellent excerpts from that thoughtful and engaging piece.

“I got Daddy’s high school class ring…It was a small ring…Today it fits me and, in fact, I have a little trouble getting it off at times, especially when it’s hot and my fingers have swollen…”

“Inside the upper shank is engraved “10KJOSTEN,” indicating the gold composition of the ring and its maker. The Josten’s firm was founded by Otto Josten, a watch repairman in Owatonna, Minnesota, in 1897. (The apostrophe later was dropped.) In 1906, the company began making emblems and awards, including rings, for schools. They added yearbooks in 1950…”

“Today, I wear Daddy’s ring as not only a replacement for the college ring I lost but also a constant reminder of Daddy, my memories of him, and the character traits he taught me, more by his example (and his discipline!) than by overt, formal instruction.”

You can read the whole story at https://dlpedit.wordpress.com/2021/04/30/the-ring/. You can also profit from Dennis’s finely honed craft of writing – especially his careful telling of stories and the wisdom that he gleans from digging into the fuller lessons found in historic events, things, and most of all, people.

I wrote the following to him.

I love your sense of history and quest for learning and finding meaningful thoughts and truth in the basics of life. You stimulate others to search their roots, interests, and exploration of new and different things.

Your story resonated with me. When I was a student at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, in Owatonna, Minnesota, I worked one year as an information guide at the Jostens ring plant that was two blocks from campus. I took small groups of people through the plant to see how rings were designed and made. I especially loved showing visitors the World Series Championship rings that the craftsmen created. As I remember the Pittsburg Pirates 1960 championship ring was on display and it had a replica of Forbes Field on the crown of the ring. They had a few craftsmen that were unbelievably talented artistically. That was an amazing experience for me as a college kid.

As I remember a guy by the name of Charlie Hermann recruited me for that job. It was through my association with the Owatonna Parks & Rec director that Charlie was directed to me. I only worked a few times each month, but the experience had a profound influence on me at the time. Many years later I learned that Charlie rose to be a Vice President in the huge corporation that Jostens has grown to be in the business of publishing and recognition products. The ministry Connie and I retired from – Positive Action Bible Curriculum – had books printed by the Jostens company.

I’ve learned that Charlie Hermann became a legend in Jostens’ organization. He was a super motivational speaker and dynamic personality. The Jostens website recorded this about Charlie:

“We’ve come to associate his face with a Jostens sales meeting, service awards banquet, training seminar, a management development program, high school commencement address, or some other kind of special occasion for Jostens or the community. To many people throughout the organization and the United States, in fact, Charlie Herrmann is Jostens.”

Some people have super personalities like Charlie, and others are faithful and consistent influencers like Dennis Peterson’s dad. Their contributions to our lives are like beacon lights to illuminate our paths and guide us in our quest to find God’s truth and gain a helpful understanding of life. Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

Games and Adventures

About 1950, I discovered a game that became a dominant part of my life for about five years. The table-top game was named Ethan Allen’s All-Star Baseball game. It was launched in 1941 and produced by a Chicago company Cadaco-Ellis. This game was a fore-runner to the current fantasy sports phenomena that has grown into a multi-billion dollar business estimated to involve over 60 million people worldwide. But in 1950, All-Star Baseball (ASB) was a relatively simple board game in a box and was marketed to pre-teen boys who loved baseball. I fit the bill completely.

Not sure how I discovered the game, but I quickly became hooked. The game’s creator, Ethan Allen, was a former major leaguer who became the head baseball coach at Yale University for many years. He was George H. W. Bush’s (the future president) baseball coach at Yale and was a respected teacher of the game.  ASB used real players and real statistics and produced very realistic results.

The game consisted of a mock ball diamond, a spinner, and a series of round disks representing individual major league players. A current website (https://baseballgames.dreamhosters.com/CadacoASB.htm) explains how the game worked: “The disks, with a die-cut rectangular center hole, punched out, were placed over a small cardboard block mounted on the game-board, a spinner spun over it, and the wedge number — 1 through 14 — at which the spinner stopped indicated the result of each at-bat.” The spinner would land on a number indicating a walk, single, double triple, home run — or an out via strikeout, ground out, or fly out.

The number “one” indicated a home run. A home run hitter like Mickey Mantle would have a much larger slot for a homer than speedster Richie Ashburn. Mantle was the all-star centerfielder for the Yankees in 1952, and Ashburn was the all-star centerfielder for the Phillies, my favorite player at that time. Ashburn was not a power hitter, so his home run slot was slim, but his singles and doubles were large because he was a consistent hitter who beat out bunts and stretched singles into doubles. I was captivated by the accuracy and realism of the statistical results.

My neighbor Steve joined my excitement, and we organized so that each of us conducted a 50+ game schedule with two separate leagues. Then we had a world series of our own at the end of our season. We had a great time keeping all of the statistics just like we read in the sports pages of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. But this was our league, and to us, it was not fantasy — it was real.

A few years later our family moved to Chicago, and I persuaded two of my new friends, Butch and Pat, to go with me on an exploration to find the headquarters of Cadaco-Ellis, the manufacturer of my beloved game. By searching the massive Chicago phone book, I discovered that the company’s offices were on the 14th floor of the 20-story Merchandise Mart, near Moody Bible Institute, on the north side of the downtown loop.

Butch and Pat weren’t too interested in my game adventure, but they agreed to go if we could stop at the magic shop on Randolph Street, a few steps west of State Street. I can’t believe my mother allowed me as a 13-year-old kid to go with two friends downtown Chicago via the Elevated/Subway train. We had a ball on the “L” — running back and forth between cars and acting like typical jerks. Then they introduced me to The Treasure Chest that I’ve recently learned was owned by a famous Chicago magician who hosted a local TV magic show. We had a great time traipsing up and down the Chicago streets, exploring The Treasure Chest and running the stairways of the Merchandise Mart. Those were truly different days.

I’ve not been a big game person the rest of my life but was enticed by Connie about three years ago to join the monthly Mexican Train Tournament conducted here in Maranatha Village. This event draws around 100 or more every month to play in six-person table configurations of this challenging and competitive game. Some strategy and thinking are required — which I like — but lots of luck is needed. I am amazed that we have a handful of octogenarians, and beyond, that are so sharp and have so much luck. Several of these ladies win over and over. We’ve dragged our kids into Mexican Train, and the granddaughters were overjoyed this Christmas to get their own set.

Mexican Train with the family at Christmas 2019.

But we are also still adventuring. The Lord has allowed Connie and me to travel extensively in ministry for many years. During those trips, we continued to explore new places and new experiences. And we are still doing it today as we have launched out over the past seven years to explore the adventures of Florida. This coming summer Connie and I are praying about a new adventure…stay tuned.

The Journalism Road

Lindblom High School, 6130 S Wolcott Ave, Chicago, IL 60636

Sometime during my Junior year at Lindblom High School on Chicago’s south-side, I made decisions that became life-shaping for me. I don’t remember when, but I told an academic counselor that I was not going to take Chemistry or Trigonometry. No way. I was being herded along in my large public school, during the post-Sputnik era, toward a science career. I just put my foot down and refused to take those two subjects. I agreed to take Physics and College Algebra – but the two Senior-level courses were a bridge too far.

I’m not sure why they accepted my youthful decision, which I admit was partly motivated by taking the easy road. I was always the guy that wanted to figure out the easier way to do something. That just made sense to me. So I elected to take three courses that would be academically less demanding – and they have made my life so much more productive. God was gracious in guiding an immature kid to make decisions that would have a profound effect for good on my learning and subsequently on my life serving the Lord.

First, I took Typing. I don’t know my exact rationale, but somehow I thought, in the late 1950s, that typing would be beneficial. I guess I knew that I was going to Bible College and that I would need to know how to type. I worked the summer after graduation as a bell-hop in a resort and saved my tip money to buy a portable typewriter that I used all through college and seminary. I also learned the rudiments of keyboarding that did not become significant until years later with the roll-out of Windows 95 and my initial immersion into computers.

Second, I took Spanish. Again, I don’t remember the precise reason. Perhaps the other choice before me was Latin, and I thought Spanish would be easier. Or, maybe the options included an English literature class with Mrs. Rule that I would avoid at any cost. Not sure, but I learned to understand English grammar much better by studying Spanish. But most importantly, my brief excursion into Spanish prepared me for later studies in Greek and Hebrew during my post-graduate studies in seminary.

Finally, I chose a semester of Journalism as an English credit. That was my most significant decision – and I can’t take credit for the life-shaping impact that single semester experience has had on my life and ministry. Today it is evident that God’s grace was setting me on a course to prepare me for tasks in the years to come.

In that class, I was exposed to all the facets of newspaper writing and production. A domineering lady was the teacher and served as the sponsor for The Lindblom Leader, the school’s large eight-page broadsheet newspaper. She assigned students in her class to write articles for The Leader and called us reporters. Then she recruited, or appointed, individuals (usually her pets) to become the editorial leaders for the next year – as Seniors.

I was quite pleased when she chose me to be the Front Page News Editor. That meant I could direct the reporters, design layout, create headlines, and run everything about the first page of the paper.

This went along smoothly at first, and then our overbearing advisor changed from being flattering to controlling. I would later learn this was her method of operation every year. She would recruit with sweetness, and then she would change to become dictatorial and controlling. She wanted the editors to spend all their time in her newspaper office under her fiefdom. But some of us had another life too.

Lindblom Technical High School

School auditorium with two balconies

At first, I humored her, but then started to realize she was grooming me to be the Editor-in-Chief for my final semester. I determined I could put up with the aggravation, but balked when she wanted to dictate who would take my place as News Editor.

Ultimately she told me that she was making the decisions and that was that. I said, fine, but then she didn’t need me and I resigned. That was it. I never went back and my career with The Leader was over. My relationship with the rest of the staff was not harmed; they were glad that finally, someone stood up to her.

Years later at our 50th Class Reunion, I had the opportunity to talk with the female classmate who wound up taking the Editor-in-Chief position. She said the sponsor was still her old self for that last semester, but my stand helped the staff to gain a little more respect from the old gal. But I have to take my hat off to that teacher. She taught me the basics of writing news stories and “putting the paper to bed” in the parlance of old newspaper layout jargon.

In all of my ministry positions, it has been my responsibility to lead or contribute to organizational publications. During my time with AACS I edited four different publications. Now with the wonders of technology, I write copy and within minutes have it whisked away electronically to spread information around the world in literally seconds. And that makes my job easier – just like I worked so hard at so many years ago. 

The Lakers, Streetcars & Libraries

At the age of twelve, I began taking the Oak-Harriet streetcar to regular visits at the Orthodontist in downtown Minneapolis. I would catch the iconic yellow trolley on 50th Street, a few blocks from our house on Vincent. I remember that fabled ride wound around the beautiful lakes of Harriet and Calhoun before turning north toward Hennepin Avenue for my final destination on Seventh Street. After visiting the dentist, I would walk over to Tenth & Hennepin to take in the wonders of the old Minneapolis Public Library, next door to First Baptist Church.

I don’t remember what I looked at while visiting the library. But no youngster would ever forget the Egyptian mummy lying in a creepy sarcophagus on the landing outside of the main reading room. Years later, humorist Garrison Keillor, who is a year younger than me and who also visited that library in the same era, memorialized that frightening ancient corpse in one of his Prairie Home Companion monologues. Keillor’s mention of the spooky mummy on his broadcast brought that vivid recollection back to my mind.   

I probably went to the Periodical section of the library and read the Sporting News or other sports-focused magazines that were beyond my slim budget, but devoured given the opportunity. I was captivated by all the major sports of baseball, basketball, football, and even hockey. But the main focus of my life at the time was my Minneapolis Lakers, the five-time champions of the fledging NBA in the early 1950s.

The Lakers were my heroes. I remember purchasing a crystal radio set – truly a prehistoric gem – that I could listen to with the aid of some antique headphones. With this wonder of 50s technology, I would listen to the Lakers games called by Dick Enroth on WLOL radio. What endeared the Lakers to me was a personal thing. It is hard to believe that 1950s NBA stars were real people that lived in the neighborhood.

Jim Pollard, the Hall of Fame forward of the Lakers, lived in a bungalow about five blocks from the parsonage where our family resided. On a Saturday morning, I brazenly rang his door bell and requested an autograph. He came to the door in his robe and obligingly signed a piece of paper for me – and I like to think he patted me on the head. Then on another occasion, I persuaded an older friend to drive me to the home of George Mikan, the first 6’10” NBA superstar, at his ranch-style home in Edina. The gentle giant came out to meet us and signed an autograph while writing on the chest-high (to him) roof of our car. 

Left to right: George Mikan, Slater Martin, Hall of Fame Coach John Kundla hoisted on Mikan’s shoulders.

Then one time my dad took me to an NBA doubleheader in the old Minneapolis Auditorium. The evening featured the Lakers, and three other NBA teams, in a two-game format. During both games, the players from the other two teams were sitting courtside watching the action. I circulated among the players that night and garnered over 25 autographs. But, alas, those prized signatures have been lost in the dust bin of time, along with my valuable baseball cards. 

Still, that wasn’t all. The sparkplug scrappy guard of the team was Slater “Dugie” Martin, and perhaps my favorite player. His wife worked part-time for Hooten Cleaners, owned by Floyd Hooten, and a member of our church where my dad was pastor. Think of it…an NBA wife working part-time to help make ends meet. Besides, someone said that Bobby Harrison’s (another well known Laker) mother lived in a house at 50th & Vincent, and where he stayed with her when the team was in town. I never thought to question that assertion when I was a seventh-grader and passed that house on the way to school every day. It just made sense at the time.

I was living in a time-warp where my heroes were real people who took an interest in little people. Today five of those original Lakers are enshrined in the basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. That is the Mt. Olympus of basketball. All of those experiences seem surreal now.

Hall of Famers: 22 S. Martin, 17 J. Pollard, 34 C. Lovellette, 99 G. Mikan, 19 V. Mikkelsen, Coach Kundla

Now through the wonders of Google and Wikipedia we can reach back into time and confirm with certainty things that we remember dimly. On Saturday, April 3, 1954, I took the streetcar to the Minneapolis Auditorium – by myself – and attended the second game of the NBA championship series. I paid two bucks ($2.00, I swear) to get in and saw the Syracuse Nationals even the series with a 62-60 win over my Lakers. Here is proof:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_NBA_playoffs. I know it was that game because it was on Saturday – during the afternoon, and the only time I could have attended.

In the seventh game of that series the Lakers finally won their fifth, and last, championship in Minnesota. I never have forgiven the Lakers for moving to Los Angeles—where there are no lakes. They should have renamed the team “Stars” or “Surfer Dudes” or some other SoCal moniker. Big bucks took over the game, the players, and sold the fans a world-wide brand that is not known for a personal connection anymore.

Beautiful Lake Harriett in the background. A few of these trollies are available to ride every summer.

My love affair with libraries, learning, and curious investigation began back in that time. I started reading all the basketball, baseball, and football statistics every Sunday in the Sports section of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Then everywhere we moved, I became acquainted with the library facilities available, and my investigative curiosity began to spill over into other areas of life, ministry, and leadership responsibilities. The real leap forward came when I joined Positive Action for Christ in 1996 and was given my computer and told – you are on your own, buddy. No more secretary; no dictation; or ‘nuttin. 

Frank Hamrick and his team in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, made me jump off into the stream of the world-wide-web. I’ve been swimming and continuing to learn ever since.

Tennessee Travelers

In the summer of 1966, just one year after we were married, we embarked on an unforgettable adventure to Tennessee. Early in June I drove our new Ford Galaxie 500 to Chattanooga and Connie followed two weeks later on the train, with our cat Floyd. This journey to the old South was so that I could take summer school classes at Temple Baptist Seminary. My credits were transferred back to Central Seminary in Minneapolis and allowed me to accept the position of Assistant Pastor in Normal, Illinois beginning that September, and graduate from Central the following spring.

What an experience that summer was for two rookie yankees in rebel country. We lived in a little apartment above a workshop on a wooded lot just two blocks from the Georgia state line. No air conditioning in the house or car, but we had a mean patch of poison ivy in the area where Floyd roamed. One day Connie collected Floyd out of the undergrowth and acquired a horrible outbreak from the toxic stuff. She learned to spend many hours in the air-conditioned Cierpke Memorial Library on the Tennessee Temple campus to avoid the heat and the wretched poison ivy.

During that summer we were introduced to the amazing Highland Park Baptist Church, led by the indomitable Lee Roberson. That was the heyday of Dr. Roberson’s long and effective ministry. We met the noted song-writer Charles Weigle, who we learned years later lived previously in Sebring, Florida, our current hometown. Dr. Weigle was a lifelong friend of industrialist George Sebring who founded and built our community in Central Florida. Today Weigle’s earthly remains are buried in the local cemetery less than a mile from our Village.

Another fascinating experience we enjoyed was to spend a day at JumpOff Baptist Church, one of over 60 chapels connected with the Highland Park church. One Sunday, Connie and I rode with Larry Ressor and Randy Faulkner to experience the truly unique church perched on top of the mountain near Sewanee, Tennessee. Larry was a seminary student and the pastor of this chapel. Both of these men have gone on to serve the Lord faithfully in fruitful and notable ministries over the years, and we fondly remember their passion for serving those folk in that humble backwoods chapel.

JumpOff Baptist looks the same today

During that day we were introduced to the unique person and ministry of Dr. Philip Marquart. This brilliant man was a Harvard trained M.D., with a proficiency in psychiatry, and a teacher of psychology at Tennessee Temple College. Dr. Marquart had been teaching the adult Sunday School class in that simple country church for many years. During his class teaching time we witnessed this kindly and scholarly gentleman patiently coach the grown class members to read the scripture passage for that day’s lesson.

It occurred to me as I watched the dynamics of that teaching hour, that Dr. Marquart was not only teaching these folks the Bible, but he was teaching them how to read. Probably the only reading instruction some of those adults had ever received in their life was in this Sunday School class year after year.

Following the services that morning Connie and I had the privilege – or the frightening occasion – to ride back to Chattanooga with the good doctor. He engagingly lectured us all the way down the mountain on the old three-lane U.S. highway 41. The problem was that only one lane was devoted to going down the mountain and elderly Dr. Marquart used as much of the road as he could to drive and to teach. Never will forget that day.   

A typical site on old US 41

Twelve years later I returned to Chattanooga to meet Charles Walker, as part of my duties with the American Association of Christian Schools. In 1978 Charlie was the relatively new executive director of the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools, and I was the brand new field director for the AACS. We became fast friends and about 15 years later Connie and Charlie conspired to introduce our daughter Kristy to Charlie’s son Brian, and the rest is history.

Now we travel to Chattanooga as often as we can to see our precious granddaughters, Ariel and Amelia Walker, along with Kristy and Brian, of course – and the whole Walker clan when possible. After 15 years of childless marriage for Kristy and Brian our gracious heavenly father chose to drop two needy little girls into our family. We have never been the same since. Those girls are now fine young ladies and true trophies of God’s grace. You can read the rest of their story at: https://gracejourney.blog/2019/04/28/grace-journey-for-two-girls/