Interview with Elsie Verhey (2)

MHH:  Are there any other memories that stand out in your mind or any events that you recall about your life here in Edgerton and in the PR church?

EV:  Can’t forget the Fourth of July picnics.

MHH:  Tell me about it.

EV:  Well, we had it out at the farm where we lived, or where Art’s parents lived there first.  Then later on we lived there.  And that’s where it was.  We had this big grove; it was a tree-planting. We set up the canteens and we had so much fun because the Friday night before, the young people would come out and we’d pick up sticks all over and have a big wiener roast. We just had such a good time.  They built the canteen and put stuff in there.  And we had over an hour speech, especially when Rev. Veldman was there.  It would be “church-meet hour” (laughter). When you’re young, that really wasn’t supposed to be on the schedule.  This is a holiday.  Come on, guys, let’s have fun!  You know, play ball again.

That was one of the things I remember. We had other outings than that, but that Fourth of July picnic, that was just…. Iowa—Doon and Hull—came too.  Oh yes, it was just a big deal. It was every other year.  One year we would go to Iowa, and the next year they would come here. For awhile, the young kids around here would get to the grove as early as possible in the morning.  I remember Rod Miersma—he lived quite a ways away, but he would take his bicycle so that he would be there for the whole show.

Normally they started coming about 9:30. Then at noon, if you wanted, you could go buy food at the canteen, or most of them would gather with their families and have just a meal with their families out in the grove someplace.

Then they would play ball until 1:00.  And everybody had better be there for the speech (laughter).  We even had special numbers.  I remember one time we had, I think it was Minn Huisken and myself and Jerry Kuiper and Art sang a duet.  And just different things like that—just something.  Otherwise we would just sing a Psalter number a capella, but then, oh, we wanted a special number this year.

Well then, the other year we would go to Iowa. I think Doon and Hull would take turns.  But it would be Edgerton/Iowa, Edgerton/Iowa.  And I can’t remember exactly, but I think they took turns, the two of them.

And this went on until—I don’t even know what year we quit doing it.  But it was the highlight of the year.

MHH:  When was all of this occurring?  Was this during the 60s and 70s?

EV:  Well, it was even before that.  It was before the Edgerton split.  But it was at the Verhey grove. I don’t think the other side [the schismatics] ever bothered with it anymore.

We lived on that farm thirty years, and I’ve been here about fifteen.  It was shortly before we moved to town, probably five years before that that they quit doing that.

MHH:  Why do you think they quit?  It sounds like it was a good time.

EV:  It was.  It was a very good time.  But I know this one-year Art was kind of disgusted with it. He had some old cars in the grove that were fixer-uppers. Some of the kids came with big rocks and broke every window in those cars (groan). He was not very happy about it.

So then I think a couple of years we had it at the school.  But it just kind of fizzled out.  It just wasn’t the same as having it out in the grove with the canteen and the whole business.

MHH:  But it sounds like you still miss it (laughter).

EV:  It was a fun time.

RH (Ruth Hoeksema):  It sounds like a lot of work for your family…

EV:  Yes, but the young people came, and we played games like “Run, the good sheep run,” and all kinds of fun games. Even when the [Rev. George] Lantings were here, we still were playing some of those games that we played out in the grove. They really worked and picked up sticks. They had two trees with a big pipe between them with a barrel up there. They would fill that barrel with water. You’d have to run underneath that barrel, and if you’d get the stick right in the barrel, you’d be fine.  But, if not, then you’d get all the water on you (laughter).  We had a lot of fun games.

Now with the school picnic, we still always have games for the kids.

MHH:  You have a school picnic now?

EV:  Oh, yes.  Every year just after school gets out. We have the city park. We have games, and for the little bitty ones we have either pick up candy or they have a big tub of oats with pennies or dimes that they can dig out. One time when I was on the committee for games, we had Olympics.  We’re going to have the shot-put, and we’re going to have the discus and all these different things. They’d say, “Oh, get the strongest one for that.”  Well, a shot-put would be a straw (laughter) and the discus would be a paper plate (more laughter).  We just had really, really cool stuff, and they really were a highlight too.  But years ago, before they had the park here, we would have our picnic in the high school. One year it had rained, but they played ball. My daughters come home so full of mud!  I thought they’d never get clean.  They were dragging all those girls through the mud.  They always had so much fun at those picnics.  They always ended up in water fights, and the elderly ladies didn’t always appreciate that.  I don’t know why.  They were a lot of fun.

RH:  Who got water?

EV:  Water balloons or cans or anything they could get, they would have. I think they would take ice cream buckets from home and just totally douse each other.  Well, hey, so what, you know?  They’ll dry (laughter).

RH:  Everyone was fair game to be shot at?

EV:  Oh, sure.  The kids, they loved it.  They were hurt if they didn’t get wet (laughter).

MHH:  Mrs. Verhey, you mentioned earlier that when you came to the Protestant Reformed church, after you were married in 1956, that there were still some residual effects or fall-out from the split.  At that time, where was Edgerton church meeting?  What was the history of that period?

EV:  The Edgerton Church, after the split, met in what they called the Memorial Hall.  It’s just two blocks east of here. It had a piano and, it had a stage, and it had a pulpit, and it had Rev. Veldman. We each had to take our own Psalters and our own Bibles if we wanted them—they didn’t keep them there.  They used that building for a lot of other things; the American Legion met there probably the Boy Scouts too. The library was there, and downstairs they had a kitchen and a dining room, so they had, receptions or dinners down there.  So it was not feasible that we just had a bunch of Psalters and just left them there.  We just always took our own.

MHH:  In the meanwhile, what was going on with the original Edgerton Church building?

EV:  The side that split were meeting in the church until (I don’t even know how long) they decided they didn’t want to be a separate church anymore, so they went to the Christian Reformed Church and rented the building of the Presbyterian church.  And, like I say, I don’t know when that was, how long they met separate.

Then the consistory decided, “Hey, they don’t want the building, let’s go back to court.”  And so it was decided then that we got the building back.  But it was a very exciting day when they told us that we got the church. The Woudenbergs were there, so they got to move out of this old house on Howard Street into the parsonage.  And, oh, how exciting!

MHH:  So, at that point the continuing Protestant Reformed Church got the property back, and they’ve been meeting there ever since until the present time.

Mrs. Verhey, how would you compare the church of today with the church of your youth, from about the time that you got married and joined the Protestant Reformed Church?

EV:  I think the preaching is pretty much the same.  But I think they were a lot more strict. For instance, when my sister-in-law and brother-in-law moved to California, they had a farm sale, and they wanted to have the Ladies Society serve lunches there. The elderly gentlemen that were in the consistory said, “No, you don’t take money from the world,” which would be the case there.  “You don’t know what kind of people come there and buy those lunches, and we don’t need that kind of money.”  Another thing they were vehement about was investing in stocks and that type of thing.  And when Uncle Albert [Bleyenberg] died, he left a lot of money to the church, and the school and invested it.  But, oh, they wouldn’t hear anything of that.  Also, we had a discussion once a year of, well, ladies and men together.  The discussion was on insurance, and there were a couple of the elderly who said you had to have car insurance—that was the law.  But you don’t need health insurance; you don’t need life insurance; you don’t need fire and wind and all that.  You had to have auto insurance—period. Those are just a few of the things that really are different now.  Also, now the young people will sponsor a soup supper or the school circle (in those days we mightn’t do that).  You might not be selling things in church.  You couldn’t have the soup supper in the church basement and have to pay for that soup in church!  So those are a couple of the things.

MHH:  Let me back you up just a minute here.  I have heard comments and have read a little bit about that insurance controversy.  What is your understanding of the thinking and the reasoning behind an attitude like that?

EV:  Well, that you had to trust in God, that he would supply, you know. If your house would burn up, your church family and your own family would—if you didn’t have the money to rebuild—help you out.  That was the plan. That’s what I was thinking.

MHH:  Do you think there are still remnants of that old thinking?

EV:  There probably should be more.  I don’t know.

MHH:  Why do you say that?

EV:  Because with all this insurance, are we saying that, oh, the government or the insurance companies will take care of us if our family is in the church and God doesn’t?  I don’t know.  I have insurance, too.  I have home-owners insurance and I have car insurance and health insurance.  But in those days, they were quite vehement that that was wrong.

MHH:  And, let me follow up also on something else that you mentioned.  What was the thinking regarding what you mentioned about the stock market?  What was the problem there?

EV:  Gambling.

MHH:  They regarded investing as gambling?

EV:  Yes.

MHH:  That, too, has changed.

EV:  It has.  I wish I didn’t have any in it right now (laughter). I know of a lot of people that lost a lot, Mark, and I did.

MHH: You mentioned that the preaching has basically not changed.  Do you think that some of the other changes that you mentioned are for the better or for the worse, or do they really matter? How do you regard the practice and the spiritual strength of the church today?

EV:  Well, starting with the preaching, when I came to the Protestant Reformed Church, I was not used to any doctrinal preaching.  It was all Bible stories, more or less, although, this one minister we had when I was a teenager in Leota, he was more; I think he went a little deeper—it wasn’t just stories.  But, like I have said, I didn’t know the Heidelberg Catechism or the Canons of Dordt—no idea until I went to this Bible Camp. But this one minister said “That’s the Reformed faith.”  But, I had my pen and paper and I jotted that down and showed my folks when I get home.  “Oh, yes, yes.  That’s what we believe.”  But then it was never preached.

MHH:  It’s interesting.  Are there any issues that you would like to address or opinions that you would like to express on pretty much any subject that’s connected with the church?

EV:  I can’t think of anything right now. I like this Young Adults’ retreat that they have every once in a while.  Otherwise, I can’t think of anything that comes to mind right now.

MHH:  I thank you very much for your thoughts and for your time, Mrs. Verhey.  I appreciate it.  This concludes this interview.