Dear Young People,
I was asked to write an article on how life in general was for a young person in the church of my day. I am thankful that the Lord, in His eternal counsel, had my parents included in that little mission station that met in River Bend, Hope, some sixty years ago. Those were the horse and buggy days. This area is where I spent the first twenty years of my life.
My father, being one of the leaders, had to take his turn to pick a student to preach for us on Sunday. This was done on Saturday afternoon with horse and buggy. This student would stay the weekend and be brought back to the streetcar, some five miles, again on Monday morning. I particularly remember Rev. J. R. Brink, who would always pat me on the head and say, “God bless you.”
These meetings were held in people’s homes until 1918. A cement block church was then erected, which was later organized as Hope Christian Reformed Church. Rev. G. M. Ophoff was our first pastor. We were really isolated from all other churches, “out in the sticks” as many people called it. We hardly ever got to see any other young people. There was no young people’s society, banquets or conventions. Once a year we had a big day which was a Sunday School Church picnic, held at Fenessey Lake about two miles from church. There was a large pavilion, some playground equipment and even 100 square feet of sand and muck bathing beach. What fun! Later, when a few more people purchased Model T cars, we went to John Ball Park for the occasion. This was five miles away, which was really quite a trip and something we looked forward to all year.
There were no Christian schools around. There was only a public grade school, thru 8th grade, which I attended and from which I graduated. It was a one room school. At recess and noon hour the whole school participated in games. School life was really enjoyable. I remember especially singing out of the Folk Song Book every day. As a child I enjoyed music and singing. I was chosen as part of a quartet that had to sing at special school day events. The teacher had asked me more than once if I might sing at P.T.A. but father and mother never went and I was not supposed to either. It was a public school, you see. We wouldn’t feel at home there. Only once I had permission. We sang the River Bend School Pep Song and “The Old Rugged Cross.” That was it.
I took reed organ lessons from one of my school teachers. As soon as I could play a couple of hymns my father said, “That’s enough, now you know how to play. Never mind all of that other fancy stuff.” I kept playing which prepared me for being an organist, which I was later in Hope Church.
My father was an elder at the time of the 1924 split when, along with others, Rev. Ophoff, our pastor, was deposed. I remember sitting in church one Sunday morning after we really had been forbidden to use the church. During the sermon two strange men walked in and Rev. Ophoff kept on preaching. Everyone was quite shook, but the men turned around and walked back out. After that Sunday we had to give up our church. Then we began meeting in the Blair Schoolhouse.
After graduation I asked my parents if I could go to high school. My desire was to become a teacher or a nurse. High school! Where? Grand Rapids Christian High was miles away. There was no Wilson Ave. and no bridge over the Grand River at Grandville. I would have to board away from home all week! That was not for girls. I shed many a tear that fall.
Going back to my schooling, we had no Bible courses. One or two of my teachers did read a chapter before school. I received my knowledge by reading Bible Story Books at home, from Sunday School, and from my parents’ instruction. We had two church services. One was Dutch, of which I understood nothing, but always attended. I remember distinctly I had to play the piano for the Dutch service. I only know how to play a few Psalms so the consistory gave Rev. Ophoff the list. He remembered the first two times but the third time he forgot about the list and announced a number I couldn’t play. I got his attention and shook my head. To my great embarrassment he said, “Can’t you play that?” And then, “Oh, that’s right.” He found the list.
I had plenty of time to study and read even though evenings were short. We had no electricity, so we sometimes went to “bed with the chickens.” We didn’t have a “Pizza Hut” down the road, a corner drugstore, or a car. We could go across the road to my cousin once in a while and to a neighbor until dark.
I also had a lot of enjoyment walking on our back 60 acres, which was mostly pasture at that time, picking wild flowers. It is now Ferndale and Wilson Ave.
At 14 years of age I had to get my driver’s license. My older brothers worked away from home, my father worked part of the farm and I had to take produce to retail market a few days every week. This was a lot of work, but fun. Mother or my sister always went with me. Here we got to meet a lot of different people, including my future husband (which I was ignorant of at that time). He was always there with celery and onions.
I said earlier that we had very little evening activity. Well, in the summer the neighborhood fellows played softball at the schoolhouse. I was allowed to go provided I was home by dark. I recall a couple of times when a team from First Church came out and competed. That was exciting, seeing some fellows from one of our other churches. After the game they would go and get an ice cream cone. That was a treat! I wasn’t in on this, though. As I said, I was to be home by dark.
There were some evenings when my parents had company. These times were spent in much singing and praising the Lord around the reed organ. This was very rewarding!
On Sunday evenings, too, the whole congregation would meet at different homes for Bible Class. We would have prayer, an hour of Bible discussion and some singing. After meeting the children and young people would have lunch in one room and the grownups in another. We would go home early. These were profitable evenings. This happened yet even after we were married, 41 years ago.
As I said before, we had no young people’s society, just catechism. We went to this until we were married, confessed members or not. That was the way it was and no one complained.
When I was sixteen and one half years of age I went to my first Young People’s Outing. We took a bus to Ludington, got on a big boat, went out on Lake Michigan to Grand Haven, and then returned to Grand Rapids by bus. At that time I was with a fellow from the Dutch Reformed Church. He was a son of some dear friends of my parents. We sort of dated for six months, but father said we had to break up because he was not of our faith.
A few months later it seemed like the world was becoming a little bigger. Two young fellows from the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church motored to Hope after catechism and picked up a couple of young ladies from Hope and took them home. When my father found out they were from one of our churches it was O.K. This resulted in two happy marriages. As dear Rev. Vos said at that time, “There’s Hope for Hudsonville.”
Young People, what is my conclusion? I thank the Lord for the way I was brought up. There were moments of rebellion because sin constantly cleaves to us, but on the whole, I was content. With quiet times, reading, music and meditation I was happy.
You might perhaps say. “Sure was dull and boring!” I wish we could go back to that kind of living. God in His counsel has brought you face to face with many, many temptations, luxuries, sports, etc. I pray for you every day. You will need much grace. Spend much time in prayer. Make very good use of your time in your Christian schools and on college campus. Choose the right friends. We are nearing the end of time. Be on the alert. Set not your affections on things below for they shall perish. Think of the Eternal Rest which lies in store for those who cling to the “Faith of Our Fathers.”