As a kid, my family went to church twice every Sunday, and once in the middle of the week. I didn’t think much about it, because that was what I was used to, but I don’t recall ever watching The Wonderful World of Disney on a Sunday evening, because we were always in church. So, I got used to sitting through 3-4 songs, the offering, sermon and closing hymn, multiple times a week.
Occasionally, there would be a special announcement in the church bulletin. We’d have a visiting musical group or other type of show to break up the usual order of things. In reality, some events were better than others. For every time we had a great concert that lasted the entire service, most of the times, the events were, shall we say, not quite ready for prime time.
As I’ve written before, sometimes, my siblings and I would be a featured musical act. Other regulars from the church would perform, too. Even as a kid, however, my ears were a bit too accurate, so I’d hear every flat or sharp note, and hope for the end to come quickly.
There were other acts, too – one time, we had a magician perform sleight-of-hand with a Biblical twist. Another church member would recite her original poetry. I liked the more off-the-wall acts – I remember the assistant pastor doing a weightlifting demonstration, which, while interesting, didn’t seem to have any relevance to the typical sermons. Once, we had a guy come in to play the saw. Yes, a real ‘cut-down-a-tree’ type Craftsman saw that he played with a bow.
The minister’s wife at the time had a special talent – she was a ventriloquist, and would break out the dummy about every other month. I’m not sure when ventriloquist dummies became creepy, but I started to get weirded out even then, especially when she’d finish the skit, and the dummy would sit there on the pew next to her, smiling and blankly staring ahead.
Because I was missing Disney on Sunday evenings, I was mostly killing time until we could get home and at least catch the end of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Maybe this week, Marlin Perkins would get his comeuppance for making Jim Fowler do all the dirty work. We didn’t have a lot of special events on Sunday evenings, but occasionally, they’d show a movie during the service.
Those movies ranged from deadly boring to mildly interesting. Some were about church missionaries, others were about a particular subject in the Bible. Once, we sat through the Tony Fontaine Story, which was more interesting than most, especially because it starred the actual Tony Fontaine.
One Sunday evening, I looked in the bulletin and saw that we would be watching a movie called “The Rocks Cried Out”. At 8 years old, I wasn’t much of a Biblical Scholar, but it peaked my interest, with me imagining what it would sound like if an actual rock cried out.
Turns out, it was a movie about Biblical prophecy. There were a lot of references to the End Times and book of Revelation, so it wasn’t exactly the feel-good movie of the year. Still, it was a break from the usual church service, so I sat in the back of the church as the lights went down, and hoped for the best.
A/V equipment in the 1960s wasn’t exactly what we have available today – instead of being able to download a movie and stream it from a computer, we had to use a 50’s-vintage Bell and Howell 8mm projector, with sound that varied from relatively clear, to an impression of someone speaking underwater.
Occasionally, the film would come off the reel, skip, or even break, and we’d sit there while the lights came up and 3-4 adults would stand around like a state road crew, trying to fix the problem. Eventually, through a combination of Scotch tape, consultation and kibitzing, someone would give a thumbs-up, lights would go down, and we’d be back in business.
As the movie wore on, I kind of lost interest, and took to counting the number of light fixtures on the ceiling, noting the shapes in the floor tile, or thumbing through the hymnal to find any interesting song lyrics. Just as I was starting to nod off due to boredom….
A flash of light, a sudden noise, then we were plunged into darkness. A tube had exploded inside the projector, prematurely ending the movie, and the evening’s entertainment. As the A/V guys were scrambling to find a light switch, a flashlight or even the power cord, since the projector was starting to smoke, someone yelled out “What happened?”
Even at age 8, I was always keen on spotting an opening for a one-liner. I piped up from the back row:
“I think a rock cried out.”
My first book, “Get Out the Door!” is coming soon. If you’d like a FREE preview, subscribe for updates at the upper right of the page, and I’ll put you at the top of the list!