The Revival and the Homecoming Dance
Religion was easy at our house. A blessing before every meal. My brother, Bill, still says the same prayer that Daddy always said. Not sure why I never learned it. Bit of a rebel, I guess. The second thing about religion at our house was that if the church doors were open at Wilmer First Baptist, we were in our pew.
I don’t remember too much about the sermons from those days.
However, two things have stuck with me all my life. We were taught in Training Union on Sunday night never to date a Catholic because if we got married, the children would have to be raised Catholic and to give allegiance to the Pope. Clearly, they were hell-bound!
In Sunday School, I firmly remember that we were taught that the new dance craze, the twist, was immoral. According to my Sunday School teacher, the twist had moves in it that he said, “Were reserved for marriage.” Up until that point, I never considered the relationship between the twist and sex, but I did after that Sunday’s lesson.
It was the fall of 1963, and I was a junior at Semmes High School, and Wilmer First Baptist Church scheduled a hell-fire evangelist to preach the entire week. As usual, our family was there every night in our pew. However, as the Friday “pack-a-pew-night” approached, so did a big a problem – there was a home football game that same Friday.
I had nervously asked a cute freshman for a date for that night long before I knew the revival was coming to town. Not just any date. A date for the Homecoming Dance after the game. This was my first big date in my young life—bigger than a movie and a hamburger. In those days, Homecoming meant we danced to a band on the stage, and we dressed up in a suit and tie. Yes, we did the twist—more than a few times. Interestingly, I guess my Sunday School teacher never considered that the band might play a few slow numbers like Blue Velvet or Hey Paula. Compared to the twist, there was a whole-heck-of-a lot-more pressure put on our teenage psyches by those slow numbers! Whew!
Back to the revival. At the Wednesday night revival service, the evangelist left no doubt about where he stood on the evils of dayncin. He gave a challenge to all us good Baptist teenagers: come to the last night of the revival … or give in to the Devil’s fun at the football game and the sinful homecoming daynce. As he caught his breath and wiped the spittle from his lips, he stared straight at us, evangelist-fearing Baptist children. It was clear what he expected, but a strange thing happened.
I went to the dance.
Funny thing about that ultimatum put out by that evangelist, my momma and daddy never said anything about the game and dance to me, except, “You think $5 will be enough to put gas in the car and go to Shoney’s after the dance?”
My parents and I endured dozens of hellfire-negative sermons during my growing up years in Wilmer, Alabama. However, those Southern Baptist parents of mine had a mind of their own when it came to homecoming dances on Friday nights during a revival. And it fit just fine with their understanding of the Almighty.