My education consisted of six institutions over a span of 19 years. It began in 1955 at Sardis Springs Elementary. It was a three room school with one teacher and one lunch room worker and less than 20 students. In my second year, we lost the lunchroom worker and the teacher. From that point until that closed it two years later, finding a teacher was a problem. I did walk to school the first three years and it was uphill but it was less than a half of a mile from the house. Then from there I went to Johnson Junior High School where there were 30 kids in my 4th grade class. There were three in my class at Sardis Springs. From Johnson’s I transferred to Athens in 1964. After graduating High School 3rd in a class of 155 [3rd from the bottom], I went on to U.C.L.A. [University of Calhoun Located by Airstrip]. Then in 1969 I transferred to Athens College where I graduated in the Summer of 1971 with a 2.1 GPA. I graduated with honors: Magna Thankya Lordy. Now to the story.
In October of 1971, after being married to Wanda June Marbut in August, we loaded up our truck and we moved to New Orleans where I was to attend Seminary. I was the interim pastor at June’s home church. They always kidded me about running off with their pianist but when they failed to mention was that I married her and that made it legal. I had an old Chevy II Nova, banana yellow with black vinyl top, you could not fail to see me. No one ever pulled out in front of me while I had that shooting star. We rented a U-Haul trailer and loaded what little furniture we had which was not much. June’s GM had given us her old couch and we had few other things including my 9 inch black and while Zenith TV. We didn’t have any money but the church took up a love offering on Sunday night. It was close to $200.00. We spent the night with my grandmother and headed out around 5:00 am the next morning. Of all things, I forgot that the car would use more gas pulling the trailer and we ran out of gas below Meridian, Mississippi. That caused a 2-3 hour delay which put us in New Orleans about 4:30 P.M. I pulled up to the administration building, went in and announced my arrival. There was no reaction. I reminded them that I had registered for classes and they should have been expecting me. The lady in the housing office began to scramble around and in a minute, she said, we don’t have you down for an apartment, did you rent an apartment? I said, “No ma m, I thought you folks took care of all that stuff.” She said with shock, “Oh no, you have to do that and sometimes it takes months to get an apartment on campus. You are going to have to go to a motel tonight and come back in the morning at 8:00 AM.” I said, “I can’t do that: I have a U-Haul trailer that has to be turned in tonight or I will be penalized plus we don’t have the money to stay in a motel.” I think we had $185. The womans name was Marjorie Griffin and I will never forget her kindness. She said, “Sir, did you honestly come down here with no apartment and only a $185?” I said, “You got it. I really had no clue that I was supposed to do anything but show up.” Marjorie had to work overtime that day [without pay] but she didn’t leave us on the street. She found us a one room apartment in an old building that they didn’t use except for guest. They used this building as their on campus motel. By the time she got us processed, we had less than $10 to our name. No food, no jobs, no gas in the car, 8 hours from home but we did have a place to stay and we had each other. June never complained. She never got homesick. I never got homesick because she never got homesick.
We got a good nights rest and I go a job hunting the next morning. This is Tuesday, we have $7 or $8 dollars to our name. We did bring some snacks in the car and we lived on peanut butter and crackers for a week. I go back to Marjorie and she tells me to go to the Seminary Post Office. She told me that jobs would be posted on the bulletin board inside the Post Office. As I was looking over the jobs, some man walks up and introduces himself. He said, “You are new right?” I told him that we had just arrived the night before and that I needed a job bad. He put his finger on a number on the board: “Call that number, he hires any seminary student that needs a job.” I found a pay phone, called the number and was hired on the spot. He told me to look up a man by the name of Charles Griffin [Marjorie’s husband]. Of course, I did not know that at the time. I went straight to his apartment and he gave me bad news. He said, “This is test week and I will not be going to work until Saturday.” I said, “Man I need to go to work ASAP, we don’t have any money.” He said, “I sorry: I will pick you up Saturday morning around 6:30 and then he shut the door. Charles was a good man but he did not grade high on compassion.
Meanwhile, we have $7 and no income. We know that the Peanut Butter is not going to last forever. I go work on Saturday and get more bad news, I will not get paid for two weeks. So we go to the grocery store with $7 and get what we can. Corn was on sale, 4 cans for a dollar, so we got a lot of corn. I have never ate canned corn since Seminary. By Friday of the second week we are down to nothing and I am sick of corn. Then on Saturday morning, June’s last check from the State of Alabama comes in the mail and it is a whopping $211. We are elated. We jump in the car and head for the super market but they will not cash the check. I protested, “But I am a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary”…that was the wrong thing to say…the man literally ran us out of his store. It was humiliating but that is New Orleans. Everything at the Seminary was closed tighter than Dick’s hatband and there we had a check but couldn’t spend it. It was a long weekend but we made it until Monday and the Seminary office cashed our check. June had gotten a job at the Jewish Hospital downtown and she had to use the car. I always rode with Charles to work. I got a small check the next Friday and then by the next week June was getting paid. Within the month we were able to dine out at Pizza Hut. I was making $1.75 per hour and June was making about $3.50 but it got us by and we never actually missed a meal. We did eat a lot of peanut butter, corn and soup mixture but we never went hungry. Eventually June would transfer to the Seminary office where Marjorie worked. It was less pay but no driving and much easier to take off, especially during the holidays when the Seminary office was closed. By our final year, actually Semester because I finished early, we had it down to pat. I ran for Student Government for the first time in my life and was elected by a landslide [no one ran against me]. I was the Seminary AD [Athletic Director]. My basic job was the run the Basketball league. We moved off campus in the spring of 74 to a church pastorium in Lena, Mississippi. I went back down for Graduation in May of 1974. That has been almost 40 years and I have been back to New Orleans only once.