Hebron Church closed their doors more than 50 years ago, so finding members to share memories has been challenging. However, we were so pleased to locate Ms. Estelle Pyles, one of the oldest living members. She graciously agreed to spend the morning with me and Mr. Al to talk about the church. She tells us that she started going to Hebron when she was 11 years old. By my calculations, that would be the early 1930's, and she attended until the doors closed. She wasn't in agreement with closing the church doors, and who could blame her. After attending the same little church in Zenith for more than 30 years, having to find a new church home would be a hard pill to swallow. She was so excited to hear of Mr. Al's “salvation of the church”, and hopes they'll be a service here once we're finished, so she can come back. Despite her advanced years, her mind was sharp and full of detail as she shared many stories of her years at Hebron.She only remembers one wedding, that of her sister and a couple funerals held at Hebron. Mrs. Reed's was the only funeral she recollects attending. Mrs. Reed's name has come up in every conversation I've had with people about the church. I hear that she had her own pew, right up front. She was soft and squishy, always wore a hat, and was invariably seen with the sweetest expression on her face. Mr. Al's sister, Peggy, says that she remembers, “looking up into Mrs. Reed's face and seeing the sweetness of Jesus looking down at me.”When Ms. Estelle was a young girl, the church decided that the youth should go to church camp. The Dooly Campground sent a “what to bring” list for the week. This list was comprised of personal items, bedding and food. The food included bread, eggs and LIVE chickens!! They had to take 2 cars, so they chose Mrs. Reed's and Ms. Estelle's mother's. Mrs. Reed's car was the largest so they strapped the chicken coup on the back of it. Mrs. Reed knew a short cut so off they went. The short cut turned out to be almost entirely dirt roads, and there had been a lot of rain. They started down a big hill on a particularly muddy road, and as they approached the bottom, Ms. Estelle's mother attempted to apply the brakes to no avail, and she ran smack into the back of Mrs. Reed's car. Ms. Estelle said, “as luck would have it, she didn't kill them all.” They gathered up what was left of the chickens and kept moving. When they pulled up at the campground, she said they expected to see dormitories, but instead there was only a long wooden building. Lining the interior walls were rows of wooden cots but no mattresses. Ms. Estelle said, “they had hay……that's what we had to sleep on!! They left us there bawling that day. No bed, no swimming pool….. but when the week was over, we didn't want to leave.”The longer we talked that morning, the more she remembered. It was like opening a flood gate…….. playing in the front yard of the church, training union at Benevolence, taking turns feeding the preacher and always burning the rolls when it was their turn to host. She told us about riding the caboose to the Tribble Packing Shed and the sweetest story of her daddy piling a whole bunch of them in the back of his truck and taking them to a swimming pool one particularly hot summer afternoon. She remembered an interesting WMU luncheon when every woman brought pimento cheese sandwiches. Her eyes lit up as she recalled that day and how hard they laughed. My favorite part of the morning was listening to Mr. Al and her talk about the “Pyles' Peanut Boils” she and her husband, Mr. Tommy would host. They started as a social for the Sunday School. Mr. Tommy, who took up the offering at church, would dig up the peanuts and bring them to the yard on a sled. The children would come over and pick the peanuts from the plants to put in the boiling pot. Once the peanuts were done, everyone would sit around eating the peanuts talking, laughing, sharing life……. As she and Mr. Al discussed the details of these special events, it was apparent they were a highlight from Mr. Al's childhood. It was so fun witnessing this exchange.As we got ready to leave, Ms. Estelle says, “see that Bible there?”. We both look over and see a very ornate, very large Bible sitting on the table by the window. She says, “that's the Hebron Bible.” I know if someone had seen Mr. Al and me they would have laughed because I'm pretty sure both our mouths were wide open, and we were speechless. It was like a gift…..first this wonderful morning spent sharing stories with Mr. Al and his first Sunday School teacher, and then to touch this important part of history was almost overwhelming. Before we left, I took a picture of the two of them with the Bible…..it felt like a really significant moment. I know for me, it was honor to re-live some very special memories with these two people. I love the historical significance of everything I am learning about this old church, but I am made aware daily that Hebron was so much more than the 4 walls of the building. To be continued....
The Old Hebron Church
The Old Hebron Church Bible
Mr. Al and Ms. Estelle (his Sunday School teacher)