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VBS in the 1980s: Cookies, Kool-Aid, songs and Jason

By Holly Hollman
DAILY Staff Writer

hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

LORETTO, Tenn. — As a youngster, one week out of the summer I went home from church with green and black stains on my feet.

My mother wouldn't allow me to wear shorts to our church's weeklong vacation Bible school. I would wear sundresses and sandals or dress shoes.

During breaks, I doffed my shoes to play tag, and the grass and asphalt stained my feet. I ran faster barefoot, and being the only girl in my age group, I had to be competitive to play with the boys.

VBS at Loretto Church of Christ in the 1980s was not elaborate with themes, cartoon characters and pizza parties.

We started at 9 a.m., when the women of the congregation divided us into age groups and read us stories about Bible characters such as Noah, Moses or the apostles.

We answered questions and colored pictures. If our teacher was feeling brave, she brought out glue and scissors for art projects.

If she was fearless, she let us finger paint.

During our 10-minute break, my best friend at church, Jason Ellis, and I stuffed cookies in our mouths and gulped our cherry Kool-Aid. We wanted to spend most of our time playing chase.

When we returned to class, we sang the books of the Bible and the apostles' names.

We waved our index fingers in the air as we sang "This Little Christian Light of Mine."

Then we acted like heathens when we sang our favorite song, "I've Got the Love of Jesus Down in My Heart."

The last verse is, "And if the devil doesn't like it, he can sit on a tack."

At that point we all plopped down with much fanfare in our seats as if we were the devil. Then we jumped up and yelled in our loudest voices, "Ouch!"

Since my mother worked, I spent VBS week with Jason, whose mother took us to church.

There was a competition to see who brought the most people, and Jason won a Bible nearly every year for bringing me each day.

When VBS ended at lunchtime, Jason and I would walk the railroad tracks behind his house, or his mother would take us swimming.

The format changed when we were in sixth grade. The preacher suggested holding VBS at night. He brought a television and VCR to show us Bible cartoons while the adults listened to guest speakers talk about specific topics.

Jason and I were so excited because this was so different, and we didn't have VCRs at home.

During our teenage years, the congregation stopped hosting VBS because we didn't have many children.

I missed learning about the Bible that one week in the summer. I treasure my VBS memories, especially after Jason died in May 2003. He was a deputy with the Lawrence County, Tenn., Sheriff's Department and a Loretto firefighter.

During a weekend firefighter training exercise, he fell off the back of a pickup and hit his head.

He was 29.

Now I teach Jason's nephew in my Sunday school class. Sometimes, I look at his nephew's smiling face and recall those barefoot summer days when Jason and I raced across the churchyard.

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