Darlene's story: Purdue Circle: Living on the cutting edge

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--I can't say it's all been a piece of cake, but growing up in the church has been interesting. I know of no other religion that is exactly like this one, but our peculiarity is what sets us apart, right?

If it weren't for the church all of us might be living lives of pure sin and debauchery. Instead we've learned to tolerate the worldly people around us who, through no fault of their own (they're deceived), live disgusting lives driven by selfishness and the "get" way of life.

You know the type. They're everywhere: people you wouldn't want your worst enemy to meet face to face, people who light up at the workplace and eat pork on the weekends, people who wear makeup!

But, putting the present aside for the moment, I want to tell you what it was like living at 15 Purdue Circle in the late '60s and early '70s.

You're in the Air Force, eh?

Looking back on those times, it's hard to pinpoint exactly why we did the things we did. There's a real good chance that it was because some adult in our life told us to: parents, teachers or the ministry.

For instance, have you ever wondered why, while everyone else in your high-school gym class was becoming physically fit by participating in JFK's President's Council on Physical Fitness plan, your family followed an exercise program designed by the Royal Canadian Air Force?

What's the deal there? I remember quite distinctly a small, paperback book filled with graphs and charts of times and distances to aspire to while embarking on your jogging program, and pictures of Air Force cadets demonstrating various calisthenic exercises designed to mold you into the perfect physical specimen. It was quite the rage in our local congregation.

Why? I really don't know why. Was the ministry trying to prepare us for the rigors of a 3 1/2-year stint in Petra? Was he wanting his wife to lose weight but didn't have the courage to tell her and thereby decided to issue a fatwa to all of us?

I find an exercise program to be very beneficial, but Canadian? It was surely another sign that America was losing the pride of her power when we turned away from our own president's program and looked to Canada for help.

Regardless of why we embarked on this program of physical fitness, it became a part of my family's daily regimen. Every morning before sunrise we did our Canadian exercises in the living room, and then we filed out the front door to make our way around Purdue Circle.

This was just prior to the running craze that hit the United States, so we felt a little uneasy running through the neighborhood while it was still dark outside. Glimpsing shadowy figures beneath the streetlights during the early-morning hours didn't always put our neighbors at ease either.

There weren't many times I felt like I was on the cutting edge of society while growing up in the church, but this was one of them.

Pros and cons

Growing up in the church definitely had its pros and cons. Some of the pros:

During the Days of Unleavened Bread no one tried to steal your lunch; your clothes were never targeted by thieves during gym class; you ate brown bread before it became trendy and expensive; you never had to worry about smeared mascara.

Of course, there was the other side of the equation. During the Days of Unleavened Bread no one tried to steal your lunch; your clothes were passed over by the thieves in gym class; and the brown bread, though tasty, drew stares of curiosity mixed with disbelief from classmates sitting across from you in the school cafeteria. Again I was on the cutting edge and didn't appreciate it.

I know, I know, many of us who grew up in the church felt like weirdos. I was not alone. (Please O please tell me I was not alone!)

Things weren't all bad, though. I distinctly remember my history teacher's undisguised pride she felt in me when I knew the answers to her weekly current-event questions.

Our current-event session was always on Friday, so I did have an advantage over the other kids. We had already been quizzed on world events at Thursday-night Bible study.

I could have really impressed her with my knowledge of the 12 tribes of ancient Israel.

(If she had known I could identify the missing 10 tribes with their modern names, she surely would have labeled me a child prodigy. But, alas, that question was never raised, and to this day I've always felt just a little selfish at not sharing that knowledge with my classmates. I absolve myself of this sin of omission by reminding myself that they were already deceived by the world and therefore their closed minds couldn't have grasped the concept anyway.)

Thursday-night Bible study was more than a treasure trove of current-event tidbits. It was also a time when our rural brethren brought their produce into town to swap or sell to the city brethren.

After Bible study the parking lot of the YWCA turned into a farmers' market of sorts where you could buy farm-fresh eggs (brown, of course), honey (from homegrown bees), whole wheat (the berry, not the flour), milk (the raw kind) and vegetables in season.

Learning about the Trinity

It was from this venue that we learned all about the diversity of the wheat berry.

In short, there wasn't much. We personally believed in the fine-ground grain, the cracked grain and the all-important whole grain.

The finely ground flour was used for making wholesome three-layer cakes that were consistently two inches tall.

It could also be used for baking bread. Your mark as a baker depended on how little white flour you had to add to the recipe, yet you needed a certain amount to mix in with the wheat. If you didn't, the bread could be so heavy as to render your Royal Canadian Air Force workout ineffective.

Cracked wheat was made into a gruel and eaten as a breakfast cereal much like oatmeal. The whole-wheat berry, sometimes referred to as rubber BBs, was also eaten as a breakfast food, but was mainly reserved for days when you had plenty of time to spare (weekends and summer vacations). Just the preparation (soaking and cooking) could take days or even weeks.

The wheat berry was also credited by some to be the reason so few church kids required professional dental attention during their youth. The gums, jaws and teeth were thoroughly exercised after a serving of this tasty and nutritious breakfast treat.

How time slips away

Isn't it funny the things that stick with you through the years (besides the wheat berry, I mean)? Purdue Circle was where it all happened. It was the cradle of my church life: the good, the bad, the often weird.

I learned things at Purdue Circle that have helped me get through some tough times in my adult life: lessons of endurance, patience and good common sense.

I also learned things that I can look back on and laugh about, not just about others but about myself. To me that's the greatest lesson of all.

This issue of The Journal includes many photos and several other graphics, besides the Connections advertising section. Don't forget to subscribe to the print version of The Journal to read all the news and features previewed here.

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