Iris Middleton Smith
(Daughter of Grooms and Estelle Middleton)
So many precious memories flood my mind and soul when I think of the Hortense Camp Meeting Days. As a child lots of fun and excitement, as a teen deep conviction on my soul, as an adult lots of cooking, weeding, mowing, raking and painting buildings inside and out. All of this was done with a joyous heart and motivated from the Godly heritage handed down from my forefathers.
My first memories were the years as a tot sitting in the car with Lillie Watts during night services. On Sundays she'd take my hand and we'd walk around the fenced yard and enter the back gate. This provided entrance into the Boarding House where Aunt Lou would have the old wood stove fired up cooking for dinner. She was always glad to have Lillie lend a helping hand. I would find Paul Lewis who was left in Aunt Lou's care. We were dare-some to venture upstairs, since that was forbidden territory. However, we'd play on the lower stairs beside an open window until Aunt Lou would discover us. She'd scold us saying, "You know Mrs. Addie gone be mad if she see you chilluns disturbin' church". Then she'd go outside and close the wooden shutter. Back then I thought Paul had magic power over her; now I know she and Lillie wanted us brats out of their way.
I remember those rainy Augusts. The rain brought cooler weather, but made our trek to the female comfort station hazardous. There were three separate buildings, but one muddy path. To protect our white slippers some kind soul would lay wide boards for us to walk on. Of course we were cautioned to look for snakes and spiders in dark corners. If it was hot, there was the convenience of the Savannah Morning News to fan with.
My very first experience of camping without my mama, I stayed upstairs in the boarding house. My room-mate was Geneva Jacobs. Our room was at the head of hte stairs, the choice room! We were directly over Rev. John Strickland and his wife's room. It was very unfortunate for them, (so we learned the next morning) that our old gallon syrup can leaked and the floors did also. Needless to say, they had to hunt wash-tubs and clothes line that day.
Since I had older brothers, I learned early on how important the old sulphur hand pump was. It was amazing how thirsty those dolled up teenage girls would get when they saw some eligible guys congregated at the pump talking. That was the only time a year many folk would see each other.
On a more serious note, I cherish the memories of seeing those old ladies gather in the lobby of the dining hall for prayer after supper. While the youth met under the tabernacle we could hear them praying for the encampment.
One of my fondest memories is being privileged to sing in a quartet in an afternoon service with Rev. H.R. Gunby, Clifford Payne and Brother Nelse Strickland. I believe it was 1951 and the song was "Kneel at the Cross".
When the committee began to work on this project they inquired about pictures. I explained that in those years cameras were very few and film hard to afford and develop. Thus, pictures were scarce.
Many modern conveniences have arrived in our culture since the camp was begun 100 years ago. Let us never forget the toil and tears our forefathers invested in that sacred place. May God grant that we will pass on to future generations the same Godly heritage that helped shape our lives.