Janice Herrin Lewis
(Camp secretary for 15 years)
As I think about camp meeting days at the Hortense Camp so many fond memories come to mind.
My first time to go to camp meeting was in 1948 when I was 11 years old. This will be my 56th camp meeting.
As a teenager, I camped some in the old boarding house. I recall the wooden push-out windows, the mosquitoes, gnats, etc. There were no air conditioners. You brought your own fan or just sweated. As young people, that was not a problem because we didn't have air in our homes or cars. Now it just seems hotter because we are spoiled to cool air.
One year I stayed in the boarding house and a heavy-set preacher stayed in there too. He was sent ot the camp by Hephzibah Children's Home to solicit funds for the home. This man could almost rattle the walls with his snoring. It was like an old porch swing with squeaky chains. Needless to say, the other campers had problems sleeping. I was glad he was there only a few days.
I have very vivid memories of all the men leaning on the fence in the lane. These were men who enjoyed socializing more than they liked going under the tabernacle. When the offering was received, the ushers politely passed the plate down the fence so they could at least donate something to the offering. These men heard a lot of good preaching as well. The fence was taken down later on.
I'm sure you have noticed how much it rains during camp meeting. At times it is still hard to hear the preacher if it is raining too hard. I believe the wooden shingle roof was quieter than the tin roof we have now. I have heard the story told about this little boy's school teacher asking the class, "What causes it to rain?" The little boy's quick reply was "Camp meeting".
It seems so many have had bad experiences with "chamber pots". My most memorable time with this was seeing this dear lady who camped in the workers' cottage. Every morning after everyone had gathered under the tabernacle for the morning service, she would go across the grounds carrying her chamber to the old bathhouse over in the corner to empty it. She thought no one would notice when their attention should have been directed to the service and not her. Of course my mischievous mind and eye was watching her instead. With every step she would swing her chamber, and you could see it. This went on until finally we got more rest-rooms closer to the workers' building.
I recall a Rev. Ward who came as an evangelist in 1956-1957. I remember all those train stories he used to make his sermons more interesting. Maybe his tactic was to instill a fear into us. Maybe he used them to relate better to sinners and get them to thinking about more serious things. I still think about this every year when those trains come by during the night services.
I always think of the kitchen, and I remember helping Iris Smith and Lillie in the old dining hall. I just peeled potatoes, washed dishes, and other odd jobs. I was not a very good cook back then. Why cook when they did such a super job?
After I had my two little starved boys (Kevin and Joe), I was in the new kitchen eating dinner with them. Iris and Lillie were the cooks again. Lillie had cooked fried chicken. Much to my embarrassment, I discovered my boys had a plate piled high with chicken bones. To punish them I made them use some of their allowance money to pay for their greed and bad manners. I believe they loved fried chicken better than most preachers. They still say that Lillie could cook the best chicken they had ever eaten.
Before my girls (Karis and Linda) were old enough to camp, they would stay with Ladd (Aunt Addie Lewis) in her cabin. Since they were Paul's "Little Girls" everything was okay what they did. They talk about how some man came and brought a huge block of ice for their ice box. It was so big they carried it with big ice tongs. I'm sure they enjoyed all those snacks they ate from the ice box as well.
Then, when Karis and Linda got older, they got to stay in the boarding house. The most prized room was at the top of the stairs. One year they went early and fixed up their room and evidently someone else wanted it too. When they went back to camp someone had moved them out and gave them another room. As I said, it was the room everyone wanted for some reason. I don't think they will ever forget about being pushed out. Kids do all kinds of things. (Mine included).
One time Karis and Jan Mobley had a room upstairs and Linda and Rena Beard had one. Anyway - late one night the clock radio alarm went off so loud. Sheldon came across the grounds to get it stopped. He finally got Karis and Jan awake, thinking it was in their room, but it was in Linda and Rena's room. They never woke up so Karis had to break into their room. They had the door closed with a string wrapped around a nail. They finally got it stopped. I did not find out about this disturbance until this week. Linda told me what they did.
Through the years, so many people have helped to keep the camp going. Some with hard work, and others by donating produce, desserts, or whatever they had to share with the kitchen. Where else could you go to spend 10 days for $55.00? That's only $5.50 a day for three meals, a room, and insurance. No where except Hortense Camp. Inflation has not hit there. If people did not help with donations for food, they could not do it. God has truly blessed the campers by keeping the price down so more can camp and enjoy the camp.
I have not done as much as some or as much as I should, but I have tried to do my part. I was camp secretary for 15 years, but the time came that I had to let someone younger step in. I don't think some people realize all that the secretary and treasurer have to do. They have to attend meetings, contact workers, send out camp flyers, rent the rooms, keep up with the rent money and insurance on campers, see that the workers rooms are cleaned and ready, and a lot more. Now do you see why you need a young, energetic secretary? The camp president also has a lot of work to do.
I was just reminded about how at the close of the camp one year everyone had left on Monday morning except Mrs. Addie Lewis and Mrs. Pearl Lewis. They were waiting for Talmadge Scott to come back for them after taking a load back to Browntown. All of a sudden, a big rattlesnake came from the bushes and was crawling away. I know God must have kept him hid until all the campers were gone. When things quieted down, he was trying to escape. Would you believe those two feeble old ladies killed him with a hoe? When Talmadge got back they were as cool as they could be. It was just a dead snake. No big deal!
As I reflect on camp meeting days I can see in my "mind's eye" so many saints sitting in their chosen spots. It seems I remember the ones on the left side being the Harrells, Lewises, Robersons, Rowells, Spauldings, and many more. On the right side I remember the Days, Poppells, and others. In the center two sections I remember the Smiths, Lillie, the Jacobs, and the Sapps. No matter where we sat, we heard some wonderful, Spirit-filled messages. If anyone went away without their cups filled and running over, it was his/her own fault. God met with us there.
As we celebrate this 100th year, let us keep working until He comes to take the believers and saved ones home to spend eternity with Him and our loved ones.
Remember to work and give of yourself and your finances so that the camp will continue to grow and that many will come to know Him.