About a zillion years ago, when I was elementary school age, summer just seemed to drag on. Every day was like the next — hot.
There was Little League baseball, but it was only several weeks long, and even then, there were dead hours before practice when bad things could happen.
What about vacation trips? I didn’t live in a neighborhood where folks took vacations. My one-day trips were to visit relatives in New Roads and Opelousas. My Little League team went to Houston once. I was in 10th grade before I ever went to New Orleans, and that was with my junior varsity basketball team.
But there was something else — vacation Bible school, or VBS.
It was a great time because you would meet for a week in an air-conditioned place for several hours. There were Bible verses to learn and preparation for a closing program, along with arts and crafts.
There were two memorable vacation Bible school weeks that I definitely remember because they had an impact on my life.
The first was my time at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, at the intersection of Howard Street, Education Street and East Boulevard in Baton Rouge (now Thomas H. Delpit Drive).
I was 6 years old when my grandmother told me I would be going to Bible school at the church, just eight houses away. Her goal was for me to get some religion. My goal was completely different. I wanted the cookies and punch, sometimes a hot dog, at the end of the day.
On the third day, my grandmother had to take the bus to Big Charity Hospital in New Orleans. I knew she was going, because early that morning, she had prepared some fried chicken and stuffed it in a shoebox with some bread for the bus ride.
She warned me to go to the house of our neighbor, Miss Chaney Mae, after Bible school and not to my cousin’s house in the opposite direction. There was little chance I was going to obey that.
After Bible school, I gathered my butter cookies and punch, left the church and headed across East Boulevard to my cousin’s house. Before I could get across the street, I was struck broadside by a car. I bounced on the pavement, injuring my head and scarring my legs. I dragged myself to pick up my cookies. The punch was a lost cause. The driver scooped me up and took me to the hospital.
I learned a great lesson: Always obey your grandmother. Because I almost got killed, my grandmother waived the spanking. In fact, she bought me a new pair of slippers and pajamas so I looked OK when folks stopped by to visit me.
The second Bible school was at Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church at the corner of St. Joseph and Julia streets. I was about 9 years old. I actually attended because I liked two of the girls there. I didn’t tell them that, but who did at 9?
The cool thing there were the arts and crafts. The boys’ weeklong assignment was to make jewelry boxes out of cigar boxes, acorn shells, glue and spray paint for their moms. I had the task of making two because I had to make one for my stepmother and my grandmother.
It was pretty cool. I had silver spray paint for my stepmother’s gift and a friend let me use his gold spray paint for my grandmother’s jewelry box. This was a great VBS because I got baptized. To be honest, I didn’t really understand the baptism at the time, but everybody else was doing it, so I joined in.
I was proud of myself when I finished the jewelry boxes and was able to present them. My stepmother smiled and accepted hers. I gave my grandmother hers, and she also smiled. I don’t remember my grandmother having a lot of jewelry. I do remember that she put a number of her Cracker Jack box toy collection items in hers. That made it all worthwhile to me.
Maybe one day, I’ll return to a VBS, but how will I beat those?
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.