Monday, April 5, 2010

When Carl Asked "The Question" To The Pastor's Wife

Our pastor's wife was the epitome of grace and dignity. She was the unofficial standard of decorum in a rather unconventional congregation. Our church was located in the Guyandotte section of Huntington. Guyandotte was named for the river whose headwaters begin in the mountains of southern West Virginia and empties into the Ohio, just across from Proctorville, OH. It was a settled community before Poage's Landing (which later became Huntington) extended it's borders to include the old town. There had been a skirmish there during the Civil War, and the territory changed hands between the Union and the confederacy several times.

By the late 1950's and early 60's Guyandotte was best known for it's bars, gamblers, bootleggers, ladies of the evening and other colorful characters. Into that mission field, Carl and LaVerne Vallance came to serve the congregation of Thomas Memorial Free Will Baptist Church. Mrs. Vallance served as the "first lady" of the church for over 26 years. She was a wonderful example of grace and purity for all the young ladies there, and was loved by all of the older ladies as well.

Our family was closely linked to the Vallances, from the late 1940's when Dad and Pastor Vallance were both beginning their respective ministries in the coal mining country of Logan County. When we moved to Huntington in 1952, Brother and Sister Vallance had already taken up residence in Guyandotte, so it was natural that our family settled into Thomas Memorial Church. Dad eventually served for several years as Assistant Pastor at the church, and he and Brother Vallance often travelled together, preaching in revival meetings, homecomings, or conference meetings. Dad thought so much of his colleague, that he named our youngest brother, Carl, in the pastor's honor.

The Vallances always liked little Carl. Their own sons were already out of high school by 1965 and Carl was their little darling. His special status, however, was seriously, although only temporarily, damaged when the five year old boy asked Sister Vallance "The Question".

She was talking to several of the older ladies just after Sunday morning services had concluded on this particular Lord's Day. My little brother approached the pastor's wife and began to tug gently on her stylish blazer.

"LaVerne! ... LaVerne!... LaVerne!"

Somewhat agitated, she looked down and said impatiently, "What is it, Carl?"

"Does your underwear have holes in it?" he queried.

Sister Vallance was aghast! With every ounce of her righteous indignation, she scolded the lad for asking such an impertinent and improper question. Yet he pressed on.

"Well, does it?"

"It most certainly does not!" she huffed.

"Well", he replied innocently, "How do you get your legs through?"

The laughter could be heard in the parking lot!

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