MEMORIES OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
The New London Congregational Church was a very important part of my childhood. My parents were active members and staunch supporters. With pride I watched as my father acted as an usher and passed the offering plate on Sunday mornings. He served on various boards and probably did odd carpenter jobs, which were needed.
Mother was active in the Women's Society and acted as clerk at the annual meetings. The large gray ledger, which she recorded those minutes, must be in New London somewhere. Mother was also a Sunday-school teacher -- mine when I was a second or third grader. Our class we held in the balcony at the rear of the sanctuary and my memories are of being very careful not to get too close to the railing. It seemed so far down to the floor below. At the time of my baptism on April 29th, 1919, the Rev. C.H. Lemmon was the pastor.
After a few years, he was followed by the Rev. W.H. Baker. He and his pleasant wife were an older couple with a daughter who was a teacher or principal in the Cleveland School system. There may have been other children, too, but they never lived at the parsonage. The Husung family came next, as I remember. His former pastorate was in Mingo Junction. He and his wife were a great asset to the church. They had twin girls, Ruth and Eloise, and a son, David, was born later. It was during his pastorate that I joined the church in 1930 when I was twelve. After a few years, this family moved on to a church in Mansfield. While there, he died as the result of a hunting accident. My parents kept in touch with his widow and family for years. I wonder where the children are now? About this time the church was in trouble and was struggling to keep afloat. I do not remember what caused this failure or dissention among the members. Of course, the Depression must have been a great factor. The Rev. Martin and his family where the last family to occupy the parsonage. They were an older couple with grown children and a daughter, Luella, my age. I spent quite a bit of time at the parsonage and enjoyed the prestige of being a friend of the "preacher's daughter."
The demise of the church was a sad time and affected my parents almost as a death would have done. So many years of their lives had revolved around that congregation. In fact, they resisted becoming members of the Methodist Church for years, although they attended and supported it. I think they always hoped the Congregational Church might be revived. Early memories of the church activities include the annual money-raiser bazaar and supper, which were open to the public. This was held in the late fall, and the church basement would be steaming as a result of the cooking which was in progress in the kitchen. The delicious odor of baking chicken and the foods assailed one as they entered the door from the frosty outside. There was much confusion with the children under foot and busy mothers manning the kitchen and waiting on tables.
Then there were the annual programs. On Children's Day and Easter, the Sunday-school teachers presented their pupils in skits, musical numbers and recitations. Since I was not gifted as a singer, I learned a "piece"; which was rehearsed at home until it was letter-perfect. But, on the day, I remember the butterflies in my stomach as I faced all those people. The Christmas program was a real production with the traditional manger scene, bathrobed shepherds and tinsel bedecked angels. So, the excitement was back stage (which was really a curtained-off area behind the sanctuary) as each participant waited his turn to go down the aisle. When the program was over, Santa Claus appeared with his candy treats. These consisted of various hard-tack varieties and maybe one or two cheap chocolate creams which were all packed in a brightly-colored cardboard container (similar to an animal cracker box) with a cloth tape handle.
There were serious times, too. The Sunday I joined church was special, as I realized that I was making a serious commitment. Another impressive ceremony was the ordination of Rev. Husung, as he had recently been graduated from the Oberlin Seminary, I believe. I remember the sun streaming through the stain glass windows to the south and how this lit the sanctuary on many Sunday mornings. There was an adult choir, which was accompanied by the sometimes-wheezy hand-pumped pipe organ. Macie White played the piano, too, and her daughter, Ethel White Hodges, was the accompanist for the Sunday-school hymn singing.
In trying to recall the members of the congregation, I start with those children who were baptized at the time I was. They were Billy Ann Coon, Helen Jean Robertson, Irma Naomi Saxton, Perry Richard Holland Jr., Vernon Pershing Johnson and Attasa May Heinzerling. These well-known citizens were members: namely, Leroy Baker (banker) and his wife Minnie and daughter Marilyn, Ira Landis (school superintendent) and his family, Ed Palmer (attorney), Dr. M.E. Roasberry and his family, the L.A. Barrett family, Lena Thomas and her children, Clarence and Winnie Burk and Boyd, the Claude Bracy family, Fred and Ethel Buzard with Betty and Bill, the Ralph Coon family, H.R. and Mae Drake, Alta Ford and children, and J.E. and Edna Luxon and their family.
The Arpasi children attended Sunday school, as did many more whose names escape my memory. It would be interesting to compare memories and impressions with others whose religious training started in that church. I feel that a good foundation was established for us and that the Congregational Church was a positive influence in the community.
Story by Ruth Hubbard