Memories of Oak Grove
and a Special Thanks to David Church
by Harold Kent Straughn
Elbert and Everette Johnson
The Church of Christ in Oak Grove. It was originally the Methodist Church and is now the Seventh Day Adventist Church
Hello to members of the Oak Grove Historical Society
If possible, could you pass along my sincere thanks to David Church for his study of the Hunt, Frost, and Adams families?
David’s genealogy brought back many memories for me.
My grandfather is Ovia A. Johnson; my mother is Edythe Johnson Straughn; Mom’s siblings are Mattie Jane Johnson Steinhauser, Howard Johnson, and Wylie Teel Johnson. Grandfather Johnson’s brother is Everette, who married Stella Hunt, and our Aunt Stella was a beloved family member all her life.
All my Johnson, Straughn, and Steinhauser families are buried in plots near each other in Oak Grove Cemetery.
My Aunt Mattie was very active in Oak Grove life, such as writing a column for the Oak Grove Banner about the Mecklin-Glenside communities. (I was always thrilled to be listed whenever I visited the farm, along with my sister Janet and brother Keith.) Aunt Mattie was also very proud of being named Miz Lickskillet one year and kept her award prominently displayed.
As a child in the 1940s I can remember attending the Pleasant Valley Church. I can recall Grandfather Johnson teaching and leading the hymn sings. I can even recall that communion wine (grape juice) was served in glass jars, one for each side of the center aisle. Communion bread was pie crust made by one of the ladies in the church. Both before and after communion, a white cloth covered the table, and when it came time for the offering, members came forward, one by one, and placed their gifts in a plate under the cloth (I think so as not to embarrass those whose offerings were modest).
Later, in the ‘50s, I recall when some Pleasant Valley members purchased one of the two Methodist buildings in Oak Grove, the stone one on the west side of Main Street. I watched with fascination as members remodeled the building, such as sawing a hole in the choir loft to install a baptistery, and constructing indoor restrooms to replace the outdoor toilet.
While the remodeling took place, the congregation met in the basement, where my Grandfather Johnson (we called him Grandpa Dad), would teach a class and lead singing. He had a beautiful voice and seemed to know how to pitch the hymns so people could reach the notes (singing was a cappella).
I grew up in Kansas City, but spent summers during the 1940s and 1950s with my Aunt Mattie and Uncle Bill Steinhauser on their farm north of town. So I attended the Oak Grove Church of Christ many times, where Aunt Mattie taught all the children, using cutouts of biblical figures to attach to a flannel graph board to illustrate the stores.
I remember Marie Hunt Church and her children, especially Isaac Reu, whom we called Reu. He was the same age as my older brother and sister, Lowell and Marilyn, and they spent time together. I also remember Reu’s sisters Ruby and Norma Lee, who became a missionary to Japan.
Other church members I recall: Walter and Kelcy Alley and their sons John and W.D. John married Virginia Lee and preached for the congregation for a few years. W.D. and his wife Margie had a daughter Shirley and sons Billy and Bobby, who were my age.
I was in the homes of many of the church members, especially on Sundays for dinner.
Grandpa Dad and his wife Lizzie lived in town, in a white frame home on Main Street just south of the stores. On their oak dining table, covered with a cloth, there were always cookies and other tasty tidbits that I could reach under the cloth and enjoy.
I also remember many farm families out north, as well as Joe and Ruth Story and their daughter Phyllis who operated a gas station on Highway 40.
My memory tends to toward vivid anecdotes rather than general impressions, and that’s why I recently completed my memoirs following that literary style. Many of my memories are about Oak Grove and the farm, so if anyone is interested in making a copy of my book available to those interested, or placing it in the local library, it is available from the publisher: http://www.blurb.com/b/8016447-anecdotes-that-transform-softcover
Many thanks again to David and to all members of the historical society for keeping precious memories alive, not just for me but for all with Oak Grove roots.
Harold Kent Straughn