Chester Martin: Vacation Bible School, Brainerd Methodist Church, 1945

Friday, August 17, 2018 - by Chester Martin

We are very fortunate to have these three pictures made during Vacation Bible School at Brainerd Methodist Church in either 1945 or 46. It is my strong belief the year was 1945, as I remember being puzzled as to how someone I knew was able to get film in that year. World War II was just ending and film was very, very scarce as yet. Only newspapers and a few other such businesses could obtain that highly rationed product, so essential to the "war effort".

All  three of these pics were taken with a simple "Brownie" type camera, and on different days during the VBS week.

The photos you see may not be in the exact order as my descriptions, so I will describe each picture individually - as with No. 1 - the large-group. It shows the entire group of almost 60 individuals - both kids and adult teachers. Too many to even attempt a listing of names. I will just use this shot for its historical value, mainly, as it is looking north from the Brainerd Methodist parking lot (which was parallel with Brainerd Road). The Brainerd Cemetery is in that clump of foliage in the upper left, and the old Boy Scout cabin would be well out of the picture at left center. The Clarence T. Jones Observatory would be even further out of the picture on the hill at upper left, at west end of the cemetery. The church's former Parsonage would be 'way to the left of the group, facing Brainerd Road. The large group is posing on the southern edge of the church's parking lot - probably about where the south wall of the new sanctuary is located today, and parallel with Brainerd Road.

Those are Sunday School rooms in the background - the "new wing" of the main church building, which is visible at the right. Enjoy yourselves trying to figure out the make and model of the old car, and then focus on the Sunday School wing. See anything strange there? YES!  I think you do!  --- WINDOWS ARE OPEN - a phenomenon long missing from American Life since air-conditioning changed everything! See how some windows are open at the top (to let the hot air escape), while others are open at the bottom (in case there MIGHT be a gust of cool air to blow inside)? (In those days you went outside to get COOL - just the opposite of today! Indoors was always at least 10 degrees warmer!)

In spite of my reluctance to name names, I will point out one dear recently departed worker in the Brainerd church - Ethelwyn Sylar (Arnold), who is shown second from left in the back row.

Photo #2 shows my class in that same VBS group, in front of the old sanctuary (still standing) facing Brainerd Road. I am second boy from left, and peering over my shoulder is the good lady responsible for all three of these photos. (It was her camera). She is the mother of the second girl from right. Next boy became a well-known area dentist.  If anyone is interested in the names, I will try to help you if you contact me, but in this age of "privacy" I am afraid to list the names publicly. Please notice that there is a girl - almost invisible - directly below me at the very bottom of the pic, not to be overlooked. The original of this pic has all the characteristics of having been developed and printed at home, which would account for its uneven quality. I think the "war effort" caused many people to get involved with "do it yourself" photography, as commercial photo developing places were temporarily out of business.

Photo #3 is my group - either on another day - or another year. Not sure. Anyway, if anyone wants me to identify anyone in those pics, I'll be glad to make the attempt.

Please note that when these pictures were taken the church was still known as Brainerd Methodist Church; it did not "unite" with the United Brethren for many years. 

(Chester Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )


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