the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Some Christmas Memories

I have a favorite uncle who is thirteen years older than me. I remember as a child Bruce taking up time with me even though he was a big teeager and I was just a little tyke. (we didn't go around in a horse drawn carriage, but we did ride the trolley in Atlanta.) Anyway, I see very little of my uncle these days, he has his family and I have mine, and you all know the other excuses that we all try to use to asuage our guilt over not staying in touch. This year, he sent me some Christmas Memories. They are simple stories about simple and ordinary people. I love them, the stories, I mean. They reflect the ordinary every day events in our lives that, contrary to the traumas and other melodramatic events, are the essence of real living. Here they are, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

McDonough, Georgia

Today, thinking of past Christmases, I’m reminded of a Christmas Eve when I worked at the Journal-Constitution. I worked in the promotion department and part of my job was to run the recorder and keep the time each afternoon while a sports writer from one of the papers would do a five-minute interview of a sports personality for use by WSB Radio’s six o’clock sports program. Every day, Monday through Friday.

One Christmas Eve our department was getting off early, but I had to stick around. The Constitution writer who was supposed to make the interview tape for that day (I can’t remember his name) was late. I went looking for him and found out he was gone for the holidays. I told the only guy left in the department, Jim Carson, what I needed. He had done a lot of those interviews and knew all about them. He said for me to go on home, he would get somebody to interview and take him to WSB and make the recording there. So, I left. Merry Christmas!

The next working day I called the guy in charge of the show at WSB, and he said it was the best interview the papers had ever done. Turns out Jim couldn’t get anybody to interview, but he was calm about it and interviewed Santa Claus, changing his voice for Santa’s words. He proceeded to ask Santa what he was going to bring this athlete and that coach, etc.


Of course, there was only one time I saw a real snow-covered Christmas. That was in Bavaria. Sgt. Youngdeer invited me and two other corporals to his home away from the base in Augsburg for a good old-fashioned Christmas dinner. His wife cooked a great feast.

Through the snow-covered streets Dave Hill, a Crow Indian, and I walked over to Youngdeer’s apartment, a couple of miles from our billets. Billy Daugherty, an Okie from Oklahoma, had spent the night and helped Youngdeer assemble his kids’ toys. We enjoyed a great dinner and played a dart game his 11-year-old son got for Christmas.

As we walked back to the barracks, we went through a real downpour of snow. Not a blizzard, just a real thick, slow-falling snow. I could hardly wait to write my family about that Christmas.


One year, when I was a sportswriter, I had to cover a basketball tournament at, of all places, Sylvan High. Forest Park was the only team from our coverage area in the tournament and it was held during the Christmas holidays and the final game between Forest Park and Sylvan came up on Christmas Eve.

I went to cover it and planned to scoot on over to Greenbriar Shopping Center to get Marty’s present after the game. In those days I always waited to do my shopping on Christmas Eve. Her’s was the only present I had to buy. She took care of everybody else. Well, things ran late and I did not know that the stores, which had been staying open till midnight, were going to close at 9 p.m. I got there about five minutes to nine. I found something for a present in that short time and also some wrapping paper. Boy! That was close.

The schools decided not to hold a tournament that would end on Christmas Eve ever again, because the players had too much else on their minds to play basketball. I think the score was something like 26-20. Sylvan won. Forest Park was the only white team in the tournament.


One Christmas Eve when we lived in East Point comes to mind. I did not work for the paper there at that time. That would come much later. Marty and I still thought of East Point as part of Atlanta. We never went into the downtown area. But, one Christmas Eve I needed a haircut badly. I went over there, found a barber shop open and got a haircut.

I had been a reporter and a columnist for the weekly in E. P. for a long time when an old “shine boy” who had been an East Point resident for nearly all his life died. A lot of people called me to tell me about him. They said he knew more people in East Point than anybody else.

His body was on view at one of the local funeral homes for all of Sunday and the mayor and all the city council, the bank president and practically every other big wig in the city turned out to pay their respects. They told me he had been known as “Old Folks.” A lot of people didn’t know his real name, which was Clifford Brannon. I began to call other people and got a pretty good story for my column.

He had not worked at a barber shop in East Point in recent years. At the time of his death he was working for a shop in Cascade. They told me a lot of good tales about Old Folks.

One was about the E P police chief going to a barber shop and arresting him on Christmas Eve, saying he was committing a fraud with a cardboard box tacked to the wall with a sign saying “Old Folks Christmas Box.”

The chief had received a tip from somebody on the phone, who said a man had just put some money in the box and asked who the old folks were. Old Folks told the chief “Aw, everybody knows Old Folks.” The chief locked him up, kept him in jail about an hour before letting him out with a big laugh. I wrote up his story, including everything I had been told, but it wasn’t until it was published and I had a chance to sit back and look it over in the paper, that I realized I had been a part of that story.

When I had gone to East Point’s barber shop that Christmas Eve, I was the guy who put money in the box and asked about the old folks. I remembered thinking it was odd that the two barbers, the shine boy and a crowd of customers looked at me very strangely, but said nothing. After that story appeared, I ran into a long-time retired colonel on the sidewalk and he told me that Old Folks had been in his National Guard outfit that was activated in World War II (This would have made that outfit integrated, because Old Folks was black.) and would not have had to go to war if he could have proven his age. The colonel said Old Folks was over the maximum age then, but he couldn’t prove it. He had no birth certificate. Other people I would run into here and there told me I should have called them, because they had some stories to tell about Old Folks.


Love to all, and to all a Merry Christmas,

(Bruce Bailey)


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