Since I was little my parents have shared stories of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives and families. I’m visiting them right now, so I took advantage of the opportunity to interview my mom and hear again the story of how she, her parents, and her brothers dedicated their lives to Christ.
My mom wasn’t quite sure of some details but she shared as accurately as she could remember. This first part of the story starts with how my grandparents dedicated their lives to Christ at a young age but then got turned off by religious hypocrisy. In part two I’ll share how my mom and several other family members were saved, and in part three how my grandfather rededicated his life to Jesus.
My grandfather’s mother, great-grandma Girdy, was a missionary in Africa as a single woman. She spoke at least four languages and was the first female to be ordained as a Wesleyan minister. She returned to the US with an African child whom she had adopted. The gossip quickly spread that the child was hers biologically, born out of wedlock.
The Wesleyan church then sent her to a small town in Montana that had more bars than churches. She planted a church and even got up on the roof to nail on the shingles when they built a place of worship. There she met and married a cowboy, Ellis Clocksin. He became my great-grandfather when my grandpa was born in 1923.
Ellis was studying to become a minister as well, but he caught pneumonia and died when my Grandpa Paul was three years old. As a child, Grandpa went from one family to another. At the time he felt this was because nobody liked him, but he later realized that it was because nobody could afford to take care of him but everybody shared the burden after his father’s death. The great depression was soon upon them. Many people were going hungry. Mother’s made a “sugar tit” by wrapping a little bit of sugar in a cloth for their babies to suck on to stop their crying from hunger.
Grandpa started his career as an electrician at the age of 12, when he wired his first barn. By the time he was 14 he knew how to wire a house.
Beat Up In Jail On The Way To New York
The Depression and extreme poverty soon forced great-grandma Girdy to move to western New York State with Grandpa’s two older sisters. She got a job at a Christian college. The plan was for them to move first and then Grandpa would come after them. Grandpa was 14.
Grandpa followed, hitchhiking from Montana to New York. One night he sought shelter by asking a jailor if he could stay the night in an empty cell.
The jailor helped him out, but when his shift changed he forgot to mention the hitchhiking boy to the next person. A drunk got thrown into the same cell with him and started beating him up. Grandpa cried for help but the jailor didn’t realize he was only a guest and wouldn’t let him go.
Meanwhile, great-grandma Girdy in New York felt that something was wrong. She told Grandpa’s sister Marjory “You go to bed. I’m praying for your brud.” (Brother) She prayed all night, not realizing that Grandpa was getting beat up in a jail cell that very night.
Grandpa prayed in desperation “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll give you my life.” When the other jailor returned he explained the situation. Grandpa was finally released and soon made it to New York.
In New York
Grandpa began attending school at the junior College. He was dirt poor, and the Christian kids made fun of his clothes.
This school had an “18-inch rule.” There had to be 18 inches between boys and girls at all times. They had a measuring stick to enforce compliance. Holding hands was certainly a no-no!
Great-grandma Girdy discovered that another staff member was having an adulterous affair and she reported it. Instead of disciplining the staff member who was out of order, they demoted great-grandma Girdy to working in the laundry room, where she was blinded in one eye by lye. She was an ordained minister, but they had the students preach and limited her to doing laundry.
My Grandmother (Bonnie) was from a rich family in Upstate New York. She was attending the college and renting a room from Grandpa’s mom. Grandma had given her life to Christ when she was eight years old at a Baptist church. However, the hypocrisy and double standard at the Christian college wounded her faith. Grandpa was also hurt by his experience with Christians in New York, and a deep root of bitterness formed.
When he got out of school Grandpa started working an electrician job in Poughkeepsie, NY, and then went on to New York City. The letters my mom read show that Grandpa’s mother and sisters were really worried about him when it was in NYC, and seem to imply that he got in with the wrong crowd and started drinking when he was there. Grandpa was a closet alcoholic for many years.
When he returned from New York City Grandpa Paul and Grandma Bonnie started going together and were married in the living room two days before Christmas in 1945. Their first son was born soon after.
Grandma’s parents were big-hearted people who were always helping others, and they welcomed their new son-in-law. Grandpa had lacked a solid father figure for so long, so I’m sure it did him a lot of good when his father in law took him under his wing.
To be continued…