Saturday, April 3, 2010


In High school we had an accounting and typing teacher by the name of Don Keller or PTL Keller as we called him. He and his family had moved to Canada and immediately brought a new "flavor" to our community. He earned the name PTL Keller by his incessant use of the phrase "Praise The Lord" after any and every remotely encouraging statement by each preacher or teacher that came along and was given the opportunity to speak on a public platform. He would holler this out in a loud voice often leaving one wondering if he actually had listened to what had just been said, or simply waited for pauses, so that he could interject his line into the equation for all to hear. A plea for recognition perhaps?, maybe an insecurity?, a sincere heart? . . . I was never quite sure, but it was downright annoying and left the listener seriously doubting the sincerity from which this line was delivered.

PTL Keller drove a massive boat of a car to which he had fastened very large signs to all four doors using sheet metal screws. These signs proclaimed fire and brimstone for the unbelievers in our little town on the prairies. A veritable rolling billboard for Jesus, just the sight of him approaching in his boat was enough to send one scurrying for the nearest hiding spot. Another thing that PTL Keller had taken on himself was the notion that he could not only help with the enforcement of the rather legalistic rules, but he could also assist one's conscience by taking you aside at the most inconvenient times, speaking to you about the error of your ways and then having a word of prayer with you before letting you off the hook.

If there is one thing that I couldn't stand as a grade 10 kid and certainly have a very low tolerance for today as a 49 year old is manipulation by those in authority. Makes me doubly mad if that manipulation has a spiritual component attached. Such was the case with teacher PTL Keller.

There was a group of us guys that hung out at the home of a girl who was in school with us by the name of Arlene McComish. Arlene, her older sister, two older brothers and their parents were the most welcoming, hospitable human beings you will ever meet. No matter what color, shape or size, all were welcome in the McComish home. There was a TV and pool table in the basement and there were always lots of people there visiting upstairs with her parents or shooting a round of pool with her brothers. Not only was this a welcoming home, but none of us guys had a pool table at our homes and this was a chance for us to brush up on our "worldly" skills.

In those days pool was frowned on at PBI as being a worldly game and so no staff home that I knew of had a pool table. Because Arlene lived off campus and her folks were not on staff, these standards did not apply to them. As a double bonus, they also had a couple of televisions which were also on the list of "have nots" for those of us associated with the college. This was a great chance to watch some hockey or see a movie and maybe even just get a glimpse of the news.

One night a bunch of us were over at the McComish home and our cars were all parked in the driveway and up and down the street. There was no drugs, drinking or smoking going on, no sex in the back rooms or in the attic - just a bunch of young people having a good time visiting, playing pool and watching TV. I recall Arlenes parents and grandmother being there that evening. Some girls from the high school dorm had come over to join the party and at a reasonable hour every one made their way back to their places of abode.

We had a 2 minute break between classes in high school and as the bell rang, I was heading down the hall to my Biology 10 class with Mr. Unger. Right outside the library (or as we called it - "Harry's Lounge") I was abruptly accosted by PTL Keller. Evidently he'd had the "boat mobile" out on a mission the previous night and just "happened' across all of our vehicles at the McComish house. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Steve, while you were over there playing pool, thousands of people were dying and going to hell" - My goodness! I had never thought of that angle. I knew that PTL Keller was an avid golfer and that as soon as the weather would allow it you could find him out on the local course chasing that little white ball around. Quick as a wink, I said - "Mr. Keller, I understand that you like to golf?" - "love to golf" was his reply.

Now my father would call this cheeky, others would say it was disrespectful, and I am not here to make excuses for myself, but I said "Mr. Keller, while you are out on that golf course, thousands of people are going to hell". PTL Keller was so shocked, he didn't know quite what to say, so he said, "Let's have a word of prayer." I then said, "That would be fine, you lead us." He bowed his head, closed his eyes and right there in the middle of the hall, kids streaming past on both sides, he began to pray with a very loud voice. I sized up the situation and thought I probably should be getting to class, so off I went leaving PTL Keller standing alone in the hall. There he stood head bowed, eyes closed, praying away as if his life depended on it. As I was taking my seat in biology, the doors closed and the class began. There was a knock at the door. You guessed it! Mr. Unger said, "Steve, Mr. Keller is here and would like to have a word" . . . but that is a story for another day.

© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.


  1. I was late to more then one class because of PTL Keller! Although there is no doubt I could have used the prayers, I got really good at avoidance tactics! And by the way, I have told stories about PTL Keller more then once in the 30 years since we graduated PHS. I find your staff-kid perspective very interesting, Steve, keep up the writing! =)

  2. Augh yes, an encounter with Mr. Keller. As I recall it was over the button on my shirt....that was undone of course. Funny, I haven't changed my ways much.

  3. Mr. Bienert would of loved this piece of writing just as much as we do Steve!
    For a certain good friend and I it was 'naughty' radio station CKXL stickers (we'd gleefully picked these up at an A&W in Calgary weeks before) that we plastered on that big car one Halloween night. Even small time criminals get their thrills! It was too cold for many of them to stick properly, but we still got to hear his indignation in typing class the next day.

    I'm sure he mellowed with age and probably has a quieter, but deeper faith today. I'd like to think so anyway.

    Keep the stories coming!

    ~ Beth

  4. Oh man, that is too funny!! Only cuz all of us at Prairie can relate a little too well. Mr. Keller once stopped me to ask me if I was trying to look sexy. A strange greeting by any standard! I think his approach was to come up with some ridiculous surprise statement so in the confusion you are left with nothing to say. Yes, it was the dreaded second button that was undone.

    I thought perhaps some of my memories had gotten more extreme in the remembering but your story today confirms how strange he was.


  5. Perhaps it was out of mercy for PTL Keller that my leaving Prairie took place before he got there.... but that said, it surely seems as if I missed a major recreational opportunity...

    Bob S.

  6. And some trivia for you.........CKXL 1140 that used to broadcast all that evil worldly music that Mr. Hart would teach about, is now a Christian radio station! Go figure!!!

    Bill Chapman
    Coaldale, Alberta

  7. Uh... yeh... he used to grab my butt with one hand while the other did his prayer wave. And he would also call me to the back of the classroom and invite me over to hot tub with him... said I could wear his wife's swim suit. PTL!

  8. ...interesting that no one commented after my comment....

  9. I'm a fellow Gideon with Don Keller today. He has mellowed (no large boat with signs plastered on it) but I don't think his fervency for the Lord has waned. He eats & breathes to witness for the Lord, travelling around the world to pass out Bibles & find opportunities to witness. I've run into him memorizing scripture & praying with his worn prayer card list at 5 am while walking my dog.

  10. I just read about Mr K. I don't know him but I feel for Deanna.... he has/had no business grabbing her or inviting her to his hot tub. It is so easy to "appear" spiritual, but often it can cover darkness. I feel his darkness was exposed with Deanna. I am very careful and wary of those who are so ready to point out sin in others and appear so spiritual. Often it is a coverup. I do not know this man, but Deanna's experience speaks loudly.