Friday, May 21, 2010

TASTE OF HONEY IN THE FIRES OF HELL

Albert Kitts was, in the words of my father, a "mountain of a man", the type with the build of a middle linebacker with no neck. Kitts, of Dutch extraction, wound up moving to Prairie sometime in the early 60's. He performed manual labor working on the farm and the construction crew. With an accent as thick as molasses, Albert was tall, broad shouldered and strong as an ox. Unfortunately, Albert was mentally unstable which caused serious problems throughout his life.

In the spring of 1982, Albert took it on himself to move back to Three Hills and take up residence in W dorm. This dormitory housed the single staff men. Those characters were material enough for a whole book in themselves. Men like George Bryant who hailed from Georgia. A very large man and bald as a peanut, we affectionately dubbed him "chrome dome". George had a typical southern drawl and was employed as a High School study hall supervisor, where with some creative gift giving of cakes and cookies, one could buy their freedom from said prison.

Earl Latimer was an odd duck who had one room of his little two room apartment chock full of tape recorders, turntables and a sizable record collection. Earl would copy LP after LP and give the cassettes to staff and visiting missionaries, "sharing" his wonderful library with the larger world. This was long before file sharing and downloading was to become an issue. Little did the artists know that in a little town in Alberta, bootlegging ran rampant. Earl could be very gruff and curmudgeonly, but underneath his tough exterior beat a kind heart.

Paul Koch was a small German man who worked on the maintenance crew shoveling snow in the winter and weeding flower beds in the spring and summer. In the dead of winter Paul would be up long before the dawn. Armed with his pick axe, shovels and wheelbarrow, he would make sure that the core campus was free of snow and ice insuring staff and students would be safe from injury should they slip and fall. Paul was a faithful servant who lived an extremely simple life and had very little for himself. With his German accent and a twinkle in his eye, Paul loved the students and they loved him. One day in his older years Paul mysteriously disappeared and no one had any idea where he had gone. He was found several days later face down in one of the boiler plant's reservoir ponds. He had his wheelbarrow and scythe with him and the conclusion that was reached was that he had a heart attack while weeding around the ponds and slipped into the water.

Sid Langley was also a resident of W dorm and anyone who ever met Sid was lucky to have gotten away. Sid could talk the hind leg off a donkey. Sid worked in various jobs at the school and did stints in the Bookroom, nightwatch and maintenance. One summer when I was in High School, I traveled back and forth to Camp Silversides several times with Sid. He was brave enough to let me drive his car which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The problem with Albert moving in to W dorm, was that he was not invited, nor did he have permission to live there. Albert just moved in lock, stock and barrel. He felt that it was his "right" to live there having worked for the school back in the 60's. His presence struck fear into the residents and rightly so; they were very concerned about their new house guest. Big George Bryant was so scared that he took to sleeping in his station wagon at night. Some of the other guys would bar their doors, while others had a hard time sleeping. Clearly something needed to be done. That "something" fell to my father who was a vice president at the school.

Dad had several encounters over the years with Albert. Occasionally during a church service Albert would stand up and start yelling out a bizarre concoction of verses, doomsday prophesies and general hatred and venom directed at the staff and administration of the school. It turns out that when Albert had been working for the school in the 60's, his employment was terminated due to his violent temper and his inability to get along with his fellow employees and leadership at the institute. Evidently Albert hadn't remembered the "forgive and forget" part and was back to make his presence felt.

Because of Albert's history, Dad wisely chose to take another of the vice presidents with him to chat with Albert about his living in W dorm. They made him aware of the fact that he was not really welcome to stay. To say the least, this news was not welcomed by Albert. Dad and his partner took their leave, not really sure what step to take next outside of calling in the authorities. Clearly something needed to be done as his presence in the dorm was causing a great deal of discomfort and inconvenience to the residents. Dad decided to leave it to the next day when the administration would meet and determine the next course of action.

Mom was a fairly accomplished author and had released a book entitled "Just A Taste Of Honey" in 1976. This book, published by Moody Press of Chicago, IL, featured short articles from Mom's life with a brief application at the end of each story. This was the first of Mom's four books along with dozens of articles that she wrote for the Prairie Overcomer. Just A Taste Of Honey went on to sell over one hundred thousand copies making it a best seller.

One sunny afternoon in the spring of 1982, the front door bell rang at Mom and Dad's house. Dad was at work and Mom was lying on the couch in the front room. After coming down with MS in 1976, she spent a great deal of time on the couch in the living room. Mom could still walk, albeit in an awkward teetering way, and she made her way to the front door. Upon opening the door, she saw Albert Kitts standing there, red faced and clearly agitated. Mom was frozen and scared. She had not seen Albert in years, but knew from Dad that he was back in town. Nervously, Mom reached out to the screen door, quietly locking it as she asked Albert how she could be of help. In one quick motion, Albert produced a copy of her book and yelled at my Mother in his thick Dutch accent, "May you have a taste of honey in the fires of hell!". With that he ripped the book completely in half and threw it down on the front stairs. He didn't just rip it down the spine, he ripped the book sideways. Mom, imagining those large strong hands ripping the screen door down and grabbing her throat, was shaking like a leaf. Albert, without saying another word, turned around, marched back down the stairs and left the yard. Mom collapsed on the floor her rubbery legs refusing to hold her up any longer.

After she regained her composure and some of her strength, she was able to get over to the telephone and call my Dad. He came home and was able to comfort Mom and get her comfortable. Later that afternoon, a call was made to the authorities and Albert was no longer a resident of W dorm.

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© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Friday, May 14, 2010

THE CASE OF THE RUNAWAY VAN

I'm not sure if driving habits can be hereditary or if there's some possibility that automobile DNA is somehow transferable. With a less than stellar driving record, my Grandpa Norbo must have had at least some impact on my family and our driving.

One Christmas vacation in 1990, Jonathan was 2, Rob was 3 and Christy had just turned 5. We decided to go out to Abbotsford and visit Cathy's brother and his family. With a 600 mile drive ahead of us, we didn't get away until later in the day. Cathy's folks were driving their car and we were traveling together. We owned a Ford Taurus at the time and because the kids were all so young, we had 3 car seats lined up across the back seat. Driving long distances with 3 small children can tax anyone's patience and we made some effort to make these trips as smooth and painless as possible. This was long before DVD entertainment systems in vehicles was the norm. We loaded up with Adventures in Odyssey cassette packs from the library, brought along some of the kids favorite music, books, drinks and snacks and hit the road.

Canadian winters can be brutally cold and this winter was no exception. Driving through the mountains can be even more treacherous. Just west of Canmore, in a small hamlet ironically called Dead Man's Flats, we decided to stop for gas, potty break and to switch drivers. I filled up the Taurus and went inside to pay. Cathy and Grandma were in the bathroom with Christy and Rob. Grandpa was filling his car at the pump and keeping his eye on our car where Jonathan was sleeping.

As I was paying the attendant, he looked out his window and said, "Isn't that your car driving away?" I glanced up and sure enough, there was the blue Taurus heading out of the gas bar. Looking again, I saw Grandpa in full pursuit, arms and legs flying as he gave chase. I rushed outside and the car was now heading out of the parking lot. In an instant the car came to a halt as it went up over a curb and crashed into a giant snow drift on the service road. Grandpa and I reached the car at the same time. Opening the door, we found Jonathan sitting in the driver's seat screaming.

While everyone was busy, he had unfastened his seat belt, climbed out of his car seat, up and over the front seat, and put the car in drive. This was before you had to have your foot on the brake to put the car in drive. He was then able to steer the car as he stood at the wheel. Narrowly missing a large fuel tank, he landed relatively unscathed in the pile of snow at the end of the road. I carried him, still screaming, back into the station where Cathy was able to calm him down. We then went back to see about pulling the car out of the snow drift. We were very thankful as it could have been much worse. Good for the car companies for adding the "step on the brake" feature, before a vehicle can be placed in drive!

Flash forward to when the kids were quite a bit older and we were getting ready to head out on our summer vacation to the Shuswap Lakes in British Columbia. This was an annual pilgrimage for us and we spent many good summers there with our kids and several other families, at a couple of cabins on the water. It seemed that before a vacation I was often under a lot of stress, trying to get everything done before we left. Calls had to be made, faxes sent, record company deadlines met, Fed Ex packages dropped off in Calgary, all the while making sure the vehicle was serviced and countless other tasks.

The afternoon before we were to leave, I stopped at the post office to drop off a couple of letters and pick up the mail. Parking right beside the building, I figured I could just leave the van running, duck into the post office quickly and be on my way. I greeted a couple of people as I bounded up the stairs and hurried to the back to check our mailbox. As I was exiting the building, Wentwoth Pike said to me, "Isn't that your van driving away?" Wentworth (or Wentforth as we humorously called him) and his wife Dolores were standing out on the steps visiting with another couple. I looked in the direction he was pointing and sure enough there was the green Transport heading directly north on 3rd avenue. I knew Jonathan wasn't with me, so it couldn't have been him driving! Perhaps it had been stolen right in broad daylight?

By now I had taken off running at full speed, mail in one hand, mail keys in the other. This was made somewhat difficult as I was wearing my thongs, or as they're now called,"flip flops". Traveling 170 feet, the van made a sharp left turn in front of Kirk's Sheet Metal and headed across the street. I could see into the front window and there was no driver to be seen, so that ruled out the theft theory. Moving along at a steady pace, it started across an empty lot north of the Victory Church, narrowly missing two telephone poles as it rolled right between them. I was trying my hardest to catch up, but the van was not slowing down. As it motored a full block across the lot it went right between two parked cars that were on the east side of the next street. Having moved another 330 feet, it narrowly missed a parked car which was on the west side of the street. The vehicle went up the opposite curb showing no sign of coming to halt. Straight ahead was a house. With the right set of tires on the driveway and the left set on the lawn it just kept truckin'. Gaining some ground I managed to reach the van, open the driver's door, jump in and slam my thonged foot on the brake just as it was crunching through the downspout. I was completely out of breath and shaking as the van came to a stop, I was relieved to find it hadn't even grazed the house.

The unpiloted van had journeyed a total of 500 feet or 166 yards. I was a decent 100 yard dash sprinter in school, but this had taxed my limits! After I regained some of my composure, I went up the front stairs and rang the doorbell. The son of the owner was home and I tried to explain to him what had just happened. He looked at me as if I had just come from the bar across the street. I offered to pay for the damage to the drainpipe and he said he would explain it to his Dad. Thanking him, I turned to go back down the stairs to the van. Looking up I and saw a small crowd of bystanders at the other end of the field, peering across to view the outcome of my adventure.

I wish I could blame this occurrence on faulty brakes, negligence by the manufacturer or some other mechanical malady, but alas, I think the bottom line was that in my hurrying and stress, I simply forgot to put the van in park when I got out. It's a miracle that no one was hurt, no vehicles harmed and no real damage done. I called the home owner that evening and he assured me that all was well and he was able to straighten out his down spout.

I'm not sure if they keep Olympic records for races with men in thongs, but I just may hold one.


www.prairieboy.com

© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

AND THE WINNER IS . . .

The summer of 1970, a monumental event occurred in the life of the Rendall family. We were off to Great Britain and Europe for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. This was no ordinary holiday and we were to be there for eight full weeks. Mom had been saving for ten years for this adventure and we were excited beyond description. The plan called for us to visit my Grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends in a trek which involved cars, busses, boats, trains and planes. There were several rules for the trip, the main one being that because we couldn't afford porters and didn't have a personal valet, each of us had to carry our own luggage. We needed to be responsible to see that it got loaded and unloaded at each destination. For a seven and nine year old, this seemed like a lot of responsibility. Little did I know how valuable that training would be when I started road managing bands in later years!

We flew out of Calgary on a special charter flight on July 1st, Canada Day. Even though Dad was not in the teachers union per se, he was a teacher and Mom had been able to find tickets at a good price. The airplane was filled with educators and they were in a great celebratory mood as the school year had just wrapped up for the summer. We flew direct from Calgary, Alberta to Heathrow Airport in London, England. The flight followed what is termed the "polar route". Flying over Alberta, Northern Saskatchewan, the North West Territories, Greenland, Iceland and then down in to England, the flight time was about 8 hours. This was considerably shorter than flying through Toronto and then east over to Britain.

Mom had been planning and preparing for this trip since she and Dad had traveled there in 1960. Scheduling, lining up where we were going to stay, who we would visit and what we were going to see involved a lot of work and Mom took to it with great vigor. Long before email and cell phones she did everything by typewritten letter.

Along with all these details there was the matter of wardrobe. Mom was resolved that her little family was going to be dressed for the occasion. After all, this was a chance to represent the Canadian west in all of it's splendor. Some of our relatives were convinced that Dad had gone off into the wild blue yonder and I think Mom set out to disprove these notions.

A very accomplished seamstress, she set about creating the ultimate vacation wardrobe. There wasn't much that my Mother couldn't sew and she was game to tackle just about anything from suit coats to pants, dresses, and upholstery.

For the trip she created a brand new wardrobe. She fancied herself a bit of a conservative fashion diva and emulated clothing in the style of Jackie O, the wife of slain President Kennedy. Fancy suits, dresses and even special hats were crafted for the big event.

Bless my mother's heart, but the wardrobe she created for my brother and me was something out of a TV comedy show. A cross between the Urban Cowboy and a circus clown, we each had a little pair of black cowboy boots with red stitching. These were perhaps the most uncomfortable footwear known to mankind, especially for a trip that involved a great deal of walking. We each had wide leather belts with big brass and faux mother of pearl buckles featuring small guns and horses. Formal looking cowboy shirts with mother of pearl buttons, a choice of string tie or white cloth bow tie and white, ten gallon cowboy hats rounded out our attire. To top it all off we each had a big brown leather trucker's wallet attached by a brass chain to our belt. This was to keep us from being pick-pocketed, although in retrospect, I'm not sure if anyone would have been brave enough to have approached our motley crew. For Sunday dress, Mom had sewn Dad, my brother and I matching plaid tartan suit coats. Talk about blending in! I can't even imagine what our friends and relatives must have thought when we disembarked from that airplane. I'm certain that today we would have been arrested under some type of Homeland Security initiative. But soldier on we did, for eight solid weeks, representing the Great Canadian West.





Back in the day, Air Canada was considered by many to be one of the premier airlines in the world. Along with JAL, KLM and Quantas, Canada's flagship airline, with it's symbol of the red maple leaf in the circle, stood for quality service and first class treatment of it's passengers and staff.

Once we were at cruising altitude the flight crew served up an incredible meal of steak and lobster with all the trimmings. Presented on fine china with real silverware and cloth linens, every passenger was treated to first class service. For the drinkers on the flight, there was an open bar and so the party began. This was quite different from the current level of service on most airlines today. If you are lucky you get a sample pack of nuts and half a glass of pop filled mostly with ice. As far as creature comforts are concerned, if you happen to get a free pillow, it is not much of an improvement on an oversized cotton ball. The blankets, should you receive one, are not much larger than a face cloth.

After the meal was served, the captain came on the intercom and announced that they would be holding a contest for those on the flight and prizes would be awarded to the winners. He then posed two questions for us to answer. The first one was to guess the combined weights of the steward and the stewardesses (now called flight attendants). The second question was to guess how many pounds (not gallons) of jet fuel we took on in Calgary for our flight to London. I am not sure of the political correctness of the first question, but it didn't seem to be an issue in those days.

Our family loved contests and it seemed that as long as you didn't have to pay to enter something it was permissable. As a kid I entered all sorts of contests. In the special comic insert that came in the Calgary Herald every Saturday there were several contests such as Cappy Dick and Tell Me Why. I would enter most of them, diligently mailing in my answers and sometimes even winning. I also entered art, speech and essay contests and occasionally won those as well. Truth be told, I was even excited with the prizes in a box of crackerjacks or cereal! Mom and Dad loved contests, and I remember them winning five small appliances in a Kraft Foods contest. This was for naming a red and white decorated cake for the centennial celebrations of Canada. I think the name they came up with was Snow Flame. I entered a draw in High School and won a pair of goalie skates. Our family was primed and ready for this contest and so we each set to work on our answers. These were collected and we waited anxiously for the announcement of the winners.

After half an hour or so, the captain came on and announced the winners. "On the combined weights question in row 12 seat A, the winner is . . . Ted Rendall." He announced another winner for the fuel question, and then said that they would also be awarding a booby prize for that question as well. "That winner is . . . row 12, seat C . . . Stevie Rendall." My answer wouldn't even have gotten us off the ground. So much for my math skills! After a bit a steward and stewardess came down the aisle to hand out the prizes. I received a very nice Air Canada gift bag with puzzles, books, a little plastic DC 10 model, lifesavers, stickers and other memorabilia. Also included were a set of small plastic Air Canada wings similar to the ones that the Captain and crew wore on their lapels. This set me on the course of collecting wings and I have a nice little collections of wings from many of the airlines I have flown on.

The steward then stepped forward and announced to Dad that the prize he had won was a case of champagne. Dad, a little surprised, informed the attendant that he didn't drink. "Well," said the steward, "Give it to your wife." "My wife doesn't drink either," Dad replied. The guy, looking a little exasperated, then said, "Well then, give it your friends." Dad said, " I don't have any friends!" - just kidding. He said, " I don't have any friends that drink." I think the steward thought because we were all on a charter flight of teachers, a lot of the people on the flight would be friends and could all enjoy Dad's winnings. Such was not the case with us. We didn't know a single soul on the flight. The attendant explained with some urgency that they were required to get rid of the champagne as it had been listed on the plane's manifest and they were not allowed to land with it still in the possession of Air Canada. Dad, not wishing to cause any problems and in the spirit of generous Christian giving, made the attendant an offer. "Why don't I give it to you and your flight crew?" This seemed to satisfy the steward and back down the aisle he went.

Several hours later when it came time to make our exit from the plane we observed the crew looking somewhat worse for the wear. The entire bunch of them had partaken of the complimentary sauce and were barely able to hold themselves together to disembark.

Turns out Dad had a few friends that drank after all!

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© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MIGHTY CLOUDS OF JOY

In the fall of 1982, the Scottish born singer Sheila Walsh was set to headline her own cross America tour. As it turned out it was more like a crisscross of America.

Sheila had something in common with my Father. Not only were they both born in Scotland but they had each attended London Bible College (LBC) in England, now known as London School of Theology. Sheila is a wonderful person and was nothing but a gracious, first class lady the entire tour.

Believe me when I say that this was quite possibly one of the worst tours in modern history. The booking agent had us starting in Oklahoma City and then quite literally going from one coast to the other and back again in an extremely random pattern. We traveled on roads that I don't think were even on the map. An example of how crazy the routing was; I remember one night after a show in Houston, TX, loading out the equipment, getting into the truck and driving the entire night and the next morning and early afternoon to arrive in Panama City, Florida with barely enough time to load in, set up and have another show.

Being newly married, I had been promised by the production company that they would fly me home for a wee break halfway through the ten week tour. Never happened. Probably not the best way to start a marriage, but bless my wife, she never complained. To add insult to injury I was only paid for half the tour in a case of "management blamed the promoter who blamed management" and round and round it went. For this "tour from hell" as it became known, I had enlisted a friend and fellow Canadian, David Brown, to make the journey with me. Dave and I had some great times on that tour and played a good number of creative practical jokes. For reasons that will go unmentioned in this story we chose to do all the driving of the equipment truck on that tour. By placing my briefcase and toolkit in the footwell of the passenger side and adding a pillow or two, one person could actually grab a few winks if you were able to curl up like a cat. We had some great visits as we trundled down the road trying to stay awake. We talked music, politics, travel and religion and listened to a ton of music through the crappy Rollins truck system.

They say that behind every cloud is a ray of sunshine and my ray of sunshine occurred in Chicago on a day off. We were all staying at the house of promoter Paul Emory when I received a phone call from Mark Hollingsworth, Petra's manager. Mark was calling to see if I would be interested in working for Petra on a small tour they had coming up that December in Florida. For a Canadian kid whose normal winter existence was snow and ice I thought this sounded great. I said a thankful yes and joined Petra for the "Not Of This World Tour".

Sheila had an incredibly gifted backing band on that tour. Perhaps the hallmark was a British born guitar player by the name of Norman Barratt. Norman had played in a band called Gravy Train and was considered by many to be in the tight circle of guitar greats. This would include the holy trinity of British guitar gods, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. The man could make a geetar sing! The tour was very spotty in attendance from a handful of people at some venues to a few thousand at others. Even though Sheila had been in America as part of other tours, performing as the opening act for Phil Keaggy and others, everything rested on her shoulders as the headliner on this tour. She was promoting her War Of Love album. Sheila's handlers at the time were trying to position her as a sort of Christian version of Sheena Easton, another Scottish pop singer. The band could really pull off the sound and Sheila delighted her fans and won over many more.

On that tour we had a pyro show to go along with the lights and smoke. Dave became chief pyro tech and there just may have been a time or two when we "accidently" loaded up the pyro with a little extra shot of powder, leaving black circles on the roof of some church and quite possibly singeing the hair on Sheila's head and scaring the liver out of the band.

Unlike myself, pound for pound Dave Brown is as strong as an ox. Dave is a git 'r done type dude. Many was the time some of the crew and volunteers would be standing around hemming and hawing on how to lift something, and Dave would just say "get out of the way" and lift it himself. We figured out a pretty good working method and by the end of the tour we were humming right along.

To start the second set, Sheila and the band would enter a darkened stage and the song would kick off with the thunder of tympani. The mighty kettle drums were played by guitar player Norman Barratt. After about 8 bars he would switch over to his guitar for the rest of the song. These tympani were stored in large wooden crates that alone weighed a ton. Put the tympani into them and they became a literal pain in the backside. Today this intro would probably be sampled or triggered by the drummer, but I suppose it did have a visual effect and kicked off the set with a sense of drama. To say that Dave and I became a tad resentful of those crazy tympani would be an understatement. To our minds they were a complete waste of our time and space. Every show we had to unload the crates, take the drums out, set them up, pack them back in and then reload them into the truck. All this for 8 bars! In addition to the tympani we would also set up a Yamaha CP 80 electric grand piano every night. This piano, in its case, was very heavy and needed to be tuned every show by a qualified piano tuner.

Somewhere toward the end of the tour, the concert was being held in a very large church, that would now be referred to as a mega church. This church had a complete daycare facility, pre and elementary school and covered a huge area. That day, after sound check, Dave and I went on a small exploratory trip of the mega plex. For some reason we stumbled into the nursery department and discovered, to our delight, several giant containers of baby powder.

That night at intermission we snuck out on the darkened stage and gave the tops of those dreaded tympani a generous coating of baby powder. In the dark the powder blended perfectly with the white skins of the drums. Intermission came to a close and the band took their positions on the dimly lit stage. The idea was that the band would start with a big roll on the tympani and as the lights came up, out of the fog would walk Sheila. This time we had a little surprise in store. As Norman took his place behind the timps, guitar slung over his shoulder to one side, he took the mallets in hand and BA . . . BOOM he hit the drums. Up from these large kettles rose a white cloud of smoke shimmering in the light. He struck them again; BA . . . BOOM . . . RRRRRRRRRRROLL. The crowd, thinking this mighty cloud was a special effect, roared their approval. By now Norman was sputtering and squinting as he glowered and looked around for the culprits of this hi-jinx. He carried on through the eight bars, powder rising the entire time, grabbed his guitar and played with a vengeance not heard before on that tour. That night as we loaded the drums a small smirk of satisfaction spread across our faces . . . sorry Norman!


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© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

FLAT ON MY BACK

In 1985 I helped Prairie start a record label. We weren't really starting something as much as we were reviving a vibrant tradition of recording that had started in the 1940's. I had tremendous hopes and dreams for what this could become. There are several key Harvest Music stories which I'll relate at a further date.

My office was on the east side of the third floor in the G.R. Imbach Centre. The years at Harvest Music under Prairie were some of the best years of my life. Working for next to nothing, there was an energy and excitement that we were creating something special. We started out with a bang and who knew how far it might go? The low wages didn't seem to matter that much and the idea that a group of us were working toward a common goal seemed in many ways to be reward enough.

For years Prairie had designated staff and students who would give visitors campus tours. These tours would take in many of the buildings and departments and included a lot of facts and figures that were truly impressive. Back in the heyday one of those tours may have covered information something like this:

"The Institute has 94 buildings on the campus and 16 at the farm on a total of 450 acres. These include 6 student dormitories, high school, grade school, chapel, a large tabernacle, high school auditorium, print shop, laundry, gymnasiums, fire hall, infirmary, storehouses, barns, garage and carpenter shop. 2 buildings are especially devoted to the music department; another building contains classrooms, administration, library and faculty offices. A fine large dining room seats 1300, together with kitchen facilities, banquet room and bakery. Another building contains the office, correspondence school and book room. Then there are the smaller buildings, including butcher shop, workshops, and many staff homes and apartment buildings. From the pleasant and well lit print shop come the monthly pocket sized magazines, The Prairie Overcomer and The Young Pilot, of similar format. There is also a half hour weekly Gospel broadcast heard on several stations in Canada and the United States.

Underground storerooms, out of reach of the below zero temperatures of winter, are well stocked with potatoes, beets, carrots and cans of preserved fruit. The large buildings and staff homes are steam heated from a well equipped gas fed central heating plant. The pipes are laid in tunnels, equipped with electric lighting so that repairs may easily be made in the coldest weather. The Institute now has its own power generating plant at a saving of $1,000.00 per month.

It takes 3 and a half whole beef in the winter to provide the two main meat meals each week in the school's dining room. Clothes are washed for over 1,000 people each week in the campus laundry. During the school year the bakery makes 325 loaves of bread a day. This requires 50 tons of flour (1 1/2 railway carloads) each year.

Prairie has 750 acres under cultivation. Grain, of course, is the principal crop. Much of the vegetable needs are supplied from the school gardens. As many as 150 tons of potatoes, 27 tons of carrots, 6 tons of beets and 6 tons of turnips have been harvested in one year.

The school farm also has a dairy herd of 55 cows to supply the 1,000 gallons of milk consumed each week during the school year. 1,650 hens have produced 21,450 dozen eggs a year. Sometimes these eggs are frozen and stored in the school freezer for use during the winter months.

As many as 4,500 people, including students and guests, gather at the annual Spring Conference. No charge is made for room and board, for President L.E. Maxwell says that whenever he has thought of making a charge these words have come to him: " Freely ye have received, freely give." He says that God has blessed this plan throughout the years.

The enrollment for 1972 - 1973 is as follows: 826 in the Bible School; 217 in the high school, and 240 in the grade school. Working staff numbered over 200." *

I have had some degree of back problems for many years. This discomfort probably has its genesis in my years of road life on the many tours I was part of in my younger days. I am certainly not Hulk Hogan and for the size of my frame I probably should not have been lifting road cases, lighting rigs and speaker enclosures in the manner that I did. Many were the times when we were in a hurry and facing load-in or load-out deadlines. I should have lifted these items with more care and with some help, but that's the way it goes and as they say, "the show must go on".

One morning my back was giving me particular troubles. I decided that I would just lay flat on my back in my office and try and relax it just a bit during lunch. Often laying on the floor would bring some relief, so I figured I would give it a try. Noon hour came and I locked my office door, turned out the light, closed my window blind, pushed my chair into the desk and lay down on the floor between the back of my desk and the window.

Around 12:30 I heard a key being inserted into the lock on my door and voices in the hallway outside. As the door opened, I heard a someone say, "This is one of the offices of Harvest Music, the school's new record label. Come right in." I heard the sound of feet entering my small office and the voice explaining a bit about the artists that were signed to the label and other pertinent information. I was frozen! Should I pop up and say hello? . . . should I just keep quiet as a mouse and say nothing, hoping they would all leave? . . . what to do? I didn't need to answer the question as the group, in an attempt to all fit into my office, were now edging around my desk. Bingo! I looked up and there stood Jim Crites. Jim was head of the IT department and was doing double duty that day as a tour guide. I am sure Jim was as surprised as I was. A bit flustered, he then decided to introduce me to the group. "This is Steve Rendall. He runs Harvest Music." He gestured at my prostrate form lying on the floor. I can't even imagine what those people must have been thinking. I made an awkward attempt to stand up as I said a lame "Hello" and muttered something about my back problems. The group looked at me as if to say, "If this is the guy that's running Harvest Music, they're in deep doo doo".

As it turned out . . . we were! But that's a story for another day.

www.prairieboy.com

© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.


* Excerpts taken from; "With God On The Prairies" and
"Prairie Bible Institute - What it was . . .What it is!"
© Prairie Bible Institute

Saturday, May 8, 2010

ELVIS COMES TO SCHOOL

For many, many years Prairie was quite literally a cultural backwater. Some would argue that it still is! With no television and the use of the radio frowned on other than for gospel programming and news, there were not a lot of "outside" influences that penetrated those hallowed walls. At the beginning of the school year a couple of creative and overly energetic individuals decided it would be a great thing to have Elvis enroll in the Bible School. Yes . . . that Elvis . . . Elvis Presley. They might not be able to listen to his music, but they could attend school together. So at registration that fall they proceeded to enroll Elvis into various courses and assigned him a room in the dorm.

Classes began the following Monday and as the attendance chart was passed around these guys would sign on behalf of the missing Elvis. Every day a duplicate copy of one of the boys homework assignments was passed in under the name of Elvis Presley, K Dorm 121. Many times Elvis would receive a better grade than the originator of the homework! One day, in Miss Ruth Dearing's class, she called on Elvis to open the class in prayer. With some quick thinking, one of the guys said that Elvis was feeling ill that day and was in the infirmary. That seemed to satisfy Miss Dearing, and as hard as it is to believe that she didn't know who Elvis Presley was, she seemed to understand and asked another student to pray. She asked the student to remember Elvis in his prayer and to ask the Lord for his speedy recovery. She must have kept careful notes because several days later she asked Elvis to pray again. Once more the answer was given that he was still in the infirmary. Miss Dearing, concerned that he was falling behind in his studies, remarked that he must be very ill as he had been there at least the better part of a week. The reality was the boys were probably tired of having to copy an extra set of homework every night. What had started out as fun, was turning into a lot of hard work!

After class, Miss Dearing feeling very concerned about her ill student, inquired with the nurses at the infirmary as to how Elvis Presley was feeling and when he was expected to be released. The nurses informed her that they were not aware that Elvis was a patient in their infirmary and suggested that perhaps she had made a mistake on the name of the student. Miss Dearing was not one to make mistakes, so she began her own investigation, eventually leading back to the fact that the room the guys had assigned to Elvis was actually the garbage room in the dorm. There was not a soul living there except maybe some silverfish and a few mice.

That day Elvis was expelled . . . he had left the building.

www.prairieboy.com

© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.