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.

7 comments:

  1. This is great! My first dip into the Memoirs; I am inspired to read more! :)

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  2. boy, this brought back some memories, esp of Paul Koch, Sid Langley, and "Big George" as my dad used to call him! I think some of them are buried mear Mom & Dad.

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  4. Another great story Steve. I have no memory of Albert, but the others for sure.

    I do remember you guys being creative about getting out of study hall. :)

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  5. I remember when your mom's book "Just A Taste Of Honey" came out and was such a success! (I wonder what was in it that made him so angry?)

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  6. I read this a week ago and still find it a little stressful!!!

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  7. Great story, Steve! I remember most of those W dorm residents...especially Big George Bryant. One of my favorite, colorful characters from those days at Prairie! I never did try the gift-giving trick to get out of study hall, though. Interesting!

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