I once read an article about a church service where you didn’t even have to get out of your car to attend. While the preacher sat in the doorway and spoke into a microphone, inside the car you just tuned into a radio station to hear him.
You could come in your bathrobe, your old jeans or your bathing suit. No personal preparation was necessary, you could skip the shower and not even brush your teeth if you liked.
Of course, these hot summer days when you have to leave your car running for the air conditioner to work, you might burn up a few gallons of expensive gasoline doing that.
Inside-the-building attendance at Sunday School and worship services were a given for my family when I was growing up, and Saturday nights were focused on preparing for Sunday. The radio was usually on (no television yet in our house), but whatever program we listened to, we were busy getting ready for Sunday church attendance.
After supper, mama went through our closets and dressers and carefully chose, pressed if necessary, and laid out our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. She meticulously selected the right shirt to go with my brother’s dress pants, the right crinolines to go with my frilly dresses, and the right clean socks to go with our Sunday shoes.
Mine were white Mary Janes, of course, and any stray scuff marks left over from last Sunday had to be eradicated. There were always stray scuff marks, unfortunately.
That meant me pulling out the bottle of white shoe polish and the sponge applicator, a sheet of old newspaper, and covering each shoe with the chalky white liquid not once, but twice.
Once would be enough for me, but not for mama. “I can still see that streak,” she’d comment, pointing to a faint offending mark on one toe. I’d probably acquired it kicking the back of the pew in front of me the previous Sunday when my imagination was wandering in a far-away land someplace.
I managed pretty well to get through Sunday School and the hymn singing, but the preacher’s sermons sometimes let my attention drift right out of the window. After all, I was only a little kid and there was no such thing as Children’s Church in those days.
So scuff marks were usually present on the toes of my white shoes and a second coat of polish was essential to gain mama’s approval. Of course the first coat had to dry completely first, meaning I could do something else in between, usually also related to Sunday.
One such activity might be shucking corn for Sunday lunch, on those Sundays we didn’t go to the Boston Cafe after church or drive out to Mimi’s house. Or I might be called upon to peel a few potatoes to be transformed into potato salad, for the same reason.
If my assistance wasn’t required with food prep, I might get to help my brother with his also-scuffed shoes, brown instead of white, being sure his paste-wax polish didn’t wind up all over his fingers and arms.
Once everyone’s clothes and shoes were ready and neatly laid out, us kids finished up the evening with shampoos and tub baths. Mama finally let us listen to one more radio program from the relative safety of our beds, the bedsheets protecting the cleanliness of our beings.
By this time we weren’t permitted to do anything else, such as playing with dolls or cars – we might get gritty or grimy and wreck our just-bathed condition.
Sometimes I think fondly of all the steps our family went through on Saturday evenings to prepare for Sunday mornings, and we were not the only ones in the 1940’s and 50’s.
Mama and daddy had a principle about church attendance: You should “Give of your best to the Master,” which meant being clean and neat, trying to pay attention, singing when everyone sang, praying when everyone prayed, learning the Bible verses and lessons, sharing handshakes and hugs with the other people, and living according to the scriptures as best you could from day to day.
I’m not sure we would have benefited as much from a drive-in church where you could skip most of that if you liked.