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April 10, 2001

Kindergarten church at the Perry Presbyterian church some 70 years ago was presided over by Mrs. A. H. Crawford, shown in the center of the back row in this photo, made in about 1932. Some of the youngsters can be identified. Front row, from left: First four not identified; Arlene Dotts, Jap Dotts, Velva Treadway and Marion Lobsitz. Second row: First two not identified; Judy Pratt, Dean Dotts, next one unidentified, Frances Treeman, Harcourt Thomas, Marie Taylor, and next one unidentified. Third row: First three not identified; Donald Laird, next two unidentified, Charles Lamb, David Thomas, Theodore Hartman, Fred Beers, Hugh Lobsitz, Gene Taylor and Archie Moore. Fourth row: First four unidentified; Mrs. Crawford, Billy Bruce Watson, Robin Johnston and next three unidentified. (Photo from Frances Treeman Hoch.)

The approach of Easter always brings back happy memories of earlier years in the Perry community. Yes, then as now, we had a host of special church services, family gatherings and many Easter egg hunts. In my neighborhood, another highlight was the Sunday afternoon get-together for youngsters and their parents on the spacious lawn at the home of Mr. W.N. (Bill) Stahl and his wife, Anna. They lived at 1002 Elm street where the Perry high school vocational agriculture building is now located. My sisters and I brought home several bunnies and even some baby chicks each year as prizes in the numerous Easter foot races Mr. Stahl had for us.

That also brings to mind the children's program held every Sunday morning at the Presbyterian church. On Palm Sunday the boys and girls would open the adult service by processing down the aisle waving greenery, but on other regular Sundays we had our own service. While the big folks worshipped upstairs in the sanctuary with Rev. David Thomas, toddlers went to the basement for an hour of what they called "kindergarten church." Presiding over it was Mrs. A.H. Crawford, a saintly, prototypal grandmother, who I suspect never spoke harshly to anyone during her lifetime. Usually there were about 25 boys and girls of pre-school age, and we all loved Mrs. Crawford.

She was a gentle, slightly plump lady with a sweet, smile. Looking back now, I think she resembled Opie's Aunt Bee on the Andy in Griffith TV show. Her gray hair was pulled back into a bun and she usually wore an apron over a long-skirted dress. She knew each child by his or her first name and we appreciated that. She would arrive at church each Sunday morning with a large, brown suitcase stuffed with a supply of Bible stories, cutout Bible characters, scissors and paste pots. Her husband, Mr, Crawford, brought her to church in their black, four-door sedan and he carried the suitcase down the basement steps, then disappeared. We assumed he went upstairs to the sanctuary for the morning service.

Mrs. Crawford usually read us a story from the Bible, then we would cut out the pasteboard characters from the sheets she provided. It helped us understand the special message contained in that day's lesson, although at the time we didn't realize it was a lesson.

After all these years I still remember Mrs. Crawford and those Sunday morning kindergarten church days. She brought Bible stories to life for me and my friends who came to kindergarten church each Sunday morning in the old stucco building at Eighth and Elm, where the present Presbyterian church, now stands. I'm not sure, but I think we had as much fun with her as we did with Mr. and Mrs. Stahl on Easter Sunday afternoons on their front lawn, even though Mrs. Crawford didn't give us bunnies and baby chickens.