November 20, 2004
More Presbyterian Memories…
Continuing now with the reflections on a life of Presbyterianism in Perry, Oklahoma....
The Presbyterian Church manse, where the Pastor and his family lived, was the home of the Rev. and Mrs. David Thomas from 1919, when they came here, until 1946, when he retired. It was located approximately where the present Church Fellowship Hall now stands. There was a two-car garage at the east end of the two-story house and it was used to store a lot of things from the church, including a ten-pinalley with automatic pin-setters. I am not sure that it ever worked, but it was well cared for by the Thomas family. The Pastor's study occupied a room on the second floor of the Manse. Mrs. Eula Thomas, the pastor's wife and a former missionary to India, also prepared devotionals and other study material there `midst the clutter of books, papers, a typewriter and a large roll-top desk. Some of the furnishings were daintily hand-crafted and were made in India
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas had two sons. The older was David Sleeth Thomas, and the younger was Harcourt William (Corky) Thomas. David and I were born just a few days apart and we pretty well grew up in each other's yard. We were best friends all the way through high school until we graduated in 1941. David then went to Park College in Missouri and I went to work at The Journal as a fledging reporter.
Because the Manse was just next door to the old pink stucco Presbyterian Church, our members expected the Rev. Thomas to stoke the church furnace in the winter and to have the entire church toasty warm by the time church school classes began. In the summer, he opened the beautiful stained glass windows on the east and west walls of the old sanctuary to capture any stray breezes that might be abroad. There was no air conditioning while I was growing up, but the Newton Funeral Home and Davis Funeral Home kept the church supplied with paper fans to provide a modicum of relief. We thought we were comfortable until the August heat arrived. Then the Church took a holiday and members were urged to visit the Church of their choice. The Thomas family took their vacation that month.
If Mr. Thomas objected to stoking the furnace or any other myriad jobs asked of him by the congregation, he never said so. Being the gentleman that he was, he would never have dreamed about complaining. He evidently believed such things were simply part of his ministry.
Tragedy was not unknown to the family. While he counseled others when Death or misfortune called, Mr. Thomas lost Eula, his helpmate, in 1948, soon after his retirement. David, my good friend and the older Thomas son, was killed in action in Germany during World War II. Mr. Thomas survived them all, but he too passed away in 1955. Harcourt survived until a year or so ago, but now he, too, is gone.
Sad thoughts, but pleasant, too. Knowing the Thomas family and being in the Church that they loved is comforting to me on several levels. I believe that in many ways their ministry lives on today, and I am thankful for having had the blessed opportunity of knowing all of them.