Author's note: I mentioned recently that I had submitted an article for publication (in a very small circulation historical journal)--and that when the article was published, I would use a few excerpts here. The article has been published, and the journal distributed. So I am not "scooping" myself.
This is the first of these excerpts adapted from the article--the story of how my parents met.
The story demonstrates several things. First, the church in which they grew up is a small denomination with Anabaptist connections. The Brethren in Christ probably had no more than several thousand members at that time, and members went to camp meetings in the summertime. Camp meetings were, then, a natural place for people to meet.
Second, dating in that time and cultural milieu was constrained and quite different from what people would understand today. Most likely, then dating would be referred to as "courting." My father's first move was to ask permission to write to my mother. When she consented, there ensued some years of writing. They did see each other, but infrequently. In a way, relationships developed slowly but also without much exposure to each other.
“Who is that girl leading the singing?”—that was the question that my father David, then a nineteen year old, asked his brother Joel. The two were standing at the back of the tent where their parents were holding tent meetings near Granville, PA. But it wasn’t really the singing that interested David. It was the pretty young woman in the yellow dress. David thought she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen.
A shy young man who had only passingly entertained thoughts of courting any young woman, David was instantly smitten. But his brother Joel in giving his answer also sought to cool any ardor David might feel. “That’s Dorcas...” But, he added “If you’re getting any ideas about her, forget them... (she’s) all sewed up” referring to another young man.
This auspicious beginning might have given rise to an instant romance, but such was not the case. It was not until some four months later that David began to court Dorcas in earnest, when they began to correspond, the only real way to get to know each other given the miles between them.
David had been working on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and had asked off work to help assist his parents in their move. Arriving after the start of the evening service, David slipped in the back of the tent. And that is when he saw the girl in the yellow dress. While he was very bashful, and made no effort to strike up an acquaintance, he made sure he came back the following weekend while the tent meetings concluded.
David's parents were in home mission worked, and were assigned to a mission in Stowe, Pennsylvania. They decided to begin their ministry there with tent meetings, and asked to have the young woman Dorcas assist them. She consented. And David made sure to hitch a ride to visit his parents in their new home, and to see Dorcas. Still, he made no direct contact with her.
It was not until December, 1938 (four months after first seeing her) that he finally worked up the courage to ask her if he could correspond with her. Happily, her answer, when it came, was “yes.”
To be continued...