I figured if I stood on tiptoe and reached really, really high, I could carve my dad’s initials up where adults would see them on the corner of our garage.
Free Methodist preachers all seemed to go by initials. My preacher dad was known as W.R. Parks, and everyone who shook his hand could then call him, “Dub‑Yar.” My preacher grandfathers were known as G.B. Ingram and B.R. Parks. I rarely knew the given names of preachers in those generations — only their initials.
It seemed like an all-male club. People used given names for my grandmothers and my mother: Alice Parks, Elma Ingram, Mildred Parks.
I asked the “Growing up Free Methodist” group on Facebook about our ancestors’ initials:
- Karen Lewan — J. C. Hecocks; L. W. Gibbs; F. E. Butcher.
- Joy Shewan — I remember E. O. Smith, Sr., and E. J. Cook.
- Kendell Lockwood — C J Anderson.
- Pam Beeman — E.J. Beeman, my favorite!
- Belva Johnson Post — Rev. K.R. Bertholf
- Deborah Price Horton — E.W. Price & P.W. Price
- Sally Buckta Harvey — J. D. Harvey, my husband’s grandfather
- Sharon Hastings — L.J. Crist, my pastor in Indianapolis
- Debbie Hurd Myers — My dad was Rev. C.D. Hurd
- Mrs. Geo McKay — E.E. Smith in San Jose California
- Nancy Ragatz — E.C. Snyder, my Dad; J.J. Zahniser, my maternal grandfather
- Vianne Dowley Satterfield — R.C. Morell, my grandpa had “circuits” in the Southern Michigan Conference.
- Mim Carne — also easier for the conference to see the pastors more like employees rather than people.
- Brian C. Lockwood — V. J. Anderson, East Michigan Conference
In conference business, dad was referred to as “H. C.”. Fellow pastors and friends called him Harold. People of our generation go by nicknames. I have been Bob from day 1.
Dad was pastor and Superintendent in the Iowa Conference until his retirement in 1982.
My great grandfather went by Rev. J.A. Fletcher and to this day no one has discovered what the “A.” stood for although family lore says he through the the initial in to honour Canada’s first prime minister. J.A.’s brother Rev. Tobias Layman Fletcher went by T.L. and my grandpa Rev. John Wesley Fletcher often was known as J.W. Fletcher. I can think of many more relatives, such as Rev. J.W. Haley, who were mostly known by their initials as well.
Not just Free Methodists
Was it a Free Methodist thing? Started by B.T. Roberts? No, says my good Baptist wife, Vickie: Baptist preachers went by initials, too.
Plus, Vickie reminds me, that generation knew the authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Never mind what I might do to my parents if they had hung “Clive Staples” on me, C.S. might feel the same about “David Warner.” Sally Buckta Harvey mentioned A. W. Tozer.
Presidents and silos and history books. Oh my!
Becky Stephens calls my attention to USA presidents FDR, JFK, and LBJ. And now I remember those blue A.O. Smith silos filled with chopped corn and alfalfa to feed the cows. Martha L Phillips said to check the general culture at the time: The history books did it this way.
So back there in Spring Arbor, standing behind the Lord house, W.R.P. seemed like the right ID for our garage. But when Dad saw my improvement, he said, “Don’t carve on the house or the garage.”