John Boone Hardy and I were invited to the pastor’s office. Pastor turned to John and me and said, “I spoke to your dads before calling this meeting. You may have noticed our country is at war. The US Secretary of State has ordered all American missionaries and their families back to the United States for their safety and to avoid any major incidents.
The staff of our Ridgecrest Assembly was to be comprised primarily of missionaries’ sons and daughters. None have US driving permits. Billy is 16 and John turns 16 in June. The Assembly has accepted each of you to work all summer and your fathers both agree this will be your decisions. I know Billy works for the railroad some evenings but his dad said the job would be open at the end of the season. J. B. Smith has authorized John Boone to take time off.”
John Boone asked “Can we still be in the church choir when we get back?” The pastor said “Yes. Your director told them about your singing capabilities and Dr. B. B. McKinney from Nashville will be your director at Ridgecrest.”
My mother and John’s mother both went shopping for our trip at Goldie’s and Carp’s stores. They bought 30 sets of new underwear for each of us for the whole summer and four pair of tennis shoes. Ridgecrest issued t-shirts and short dress pants.
Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly is about 30 miles east of Asheville, NC and about 20 miles west of Mount Mitchell, the highest Appalachian peak, an hour from the most impressive of estates in the Western Hemisphere, Biltmore. Biltmore consisted of three castles and was purchased by billionaire families and reconstructed by workmen from the area. . As staff, we ushered the folks to Biltmore Estates Castles and their magnificent gardens which stretched over the horizons. We provided transportation for the visitors and were servers for all the meals. The Assembly, in 1943, had located in a beautiful hamlet in the foothills. There was a large hotel, dining facilities and convention-sized meeting rooms. We all felt the dining room was a part of a plantation mansion. We liked being called “Yankees”. Summer sessions at Ridgecrest ended on the last day of August each year.
The last Saturday of June, 1943, we had our Sunday School breakfast in our basement dining room at church. Dad and Dr. Hardy had two large hams sliced for the church and there were biscuits and red eye gravy (ham drippings) with black coffee, plus gallons of juice. Everyone was in a happy mood including the Maplewood police.
The side streets were blocked and John and I followed two high school majorettes to the train station. Everyone was following us and we felt very important. Lots of hugs and prayers. John said, “The whole church is here!” We loaded up and had prayer. Two Maplewood teenagers off to the deep south. Three train changes. Sleeping on the floor of the train so the soldiers could use the seats.
My closest friend and Ridgecrest companion, John Boone Hardy, passed away in 1997 in the hospital. His only son, Jay Hardy, is now owner of J. B. Smith Funeral Home, Manchester and Big Bend.
Billy Jones, Jr. – Age 93 Typed by Barb.
There is a building a lot of us would like to have again. There’s magic in those old train depots. Thanks again to Bill and Barb Jones for allowing us to enjoy these scenes from Bill’s life that otherwise would be lost.
I sure hope everyone is doing OK with the social distancing. I don’t really like it much but I would like getting the coronavirus even less. It is easier to take when it’s sunny and warm. Have you noticed that people on the street seem friendlier? Maybe that will be one of the positive outcomes of all of this turmoil. Let’s hope so.
See you on the sidewalk.
Doug Houser April 10, 2020