After two terms in Japan, we returned to Edith’s hometown of Winchester, Virginia, on furlough but intending to resign from the field. On the morning of December 20, 1960, we flew out of warm and sunny Los Angeles and landed in freezing Baltimore, where the snow was over three feet deep. Only one runway was open for use. Edith’s brother Bill Claytor met us and drove us through snowy landscapes from Baltimore to Winchester.Our furlough home provided by the First Baptist Church was a large old house on Amherst Street across the railroad tracks from the reputed childhood home of Dick and Harry Byrd, perhaps the most famous of Winchester’s sons. The latter was now a used car lot.
Across the street was the old Winchester railroad station which was now a farm feed store. This is where we bought the chicks which played an important part in our life that year. The snow in the yard of the furlough house was so deep that we didn’t know where the road to the back of the house was. It was six weeks before we could see the ground and discover that we had been using the wrong place for a driveway. We have pictures of playing in the snow and of the snowman we made. The snow made that Christmas seem like a real Christmas even though we didn’t have time to decorate or prepare for Christmas celebration that year.
Winchester was a good place to live. It was small enough to be homey and large enough to be exciting, but living there after two terms in Japan was culture shock in reverse. Japan had come to feel like home to us, so I felt somewhat like a foreigner in the USA again. To make it worse, furlough deputation was a chore. I found no real joy in telling about the work in Japan, which had involved so much pain and stress for me personally. I dreaded going out to speak when the Board assigned me to speak, and did not seek such opportunities myself.
The children were excited about being in the USA and in Winchester. Life was certainly more ‘normal’ for us as a family than it was in Japan. The kids had good schools and were learning to feel somewhat like Americans. I remember some really good family times during our time there.
Despite the positive aspects of living there, including relief from the heavy responsibilities I had borne in Japan was a relief, I was not a happy trooper because of the way my missionary life had come to an abrupt end and I had no idea where my life would go from now on. So the years in Winchester were a mixed bag. I enjoyed living there and had more time to spend with my kids. Our marriage was not as critically in trouble because this was Edith’s territory and she did not have to be entirely in my shadow.
I had some really good experiences during those years and did not experience the sense of being cut off from my bearings as I did later when we resigned and came to live in Winston Salem. For one thing I was able to pastor the small country church at Gore, Virginia, and later to teach at James Wood High School, as well as work at First Baptist Church, all of which were good experiences where I was in my element. These years in my memory seem almost detached from the rest of my life.
Two special memories of my years in Winchester were related to my teaching at James Wood. I was not prepared to teach math since I had not studied math since my first year in college in 1942-43 and it was never one of the subjects I especially liked or was good in. My students were from grades 8 to 11 who had to take math and geography to graduate. This meant that they were not the best students in the School. I had to study hard every night to be able to understand enough to teach the next day’s math lesson. My goal was to teach students rather than subjects, so I tried to get to know each student personally.
I had always received respect because I was a Reverend, but I didn’t tell my students I was a preacher, so that I would have the chance to earn their respect. I remembered that the teachers who had helped me most had been facilitators rather than commandants in the classroom.
One student was known to be a problem. He challenged me to try to get past his reputation and become a good student. I bragged on him when he did well, but let him know that misbehavior would not be allowed in my class. I even took him to the principal’s office once to tell the principal in the student’s presence that I would not allow him to stay in my class unless he behaved. In the end he told someone that I was the best teacher he had ever had.
Another memory from my half year teaching at James Wood is of a girl student who was legally blind. Because of her disability she had been advanced each year without actually passing the work. I did not believe this was doing her a favor so I had a talk with her. I told her that I would not pass her unless she did the required work, but I would do my best to help her by allowing her to take oral tests and recording classes so she could study them by ear.
She wanted to be a missionary, so I told her what was required of those appointed. I told her about the blind school in Virginia and suggested that since she could see to some degree, she would be a great help to blind students. Her face lit up in a smile, and she later applied and was accepted at Fishersville school for the blind. The last I heard she was doing very well there and enjoying being a missionary to the blind.
We lived on Amherst Street until our official resignation as missionaries. It was an industrial area. Below our house was the Amherst Diner, and a filling station. Across the street was a shopping mall with a bank, a grocery store, and other shops. Amherst Street was the main east-west thoroughfare in Winchester so it was heavily traveled. There was a very large yard area behind the house for the kids to play and a large house for us to spread out in.
There was an old shed on the property where we kept the male chicks we received from the feed store at Easter. We raised them until feeding them got too expensive and then had them killed to eat. This was a traumatic experience for our children who acquired fowl attachments. It reminded me of how my mother used to get attached to the chickens we raised so she couldn’t bear to kill them herself, leaving her men-folk to do the dastardly deed. Fortunately, mom did not mind cooking the chickens.
We ate a lot of chicken at our house, which was good preparation for my becoming a preacher later, at least according to preacher jokes like the following.
- One Saturday night, a man is said to have mused, ‘I like fried chicken and I’m a little lazy, so I think I’ll become a preacher.’
- A preacher in town for a weeklong revival stayed at a home where his hosts served him fried chicken three times a day. On the fourth day he remarked to his hostess: ‘I know preachers are reputed to like fried chicken, but aren’t you overdoing it a bit?’ She replied: ‘yes, but they are dying faster than we can eat them.’
After our resignation took effect, we moved to Henry Avenue, in a residential area less convenient for shopping but with many more neighbors.We had some big snows there, too. One day I was teaching at James Wood High School while associate minister of First Baptist Church. I remember going to school on a warm March morning wearing spring clothes. On the way home that afternoon it began to snow. In fact it snowed for two days and piled up enough to cover up the car and sidewalk. We built a large igloo in the back yard and a maze through the snow, which the kids played in. I have experienced big snows so rarely that I remember each one well.
In 1963 I was associate pastor of First Baptist Church, under Dr. Ed Clark, who had been pastor for 26 years. He wanted to prune me to be his successor, but his style of pastoring was dictatorial and didn’t set too well with me. I felt I was little more than his kaban-mochi (briefcase carrier) and that role doesn’t suit me well. In the end, Ed and I both realized that neither he or I wanted me to stay on at First Baptist.
I had been toying with the idea of applying for reappointment as a missionary to Japan, and Edith and I had talked about it. One morning as we were having our devotional (Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”) Edith expressed the feeling that something had really hit home with her. She said that she had been feeling “led” to go back to Japan and to Hiroshima, for her to work in English.
This came as a complete surprise to me, albeit a pleasant one. We began to make overtures to the Foreign Mission Board about reappointment. Though there was some hesitation on their part, we were approved for reappointment. I wrote to Loyce and Gladys Nelson to tell them of our interest in Hiroshima, where they had served. Loyce wrote that this would please them very much, as their hearts were still in the work there, despite their having to resign for health reasons.