The summer of 1947 went like a bolt of lightening. After the senior trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico I had to vacate my usual quarters at Mary’s and Georges’ house since George and Zylphia needed the house. Mrs. Smith was renting rooms out as I mentioned. She had lost her husband to some robbers he had stopped as they were fleeing through Morton. There is a web page called “Officer Down Memorial Page” which can also be found by typing in ODMP in the search engine and add the name of Deputy Sheriff DeWitt Talmage Smith. You will then get the story of this senseless act that took her husband’s life several years before I moved in with Harvey Hammonds.
The things that stuck out in my mind that summer was how dirty I got working at the filling station as compared to my previous jobs as a theatre projector and how hot it was that summer. The story of Harvey showing me my side of the bed (dirty) compared to his side of the bed has impressed me to this day.
I do not recall much preparation for going to college. Did I take any entrance exams? No. Did I send in any applications. No. Did I send in any deposits? No. Did I want to go to college? Yes. My father had drilled into the heads of his children that you did not need to go to college unless you were going for a specific major or purpose. I did have a purpose. I wanted to be a preacher of the Gospel of Christ. I had been advised to go to Freed Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee by brother Foutz. That seemed specific enough to me so my mind was set on going to Henderson, Tennessee a few weeks before school was to start and look for a place to live and work.
The summer of 1947 in Morton, Texas was a lonesome summer. I did continue going to church and be active in the few preaching jobs that were coming my way. I had to find rides from my friends but a lot of them were on the crop harvest band wagon so to speak. I was glad to see the end of summer recess coming to and end.
About two weeks before school was supposed to start at Freed Hardeman College I packed a big trunk and a smaller suit case and caught the bus for lands unknown. I had never been out of Texas except for those trips to Ruidoso. This bus trip was about a 36 hour trip it seemed to me. I was worn out from sleeping on the bus and changing buses at Texarkana.
After arriving in Henderson, Tennessee I had a taxi driver take me to the local hotel. The manager was very friendly and he told me that he had an employee who had just quit working for him and I asked him what the job entailed. He explained that this young man had sleeping quarters in the basement and his job was to put coal in the furnace at certain times during the night. I told him that I was planning to enroll in the college and wondered if I could apply for the job. He thought it would be a natural fit. We were going to talk about it further if I could get enrolled at the college. That was on a Saturday when I arrived.
The next day was Sunday and I went to the Church of Christ close to the college. It was a nice service but the people did not seem to be too friendly. No invites for lunch. They did say that there would be no evening service that Sunday since the young men going to the college were not back in town yet to enroll and do the evening preaching. That disappointed me a great deal. I decided to go to the Baptist Church that night but did not like the loud piano playing. I was a little disappointed with my first full day in Henderson, Tennessee.
Monday morning I walked down to the college campus to see about enrolling. There was an information desk with a young lady sitting there and I asked her who I should see about enrolling. She was a very polite young lady and she said “there goes the registrar. You should talk to him”. I caught up with the registrar and he gruffly said “I can’t talk to you now. I am going to a meeting”. I turned around and looked at the young lady. She had heard the rebuff as well and was holding the palm of her hands up in and apologetic fashion but did not give me any alternatives.
So this was Freed Hardeman College and this was Henderson, Tennessee. Not a very good first impression. I went back to the hotel and the manager was understanding. In fact he was the only friend I had made in Henderson, Tennessee. I headed back to Morton, Texas. I talked to my friend Byron Willis and he suggested that I might try Eastern New Mexico College in Portales, New Mexico. They had a Bible Chair there and I could get a good deal of preacher training while getting a degree in liberal arts, what ever that was.