Just ring the bell and run

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By W.B. Evans

– Editor’s note: W.B. Evans is on the mend after a recent at-home mishap. “I climbed a ladder and fell off, simple as that,” he said. “I ain’t as young as I sometimes think I am.” We are reprinting this Remember When column on Vacation Bible School that was originally published in the June 29, 2008, edition of The Lancaster News.

No sooner had the final school bell rung for our last day at Chesterfield Avenue Grammar School, the bell at First Baptist Church peeled, summoning all of us to Vacation Bible School.
Mama said most folks thought it best to start “Bible school” just as soon as regular school let out while “you children haven’t forgotten how to be nice and calm.”
Nowadays, there is a difference of opinion when it comes to Bible school, or VBS, as many choose to call it.
A lot of churches schedule Bible school smack dab in the middle of the summer so the young’uns will have something to do and break the doldrums many may experience.
If you follow “Church News” in the paper, lately, you would’ve noticed Chris Lucas sure does list plenty of places for children to attend Bible school.
It seems that each one of them has a theme to go with the Kool-Aid and cookies.
Most times, the church treasury kicks in funds for crafts and refreshments. Some may disagree, but gathering the refreshments is fairly simple.
All you have to do is ride over to Walmart, stack a buggy full of snacks, pick up some canned “Co-Colas,” or some plastic bottles brimming with some flavor of sugar-filled colored punch.
Then, you just dump ’em out on a table in the “Family Life Center,” back up, and let the little rascals have at it.
Keep it up for about five days in a row and “VBS” will finally be over till next year.
You know, they stay so busy at Bible school that I doubt if they have time to slip up to the “big church,” pull the rope and ring the bell like we did before making a clean getaway like bad guys in the cowboy movies.
Quasimodo would be jealous.
Bless Pete, times sure have changed.
Simply put, Bible school is Sunday school with a lot more fun thrown in.
During my Bible school heyday (just before World War II started), the Depression was still winding down.
That meant most store-bought goodies were difficult to come by. Even if the local merchants had ’em, few families had the means to buy ’em.
But we didn’t go without.
A few days before Bible school started, church members started turning out big batches of cookies.
And they always tasted good when you washed them down with ginger ale or Penny Drink. We didn’t even mind it when the Penny Drink was too sweet or not sweet enough.
Yes sir, it was a big event at our house, seeing how Mama taught Bible school for years.
Mama was the typical “church worker.”
Since she taught Sunday School, she figured why not teach Bible school, too?
The most active age group was boys and girls under 12 years old.
When they got out of control, they could be guided back with stern looks.   After age 12, that was a different story; sometimes it took a more “hands-on” approach.
You know, I really didn’t mind Mama teaching Bible school one bit, except for one thing.
Since I was under her watchful eye, it meant I didn’t get to ring the bell quite as much as I wanted to.   
Mama said the trick to being a cracker jack Bible school teacher was coming up with some new idea or craft suitable for the age group she worked with.
When combined with some top-notch Bible stories, nothing beats something that you made just for your mama.
But that wasn’t as easy as it sounds, seeing how our craft supplies pretty much consisted of colored construction paper, crayons and white paste glue.
It did get better one year when we made ashtrays from Plaster of Paris for our beaming mothers, but it was kind of messy.
I wonder what would happen these days if a young’un took a handmade Bible school ashtray home to mama.
Yes sir, Bible school was all right.
My own children enjoyed it much more than I did. And today, with teachers having electronic Bible stories, slide shows and such to draw from, it’s probably just as much fun as it ever was.
But still, it’s not as much fun as ringing the bell in big church and running away.