BOB’S FBCH RECOLLECTIONS
I was hired as janitor at First Baptist in February, 1964. I was a sort of runaway weighing all of 117 pounds. The Reverend Jim Ledbetter explained my duties which began with bundling up palm leaves which had fallen the night before, an exotic task for a mid-westerner. Pastor Ledbetter and I soon became good friends, and I have never met a man who more embodied what it means to be a Christian—no dogmatic bombast, just a quiet, unassuming man of faith. I tried to do a good job and initially people noticed the difference in cleanliness. Of course people quickly become used to things being cleaned up, and then only notice when they’re not. I received the munificent sum of $125 a month, for which I rented a room in a basement apartment that Jim had scouted out on Old Waialae Rd. in Moiliili.
I was admitted to UH in Spring, 1965 and then usually cleaned just on weekends right before church. I quickly became friends with a very loving congregation. The fellow I felt the closest to was Ray Keuning—he and I ushered together countless times and this Iowa Dutchman was just a super nice guy. I had many discussions with Bob Hamilton who was very bright, a good administrator with a great sense of humor—he and his wife Pat were really pillars of the church. Others that I got to know well included Jim Ledbetter’s musically talented wife Faithe, and their children—Karen, Tim, and Greg. I even babysat sometimes for them at the pleasant parsonage on Amau Street in Kaimuki. Other friends included Jim’s church secretary Lana Walters, Rodney Lum, a delightful guy named Bill Paul, Lunetta Miick, Anita Lupton, and Rado and Glendeane Tadich who had two beautiful daughters—Deanna the oldest and Denise, the younger. There was a wonderful older couple named Leonard and Dorothy Nelson and they took pity on the skinny janitor and often took me along to wonderful brunch buffets at the Outrigger. Another couple that invited me to their home for lunch were Ralph and Martha Lance. Martha was just a radiant, lovely woman who always regarded me with a mix of affection and bafflement.
As janitor, I could use a rag, a push broom, and a vacuum cleaner, but was not much of a fix-it person. One time I was given some kind of solvent for mopping the nursery room floor. Somehow it just came out gooey, and the next morning the hands and knees of the toddlers were filthy black and green from crawling on the floor. On another occasion, I forgot to heat up the water for the baptismal the night before. The next day, Rev. Jack Knighton was baptizing some young sailor who was afraid of water (go figure) and Jack really had to talk him into it. You should have seen how animated the kid became when he hit that ice cold water. Everyone in the congregation thought that the spirit really was moving. I never saw such a quick baptism.
One of my unassigned duties, but a pleasant one, was greeting island visitors who often stopped by on Saturday to check out the church before Sunday. One time this older couple from Iowa came in and were exclaiming about all the colors in the church sanctuary. I was told to explain that the red, brown, black, white, and yellow symbolized all the races and that we welcomed them all. The woman then noticed that the door handles to the narthex were surrounded by purple. In one of my more whimsical moods, I told them that Pastor Ledbetter believed that there is extraterrestrial life on Mars and that Martians are purple. The woman paused a second, and then said, “Well Fred, I think it’s time to go.” They weren’t there the following Sunday.
Despite my custodial deficiencies, I was asked to teach the junior high Sunday School class. I had extraordinarily bright, inquisitive kids in that class—three that stood out were a lovely, quiet, thoughtful girl named Rhoda Moore; a decidedly less quiet but intellectually inquisitive girl named Cindy Lance who really made the class a challenge (one that I welcomed); a fine, good-looking young lad named Rudy Miick. A typical weekend—I’d arrive at the church sometime mid-day Saturday and clean the rest of the day and on through the night—just me and the gekkos. I’d frequently break for supper and eat at a great little restaurant called George’s next to the old Civic Center on King Street. I turned on the TV in the Fellowship room to keep awake—usually old movies interspersed with commercials for Diamond’s Cars. As the dawn came up, I walked down Pensacola to a bakery for some malasadas, then hoofed it all the way to my digs in Moiliili to study the Sunday School lesson, get dressed, and run all the way back to church by 10 AM.
There were wonderful young married couples in the church. One of these were Bill and Carolyn Van Heukelem. Bill was a marine biologist. Carolyn was quiet but had a great sense of humor. We had a Christmas pageant one time and had a baby doll for the baby Jesus. Carolyn was Mary. When she wasn’t looking, I’d fixed it so that one eye on the doll was shut and the other opened. As she looked down at the manger, “Mary” could hardly keep it together. I had ceased my janitor duties by 1966. In 1967, a wonderful, serious scholar named Ray Kusumoto and I created a group for young adults called Kappa Lambda. We really did have great fellowship and my future in-laws, Red and Audrey Schwegman, practically adopted the whole group. They included, among others, the McFeaters girls—the energetic Wanda, and her quieter sisters, Pat and Maureen; Bruce Edenfield, Karen Knudson, Fred Barr, Bob Jones, Karen Ross, Carol Solliday Lois and Brenda Cunningham, John Dawson, Doyle Adams, Carol Peterson, Dick Waas, Annette Glazer, Helen Larson, and most importantly for me—Audie Schwegman. Audie and her family first came to church on July 4, 1965—I was greeting in the lanai that morning and suddenly became very attentive. Audie returned to the mainland, but came back to Hawaii and we were married in the church on January 25, 1969. By late 1969 we lived in the small white apartment building next to the church on Pensacola. I was Superintendent of the Sunday School until 1970 when I left to go to graduate school in New England. We have lived in Milledgeville Georgia since 1987 where I continue to teach in the History Department of Georgia College. Audie and I have two children—Julia and Rob who both live in town, and, to date, four delightful grandchildren. My dear Audie passed away in 2013 and have since married a wonderful woman named Barbara Rowe.