17 October 2018

[Ellis Millsaps] - Chapter One: The Belly of the Whale

It all begins with the church. I could say that my family came first, two older parents and four sisters, the youngest of whom was eleven years my senior, but the church and my family were mere extensions of each other.

The church was Atco Baptist Church where my father was the pastor, my mother led the WMU and my sisters led youth groups and sang as a quartet on Sunday. I lived in this church until I turned six and we became another church. Until I graduated high school I averaged attending church at least five times per week.

With the exception of the Little Golden Books my mother regularly bought and read to me (Little Black Sambo comes first to mind) until the television came and changed my world (I clearly remember the day the huge thing was delivered on the back of a truck) the only stories I knew were Bible stories and I knew them well.

With the exception of a few campfire songs my sisters introduced, the only songs I knew were church songs. The movements that accompanied “Deep and Wide” and “This Little Light of Mine” were as close as I came to dance or theater (the Hokey Pokey didn’t come until the television arrived).
I lived in a world where Adam and Eve were historical figures. The Bible was a work that captured the history of the world from creation until the deaths of all the apostles. I believed that Jonah lived in the belly of a whale.

This is somewhat hard for me to envision today. I know there are small children who believe this today, but I picture them living in cults in Idaho.

The Southern Baptist Church in the 1950’s was not a cult as we think of that term. It was and is the largest protestant denomination and it was more progressive than today. One example: the Southern Baptist Convention approved Roe v. Wade when it became law. This was the church in which Bill Moyers was a pastor.

They weren’t down with drinking, “gossip and backbiting,” at least on paper, which brings to mind the old joke, Q: Why do Baptists not fornicate standing up? A: They’re afraid someone will see them and think they’re dancing.

But they weren’t down with dancing especially. After the TV came, my mother who years later wouldn’t let me listen to the Beatles sing “Twist and Shout” because she thought it was so sexually suggestive, showed me how to do the twist because she’d seen instructions on television: you pretend you’re drying your rear with a towel while putting out a cigarette with your foot.

 Ellis Millsaps

Ellis is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved... 

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