Paul Jenkins stories

Paul Jenkins
Paul Jenkins

Yesterday I mentioned the unpublished books my Dad wrote about the family. These were largely written in the 90s when Dad was in his late sixties. But before that(1989)  he seems to have first written a family chronology for his Uncle Connie and Aunt Ethel Roeder. Uncle Connie (Conrad) was brother to Dad’s Mom, Dorothy. Dorothy had two brothers and seven sisters.  Like Dad’s Dad she was the eldest sibling.

Interestingly this was much more conversational in tone. Dad was a published writer and was used to tightening up his prose and being quite self-conscious of his writing technique. This is obvious throughout the books I mentioned yesterday. But this earlier one is actually more interesting to me because Dad is less self conscious about his writing and more involved with the actual content.

Here are the first of excerpts I thought I would put up on the blog.

Moving out of the South

“The day that we arrived in Flint, Michigan was [the day of] President Kennedy’s assassination [Nov 23, 1963]…

Steve was thirteen and entering Junior High School. Mark was five and finishing up two years of  Day Care and Kindergarten. The family was in for some new adventures…

The big sadness of our move to Michigan was the loss of very dear friends in Greeneville. We were to discover the contrast between the very affectionate Tennessee people and the more cool but stimulating people of the cosmopolitan General Motors city of Flint. The people of Greeneville could not understand our move, and I was really unable to put into words the changes that were taking place in me.

The racism we had hope[d] to escape was in many ways even worse in the north than in the south. Few of the people in the church had even met a black person, and those who had moved to Michigan from the south had carried with them some of the worse kinds of racism. We began to see that racism was neither a northern or a southern problem. It was a human problem!”

Paul Jenkins, The Jenkins Chronology [unpub]

After Dad died I received a phone message from Maxine Humphreys.  She was one of those “very dear friends”” who did indeed remain constant in their affection and connection with my parents throughout their life. She was a colorful local radio announcer. Sort of a newsy gossipy type. I was friends with her sons and they all attended my Dad’s church in Greeneville. I have a memory of going to the radio station early one morning with her and her sons and waking up several radio people who had slept on the floor of the studio rather than stay at home and get up early to come to work.

Dad struggled with the idea of racism his whole life. He lived out his beliefs in Flint when he was part of a minister’s organization that was so concerned about police brutality (very racist) that they stationed a minister in the elevator that ran between the parking lot where the police cars arrived and the rooms where the suspects were charged and questioned.

police-brutality.jpg police image by VictorG0909

It was in this elevator that most beatings were thought to take place. It was at this point in his life that Dad became one of the first ministers of his denomination (Church of God) to wear a collar. He wanted people to know he was a cleric so they would be less likely to attack him at demonstrations or in that elevator.

priest.jpg

Dad was raised by his mother and father to treat all people fairly.

“[W]hile my mother was away in Baltimore, Dad brought in an elderly black lady to help with the housework. It was to be one of my first encounters with the southern ‘race barrier.’ Dad had baked some beans–an unusual event in itself–and when we sat down to eat, he invied the black lady (we called her a ‘colored’ lady then) to join us at the table. She was terribly embarrassed and vehemently declined. A colored lady to sit down with white folks? It just wasn’t done! She ate her beans on the back porch and we ate our in the kitchen. It was confusing to a fourteen-year-old boy raised to ignore race or color.

Paul Jenkins, The Jenkins Chronology [unpub]

The year this happened was 1943. Dad’s family was living in Roanoke, Virginia.

Negro domestic servant, Atlanta, Georgia. May 1939. by New York Public Library.

Dad later describes this incident in Flint in 1964.

“Immediately upon arriving in Flint, Michigan I was involved in a building program. The Church building in its last expansion had been left incomplete, and the congregation was of a mind to complete what they had started. It was no problem to lead them into a $115,000 building completion program, and the spirit of that experience was one of the most pleasant ones I had while I pastored West Court Street Church.

In the process of funding the building program, it surfaced that the church had borrowed $75,000 from a local millionaire. He was known only to the Church Treasurer and the Pastor (the Board knew the loan had been received, but not who had loaned the money to the Church). I had to approach the gentleman about our expansion program, intending to seek additional building funds.

I was confronted with an extreme right wing capitalist who  blatantly tried to use the church’s indebtedness to his advantage. He wanted assurance that I would be opposing Lyndon Johnson in the upcoming election before he would talk funding. He was pushing for Barry Goldwater.

I let him know that we would find our funding elsewhere and went to the First Federal Savings and Loan where we got the loan to complete the building program.

Paul JenkinsThe Jenkins Chronology [unpub]

My brother Mark who is ably carrying on the Jenkins ministerial tradition leaves Detroit for his new pastorate in New Hampshire today. I can’t help but be reminded of the many stories I have been reading in my Dad’s books about his father’s family’s moves across the Eastern and Southern United States to serve churches.

More Paul Jenkins stories to come in future blogs, I think.

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4 thoughts on “Paul Jenkins stories

  1. I remember your dad and mom (Mary) very well. Also you and your younger brother Mark. Seems your dad and my mom had a falling out over her volunteer work for then church. That made me very sad. I quit attending church and have never become and active member in any church since. My brother Chris however, attentions Court St. United Methodist these days

  2. Steve, did you get my last message? My last name was Staehli. I believe you’re pretty close to my brother Chris’ age. We lived directly across the street from Coolidge school. I’d love to read more stories about your dad. Your dad baptized me 😊

    1. Denise,

      I did respond to your previous message (see above). Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m not planning on updating stories about Dad soon. But this would be the place to look for them.

      Best wishes,

      Steve Jenkins

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