Probably at least 18 years ago, we had a somewhat upsetting incident on Christmas Day involving my dear mother, Martha Stark Hughes. This was one of the first years that Ken put together Christmas Carol song books and we enjoyed a Hughes/Hiser family sing along.
It was a delight to sing our favorite holiday songs together as a family with Ken accompanying on his guitar. Conjures up a Norman Rockwell family painting….lol
Well into the listing of songs, Mom requested her favorite, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”. As I remember, we sang a verse or two when Ken decided to jazz it up a little. Mom came apart at the seams. She ran from the family room while yelling, “That song reminds me of me of my father, who was called ‘Old Faithful’ by the minister of the church back in Avalon.” She was mad….she was almost in tears…..we were all simply STUNNED!!!
When Mom calmed down, we sang the song properly. She proceeded to tell the story of “Old Faithful”. Back in they day, her family were members of the Bellevue Methodist Episcopal Church in Bellevue, Pennsylvania. The church was often referred to as the “Greenstone Church” because the stones of the building were green in color. Mom’s father, my maternal grandfather, Charles Edward Stark, was the head of the Traffic Department with Carnegie Steel (later US Steel) in Pittsburgh. That department consisted of the “number crunchers” for the company. Grandfather was very involved in the life of the church and served as the church’s treasurer.
Mother had a book, published in 1930 and written by the minister of the church, Rev. James F. Hoffman, D.D., with an inscription to her father, “For Old Faithful”. See how this is all coming together. We had defiled the memory of her father by jazzing up Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
We learned the lesson and never sang the song with anything but respect.
When Mom died on Christmas Eve 1999 and we held two memorial services for her, one in Pittsburgh where she is buried and one in Lakewood, Ohio, her home for the last twenty years of her life. Ken respectively played “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” on the guitar at both gatherings. Throughout the years since, when we were in Pittsburgh for the holidays, we would sing the song with guitar accompaniment in front of her final resting place in the mausoleum.
Mom has been in her heavenly home for fifteen years now and oddly the story of “Old Faithful” and the book inscription came up last week. Where did that book go? I figured since I cleaned out Mom’s apartment fifteen years ago, that I probably had it stored somewhere in my own house.
This morning my brother, Jeff, texted me wanting information about the book. Lo and behold, he had it. We were both amazed to see the inscription was made to “Old Reliable” and not “Old Faithful”.
I wonder if this gives us license to jazz the Christmas carol up???? NAW ;-)
Untangling the church’s name and address:
I can remember this church on the corner of North Home Avenue and California Avenue when I would drive to visit my maternal grandmother. The large green tinted stone church with a revolving lighted cross on top of the steeple. As I recall Home Avenue was the division between Avalon and Bellevue, Pennsylvania. Throughout the years, the name and address of this church changed, probably due to church growth and the entrance to the sanctuary relocated.
In 1930 when the book was written:Bellevue Methodist Episcopal Church
In 1945 when my grandfather, Charles Edward Stark died:Bellevue Methodist Church
419 North Home Avenue
In 1971 when my grandmother, Martha Frederick Stark died:Bellevue United Methodist Church
939 California Avenue
Today:Greenstone United Methodist Church
939 California Avenue
Have also seen 939 North Home Avenue listed as address
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