JUST DESSERTS – The history behind the Second Baptist Church. This is the second piece in the Uncle Earle and Aunt May series.
There’s not but one Baptist Church in Fairchild, Mississippi, the Second Baptist Church. That sounds kinda strange, there being only one Baptist church in town. Here’s the story of how this came about.
It’s all because of a huge banana pudding fight between the pastor’s wife and the head deacon’s wife of the First Baptist Church. Grandma Eunice was there and she swore that everything said about it was the Gospel truth! It happened on the fourth night of the week long “BROTHERLY LOVE CONFERENCE” sponsored by the Young Homemakers Club. (At least it was planned to be a week long.) That was on a Wednesday night, and the club planned a covered dish supper before the conference began.
Any self-respecting Southern Baptist knows you must have Cool-Whip in any respectable dessert. (Tom Barnes says that Cool-Whip’s a-number one seller at the Wag-A-Bag). That night the head deacon’s wife came in with a huge Banana Pudding she’d made from a recipe she found in one of those women’s magazines they sell at the at the Wag-A-Bag. Those magazine folks must not be Southern Baptist because that banana pudding had never been near any Cool-Whip. Of course, the pastor’s wife always brought her banana pudding, and it was considered the banana pudding of any church social. (She made it from her Great-Aunt Ida’s recipe, who once served it to Johnny Cash back in the 60s, when his show bus broke down when passing through town.) Of course, it was always made with Cool-Whip.
It was bad enough that the deacon’s wife brought another banana pudding to the event, but to pour oil on the fire, she even had the nerve (Grandma Eunice used the word gall) to think that her banana pudding was the better of the two! Soon there was a little eye-sparing around the serving table and some timid tasting by the two women. The rest of the crowd didn’t know quite what to do. It would’ve been in poor taste not to have some of both. And it would’ve also been in poor taste not to at least appear to be loyal to your pastor’s wife. And that would have appeared like you thought the deacon’s wife’s banana pudding was in poor taste… even if you thought it was great. See what I mean? Grandma Eunice said it actually did taste pretty darn good!
The two women nervously talked about their banana puddings, simple stuff like how many bananas they used, how ripe they were, things like that. You couldn’t cut the tension with one of those as-seen-on-TV miracle knives. Nobody knows what actually started the fracas, because everyone was giving the two women a wide berth at the time. But Grandma Eunice said she distinctly heard one of ’em say in a loud voice, (But she couldn’t tell which one) – “Yeah, well you know what you can do with YOUR bananas!”
The next thing you know, those two fine upstanding Christian women are flinging great handfuls of banana pudding at one another! Globs of yellow pudding, banana disks, and limp vanilla wafers were flying everywhere! The pastor’s wife slipped in the banana-goo, her feet slip-sliding away in all directions. She grabbed at the table to keep from falling – and the head deacon’s wife pounced on this opportunity, and lifted the bowl filled with what was left of the pastor’s wife’s banana pudding – sending it crashing down, pudding first, right on top of the pastor’s wife’s head! The two husbands rushed into the fray, desperately trying to separate their slippery, banana pudding covered wives. It was hard to tell who was who because both were so covered in banana pudding. It only took one good yank on the wrong wife by the wrong husband, in the wrong place – and it erupted into a genuine free-for-all. Grandma Eunice said it was the pastor who accidentally grabbed the head deacon’s wife in the most inappropriate of places.
In Baptist circles around here they refer to that night as the Great Banana Pudding War of ’84. To give each side credit, after the fellowship hall was cleaned up, the two families attempted to reconcile their differences. They never did. And neither did they ever finish the FIRST ANNUAL BROTHERLY LOVE CONFERENCE.
I guess the damage was done. The head deacon and his family quit First Baptist and started a new little church across town. At first the new group met in the deacon’s living room, bringing in a part-time preacher who was no more than a kid fresh out of seminary. They started out with about eight. Around that time the overall factory received a big government contract to make Army uniforms. Soon trailer parks and apartments started popping up around there like popcorn on a Saturday night. That little band of renegade Baptist started knocking on aluminum doors and luring dirty faced trailer-park kids to Sunday School – until pretty soon it was standing room only in that cramped little bath-and-a-half house. The pimple-faced preacher was hired on full-time, and with the help of a good band of new deacons, he got dried off behind his ears real soon. They built a small church building, and in no time at all they had to enlarge the place – twice!
It grew up so quickly that they never got around to properly naming it! (Those at First Baptist referred to it as the “Other Baptist.”) There were so many people offering up so many different names as to what to call it, (names like Glory Road Baptist, Heaven Bound Baptist, and People of the Word Baptist were offered) that the young pastor simple threw up his hands and said they’d just call it The Second Baptist Church until they could come up with a better name. I guess they never did. (I wonder if anybody ever suggested BANANA BAPTIST?)
Young folks like a young church. So most of the younger bunch from First Baptist drifted over to Second Baptist. Soon, with thinning ranks, the old church began to wither on the vine. There’s a cemetery adjoining the spot where First Baptist used to be. Beside the church, and shading several dozen graves, was a great old monster of an oak tree. The old oak was diseased, and rotted out pretty badly. Kids thought the center of the old tree looked like a spooky cave! It really should have been removed years before. But the older members of the congregation would have none of that. A typical remark was, “My poor dead husband proposed to me under that tree just before he shipped off to the Great War – and that tree’ll come down over MY dead body.” And that was exactly what the church board was waiting for. But the old tree couldn’t wait.
It took a thunder storm no worse than any, maybe even smaller than most. But the old tree came down anyway, right smack dab across the middle of The First Baptist Church. It took out half the sanctuary and a third the pews, the pulpit, the organ, part of the choir loft, the choir room, the pastor’s study, one and a half Sunday School rooms – and the ladies’ john. It must have been the loss of the ladies’ john that did it. They could’ve met under a tent until they rebuilt the place, and had “open air” services for a while. But the old ladies of the church just had to have a bathroom, and there wasn’t another for half a mile away – except of course for the MEN’s bathroom. It still worked. But those old women were not going to share a bathroom, not with those old pee-on-the-seat men! Anyway, the insurance company had long ago realized that the old oak tree was a hazard, and they’d written in a clause that exempted them from loss caused by the tree. (The church board had forgotten about that!) The old church was a total write-off.
So that’s why the only Baptist church in town happens to be named The Second Baptist Church!