Tuesday, January 15, 2008

lettie's memory book

My “Lettie Mize Research Project” led me down a path this week that I had not anticipated traveling. I spent several hours Monday afternoon in the historic records office at the Monte Vista Christian Church reading through old documents and chatting with a very nice woman connected to the church’s history committee. I really wasn’t sure what sort of additional information I would gather from that source, but given that Lettie and Isaac Mize were both charter members of the church having split from Albuquerque’s Broadway Christian Church in 1931, I figured it was worth a shot. As interesting as the details behind that split are, they are beyond the scope of my original research goals- to locate photographs of Lettie and her family, preferably photos taken in the house or in the yard. But if you really want to hear the details, ask me sometime over a beer.

One of the items I began thumbing through at the church was this several-inch-thick red scrapbook that was filled with newspaper clippings, photos, copies of mimeographed weekly church bulletins, hand written notes and various other ephemera entitled “The Book of Remembrance.” As it turns out, Lettie was a bit of a history buff, and it appears that she would have wholeheartedly approved of my project. The book was one of her pet projects.

It was very interesting to see all the stuff that Lettie and Isaac were involved with in the church. However, it made me wonder if all those commitments left them with enough free time to follow baseball. Probably not. It is beginning to look like my only hope of ever finding OLD baseball cards squirreled away in the house is if their son Wallace chose to rebel and run off to the ballpark instead of attending church. I KNOW he played marbles.

Although I generally attempt to avoid stealing ideas and words from other people, I can’t help but include a portion of text that was prepared by Lettie, and delivered to the congregation during a ceremonial dedication of “The Book of Remembrance” on June 25, 1953. While you are reading that, I will be deciding whether I should record the names of all the committees Lettie served on during her 41 years with the church, so take the easy route and only list the ones she wasn’t involved with.

“But memory is an individual thing. Your memories are different from mine. We would not all agree on the important events that have taken place in our congregation.

Even if men were absolutely authentic and infallible, we don’t live in this world forever. While we are here, we are helping to make history. But no one will ever know about it unless it is recorded for future generations to read.

Someone has said, “One who knows nothing about his ancestry cares little about his posterity.”
(See, even Lettie saw fit to using someone else’s words once in a while!) So we might say one who knows nothing of the past takes little interest in moulding the future.

We are indebted to the past. What we are today, we owe largely to the generations that have gone before. What we do today is the past history of tomorrow.

All this is true with families, so it is true with nations and congregations. Someone laid the foundation, others built thereon, and still others added to what they found.
(I wonder if she wrote this stuff in the same room of the house that now serves as blog kabin central.)

In order to keep the record straight and that your account and my account may not conflict, we need a place in which to record important events as they take place so that our great, great grandchildren can say, “Look, ‘The History of Monte Vista’ says”----

The planning and recording for the beginning of the book will take time. Old records will have to be found and verified. There will have to be consultations with members who were “witnesses” from the beginnings.”

There is another full page of text that spells out what sorts of information would be recorded in the book, including photostatic copies of signatures of charter members; photos and details of ministers; lists of memorial gifts and donors; copies of programs of historical value; lists of names of all young people in the Armed Forces during World War II; and much more.

Lettie’s text concluded after describing the scene of how “The Book of Remembrance” would be paraded out into the congregation after she completed her oration. During the singing of the hymn “Follow in Their Train,” the book was to be carried down the aisle by a child on top of a white pillow adorned with purple streamers. After that, a prayer was offered to ask that the book be revered as the years pass, and serve as an “example and inspiration to each succeeding generation.”

It really is a neat piece of local history. Unfortunately, it seems that I am one of the few people who has shown much interest in the document for quite some time. I wouldn’t classify the document as “dusty,” but it was clear that the book hadn’t received all the attention it had become accustomed to once Lettie retired her scissors and rubber cement in the late 60s.

Ultimately, I was quite pleased with the new source of information, as I was able to finally locate a photograph of Lettie. This one was taken around 1967ish when Lettie was in her mid 70s.

Another interesting tidbit I brought away from the church was the discovery that Lettie served as the Superintendent of the church’s “Junior Mission Band.” That, and the fact that they often held practice in what is now our living room. I’m beginning to suspect that Lettie didn’t keep any cats in the house.

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