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Friday, December 16, 2016

"The Bible Women" In Knott County KY Schools

My taste in music is quite varied although my general favorite is Bluegrass which is followed closely by classic country, classic rock and roll, jazz, blues, and classical.  I also enjoy accordion music which is odd for a die hard fan of Bluegrass.  I attribute my enjoyment of accordion music to an experience when I was in grade school at Salisbury Elementary which I have written about in two other posts.  I was in grade school from 1957 to 1964 at a time when the US Supreme Court had not taken a clear and appropriate stand in defense of the separation of church and state clause from the US Constitution.    During my entire time in elementary school, once a month every grade school in Knott County had a half day visit from two women we referred to as "The Bible Women".  They were affiliated with Camp Nathaniel in Emmalena, KY, as well as a Christian nonprofit called Scripture Memory Mountain Mission.  Let me state unequivocally from the outset that I strongly support separation of church and state no matter how much I enjoyed the "Bible Women".

Accordion Photo by Hobgoblin Music

We students always referred to these two women as Miss Eva and Miss Heibert.  I believe that Miss Eva was actually Eva Slone Lodgaard and I have no idea what Miss Heibert's name actually was.  If any of my readers can set me straight about the names I would appreciate it if you would send me an e-mail at or in a comment on this post.  I believe we always referred to Miss Eva by that appellation because someone assumed that we could never pronounce her Scandinavian last name.  Miss Heibert played the accordion and Miss Eva always told a Bible story using a felt board.  For those of you who have never seen a felt board, it was a device which used static electricity to tell stories using a felt cover over a board on an easel and numerous felt cutout figures of people, buildings, livestock, and anything else which was pertinent to the story.   Miss Heibert would play and the students would sing along with several hymns and Miss Eva would tell her Bible story.  As a part of the work of Scripture Memory Mountain Mission, they also ran a program of Bible verse memorization that could win students a free week at summer camp at Camp Nathaniel.  This program was an escalating rote memorization of assigned Bible verses.  It began with about a half dozen verses which would win the student a New Testament and the assignments grew longer as students demonstrated from month to month that they could remember sufficient verses.  I never got much farther than the New Testament even though I had an excellent memory.  I suspect that my heart wasn't in the effort and I was more interested in many other things ranging from reading other books to catching fish, frogs, or flying squirrels.  A few students did win the trip to Camp Nathaniel each year if they worked at the task.  

The "Bible Women" gave us a chance to have a half day out of our normal routine, exposed us to an instrument that most of us had never seen before, and gave us exposure to people from outside our normal circle.  I do not choose to detract from the usefulness of learning the Bible but I strongly oppose any form of religion being taught in school.  The US Constitution is clear as a bell about the separation of church and state.  It should be absolute and inviolate for all eternity.  One of the most important things I remember about these women is their dedication to their work.  Salisbury Elementary was located about a half mile off KY Route 7 on Salisbury Branch and there was not a good car bridge at that time for crossing Beaver Creek.  In low water and good weather, it was possible to ford the creek, drive a half mile up the C & O Railroad tracks and up the hollow.  In high water or snow, you could only get there by walking across a swing bridge, up the railroad, across a trestle, and up the hollow.  But I do not clearly recall a time when these two women failed to appear on their appointed day if school was in session.  They would park their car at the swinging bridge, load up with the accordion, felt board, easel, and various and sundry other items they needed for that day's presentation.  Then they would walk the walk no matter how foul the weather.  

Miss Eva and Miss Heibert lived in a house they rented from a man named Elmer Morrison which was about two miles from the school.  To my knowledge, neither of them ever married and both worked as missionaries in Eastern Kentucky all of their lives.  They also had a small lending library of Christian based books which they loaned to students who were responsible enough to return them.  You could borrow a couple of books and trade them for two more on their next monthly visit.  They would also loan books during the summer to students who were able to get to their home.  I borrowed books from them in summer for several years by walking the distance from my house to theirs.  I enjoyed the opportunity to read any kind of book and appreciated their generosity but my primary focus was not on the religious aspects of the books.  Let me say I am glad this women were a part of my childhood.  Let me also say that I am extremely glad that the US Supreme Court decided in McCollum vs Board Of Education District 71 that "religious instruction in public schools a violation of the establishment clause and therefore unconstitutional".  It was the correct decision the day it was written and it will always be the correct decision based on the Constitution.  

Luke 20: 25 And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.

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