Stories and Helen's reminiscences
When Helen tells the abbreviated story of her life, she shows her reliance on God to lead her to the next step. She felt that she was often stepping off one branch of a tree into the unknown, and then she would find herself supported by the next branch. Her congregation's and family's support of her college education, the Montreat dean's support during school, and her acceptance into a great job at Anne Arundel Community College counseling center are examples of her trust rewarded.
Helen's memories of her family
Her Grandfather John Glenn fought in the Civil War and said if they just had a few more muskets they could have won. He was a person who did not give up easily. Helen refers to the Civil War as the "war Between the States" because "there was nothing that was civil about it."
Her Grandmother Glover (mother of Mary Glover Glenn, Helen's mother) raised her children on a farm. After the war they had to move into a city and needed to find jobs. Her two sons were married and moved into a cotton mill town. Each had a small house in the mill town. Grandmother was not accepted by the wife of the richer son, so she lived with the poorer son and his wife. Later she moved in with Mary and John's family, and Helen remembers her. Grandmother Glover made delicious thin biscuits, whereas Grandmother Glenn made tall doughy biscuits.
At age 8, she convinced the barber to give her “a haircut like her father's.” She was proud of a small photo taken that day.
At age 9, she smuggled cigarettes home tucked under sleeve and took friends to sit on top of shed and learn to smoke them. Family members found the telltale debris on top of the shed. Helen thought later about the connection between the shed and their wooden home.
After her mother died when Helen was nine, her married sister Emma, who lived next door, cared for her until her father remarried. During this time one of Emma's sons, Robert, recalls that "Helen was like a big sister to us."
After Helen's father remarried, they moved to Fort Mill, South Carolina. Helen always describes her stepmother, Laura Glenn, in glowing terms. “Laura thought I walked on water.” “Laura was the best stepmother I could have hoped for.” Helen felt a lot of support in Fort Mill and developed a close friendship that she maintained for life. She also entertained her nieces and nephews during their summer visits with her. Bob says, "She took us under her wing and we had a great time. She took us swimming."
Helen says she started learning to play tennis at age 10 or so, when living in Fort Mill. Her best friend's father built a tennis court next to their house, where she and her friend played. Helen remembers walking past a public tennis court where two college boys were starting a match. She wanted to watch but felt too shy do so, so she just watched while she walked by.
Then her father died when she was 15.
Her sister Mable and Mable's husband Bill Lewis welcomed Helen into their home and helped her start her college training. Initially Helen went to University of North Carolina- Greensboro for a year of secretarial training. Her brother Herbert gave her a loan for the tuition. She then attended Queens College in Charlotte. She was active in her church and the congregation worked to send her to Montreat College. One day the loudspeaker in the Montreat cafeteria requested a volunteer to help the dean type some documents. Helen thought, “I guess I'll go help the old lady.” What a fortuitous situation. The dean later recommended Helen for a work-study position.
Helen's early work life
When Helen applied to work at First Presbyterian Church in Valdosta, Georgia in 1943, she included a photo, signed _Miss_ Helen Glenn, which showed her holding twin babies. The minister laughed and decided to hire her because she was willing to send such a photo. It turned out to be a great working relationship
At the Phelps apartment building (a hotel renovated for the four Phelps families in the German tradition: father/mother, three adult children and their families), we had to pass through the middle of Alvin and Betty's apartment to get to and from our own apartment. Other than that it was a great place to live because I could play with my cousins.
When we moved to the farmhouse in Quakertown, Dad and Grandpop were still renovating it with beautiful black-walnut deep windowsills and mantlepiece, sculpted plaster ceilings, random width oak flooring containing walnut pegs, and two large fireplaces. Initially Mom considered the stairs to the second floor to be very dangerous and she encouraged Dad to work on that project first.
While her husband worked long hours in his arborist business and later in land clearing, Helen also worked long hours caring for her home and family. She did the laundry in a gray wringer washer in the sometimes flooded cellar. She hung the laundry on clotheslines behind the “summer kitchen” building. She burned our trash in a wire cylinder at the end of the clothesline.
It was handy that Charlie picked an independent wife. He was away for 2 sweeks at a time, clearing land for the turnpike system of Pennsylvania. Helen was on her own when children had injuries, and thankfully the car was working when toddler Charles was injured by the glider of the swingset. On occasional evenings when Helen was putting the four children to bed, she would be also trying to knock down a bat flying through the upstairs hallway. While cleaning the 18" deep windowsill one day, Helen said to herself, "Why is that pair of socks in the corner?" She reached to pick it up and screamed when it moved-- just a flying squirrel that came in through one of the fireplace chimneys.
She had her children pick up all the not-so-sweet apples that fell from our one tree and made applesauce to put in our stainless 10 foot long freezer. Her children liked her freezer strawberry jam ever so much better than the applesauce. She baked pies from scratch for special occasions (I remember because I accidentally knocked two of them onto the kitchen floor at the same time.) She mowed about 2 acres of lawn, some of it hilly. She fed and watered the puppy dogs in the barn when her children would not go out in the cold to do so, which was 99% of the time. She ironed all of our clothing, including underwear.
Through this all, Helen maintained her friendships in Sellersville, through church and weekend family activities. A couple times she drove all four children in that unreliable Plymouth to meet her friends at a Sellersville tennis court for a doubles match.
At that time it was safe to leave your children in the car, which is where we wrestled while she played tennis. We also stayed in the car at the A&P Market parking lot in Quakertown when Mom shopped for groceries once a week after Brownie or Girl Scout meetings.
Helen wanted her children to be well-rounded. She provided them with encouragement and lessons in musical kindergarten, drama, tennis, swimming, sailing, Little League. She wanted us to create lots of friendships, and she was still tracking the lives of some of our friends until the last few months.
Visit to Oregon, Olympics, Victoria, Vancouver BC
(quotes are from Helen's travel-log) Helen and Charlie visited daughter Charlotte for the first time in 1983. Their arrival date happened to be Helen's birthday. She accepted the fact that Charlotte presented her with one store-bought cupcake and a candle. The fun of being at a Shakespeare-in-the-Park performance made up for the lack of a homemade cake.
A helicopter pilot took us for a close view of the Mount St. Helen's crater, thrilling us with a sudden swoop down several hundred feet down into the crater (a maneuver that is no longer allowed due to safety concerns). Dad investigated log-handling and chip-making equipment in Aberdeen, and we all picked wild blackberries. Helen wanted to take a raft trip at the Quinalt Indian Reservation, but we needed to head out to Victoria. While waiting for the ferry we climbed a hill and ended up passing through someone's yard. The owner was a woman that Mom engaged in conversation and learned she was a Spirit-filled Christian (Mom's words). Still with time to wait, we rented bicycles--a three-wheeler for Mom, which was a challenge to pedal and steer. ("We could have seen Crown Zellerbach company making yellow telephone book pages if we could have traveled faster.")
Our Rent-a-Dent car caught on fire while waiting in a jam-packed line on the ferry to Victoria BC. We had taken some travel bags out of the car while we hosed it with fire retardant, and returned to the ferry terminal several hours later to retrieve them. At a later ferry, Mom met a motorcycling couple from NYC who had helped us with the car fire. She wrote in her travel-log, "He kissed me when we met this time. I think he thought I was someone else. But it was exciting to be kissed (on the cheek) by a N.Y. policeman."
After leaving Charlotte at the Seattle ferry, Helen and Charlie toured Butchart Gardens. "They are lovely by daylight and in the evening by special lighting. ...All the restaurants close at 10 pm. It was now 10:45 pm -- no supper. We ate potato chips and 7 up." Next morning at breakfast they made friends with the owners of a California almond farm and she talked with him about being a Hollander Dutchman. On the return ferry they visited with their NYC "motorcycle friends" again.
== “Touch of the Masters Hand”
The following is from Mom's little blank 6 ring notebook, written while she was Director of Christian Education at the Reformed Church in Quakertown, at age 27. This was the church that Betty Phelps attended.
July 23, 1947 Presentation to the youth group:
Poem that was read to the group
The Touch of the Masters Hand
Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, but held it up with a smile; "What am I bidden, good folks," he cried, "Who'll start the bidding for me?" "A dollar, a dollar"; then two!" "Only two? Two dollars, and who'll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars twice; going for three.." But no, from the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loose strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low, said; "What am I bid for the old violin?" And he held it up with the bow. A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two? Two thousand! And who'll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, and going and gone," said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, "We do not quite understand what changed its worth." Swift came the reply: "The touch of a master's hand."
And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin, Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin, A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine; a game - and he travels on. "He is going" once, and "going twice, He's going and almost gone." But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that's wrought by the touch of the Master's hand.
Myra 'Brooks' Welch
Rest of the talk
“We learn so many lessons from parables and stories. Jesus Christ, our Saviour, used them often to teach the people about Himself. A story paints a picture in words and makes us get the meaning quickly.
There are 3 choices that each young person has to make, and you will hear about them often. They are: the choice of your life master, your life work, and your life mate. The last one is the romantic one and all of are thinking about this or will be thinking about it soon. The second one is so important—choosing your life work. What do you want to do as your life occupation? Now is a good time to find suitable, congenial work. I hope each one of you will give this plenty of thought.
Now we come to the first idea: choosing your life master. Who are you going to worship? Who are you going to put first in your life? This choice is the changing point of your life. Just like the poem that I read and will read again a little later.
When the Master, God, Jesus Christ, touches our life, things are changed. Our value goes up, way up. We are each one important to God...even me, even you. Then, please remember that every other person is important to God. He loves everyone. That fact is something for which we can be thankful. God wants you to give your allegiance first to Him and He will take you as the old artist took the violin and make something good out of you. Something really good.”