A Historical Glimpse of West Side United Methodist Church....
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'PAGES FROM THE PAST' series:
Thank you Cathie Hughes, our church historian, for bring us these 'Pages From The Past'.
Watch each month as she enlightens us on some interesting church history!
From The PROGRESS - October 9, 1967
“Second and third grade girls in the West Side area of Clearfield who are Brownies or who desire to join a troop, are urged to attend one of two Brownie meetings set for tomorrow after school in the West Side Methodist Church.
Brownie Troop 32, led by Mrs. William Bertram and Mrs. John Shobert, and Brownie Troop 35 with Mrs. Dorothy Stiner and Mrs. Rita Valesha as leaders, will meet in the church after school.”
West Side continues the tradition of hosting Girl Scouts 50 years later. Daisy Troop #27013 consisting of first and second grade girls have been meeting here for the last two years with Valerie Darrow and Alyson Dixon as leaders. They meet weekly throughout the school year with 22 scouts.
Two Denominations Merge - 1968
The merger of the two denominations, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, was ratified at the General Conference in April 1968. Dr. Albert Outler, a leading Methodist theologian, spoke at conference, “We stand here on a threshold. A new horizon looms ahead.”
Uniting the 10.3 million member Methodist Church and the 750,000 member Evangelical United Brethren Church, the merger embraced more than 11 million adult members and another 1.8 million baptized children in the United States. Both denominations had been in talks for six years. “They share common doctrinal and organizational traditions, their roots going back to the late 1700’s, when the itinerant preachers of both roved America’s frontier settlements.” (The Progress, April 1968)
This affected four churches in Clearfield: West Side Methodist, Trinity Methodist, Emmanuel Methodist and Christ Evangelical United Brethren Church. They would all be United Methodist.
A “Union Communion Service” of the four churches was held on May 12, 1968, at the Christ United Methodist Church in East End. A considerable attendance was present, and the service was addressed by Dr. Earl Rowe, District Superintendent and Rev. Bruce Bishop, pastor of Christ U.M. Church.
West Side Bell Choir - Centennial Celebration (1872-1972)
The Bell Choir made its first appearance at West Side on Anniversary Sunday, March 19, 1972, as part of West Side’s Centennial Celebration.
The service included the presentation of a set of 25 Schulmerich Handbells given in memory of Mrs. Ruth C. Kramer, who had been the first president of the Women’s Society of Christian Service when organized at West Side in 1943 and a primary Sunday School teacher for 21 years. The Handbells were the gift of her husband, Clarence T. Kramer and were dedicated by Rev. John Wesley Stamm.
The Sanctuary and Sunday School Room were filled to capacity with 525 persons present. The first selections played were Spirit of God and Be Thou My Vision.
There were 15 members of the choir from ninth to 12th grade. They included Melanie Kenyon, Nancy Taylor, Debbie Cowder, Glenda Lambert, Tina Rogers, Bonnie Jenkins, John Allison, Dave McGee, Kevin Litz, Rick Stamm, David Thomson and Henry Rogers, under the direction of Geraldine Bickford.
At this service, Class 27 and the Senior Choir presented new choir robes, gold in color, with two reversible stoles (red, white, green and violet). They were presented in memory of Mr. Gordon M. Williams, an active member of the church and long-time member of the choir.
Acolytes for this service were Mark Falvo and Steven Williams, members of the sixth grade Sunday School class.
In 1872 the church started with one member and a pastor to grow to 1090 members and its pastor in 1972.
Have you noticed the framed red and white flag that hangs in the back of the sanctuary beside the multi-media center? Do you know what it is? I have noticed it and wondered.
On March 2, 1919, West Side Church held a service in honor of the 44 “West Side boys who went forth to War”. They held a memorial service in memory of the church’s four young men who paid the supreme sacrifice.
Elmer Cole, died Oct. 9, 1918 of flu pneumonia in France. He is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery.
Clarence “Frosty” Rishel died of wounds on Sept. 29, 1918 in France.
James Lynn Shirey died in 1918 of influenza pneumonia shipboard enroute to France.
James Young was killed in action on October 6, 1918 (gassed). He was the first soldier from Clearfield brought back for burial. At the time of his enlistment he was the president of the C.I.C. Sunday School. (Class in the Corner)
“……..the large service flag, rectangular in shape with the letters “C.I.C” upon it. The background was white with a large red border. The letters “C” and “C” were shaped with 42 blue stars, while the middle letter “I” was formed with two gold stars in honor of the two who had already died in France. The flag was taken down with proper ceremonies and framed under glass, making a memorial 2 feet by 4 ½ feet. It was placed in the C.I.C. classroom where it still remains.”
(Source: The Centennial History of West Side United Methodist Church by Clarence Kramer)
Note: The framed flag only has 20 blue stars not 42. Other than that, it is identical to the description. The 42 blue and 2 gold mentioned would represent the total of 44 who were in service.
Geraldine Bickford becomes organist:
West Side Church has always been blessed with wonderful and very competent musical help both in the various choirs and at the piano and organ. And this is still true today with Gary Wilsoncroft.
Our longest serving organist was R. Geraldine “Gerry” Bickford (1926-2003) who became our organist on June 1, 1953, and served faithfully until her retirement on September 24, 2002. In addition to being church organist she was also choir director and directed a total of five choirs while at the church. Gerry also started the church bell choir. She was a graduate of Clearfield High School, Lycoming College and of the Boston Conservatory of Music.
She was also employed by Clearfield Hospital where she served as secretary to the director of nursing until 1993. She organized, accompanied and directed a nurses’ chorus, accompanied Old Town Players’ musicals and accompanist for Clearfield Choral Society. She was committed to her church and her community.
Gerry’s portrait hangs in the back of the church near the history hutch.
From The Progress April 15, 1961
“The new Memorial Chapel in West Side Church is a dream come true through the generous memorials and special gifts on the part of the various adult classes and individual members of the church. The location of the new chapel is in the northwest corner downstairs room which was formerly used for class meetings and business meetings of the various organizations of the church. This room has been completely renovated and equipped with chapel furniture.
The ceiling radiators have been removed and the ceiling itself lowered to make a continuing level ceiling. Celestial acoustical tile has been mounted on the ceiling, providing beauty as well as creating a quieting atmosphere for the conducting of religious services.
The walls have been given a new look by covering with Willow Green insulation plank and Misty Walnut hardboard paneling. The floor has been carpeted wall to wall with Dakota Green carpet.
The chapel is electrically heated by four convector heaters. Furnishing were built and installed including 22 pews with seating capacity for 88 persons. The entire set of furniture is of a somewhat modern or contemporary design. Oak wood was used in each piece of furniture which was given a rich driftwood finish. All pews were made with cut-away ends.”
The chapel was dedicated April 16, 1961. District Superintendent Dr. Lester A. Welliver brought the morning message. Honored at the dedication were George W. Gaylor, chapel committee; Rodney W. Bowers, contractor and trustee; L. J. Boyce, president of trustees and Rev. Earl N. Rowe, the pastor.
Rev. John W. Long (1915-1917) came to West Side from Dillsburg and Wellsville in March 1915 and replaced Rev. Salter who was transferred to Patton, PA.
His report to conference in 1917 showed West Side paid “a long standing debt of $1500” and that “the people are happy and promised an increase in salary of $150.” Revivals were still popular and there were 43 persons converted. The Church was growing with a large number of young people who liked Rev. Long, and he liked them equally. The church prospered.
Rev. Long was moved to State College in March 1917 where he remained for five years. In 1920 he organized the Wesley Foundation at Penn State and served as its director. The Wesley Foundation is still in place for Christians and those seeking a better understanding of the Christian Faith to build friendships. Over 600 hundred students per week visit the Wesley Student Center. They come to the coffeehouse, worship services, Bible Studies, and other events. Wesley is making a great impact on the students of Penn State University.
Thank you Rev. Long.
Fellowship Hall 90 Years Old:
The Social and Recreational Departments, comprising the ground floor were finished and dedicated January 14, 1926. This included a gymnasium and the social hall. Services were held here until moving to the Sunday School portion of the church in 1928. On January 31, 1926, a Jubilee Sunday was held celebrating our first occupancy of the new church building with Rev. William Armstrong as pastor. (Remember, it was not finished until 1940.)
In the January 23, 1926 edition of The Clearfield Progress, Rev. Armstrong reported that there were 643 in attendance last week in Sunday School. How about 700? And 44 present in the Wednesday mid-week prayer and praise worship. “Come and increase the number and enjoy the fellowship.”
The gym was used very little in the 1950’s and was closed in 1960 to build Sunday School rooms and a nursery.
In 1965 Dr. Willard suggested the Social Hall be renamed Fellowship Hall. The following year the hall was designated as 'non-smoking.'
December - PAGES FROM THE PAST:
Ladies’ Chicken Dinners
I always look forward to the Methodist Women’s chicken and biscuit luncheons and holiday bazaars. And you’ll notice I’ve entitled this month’s article “Ladies” since the first to hold chicken and biscuit dinners was the Ladies Aid Society of West Side.
The earliest dinner I found was an oyster supper held on October 9, 1913, in the church basement. (There were most likely earlier suppers, but 1913 is the beginning of The Progress.)
The cost of our chicken and biscuit lunch last month was $8 a meal. An ad in The Progress on February 2, 1926, reads, “The Ladies Aid of the West Side M.E. Church will hold a Chicken Supper in the social room of the new church, Thursday Feb. 4, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Menu: chicken, hot biscuit, mashed potatoes, creamed peas, pickles, salad, apple pie al la mode or ice cream and cake, bread, butter, coffee. Price 65 cents.”
This ad is important, as well as MANY other dinners that year, because of the large donation these ladies made from their fund raising to the church.
From front page news in the newspaper on June 22, 1925;
$7,340 Realized on window Sale at West Side Church
“Seventy-eight windows in the magnificent new West Side Methodist Episcopal church were contracted for at the memorial window service held in that edifice yesterday afternoon.
At the afternoon service all but two of the windows in the main auditorium were taken, one of these two being the large front window. After the evening service, the Ladies’ Aid transferred their choice from one of the side windows in the auditorium to the large front window, thus leaving last two of the smaller auditorium windows available as memorials.”
It was a red letter day for het West Side congregation and has resulted in a renewal of the vigor with which they are pursuing their object. Theirs is truly a cause and courage that merits the whole-hearted support of the entire community.”
The estimated cost of all 133 memorial windows was $8,000. The cost of the “Peace on Earth” window in the front of the Sanctuary was $2,500. That was a lot of chicken dinners.
Church Dedicated November 1873
Rev. Martin Luther Ganoe, born 1843 in Huntingdon County, was our first pastor and the man who built the West Clearfield Church. In 1872 the Clearfield Circuit included Centre, Mt. Joy, Wolf Run, Shawville, Goshen, Congress Hill, and Gillingham. He was instructed to build a Church at West Clearfield, “which is a promising village” and to drop Wolf Run from his appointment. (Some parishioners, including the Fulton family, from Wolf Run were not happy about this and transferred their membership to what would later be Trinity.)
Ganoe’s first task was to find a location for services, and he selected the new one-room school house on Merrill St. The school could hold 50 people and was started in early spring 1872. They soon outgrew the school. “We have here already the largest congregation on the charge and evidently a field ripe for the sickle.” (Ganoe’s report to Conference, June 8, 1872)
The two men who made the original church building a reality were Ganoe and William Mapes (1812-1903). Mapes is described as a hard working loyal and devout layman. He and his wife, Albian, joined West Clearfield in 1872.
The people pledged $631, and William Mapes purchased the lot for $400. And so building began. The work moved rapidly, and the church was dedicated November 1873 at a cost of around $4,000. After completion, Rev. Ganoe was moved to Gettysburg, March 1873.
1918 Flu Epidemic
Clearfield County only witnessed one epidemic or pandemic in the 20th century and that occurred in 1918. Estimates say 50 to 100 million people worldwide were killed making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. Conservative estimates of mortality in the fall of 1918 revealed as many as 700,000 people would perish nationwide and 1,000 people died in our county in just five months.
Restrictions were placed on public gatherings, and public funerals were not held indoors. People were urged to keep their children off the streets and to keep children from mingling with others.
On October 5, 1918, the Board of Health closed all churches and schools. And schoolhouses in Clearfield, Houtzdale, Brisbin, Osceola and Hollywood were used as temporary sanitariums. The new Children’s Aid Society building in Clearfield was immediately used as a makeshift hospital for the sick.
Clearfield churches resumed services on Saturday, November 16, 1918, after being closed for six weeks.
From The Progress July 22, 1949:
Radio Program WCPA
“Sunday Morning – 8:00 Sign On, 8:01 News, 8:30 Gospel Echoes, 9:00 Old Fashioned Revival Hour, 10:00 News, 10:05 Lest We Forget, 10:20 Music, 10:30 Organ Moods, 10:45 West Side Methodist Church Service, 11:45 Air Trails.”
I am sure many of you remember listening to these programs on the radio. I know I do, especially in the 1960’s and 70’s. But the beginnings go much further back.
In 1949, Clearfield had two radio stations, WTWS and WCPA. Mr. Riley Fulmer was an active member of West Side and manager of WTWS. This station offered to broadcast our services every Sunday morning. On Sunday, April 3, 1949 West Side broadcasted its first worship service on the air with Rev. Gordon Williams preaching. When WTWS discontinued its station, West Side joined other churches in the community broadcasting services on WCPA.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO…….from the Clearfield Progress, June 18, 1915:
“The men of the West Side M.E. church will serve a Hamburg supper in the basement of the church, Thursday evening the 24th, beginning at 5 o’clock. Price 25 cents. A cordial invitation is extended to all. Ice cream and cake will be served also.”
Methodist Men – was not organized and chartered until 1955 under Rev. Rowe. The first meeting was held under lay leader, Russell M. Haney who for many years had advocated and worked unsuccessfully for such a group. Prior to this time there were many futile attempts to form a men’s organization. About 30 years previously the men had an organization known as the Brotherhood, but it had long since been disbanded.
PAGES FROM THE PAST:
On April 30, 1936, Rev. Raymond Zimmerman was named pastor at West Side. And on a Sunday morning, near the end of this first year, he informed the congregation that unless they joined him in an effort to complete the sanctuary he would not return the following year! (Note, ground breaking was in 1923.)
Every organization of the church became energized to raise the necessary funds. Plastering started in 1938 (paid for by Class 10). Changes, mostly to economize, were made to the Gothic design. The huge columns on each side of the room at the end of the pews were constructed to be cornered, were plastered to be round. The original plans also called for circular pews and a concave floor. The floor was changed with carpenter labor donated by the men of the church and straight pews were purchased ($2500). Local painter and longtime member William McCormick painted and varnished. The choir loft was paneled, the pulpit, altar, altar rail and electronic organ were installed, and all was ready for the dedication on February 25, 1940.
The building was under construction for 17 years.
Sanctuary-Completion Committee were Mr. McCormick, George W. Gaylor, Russell M. Haney, Mrs. C.G. Johnston and Mrs. Kathryn Shaw.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO…….
In March 1915 Rev. Bert A. Salter closed his sixth year as pastor of the West Side Methodist Episcopal church; his next appointment was in Patton.
He had been admitted to the Conference in 1900, so when he came to West Side he was still young in spirit as well as in years. He had a good personality with a ready, wholesome greeting for everyone. With black, wavy hair, a black mustache, fair complexion and wearing a bow tie, he possessed a very striking appearance and was popular throughout the community.
During his time at West Side improvements included the pulpit platform was raised, a new alter and chairs placed in the church and repairs made to the furnace. Church was re-roofed (cost $270), church basement and parsonage were cemented and carpeted (cost $492) and parsonage was papered.
In 1911 we adopted the envelope for collecting from every member. Funds were divided between ministerial support and current expenses. In 1913, we hired the very first church organist, Miss Media Shaw (1913-1918).
Average yearly conversions were 164.
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