The Germantown Museum

A project in the making

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In Times Past………..
By Andy Pouncey

Whenever we are far from home, especially at the holidays, we welcome a letter, a card,
a call or today an email. They provide a kind of reality check. Without this communication one reality can replace another. This connection with the familiar gives us the feeling of being closer to home when we are often very far away.

Those who serve our country are often at opposite ends of the world where traditions, weather and people are very unlike the community we left. For many the ritual of mail call or a phone call can be the brightest moment of one’s day. Communication with the place he or she left assists the soldier when he or she returns to “normal” life. They need to hear about the high school football game, the 4th of July fireworks or the horseshow.

When my godfather Robert H. (Bob) Chambers died, I was given several items relative to
his military experience in World War II. Bob was attached to Headquarters 349th Troop Carrier Group in Austin, Texas. His experience also took him to the European Theatre. Bob’s real home was post office Rt. 2, Poplar Pike, in Germantown, Tennessee.

Among his items was a letter dated December 31, 1943, addressed to Bergstrom Field in Austin. The author of the letter was Robert Y. Horton, the pastor of the Germantown United Methodist Church. Rev. Horton is pictured on a photo marker along Germantown Road in front of the Germantown United Methodist Church. The photo shows Horton his two boys, his baby and a plow in their horse-drawn wagon in front of the pastor’s house.

The envelope with its three (3) cent stamp contained a photo of the church choir and two Christmas programs, one from December 20, 1942 and one from December 19, 1943. The choir (see photo), led by Lomax Springfield, was photographed in the former sanctuary built in 1929 facing Germantown Road.

Vivian Owen was the choir director. Miss Mary Ella Mosby was the pianist. Betty Jo Coleman sang “O Holy Night” as a solo. Other carols included “We Three Kings”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Away in a Manager”. But beyond sending the program and picture to Bob, the Rev. Horton had everyone sign the program. 

I visited with Mary Agnes Prescott who signed the program 63 years ago. Had I called Mary Agnes back in ’43, I would have only had to dial two digits, 70. It took a few more digits this time to arrange our meeting. Mary Agnes had two sisters in the choir, Dolly and Gladys, and she filled me in on who was who in the photo.

A number of other members who made substantial contributions to Germantown over the years also signed including Frances Hudson, postmistress, Sonny Foster who was largely responsible for the Germantown Charity Horseshow and future Mayor Bruce Law. 

When Bob came back to Germantown (referencing a former article), who other than Railway Express Agency shipped his bags, all 42 pounds.

Many residents have stayed the course and helped to shape the city to what we have today. Some have moved on to other communities. While they were here, they made life more livable, built a heritage for the future and looked after one another even when they went off to war. 

Rev. Horton’s efforts remind us all that a bright star during the holidays shines in the night sky just as strongly when it’s visible through the flaps of a tent as when it may be seen through the living-room window. Let those who are not at home this holiday know how much you care.

Methodist Church Choir (early ‘40s)
Front Row (L to R) John Murray Springfield, Mrs. Jo Wallace, Betty Chambers, Sara Wallace, Mrs. Paul Owen, Frances Hudson, Beverly Dacus, Doris Mosby and Jimmy Springfield. Second Row (L to R) Mary Emma Colebank, Coleman, Mrs. A.P. Foster, 
Mrs. Robert Horton, Mary Agnes Prescott, Betsy Foster, Gladys Willams and Anna Laurie Howard. Third Row (L to R) Dolly Williams, Lomax Springfield, unknown and Mary Ella Mosby.

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