Eighty Years is Hard to Put into a Few Minutes

I have been asked to talk about what this society means to me.  I could just say “everything” and go sit down, but I’ll try to elaborate a bit. Eighty years is hard to put into a few minutes.

When I was 11 years old, a friend invited me to her church’s annual picnic at Hammonesset Beach.  At that picnic I met the Rev. Charles and Mrs. Graves and was hooked.  I lived fairly close to them in Wethersfield, and Mr. Graves would pick me up and take me to church.  My mother was a Methodist and my father a Congregationalist. Neither of these churches in Wethersfield appealed to my brother and me, so they were pleased when we found a church we liked. I attended Sunday school until I was a teenager and then I joined the very active young peoples’ group, known then as the YPRU, Young Peoples’ Religious Union (The church on Pearl St. had a stage and we would put on plays and other shows.)  My brother saw what a good time I was having and my parents listened to Mr. Graves’ sermons, which were broadcast over WDRC on Sunday mornings, so when I officially joined the church in 1935 they all joined with me.

As a teenager, I also started teaching the 4th grade Sunday school class.  Helen Destemps, who was Mr. Graves’ secretary and also the Sunday School Director, handed me the statement that used to be recited. “The Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, Leadership of Jesus , Salvation by Character, Onward and Upward Forever,” and asked me to use this as the basis for my class.  I did it.  I have no memory of how I did it.  Many years later Dick Morton asked me to teach 4th grade again.  I refused.  I told him that as a teenager I knew more than the 4th graders, but as an adult, I wasn’t so sure.

I was married in 1941 and my church attendance was spotty for a number of years.  On Sunday mornings Tom and I were usually on a golf course.

When our son was three years old, I came back full force. I taught the three, four and five year olds for 18 years.

I served on the Society’s Council, the Membership Committee, and for many years on the Committee on Committees.  This committee would prepare a list of possible choices for various committees for the Council, who appointed all committee members. I also served as a trustee for a short period. I resigned when I realized I didn’t have the knowledge for that and when votes came up, I just watched to see how Hunter Barber voted.  I was on the Society’s Council at the time we hired Victor Lundy to design this building, so depending on your point of view, I take some of the credit or blame for the building.  I was also on the Search Committee (actually the full Council) when we called Nat Lauriat as our minister.  I have been a member of the Women’s Alliance for over 30 years.

I mention the things I have done, not to impress anyone but to illustrate my belief that the more you give to any endeavor the more you receive.  And I have received so much; many, many good friends, the guidance of six or seven excellent ministers, and support when I lost my mother, father, brother and husband.

So, I thank you all for being here. –   Betty Arnold