Easter experience tipped balance

By Don Mumford

Special Easters come to mind that have been quietly locked away in memory for many years. One very special Easter was back in 1964. I was part of a young singles group at a tiny little rundown church in Hollywood, California. It was my rock during my stay in California. The church was in need of repairs for everything imaginable.

I was just about out of money. I had just dropped out of The Art Center School, then located in Los Angeles, where I was majoring in automobile design. I was half-heartedly seeking employment in the L.A. area. To put it mildly, I was adrift in indecision about what to do next in my life.

Our group decided that we would go to Easter sunrise services at the Hollywood Bowl. We all had to get up quite early and met at one of the group member’s apartments to car pool. After parking at the Hollywood Bowl, we rode to that outdoor auditorium on the first moving sidewalk I had ever seen.

We got to our seats quite a ways down front. The morning was warm and dark, and I was impressed with the silence of the crowd who seemed compelled to speak in hushed tones. In front of the stage was a pond filled with floating Easter lilies. Over my left shoulder, high on a nearby hill was a tall, dimly-lit cross. Seated on stage in the form of a huge cross was a massive choir in black gowns, and behind them was the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The opening remarks were made by a Hawaiian minister who quietly played a few hymns on his ukulele. Then, Agnes Moorehead, a well-known character actress, glided up to the podium. Just as she did that, rays of sunshine burst onto her and the stage. We all looked over our shoulders and, right on cue, the sun had risen right behind that cross!

Simultaneously, the choir rose from their seats, let their black gowns drop from their shoulders, stood there in brilliant white satin robes, and burst forth with “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” with the accompaniment of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. That tremendous sound created by the singers and the orchestra reverberated throughout the Hollywood Hills. Wow!

This Easter experience may have acted as the fulcrum to tip the balance for me to decide to leave L.A. The vacillation was over, but so was my dream to be an automobile designer. I took stock of what little cash I had left, figured out what it would cost me to return to my hometown in Warren, Ohio, and gave all the rest to that poor little dilapidated church I was attending.

I had calculated a little too closely on what money I needed to get home, because I got food poisoning in Arizona and had to hole up in a cheap motel in New Mexico for three days until I felt well enough to continue my journey back to Ohio. The lodging bill just about wiped me out. I had money for gasoline, but no money for food. I was completely out of money by the time I reached the mighty Mississippi.

It was a stroke of good fortune that I had made it this far, because I now could use a Sunoco credit card I had for Sunoco gasoline available only east of the Mississippi. A kind gas station attendant let me use that credit card to buy potato chips, pop and candy bars to nourish me on the final stages of my journey.

I was a very weary and drained young man when I pulled into the driveway of my parents’ home with my tail between my legs. Robert Frost had put it well when he said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

I had had a magnificent adventure way out there in the great southwest, but now I had to settle down to a pretty tame regular life. I will never regret giving what may have been thought of as giving too much to that little church before I left L.A. I had made it back to Warren. I found employment, and eventually married and had a family of my own.

Reach Mumford, of Warren, at columns@tribtoday.com.

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