Every life has its story. Some longer and some more adventuresome and even amazing than others. Mary Lynn Crafton is one of those people. Having known her all of my life, I had no idea what lay behind that perfectly dressed, sweet little lady, who sat on her living room couch and shared her wonderful memories of almost 96 years (presently 101).
My first remembrance of her was my first day of first grade. Her son Mark and I were in the same room, Mrs. Reddick's room, which means something to people my age who grew up in Portland. My mother told me who she was and that we went to church together.
Several of us from the anniversary committee and her daughter-in-law Trudy listened in amazement as she shared her wonderful memories of her life and First Baptist Church.
"I grew up on a farm where Oak Hill Drive is now," she shared.
"Some of my earliest memories of church were when I was about six-years-old and it was Christmas time at the building that stood on Church Street."
"The church had a Christmas tree and I thought it was so beautiful."
"Brother J. O. Hill is the first pastor I remember, he came here in 1924," she said.
Bro. Hill stayed until 1929 during the construction of the "new" brick building on the corner of Broadway and College.
"All of our pastors have been well educated and brought many good things to the church and community, but one of my favorites was Bro. Whaley."
Bro. H.T. Whaley came in 1929 and stayed until 1932.
"There was no plumbing in the church or anywhere else in town at that time", "he had a car with a rumble seat and sometimes he would let my sister Martha Lane Freedle and I ride in the rumble seat to Franklin, Ky. where he would do his laundry once a week," she giggled as she remembered how all the young people liked Bro. Whaley.
In 1929 Bro. Whaley baptized almost every girl in her Sunday School Class.
"I don't remember if it was a revival or maybe after Vacation Bible School, but we decided together that we wanted to make a profession of faith and be baptized."
Some of young ladies were Edna Frances Kerley Viar, Margret Bell Booker Goad, Margaret Short, Aillene Sanders; all friends in the same class.
Many church friends and teachers she remembered were Annie Ruth Massey Moore, Mary Bernice Lane, Bell Walden and Nannie Jones.
She remembered Sunday School, Church Circles that met in people's homes, BYPU on Sunday nights, revivals, Vacation Bible School, G.A.'s, Workers Council and every aspect of the church.
She remembered the church ladies preparing meals for visiting preachers who oftened stayed across the street from the church with Annie Ruth Massey Moore who always kept a guest room for them.
Sitting on the wooden pews with no cushions and no air conditioning with her friends on hot summer days.
Her father, Mark Freedle was a farmer and also an accomplished carpenter.
"Daddy built the podium, pews and many tables and other furniture items in the new brick church," she added.
As she shared her memories, she said she couldn't tell me a lot about the 1940's because she wasn't here.
She took a Civil Service Exam and landed a job in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
At that time, she was writing her future husband, Howard Crafton, who worked for the Lockheed Corporation and was in Ireland at that time.
Howard had also grown up in Portland at First Baptist Church. His family owned a farm next to the Freedle's.
In 1944, the young couple decided they had waited long enough.
"Howard wrote me and said he wanted to get married," she smiled.
So, she quit her job at the Pentagon and came back to Portland. Later she boarded a train for California and in December of 1944 they were married.
Mary Lynn decided she needed a job and applied for a job with a perfume company in Los Angeles.
"I had to ride one of the few elevators in Los Angeles because everyone was afraid there might be an earthquake," she laughed.
She bravely rode it anyway and went to work for three men who made a famous perfume at the time. They named the perfume after themselves, Ovid for the men and Voris for the women.
She worked there while the country was at war.
Now back in Portland, their son Mark was born in 1947. Howard later opened Shell City Garage and became a successful mechanic. His son Mark owns the garage today.
Mary Lynn eventually retired from The Farmers Bank.
So many things have happened in the world and in our church since she was a little girl.
Although she can't drive now and can rarely attend church, she is right on top of everything going on and wants to be included.
She is one of the many treasures we have in our church with much wisdom to share. Her family, which includes Freedles, Lanes, Austins and Craftons were some of the earliest families who helped bring our church to where it is today and maintain the Baptist faith throughout the generations.
Johnnie Freedle is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.