Published in the Rains County Leader on July 28, 2022:
Sundays have changed a lot since I was a kid, in fact, weekends in general were a lot different. Saturdays were sleep late days, but not very late. During the week Mom woke me up while it was still dark so she could fix my hair and make sure I was presentable before she left to catch the bus to work at 6:30. On Saturdays she let me sleep a little later, but I usually woke up on my own when the smells of coffee and bacon made their way into my room.
After breakfast, it was housecleaning time. My job was cleaning bathrooms and dusting while Dad did the floors and Mom did the laundry and cleaned the kitchen – and her kitchen was always spotless except when I cooked. After lunch, Dad would move to his outdoor chores and Mom and I would go shopping. There were a few interesting stores in downtown Mesquite, but after the Big Town Mall opened in 1959, that was our usual destination. After a quick tour of the bargain racks, and maybe a stop at the candy counter in Woolworth’s for a small bag of cashews or chocolate candy, we’d move on to Minyard’s, the only grocery store in town besides Anderson’s Market. We always finished our rounds well before dinner time because everything but the convenience stores closed at 6:00 pm on Saturday and didn’t reopen until Monday morning.
Saturday evening was dedicated to getting ready for Sunday. I had long, thick hair – and this was before home hair dryers – so the first task was to wash my hair and roll it up in pin curls or brush rollers. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very comfortably on Saturday nights, and I had to get up early on Sunday so I could stand in front of the heater if my hair wasn’t dry. Sunday clothes were also checked to be sure everything was clean and neatly pressed, and shoes were shined. Mom probably did some preparation for Sunday dinner, but I don’t remember that part. By then I was probably reading – first my Sunday School lesson so I could check that box on my offering envelope and then whatever library book I was reading at the time.
There was no “if” about going the Sunday School and Worship on Sunday mornings. The only time any of us stayed home was when we were contagious. Sunday lunch was at home or sometimes at Aunt Fay’s because none of the few restaurants in town were open on Sunday. We usually had a roast with potatoes and carrots that Mom put in a Dutch oven on the stove top before we left the house. Sometimes we’d have fried chicken that was left to cool until we got home. We had no slow cookers, oven timers, or warming ovens, but I don’t remember anything boiling over or burning, and no one ever got food poisoning.
Sunday afternoons were lazily devoted to reading or napping. Sometimes Mom would work on her current crochet project, but she never opened her sewing machine. Her mother had always told her that, if she sewed on Sunday, she would one day have to remove all those stitches with her eyelashes. After a light supper of leftovers, we went back to church for what was then called Training Union but would now be Bible study followed by another worship service. When I was promoted to the youth department I went even earlier for youth choir and stayed later for youth fellowship.
Sundays began to change sometime in the 1960s. My history may be a little foggy, but somewhere in that time period the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Sunday closing laws as unconstitutional. In an effort to preserve family values, Texas enacted blue laws in 1961 that declared that only necessities could be sold on consecutive days of the weekend. Some stores, especially supermarkets, began opening on Sundays, but items that were not considered necessities were roped off. It was a confusing time. For example, baby formula was a necessity but baby bottles were not.
Eating was a necessity, though, and restaurants began to open on Sunday. Probably encouraged by the new laws, Wyatt’s Cafeteria opened in Mesquite, and the race to be the first in line after the final “Amen” was on. Many moms were relieved not to have to get up at the crack of dawn to cook on Sunday or to figure out on Saturday night how to store a pre-prepared meal without benefit of plastic wrap or plastic storage containers.
And then came TV. We got our first set in the mid fifties. The three channels began broadcasting at 6:00 am and signed off at midnight, and most of the children’s programming was on Saturday morning. But the advertising industry quickly saw the opportunities in this new media and began to expand their target market. Sunday afternoon football hit the airways, and Walt Disney and Bonanza took over the evenings. Many pastors preached against the evils of Mickey Mouse and the Cartwrights as Sunday evening attendance dwindled.
Several years ago I sang in a women’s quartet for a while, and one of our most popular songs was “Excuses.” The chorus talks about how the devil offers people excuses to keep them away from church. The first verse goes like this:
In the summer it’s too hot. And, in the winter, it’s too cold.
In the spring time when the weather’s just right, you find someplace else to go.
Well, it’s up to the mountains or down to the beach or to visit some old friend.
Or, just stay home and kinda relax and hope some kin folks will start dropping in.
The devil doesn’t have to work very hard these days to find excuses because Sunday has become just another day of the week with business as usual. I can’t help but wonder if Sunday became a special day again if there would be less chaos in the world.