Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Sanderson Boys Get Naked at Summer Camp

Manville, Illinois, July 1971

I never understood the Lionel Ritchie song "Easy like Sunday Morning."  In our house, Sunday morning was a flurry of activity, as five people rushed through breakfast, fed the dogs, put the potroast in the oven, dressed in our best clothes, and drove across town to make it to church for:

9:30 Sunday school (classes informing us of the things God hated)
10:30 Morning service (the preacher screaming about the things God hated), then the altar call.

Home for a change of clothes, the potroast, and a few hours off, then back to church for
6:30 NYPS
7:30 More screaming at the evening service, and another altar call.

But six hours in church on Sunday wasn't the end of it.  We were expected to be in church "every time the doors were open," for choir practice, missionary society, prayer meetings, Bible studies, youth groups...

And as if that wasn't enough, twice a year, in the fall and the spring, there was a revival: a whole week of services led by an evangelist, who made his living going from church to church, trying to revv up the congregation and get them saved.

It was horrible.  Sunday morning screaming amplified by a thousand!  Especially near the end of the week, when just about everyone had been saved, and it got harder and harder to get those bodies of their seats and down to the altar.

The only bright spot was the gospel music group that appeared with the evangelist.  They sang fast-paced modern songs, not our usual ancient funereal hymns full of "thees" and "thous."

Getting ready today, moving out tomorrow
Gettin' sanctified through earthly sorrow
I'm looking for a brand new day
I've found the Lord, I'm almost there.

 They were accompanied by banjos, guitars, even tambourines.  Church elders used to tinny pianos and organs were shocked.

They were usually related, or groups of brothers, or pretend brothers, like the Calvary Boys (below).

I couldn't understand why at the time, but eventually I figured it out: traveling all over the country, living out of buses or vans, spending all of their time together, asleep or awake, there might be sexual temptations.  But not if they were related.



The men and boys were undeniably cute, clean-cut and fresh-scrubbed.  Unfortunately, their matching gospel outfits made it difficult to check for the bulge of a bicep (or anything else).

But sometimes when you went down to the altar, they rushed over to help you Pray Through to Victory, and there was a hard celebrity arm across your shoulders.

Or, when their van or bus was parked in the church parking lot all week, you could sometimes find an excuse to drop by the church in the afternoon and see them out of uniform.

During the spring revival in fifth grade, the musical group was The Sanderson Boys, three "brothers" in their mid-20s.  They were all tall, wide-shouldered, and grinning, but I liked Joe, the biggest and huskiest.  Unfortunately, he didn't come down to the altar to help me Pray Through, so I didn't get a chance to feel his hard celebrity arm across my shoulders.

And I never got a chance to drop by the church parking lot to see him out of uniform.

But that summer, at Manville Nazarene Camp (a few weeks before I visited Cousin George in South Carolina), I was surprised to find the The Sanderson Boys as our camp counselors (top photo)!

Every day we had an assembly where they asked us to yell "Boy, am I enthused!" and sing camp songs like "If you're saved and you know it, clap your hands." Then they split up to coach sports: Jim touch football, Jack basketball, and Joe baseball. Unfortunately, there was no swimming.

I picked baseball, just in case Joe got sweaty and took his shirt off.

He did!  Big shoulders, throbbing biceps, nicely ribbed abs!

But I wanted to see more.  So I devised a clever plan.

One day during a game I walked over to Joe and said  "Um...I have to...um...pee."

"Sure, go ahead."

"The bathroom's way over to the other side of the camp.  I don't think I'll make it," I said, squirming and looking distressed.

"Well, why don't you find a tree in the woods, and go there?"

I glanced toward the woods.  "With the spiders and bugs?  No way!"

"Come on, it's easy!"

I hung my head, looking like I wanted to cry.

"Would you like me to go with you, and show you how?"

I nodded.

So Joe took my hand and led me into the woods.  He found an oak tree out of sight of the other campers.  "Ok, now just unzip, pull it out, and aim toward the tree." He unzipped his own pants, pulled out a monster that rivaled my Cousin Joe's and let loose.

I was so elated that I almost forgot to let loose myself.


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