My first clarinet lessons were from my grandfather, who had also played when he was younger. I’ve forgotten most of the lessons and the ones I do remember, many of them weren’t that fun. But I do remember an old song book Grandpa dug up. It wasn’t meant for woodwind duets, but we made it work. One of the songs, The Little Brown Church in the Vale, we wouldn’t play so much as I would listen as Grandpa would sing it.

Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

I don’t remember Grandpa talking about going to church much until our trip to Cleveland in the early 2000s. As we drove through the old neighborhoods and took pictures of the old family homes, he shared with me that his mother, Nellie, had taken him and his brother, Cliff, to church.

Grandpa said that his mother played piano for their services and he and his brother had attended Sunday School. He referred to it as a “German church,” but I’m not sure if that is accurate.

Grandpa's "Holman Bible," a gift from Calvary Bible School on October 13, 1929.
Grandpa’s “Holman Bible,” a gift from Calvary Bible School on October 13, 1929.

Grandpa never mentioned this Bible to me, either. I don’t remember him showing it to me; I believe I got it after he died in 2006.

Grandpa was nine when he receive the Bible. It’s still in pretty good shape, considering. Only a few pages are bent or torn. No notes or cards or pictures are stuck between the pages (much to my disappointment). Incidentally, the original ribbon bookmark was left on Job 11.

I looked up what a “Holman Bible” was. From what I understand, A. J. Holman founded a Bible-printing company in the 1870s in Philadelphia. As was common, his Bibles were sold door-to-door. It could be that this is how this one made it to Calvary Church.

I’ve heard from my cousin and her niece that Nellie was quite devout, though neither of her sons were. I don’t know if her parents were, but I know her in-laws (Ignatz and Lena Frohmberg) very well could have been. On their marriage certificate, Ignatz is identified as “Catholic,” Lena as “Evangelical.” Although my grandfather found Lena a hard woman to like, perhaps religion is what brought Nellie and Lena together on a deeper level? I’m not sure. I do know that despite divorcing their son in 1930, Nellie appeared to get along with her in-laws well.

Calvary Church, September 2014 from Google Maps Street View.
Calvary Church, September 2014 from Google Maps Street View.

My cousin and I have tried contacting the church (now a different denomination) last fall to no avail. I hope that someday we’ll make a break through and discover some records of our family there, but until then, please enjoy Tennessee Ernie Ford’s rendition of the old hymn:

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