Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly
Summer was synonymous with Ridgecrest. Ridgecrest is a convention area where Baptists from all over the southeastern United States convene for week-long conferences. Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains, not far from Asheville, North Carolina, it is a scenic, almost resort.
Through our parents’ connection to the Knox County Baptist Associational office, Nene was able to get a job in the summer, working at the Knox County Lodge at Ridgecrest. Though I was only 15 the first year she worked there, they allowed me to work, based on the fact that I was a preacher’s daughter, and would have an older sibling to keep an eye on me. They had been misinformed! We weren’t bad girls, but we had a mischievous streak that ran the length of the railroad tracks that delivered us by train each summer, from the Knoxville Train Depot to the tiny depot by the side of the tracks in Black Mtn., North Carolina.
We boarded the train, and waved goodbye to Mother and Suzanne. We had stars in our eyes and mischief on our minds. Though innocent and naive in our virtue, we were well-seasoned pranksters. The sound of the wheels of the train clicking along the track, the whistle blowing as it neared a curve or a crossing, and the conductor coming through the cars to collect our tickets was thrilling. Our Grandpa Payne had been a conductor for Southern Railways, and had retired just a few years before. Traveling and trains were in our blood.
Stepping down from the train onto the dusty, wooden, platform of the Black Mtn. Depot, we were instantly transported into another world. There was no one at the depot. We picked up our suitcases and headed for the long walk to Knox County Lodge. Luggage didn’t have wheels, back in the day, so by the time we arrived at our destination, we had stopped on the winding mountain road to rest a few times along the way.
As you can see, the lodge was built from cinder block. The outside looks plush compared to the inside. All of the floors, in the dormitory style housing, were concrete. Each room had 2 full- size beds and a place to hang your clothes, that did not have a door. Each room had a bathroom, but the amenities ended there.
Air-conditioning was unheard of, so all of the windows were open in the summer.
There was a small lobby in the entrance. Located at the rear of the lobby was a staircase; concrete with steel handrails. The first room on the left, after passing the staircase was our room. The next room belonged to the director, Mrs. Trivette. At the other end of the hall was another staircase.
Located on the floor below us was the dining hall. This is where we were to report three times per day to set the tables, and carry the country-style meals to the tables, and clean up afterwards. At the end of the week, an offering plate was passed for us and we divided the proceeds between all of the servers, of whom there were seven or eight. Our room and board was furnished, and we had the privilege of attending conference sessions while we were there. The money we made working was spending money. I describe all of this to you so that you will appreciate this series of stories I am going to tell you.
There were strict curfew rules at the lodge. Conference attendees were early risers. They had to be at breakfast by 7:00 am to make the conference sessions at 8:00. Mrs. Trivett insisted that all lights must be out by 11:00 pm.
As soon as lights out was called, she would turn out the hall lights and walk the halls to see if any light was coming out from under the doors. She would gently knock on those doors and remind them of “lights out”. We waited until we heard her door close and gave her a few minites to settle down. Nene, me, and our two roommates sneaked out into the hall and tip-toed down the stairs. Since we could get into the kitchen, we raided it. We got fried chicken, pie, rolls, bananas, everything we could carry, and made our way quietly and safely back to the room. We piled all the food in the middle of the food and sat down to our feast. “We need something to drink” one of the girls remarked. “Yeah, we do.” said another. “Pam, go get us a couple of sodas out of the machine.”, Nene insisted.
Like the dutiful sister, I tiptoed out the door, past Mrs. Trivette’s room, and to the end of the long hallway, where the drink machine was located. I slipped the money in the slot. Bong, dingy-ding, bong, bong! Every time the canned drink hit the chute, it echoed throughout the cinder-block building and through the hallways. Up and down every staircase, through each open window, and into the great forest that surrounded the building. I heard Mrs. Trivette’s door open. Thinking quickly, I ran downstairs, through the dining hall, and back up the staircase that came out beside our room. Just as I rounded the corner of the first landing, I looked up and saw Mrs. Trivette at the top of the steps. Hair curlers and hair net, bathrobe, and hands on hips, she whispered, “Pamela! What are you doing out of your room?” I mumbled something about being thirsty, as I slid past her. I apologized for my first night of missing lights out, and plead new kid on the block.
We thought we were safe, when a while later we heard a knock on our door. We all hopped into the bed and turned out the light. She knocked again. “Girls!” Silence. “Open the door.” she demanded. Igot up and answered the door, acting like she had awakened us. “We were asleep.” The words glided off my lying tongue. “Well, Pamela! Do you always sleep in your clothes?” Sarcastically she addressed us. “Jeaneane! Do you always sleep in your glasses? Do you girls think I was born yesterday? I saw the light on under your door, and heard you laughing. You can hear you all the way down the hall. Now get to bed, and I mean NOW!” We were busted!
That was our initial introduction to Mrs. Trivette. Wait until you hear about Nene’s encounter with her. Bring a towel!