Williams: Our coconut from Pastor Bumgarner

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2011

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
The first Pastor of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church to register in my memory was Pastor L.C. Bumgarner in the late 1950s. Even after all these years, I still have a picture of him engraved within my mind, made when I was young, while there was still an abundance of as-yet, unused space for inscription.
Pastor Bumgarner was thin, like my father, wore wire-rimmed glasses and seemed to move about with much energy. Looking back now, something about him reminded me of someone whom I used to watch on television as a child, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (although Bishop Sheen didn’t wear glasses).
I watched Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Mighty Mouse, Highway Patrol, the Jim Crockett wrestling show on WBTV, any science specials, Alfred Hitchcock, The Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond, but a few years before: Bishop Sheen. This either represented well-roundedness, or something similar to the strange mixtures which I would sometimes concoct with my childhood Chemcraft chemistry sets.
One time, as I remember, Pastor Bumgarner went on a trip to Hawaii. At the mention of Hawaii, I am reminded of another old television program which I enjoyed from that time: “Adventures in Paradise,” in which the actor Gardner McKay would sail his boat to exotic locations, and in those exotic locations, experience equally exotic adventures every week.
When Pastor Bumgarner returned from his “adventure in paradise,” probably the best paradise which this life affords, he stopped by our house and brought us something from the land of Michener — a coconut. This was the entire coconut, not just the inner little hairy orb only 3 or 4 inches wide, which we see in the bin at Food Lion. These always have three fingertip-sized impressions, that with a little imagination, approximate the appearance of eyes and a mouth, becoming a face, in much the same manner as the “face” of a bowling ball.
The “face” of Pastor Bumgarner’s coconut still rested within its unbroken outer shell which was as large as a football. It had the look of some great uncracked nut, light brown, with scattered little black spots on its surface. I seem to remember it being polished, but its shinyness might have been due to the absorption of my finger oils through frequent handling, due to fascination.
Later, I remember seeing our coconut always in its place on the floor beneath an end table next to the living room couch, its polished “wood” perhaps qualifying it for inclusion as a decorative object, of some kinship to furniture. I can still picture Pastor Bumgarner sitting on our living room couch during one of his pastoral visits, the coconut already having claimed its place of distinction not far away from him.
Having survived its trip with Pastor Bumgarner from Hawaii, the coconut did not survive my mother’s move from the Old Concord Road to Salisbury in 1974, most likely making a trip to the Rowan County landfill at that time.
Recently, I came across an old black-and-white photograph of the coconut, that souvenir of Pastor Bumgarner’s trip, and gift to us. In the picture, it remains in place under the same end table , next to the living room couch, out of the way of family foot traffic, but still serving its decorative purpose.
In that snapshot from the late 1950s, even though it is as long gone from our old living room as are my family of those days and I, the coconut continues to shine, its shining assisted now by the still glossy Kodak photographic paper upon which its image was printed so long ago.

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