Sep14ThuRetrospective #9 September 14, 2017 Randy C. Hicks
The call came early Monday morning. The lady sounded a little rattled and wanted clarification regarding recurring entries in her grandmother’s diary dated 1909. The entries read something like this: “Another great Friday night Pub-Booming!” There was a pause and then she continued “That can’t be! My grandmother was a faithful Salvationist! Tell me this is not what it sounds like please. What exactly is Pub-Booming anyway?”
“Not to worry,” I calmly replied, “Pub-Booming was a name given to the activity of visiting local pubs to distribute copies of the War Cry and lend help to any who expressed a need.” Heaving a great sigh “Thank you,” she said. I continued “Soldiers often travelled in pairs and generally were regular visitors of establishments of owners who were not adverse to this type of ministry. Your grandmother obviously was suited to this kind of outreach and enjoyed contacting people this way.” We chatted some more and when I hung up I knew peace of mind had come to my caller.
“Pub-Booming” was indeed an interesting title given to this unique type of outreach. It’s rarely seen in many towns these days but was quite popular years ago. My first exposure came when, as first year Cadets at the Training College, we were sent out on Friday evenings to complete a round of “Literature Evangelism” (Booming), which we referred to as “Taverns.” Up until then I had never been in a tavern in my life nor was I overly acquainted with the habitual drinking of alcohol. And unlike granny from 1909, I despised it. I didn’t want to go, simple as that. Truth be told, I was scared to death as to what might happen to me. Granted, I wasn’t alone in that an older session mate accompanied me but once in the pub we would often split up so as to finish the job as quickly as possible.
Now my elder partner’s heart was much more sympathetic to the cause than mine and he often ministered to and prayed with the customers. One Friday, having just entered the dimmed, beer-fused, smoke-filled room, he approached with the news that he was going to see to it that an intoxicated chap got home safely and therefore I was to finish up on my own. My stress level immediately shot through the roof! Though outwardly smiling my approval of his plan, on the inside I was screaming “No! You can’t do this! You can’t leave me here alone! (Even as I write this some 40 years later, my chest is tightening!) I don’t recall how long I stood staring after them, frozen to the floor, refusing to acknowledge or make eye-contact with any of the men around me.
Breaking the spell, like the Little Engine, I kept telling myself I could do this and that I should never show fear. Swallowing hard I turned to the table next to me and the two men sitting there invited, or rather, insisted that I sit down and converse with them. I sat down. That’s when it happened. While introducing themselves they reached out to shake my hand and instinctively I complied. Gentleman number one seemed kind and genuine. Gentleman number two however gripped my hand and refused to let go. He conversed incessantly about matters of the soul and knew well my purpose for being there. Still holding my hand rather tightly, he now insisted he would be my “trophy of grace” but only if I returned to his apartment with him. I’m not sure but I think my prayer of desperation went something like this: “Lord, GET – ME – OUT – OF – HERE – NOW! I can’t do this! Please, please, please make him release my hand!” I explained to my captor that I was expected back at the college and if I was late there’d be trouble, I might even get kicked out, so why not pray right here. He was having none of it. Meanwhile his buddy was beginning to look worried. He appealed to “vice-grip-guy” indicating enough was enough, the joke is over, let the kid go. Nope. Not happening. We sat there; it seemed to me, for hours, although it may have been only forty-five minutes. I kept praying and the buddy kept pleading while the “bear-trap” kept grinning and squeezing. I was beginning to lose all feeling in my right hand when, as quickly as he had grabbed me, Mr. “I’ll-get-saved-if-you-come-home-with-me” let me go. I jumped up, threw a quick "Goodnight!" over my shoulder, made a beeline for the door and ran all the way back to the college!
It was years later when I realized I had possessed the best “Get–Out-Of-Taverns-Free” card ever and never knew it. The legal age to enter such facilities was then twenty-one! I was only seventeen!
Maybe you have a “Pub-Boomer’s” story, one with a happier theme perhaps?