| September/October 1970

Dayton Daily News & Radio's 'Joe's Journal'

'Oh come, come, come, come -- Come to the church in the wildwood. Oh come to the church in the vale ...'

There's no place so dear to this Spark Plug man, as the little white church by the side of the road where Woody Turner preaches 'salvation' for the lost souls of old, rusty gas engines.

The coal oil lights flickered late into the night at the little old Antioch Methodist country church. But there was no choir beckoning us to its door with the rendition of that old-time hymn, 'The Church In The Wildwood' as there once was calling sinners from across fields and meadows back to the fold. No bell was ringing in the belfry overhead.

As we entered the silent portals and stalked quietly and rather hesitantly through the tiny vestibule, as if afraid we might disturb the evening worship, we almost wished there were a choir to stare at us and heads twisting on necks throughout the congregation as if asking, 'Who are those strangers in our midst?'

But, alas, the little country church has gone the way of other Americana so dear to our hearts -- a victim of the modern age. The human element of choir and congregation singing forth about the old-time religion was strangely silent. Instead there sat a solitary figure, feet propped up on some old wood crates and lolling back in an old swivel chair, blocking the aisle where once the deacons passed the collection plates. He seemed tired from his day's labors. Like a country preacher, looking over his evening's sermon, he was thumbing thoughtfully through some tattered pages -- not pages of Holy Writ, perhaps, but papers and programs pertaining to the forthcoming big Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Reunion soon to be held up Portland, Indiana-way.