My column last week was about The Wonder Five basketball team from Vienna High School, a group of boys who gained national attention in the 1925 to 1930 era. The team’s success has been largely credited to their coach, J. H. Jenkins. In doing some research for that column, I borrowed a book from Charlotte Hardegree Mixon, a long-time friend and former coworker of mine. “INCIDENTS” is a collection of short stories that were written by Mr. Jenkins and which Charlotte typed for him.
Charlotte had loaned me the book before, knowing that I would enjoy it. That fading memory from years ago had thankfully survived a long passing of time. Reading it again was somewhat like the unexpected joy of finding an old friend after a long separation.
“INCIDENTS” was sponsored by The Vienna Kiwanis Club and published in 1972. In the preface Mr. Jenkins says it was, “written at the request of several friends and with the hope that perchance some youth might read it and be inspired to adopt a more wholesome philosophy of life and that others may enjoy two hours or more of pleasant reading.” I’ve long passed the stage of youthfulness, but we’re never too old to embrace a more wholesome philosophy of life. And the two hours of reading were far more than just pleasant. I expect Mr. Jenkins knew they would be.
Over many decades I’ve heard J. H. Jenkins referred to as Colonel Jenkins. I think that was because of his role as President of Georgia Military College. He has always been mentioned with respect and admiration, as a man with an exemplary lifestyle and extraordinary leadership ability. I’ll call him Colonel for the rest of this column. The title seems to fit him well.
I only have room to share a few things from “INCIDENTS.” My hope is that someone will read this column and be inspired to publish a second edition.
Col. Jenkins shared some things that were quite serious. He wrote about a revival meeting at North Georgia Baptist Convention in Morganton where the church was filled for every service. Every student except one made a public profession of faith. The revival preacher asked Col. Jenkins to go to that student’s room and encourage him to make a decision.
The young man referred Col. Jenkins to the 18th chapter of I Kings. He asked him if he believed the story of Elijah calling down fire that consumed a bull that had been sacrificed and drenched with water. Col. Jenkins confirmed his belief. The young man then told Col. Jenkins, “If you will pile up a pile of wood and set it on fire that way, I will join the church.” Col. Jenkins somberly noted, “I didn’t have enough faith to try.” It’s an honest admission that all of us can appreciate. His story reminds me that God doesn’t expect us to perform miracles. He does, however, expect us to be witnesses.
Col. Jenkins wrote tenderly of the Sunday morning his wife died. “It was the darkest day of my life.” He mentions a few other specific times of grief, including the loss of a young daughter. Then he ends the segment without fanfare. “There were other rainy days that are common.”
The Colonel also had a flare for capturing lighthearted moments, like the time a lizard ran up a lady’s dress in church. “She screamed and jumped straight up. Her dress ballooned, revealing pink pantalets. Reverend Smith never regained the attention of the congregation.”
His subtle approach to humor is evident in stories like the one about two young women. They lived with their parents when Colonel Jenkins boarded there as a young man. “I guess by the way they acted that each of them would have liked to get married and that they would not be too choosey.”
I can’t do Col. Jenkins’ charming little book justice in a short column. My hope is that I’ve written well enough to spark some interest in making it available once more. Charlotte will let me borrow her first edition again, but a second printing would allow it to be enjoyed by many others.
“INCIDENTS” is a book worth reading by a man worth remembering. Time, however, has a way of quietly erasing memories as well as opportunity. That may eventually be the fate of Col. Jenkins and his delightful musings, but I hope it doesn’t happen now. Now is not the time. Now is far too soon.