Robert Y. Horton
Robert Y. Horton, Robert (Bob) Chambers and
The Germantown United Methodist Church in the Early 1940s
By Andrew Pouncey
Whenever we are far from home, especially during the holidays, we welcome a letter, a card, a call, or today an email. They provide a kind of a reality check. Without this communication, one reality can replace another. This connection with the familiar gives us the feeling of being closer when we are often far away.
Those who serve our country are often at opposite ends of the world where traditions, weather, and people are very unlike the community we left. For many, the ritual of mail call or a phone call can be the brightest moment of one’s day. Communication with the place he or she left aids the soldier when he or she returns to “normal” life. They need to hear about the high school football game, the 4th of July fireworks, or the horseshow.
When my godfather Robert H. (Bob) Chambers died, I was given several items relative to his military experience in World War II. Bob was a qualified aircraft inspector and a member of Group Technical Inspection of the 89th Troop Carrier Group, Bergstrom Field, Austin, Texas. Bob’s real home was post office Rt. 2, Poplar Pike, Germantown, Tennessee.
Among his items was a letter dated December 31, 1943, addressed to Bergstrom Field in Austin. The author of the letter was Robert Y. Horton, the pastor of the Germantown United Methodist Church. Rev. Horton is pictured on a photo marker along Germantown Road in front of the Germantown United Methodist Church. The photo shows Horton and his two boys in their horse-drawn wagon in front of the pastor’s house.
The envelope with its three (3) cent stamp contained a photo of the church choir and two Christmas programs, one from December 20, 1942 and one from December 19, 1943. The choir (see photo), led by Lomax Springfield, was photographed in the former sanctuary built in 1929 and facing Germantown Road.
Vivian Owen was the choir director. Miss Mary Ella Mosby was the pianist. Betty Jo Coleman sang “O Holy Night” as a solo. Other carols included “We Three Kings”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Away in a Manager”. But beyond sending the program and picture to Bob, the Rev. Horton had everyone sign the program.
I visited with Mary Agnes Prescott years ago who had signed the program 63 years prior. Had I called Mary Agnes back in ’43, I would have only had to call two digits, 70. It took a few more digits this time to arrange our meeting. Mary Agnes had two sisters in the choir, Dolly and Gladys, and she filled me in on who was who in the photo.
Several other members who made substantial contributions to Germantown over the years also signed including Frances Hudson, postmistress, Sonny Foster who was largely responsible for the Germantown Charity Horse Show, and future Mayor Bruce Law.
When Bob returned to Germantown, all 42 pounds of his bags were shipped by Railway Express Agency to the Germantown Depot.
Many residents have stayed the course and helped to shape the city into what we have today. Some have moved on to other communities. While they were here, they made life more livable, built heritage for the future, and looked after one another even when they went off to war.
Rev. Horton’s efforts remind us all that a bright star during the holidays shines in the night sky just as strongly when it’s visible through the flaps of a tent as when it may be seen through the living-room window. Let those who are not at home this holiday know how much you care.
Methodist Minister Horton, Early 40s
Methodist Minister Horton with his family, Early 40s
Methodist Minister Horton with his children in a horse-drawn wagon
Methodist Church Choir (early ‘40s)
Front Row (L to R) John Murray Springfield, Mrs. Jo Wallace, Betty Chambers, Sara Wallace, Mrs. Paul Owen, Frances Hudson, Beverly Dacus, Doris Mosby, and Jimmy Springfield. Second Row (L to R) Mary Emma Colebank, Coleman, Mrs. A.P. Foster, Mrs. Robert Horton, Mary Agnes Prescott, Betsy Foster, Gladys Willams, Anna Laurie Howard. Third Row (L to R) Dolly Williams, Lomax Springfield, unknown, and Mary Ella Mosby.