EDITOR'S NOTE:   The events of Dr. Keyes' early life formed much of who he was.   Below is his own recollections of his early life,  written about a year before his death in November 2004.

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My first childish recollection is of my sitting on the lawn of our rented house together with my two sisters and our mother.   We were waiting for papa to return and to take us to the new house he had purchased for us.  As we waited Mother engaged us in committing to memory a passage of scripture that became, for me, not only a memorized verse of scripture, but a life long guide of my life.

The scripture that became fixed in my memory was a New Testament quote from the prophecy of Isaiah, and it was a goodly number of years before I actually located the passage that had been indelibly imprinted on my young mind, and heart.  The words I learned that day are, to this day, clear and distinct: "The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the LORD endureth for ever."

The reference is I Peter 1:23-25:   "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.   For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:   But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.   And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."

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Our new home was a frame building that still was not finished.   In fact it was years before much of the interior was finished with wall board.  Papa bought a kerosene stove for the kitchen.  It never did work quite comfortably.  We also had a small wood stove for heating and I was soon taught to help Mother by bringing in stove wood, first just fetching the pieces, then learning to chop with an ax which at first was much for me to handle.

One day a home nurse that was helping Mother told me to go and get a hen out of the flock and kill it so she could prepare it for our supper.   I was having so much trouble with the ax that she came out and rebuked me for mutilating the poor creature.   She must have realized that I did not know what I was doing.

Papa also bought a 1925 two-door Chevrolet.   That car was still very much our dependable transportation until well after I was gone from the home place in my mid teens.   All Papa had ever driven up to that time was a horse and buggy.   He never stopped saying "woah" and "gee" and "ha" to that old twenty-five two-door Chevy.  I was present several times when the blacksmith heated and hammered parts of that car back into shape.  Once Papa drove it though the back wall of the garage he had built.

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On one of those early winter's storms, some of the shingles on the roof blew into the wind leaving a nagging drip every time it rained.   Papa took me up on to the roof with him, while Mother was critically watching.  Papa tied me with a length of rope to the chimney so I could hand new shingles to him.   We got the job done in good time, much to Mother's relief.

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When I was about eight, some of Mother's friends who drove around in a fancy touring car came to take us to a Nazarene Tent Meeting.   The tent was complete with sawdust floor and benches.   I do not recall the singing or the content of the preaching on the "prodigal son", but I do recall clearly, that having finished his message, the evangelist sat down on a folding chair to retell the prodigal sitting on the rail of the hog pen deciding to "go home."   Then with a sudden motion the evangelist threw the folding chair he was sitting on across his little platform. It landed somewhere of to the side, as the he stated in no uncertain tone: "I am going home!"   By then I was in deep emotion, too scared to move, but able to say within myself, "I am going home to my Heavenly Father."   It was just that plain and straightforward.

Never, from that day to this, have I felt any misunderstanding of what was taking place in that awesome moment.   It was some two years later that I acknowledged this at a church service and was accepted for water baptism.   When I was baptized, I knew in my soul that I was baptized as a born again child of God.

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My best friend during my boyhood years was a dog named Zip.   He stood taller that the sides of my red wagon.   We were always together except in the house and at school.

One day Papa got to feeling that Zip was too much of a burden on the family food supply, so he took Zip on a leash and traveled to another part of town and gave Zip a handful of scraps that he had carried with him.   He took Zip's collar off and left him enjoying the scraps.

Papa caught a street car at the end of the line, and made the necessary transfers that brought him close enough to walk to the house.   When he arrived home, very tired from his extended journey, the first one to meet him was Zip.  It wasn't very long after this, that my friend Zip came home to die.   He had been poisoned.  I buried him in a safe corner of our home property.

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About the same time, a favorite Rhode Island red hen that we children were very fond of and enjoyed playing with, we found dead in her nest.   We decided that we needed a funeral, although almost all of our experience with such a service was that it was what you must do.   Yitt preached.  He put Noah in the whale's belly and he put Jonah safely in the ark.   Our burial in the cemetery was a most solemn procedure

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We had a round table and Mother's pump organ in our combination dining and living room.  Except for our church and our school, most of our time was spent at the home place either around the table or the organ.  The times we really enjoyed were in that living room with Mother's organ music.   It was there in that living room, that our spiritual training was carried forward, never to be erased or even misplaced.   Mother would play hymns and Etudes, and we would sing and dance about, loving our togetherness and the harmony of Mother's beautiful music.

Our mother, during the later years of my boyhood, maintained a little table near the big doors in and out of the church building, from which she handled Bibles and Christian books.  Often when a shipment would come in of these special things, I would go with her, pulling my red wagon as she made deliveries of items ordered by individuals.   When I was a little older I would make the rounds myself together with "Little Yitt."  My first Thompson Chain Bible, my Christian Workers Testament, Christy's Old Organ, Jesecer's First Prayer, and Pilgrim's Progress all came to be mine as a result of Mother's colportage ministry.

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Most of the last year of Mother's life, she was very sick, at times she was in such extreme pain that she closed her hands to keep from crying out and the palms of hers hands would bleed, so tightly she would grip them.   I was the one that waited on her.   She seemed to enjoy the Lipton's tea I brewed for her in the little tea pot.

Glenn was going on two and Vona had most of his care.   Of course all of us tried to be the best we could for Mother's sake.   It was on one of these days, as I was sitting beside her bed, that I ventured to blurt out that I believed that the LORD had called me to be a preacher.

Mother's response was, "I've known that since before you were born."

I said, "Why haven't you told me this?"

Her quiet answer was, "I couldn't speak before the LORD called you."

A day or so before she was carried to the hospital, Mother told us all that the pain had been taken away, and that she felt completely at rest.   With one voice we all began to beg Mother to play the organ for us.   She said she would, but that my brother and I would have to pump the organ pedals for her.  We did, one on each side of her, 'Yitt,' and I; on each side of her feet, knelt and pumped the foot pedals and Mother sang softly and played the beautiful music we loved.

I do not forget the last hymn she played and sang that day, "Out of my bondage, sorrow and night JESUS I come to Thee. Into the joy and light of Thy home, JESUS I come to Thee."  Little could we realize that even then, she was singing the entrance of her spirit into the city of God.

The ambulance came to take her to the hospital.   Before that day was fairly past she was carried by the angels to be with CHRIST JESUS her LORD, and with her were also carried still-born twin brothers.

I was just past twelve when Mother was taken from us to be carried to the city of God  my sister Ruby was sixteen and a half months younger than I, and sister Vona, born on my birthday, was next. Noble, Nelva, and Glenn who was about two, were the three youngest.   Papa was barely recovered from the sun-stroke that had laid him low on that "black Friday," two years earlier.   We seven were left in what seemed to each one of us, a house without the sunshine.

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Soon after Mother's death, I had made it known to our pastor that I was called to preach, and was enrolled in the pastor's class along with several older than I.  Our special teacher was an elderly man of God who lived alone in a trailer.   There, in that trailer, on a regular schedule, our class would meet to study the scriptures, and to be shared meaningful experiences of a preacher's life.  I remember how strongly this old saint of God would stress the necessity of building a true foundation of ministry in the word of God.

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My first experience in the pulpit was when I was fourteen.   Pastor had sent me, along with others from the fellowship, to have a part in a yearly youth gathering in a nearby city.   I carried my "Christian Worker's" New Testament with me as I traveled to the meeting place.  Each of us "preacher boys" that were present were called upon to give a message.   For my message, I chose John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

The only part of the service, and even of my part in it, that I have ever recalled, was that I kept repeating, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."  In memory, I see the small pulpit, and feel the presence of the assembly, but what was deeply impressed upon my spirit was the words, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."

I cannot reconstruct any other impressions of my calling for the next three or four years, until my experiences with Pat Ross who was on disposition to go as a missionary.

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I was finishing the 9th grade when our pastor, W. R. Steelberg, together with Papa arranged for me to go some two hundred miles from home to a railroad junction, a small town called Portola, where I was to help Pastor Middleton with his Sunday school ministry up and down the mountain trails.

Pastor Steelberg carried me with him the day he went to purchase a new Pontiac from Brother Middleton, whose dealership was somehow identified with the railroad.

Brother Middleton's place was a marvel.   On the street level it was a new car showroom, the upstairs living quarters was also the meeting place of the Assembly of God church of which Brother Middleton was pastor.  In that multiple duty place there was a wonderfully caring and efficient woman who was my first "mother" away from home.

Soon after arriving, I was introduced to a man that was visiting as a kind of rest and restoration, and he has his own room not far from where we lived.   This man, and I have never learned his name, hosted me one time at his staying place.  He fed me cookies and hot tea as if he knew how lonely and questioning about everything I was.

As we were drinking our tea, I sort of blurted out an experience I had enjoyed with my mother. We had gone together to a large gathering in a public building to hear Amy Semple McPherson who had come to Sacramento for a weekend.   I do not remember much about her, but I was enraptured by a soloist who sang my song, "The Ninety and Nine."

I spoke of how much that song meant to me and how I wanted to meet that man and tell him he had touched my heart with his singing.   When I stopped telling this experience, my host said, "You are saying that you want meet that singer?" I responded with all of the uncertainty and loneliness I was feeling.

"Do you really mean that?" my host finished my thoughts for me.   Then he stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "You are meeting him right now."

The visit was over, and we were never to meet again.   My Heavenly Father, through that event, gave me solid ground to stand on, even as I was about to slip into the uncertainty of even knowing what life was all about.

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My days with Pastor Middleton were very busy and much too few to really leave an impression of their value for my development.   Apart from the loving, providential care of my Heavenly Father, the next few years would have been wasted.  It was all too soon that I was to become Pat Ross's assistant.

There are precious moments, and precious memories of kindness and much needed encouragement from those we met as we traveled.   Our transportation was a twenty-four Studabaker sedan.   I should say we practically lived in that car.   Because Pat was preparing to go to the mission field, and because his intended bride lived in Cottage Grove Oregon, our travels over Northern California were generally in that direction.   We did finally arrive at our destination, and I was suddenly made aware that I was on my own, without even a room to call my own.   Because Pat was intending to keep the car, and all of his attention was directed toward his coming marriage, within a day of our arrival, it was quite evident that I was out of place, and out of even pennies.

I was sitting on a park bench a little distance from Pat's bride's home, totally absorbed in wondering what to do about it all, when a middle-aged man I believe was a member of the bride's family came and sat down beside me and quietly asked, "What was I thinking of doing?"

I told him that I needed to get to San Francisco, that there I had a friend, that I lacked the price of a ticket, and supposed that I should start hitch hiking.  He said that if I agreed, he would put me on the Greyhound Bus and put a dollar or so in my pocket.   I didn't even go back to the house.   I had no luggage, only the clothes I had on my back.   My benefactor saw me to the bus and gave me some money.   Thus I was again going into the unknown pathways of the future.

I do not recall the journey, but I recall that I got off the bus in San Francisco early in the morning.  I had an address, and I knew that I could take a street car to my friend's home.   I found that in addition to what I would need for carfare, I had fifty or sixty cents.

There was an open breakfast place hard by the bus station, and I asked the man behind the counter to give me whatever fifty cents would buy.   The bacon and eggs and hash browns were most welcome indeed, and served to lift my spirits for whatever lay before me.

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My friend was a widower, with two teenage children.   The boy and girl were in high school.   My friend had a steady, though light on the wages, daytime job.

I obtained employment that contributed to the household with the Nob Hill Maintenance Company.  It was then and there that I applied for and received my social security number.   I soon learned enough to comfortably get around that city because for awhile, I had a mid twenty Buick with which I served as a mounted messenger for Western Union in down town San Francisco.   It was my time in San Francisco that I was taught the many things that pertain to the very ordinary things of life.  

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I attended First Baptist Church.  I visited the downtown Presbyterian church to hear the great Gypsy Smith preach the morning service and again the evening service.

I well remember the hymn Gypsy Smith sang, "There is never a day so weary, there was never a night so long, but the soul that is trusting JESUS will somewhere find a song," and the illustration that has blessed me from that day to this.   He asked us in his special way of preaching, "Would you try to eat a small portion of salt by itself? How about a cup of flour? What about a spoonful for baking power?  Right now”, he continued, “your palate is uncomfortable at the very thought, but Mother takes these very things and makes an angel food cake! And so it is with the life of a Christian, our Heavenly Father blends together both the pleasant and the tasty things of life, with those that be, of themselves, most unpleasant, that he may develop our lives for an eternity with himself."

I do remember that the precious old evangelist was emphasizing Romans 8:28,  " And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

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For a very short time, I had an acquaintance my age, with whom I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on the day the President cut the ribbon by radio.   The wind and sun cooked our faces so fully that we hardly recognized ourselves!  Although we were separated by great distances by the time the war years began, I was given to understand that he got himself buried in the secret service, and may have been a part of that extraordinary military victory over Japan.

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In the providence of God, my friend and benefactor was to go to a place just south of Los Angeles to serve as the minister of music in a brand new Southern Baptist Church, with a pastor fresh from South Western Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.  Because I was an accepted member of his family, I was privileged to go along on this new adventure, so when we met the pastor and the deacons, I was asked to serve as Youth Director.

A deacon of the new church, a man who knew the LORD in a real way, was a builder of new homes.  He gave me a job with his company as an apprentice carpenter.

I chauffeured a huge man over a good deal of California who sold oil stocks. On one occasion, we were in Sacramento and somehow I got the chance to go alone and visit the home place.  I do not know why, but Papa and my brothers and sisters were not there, and had not been for several days.  As I was looking over the place, even looking in the windows, I noticed a neighbor that had the adjoining half-block of property watching me, so I went to the fence and was recognized.   We talked for a moment or two, when the car I was driving showed up and my passenger asked me to take the wheel.

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One Sunday night following the evening service, the church at South Gate was called to business to work out the details of special revival services that were to be held in an open shed, which had sawdust for the floor and benches for pews.  As the business meeting progressed, one of the leading members of the church spoke of the practice of the young people to leave the building following BYPU to sit in family cars while their parents attended the evening church service.  I was standing in the back of the room, listening.   What I heard burned into my soul so much that I couldn't keep from speaking.  I spoke with tears and sobs that welled up from my heart.  I could not, even at the time, recall my words, but only the burden I felt; that the church needed to reach out to its youth, to reach out for their meaningful inclusion in the life of the church.  I do recall the words of the pastor, "I believe the LORD is speaking to us all, let us pray."  The revival was a bountiful in-gathering, including some fifty teens who filled the improvised choir the last night of the special meetings.  

Shortly after this, and again providentially, the pastor called for the church to license me to be a candidate for the ministry; but the place of these things in God's purpose for my life would not be understood for months to come.

By the way, even though I was suddenly leaving for my long trip to Florida via the "Spanish American Trail", US Highway 90, I learned that the church growth was so great that they had to continue using the shed, to which they had quickly added siding.

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To this day, I am not able to satisfactorily reconstruct how I was suddenly made the reconstituted school bus driver and the preacher boy with a man, whom I was to learn much later, had often gone over this same route with a preacher boy.   I was aware that he had come from our home church in Sacramento, but I don't remember that I was given a choice in the matter, or even an idea of the planned trip.  The one thing I knew as I took over my job as driver, that after all, I did not have a place that I could call my own there in South Gate.   I had been given a place to stay with a family that was not really part of the church.  For this family, I had served as the "chain man" with a surveying crew, plus giving everything I made as a hand for the builder of the new houses.

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The man from Sacramento, my sister Vona told me, had been sent to take me for that journey.  I suppose that I was to make the return trip with him, but what occurred, was my abandonment in West Florida,

He left me holding a meeting in a little church, while he went to take care of personal business somewhere in Alabama.  I had finished that meeting and had gone on to another, with a promise for still another, when one of the pastors called me to a phone to hear the man say that if I wanted to go back with him, I would need to come to Alabama right away, because he was not planning to go back to California over the same route we had come.  I told him I had no money for travel, and I had obligations that would keep me for a time.   I have never heard what he told the home church when he got back there, but after all, the LORD had plans for me that had not yet materialized.

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It was the last of the year 1937 that I was the assembly speaker at the school in Lee, Florida. The special people to be recognized that day were the girls' basketball team, the winning team for the whole county.   During that morning's proceedings, from the place was where I was seated, I could see the basketball team gathered for their special victory recognition.

As I observed, I was firmly attracted to the face of one of the team members. Our eyes never met, neither was I privileged to personally meet any of the team members.  I did, however, ask a trusted individual who that special one was.  I shall never forget his response, "If you are just thinking of a casual acquaintance, please stay away, but if you are serious, there is no finer girl in the county."  I was privileged shortly after this to meet her face to face at her home place, but that's another story.

I knew, from the first sight of her on that day at the school assembly, that she was to be my wife.

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When I arrived at Lee, Florida, to preach a revival for the Assembly of God congregation, I was for all practical purposes without a home or even a place to stay, and had only the clothes on my back, which by that time were getting threadbare.  A stranger to me, but one that knew who I was, was the manager of the commissary store in Greenville, befriended me, even to the point of giving me a much needed blue surge suit on the promise I would pay him as I could.  I believe that he was the one who arranged for me to go to Lee for that revival service.

The Elder of the little congregation welcomed me into his home, but could not keep me indefinitely, because his house was much too small, even though I was a penniless stranger.  Providentially, and even before the revival's two weeks were completed, a family took me in and put me in the lean-to that was the living quarters of the grandmother.

Immediately the grandmother took over as my mother, and before the winter was past, she had nursed me through a chest congestion with a mustard plaster treatment, that in some respects was as painful as my illness.

My benefactor had a young saddle horse that he was to train for the owner.   I guess I was the one that spent the most time in the training of that young Filly.

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I learned where that special girl lived, and during the time of tobacco cropping, I visited the farm of William Berry Ezell, whose daughter was Lillian Frances.  She had an older brother, who very soon became my close friend.

The farm was a bee hive of activity the day I came visiting.   Everybody, including the little children, was engaged in harvesting tobacco.  The men were cropping and the women were stringing the tobacco leaves in preparation for the curing process.   I very soon realized, without even a word, that Frances was embarrassed at my presence, so I joined myself to the men who were cropping in the field. (I had already been taught how to crop).

I did get a chance to speak to her mother, Mrs. Ezell, before I headed to the field and began my acquaintance with Frances' brother, an acquaintance that developed into true friendship.

It would be shortly after this first visit to the farm, that, well, that's another story.

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In those early days in Lee, I found myself very much in need of employment.   I heard that there were carpenter jobs in Miami, so I hitchhiked all the way to the heart of the city.   By much inquiry I learned where these carpenter jobs were, and managed, mostly by walking, to reach an area that was filled with streets and survey stakes.  Finally I found someone who seemed to be in the know, who told me that the builder's plans had been held up indefinitely. It was late by that time, and I wanted to avoid getting in trouble so I climbed down the side of an overpass in the heart of the city, pulled my coat about me and "waited for the morning."

I was penniless, so I walked till I found the highway north.   I was right near a roadside diner hoping to hitch a ride when a man driving a big car pulled up and asked me if I knew how to drive.  I assured him I did, so he said that he had to get to Jacksonville, that he was exhausted, and if I would be his driver for the trip, he would make it worth my while.   He began by getting breakfast for us both, then he climbed into the roomy back seat, and exhorted me to mind the traffic signs for speeding.  He had barely finished before he was sound asleep.  When we finally arrived in Jacksonville, he got me a private motel room and gave me a little money, and I saw him no more.

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The Ezell's were members of the Beulah Baptist Church.   The preaching at that time known as “quarter-time”.  There was, however, Sunday school every Sunday, and most Saturday evenings, there was a well-chaperoned young people's gathering, held most often, at a senior church member's home.

This was the time of courting the girl I had loved from the first moment I saw her.  Everything about those Saturday gatherings was open and together with a room full of happy young people.   The host was well aware of my chief reason for being there; and I believe to this day that he not only approved, but saw to it that we could be together in the crowded gathering.   I remember that we got to sit together on the window sill a time or two when the room had run out of chairs.

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Providentially, that Fall I was welcomed into the First Baptist Church of Lee with recognition of my license as a candidate for the ministry, and was treated with love and respect, and by the pastor, much kindness.

I had come a long way from my childhood and youth in Sacramento, California.   My boyhood pastor, W.R. Steelburg, and my home church, Glad Tidings Assembly, had licensed me as an evangelist to work with an Assembly pastor up in the mountains to the east of Sacramento.

Before long, I was youth director in one of the very first Southern Baptist Churches in the far west, with a license as a candidate for the gospel ministry.   So when I arrived in Florida, I came with an expired Assembly license, and a current Baptist license from the Southern Baptist Church of South Gate, California.

Pastor Nicolas of First Baptist, Lee, Florida, took me in as a licensed evangelist.  He sent me to the Beggs Clothing Store in Madison to pick up a neat gray suit that he had purchased for me.

Again providentially, pastor A.M. Rowe, the brother of the grandmother where I was living, came to visit me at my benefactor's home, to take me under his guardianship. But that is another story.  Brother Rowe took me as his assistant, and together we preached eight revival services in the churches where he ministered during that eventful summer.

Aunt Bert, Mrs. Rowe, took care of me and clothed and fed me and gave me a comfortable room to study in and to rest in.  By the end of the summer I was called to pastor one of Brother Rowe's quarter-time churches. The church asked for my ordination, and Brother Rowe called on five pastors to come to Pine Grove on a Sunday afternoon to publicly set me aside as an ordained pastor.

I shall never forget the laying on of the hands of those five pastors, and how I felt, how utterly important it was to my very soul.   Oh yes, they questioned me as to my convictions.

One question nearly took my breath away.  One of the pastors leaned toward me and quietly said to me, "What if we do not ordain you?"  to which my equally quiet response was, "The LORD has called me, and I must preach His word."   I heard soft amens from the circle.

One of the special and most encouraging features of that first pastorate was that I was permitted by the Ezell family to take my beloved with me in my ‘33 Ford.  After the morning service, I would deliver her to the deacon's house for the day, and then after the evening service, I would take her back home. Those were precious days.

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In October of 1940, together with Brother Rowe's counsel, I joined company "E" of the National Guard that was stationed at Live Oak.   I didn't want to be drafted, and I didn't want to be deferred as an ordained minister.  I first went to Jacksonville to sign up with the Navy,   but they tuned me down saying that my blood sugar was too high.  With my night work as a short order cook, I had access to the drink machine, and I was drinking entirely too many chocolate milks.  I wanted to be part of the new world when the nation would be at peace once more.   Little did I realize at the time, how vast that change would be.

All the rest of '40 and almost all of '41, I served at Camp Blanding; first as a private, then as a private 1st class.  I visited my Frances whenever I could get a pass, fully expecting to get back to Madison, and back into the pastorate.

I was able to save my twenty-one dollars a month.   As often as I could, I went by bus from Starke to see Frances.   The bus trip took up almost the whole of the pass time.   By getting off the bus on the highway some three miles east of Lee, I could take a country lane that came out near the Ezell's place.  Momma seemed to know when I was coming and fed me bountifully.  Mr. Ezell sat in the living room, while we sat on the porch swing that was hard by Mrs. Ezell's gardenias. Those were precious days.   I minded Frances' daddy's close presence by keeping up the proper swing sounds, because that was the proper way to court.

On one of these trips from Camp Blanding, I think I had a bit more time.   Anyway, I managed to stop on the way, in Live Oak.  From a little jewelry place, I found a locket that seemed just the right gift to take on my visit.   I don't know how I persuaded the store man to let me have it on time, so much down and so much along and along.

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December 7, 1941, I was on leave and accepting a church, knowing that my term of military service would be completed by January 1, 1942. My Frances went with me, along with a well-known and beloved singing family.

I preached that morning and accepted the call to begin pastoral duties the first of January.  We all had finished our meal, and we two were sitting quietly together on the front porch when our host came and asked us to come in and hear what was being said over the radio.

Suddenly our nation had been plunged into a war with two fronts.   All personal plans were set aside.   One would have needed to have been personally involved to know the emotions that day.  Truly it was a different world, to which we all finally returned.

I returned to conduct the evening service and to turn in my resignation, telling the church that I must make my way back to my company at Camp Blanding.   I left Frances at her home, and again traveled that familiar country lane.   On the highway, the very first car that came along picked me up, and because of the news and my being a service man in uniform, I was taken all the way to Camp Blanding front gate!

I was barely inside the Camp when I realized that something was terribly wrong.   I happened on another member of our regiment who was in similar circumstances.  Accidentally-on purpose-providentially, we found that all our companies had suddenly that evening moved to Fort Benning.  We both knew enough about the army to not turn ourselves in as separated from our own company.  Instead, we found citizens that willingly took us as we were.  We made maybe two or three changes, and we arrived at our own companies even as the morning report was being called.  The first sergeant, who had had a chip on his shoulder toward me up until that morning, looked me over.  I was bedraggled from the long night of travel, one part having been in the back of a pick-up with crates of chickens.  The sergeant said, "I didn't think you would make it, Keyes."   Things were much different after that.   In fact, I got a night assignment firing the boilers of the officers' building.  That gave me ample time to pursue my international correspondence courses that would complete my high school.

One day our regimental commander was walking through the hall past my tiny room.   I didn't see him, as I was studying, with my book on my up-ended foot locker.  The commander left word for the company commander to tell him what I was doing.   The end result was that the day I signed an application to go to OCS, I was immediately enrolled and moved to the barracks of the "ninety-day-wonders."

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My sweetheart moved to Gainesville, Florida, upon her graduation from high school, to be a receptionist for a lawyer, and to live in the home of her high school teacher, who upon retiring had moved to Gainesville.

When I was able to get her address, I sent her red roses as an introduction to our new situations.  I had no leave time when I was at Fort Benning, Georgia.  We did establish a regular communication, but as far as I could determine, my life was "on hold."

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The first of August 1942, I was graduating from OCS with sealed orders.   My Frances came, at my pleading, to stay in the downtown hotel in Columbus, Georgia, for my graduation.   The hotel had been set aside for women only.

After the graduation ceremony, we talked of marriage.   She was saying not to wed in Columbus, but in the church in Lee, Florida, which was home.

By a miracle, I got an emergency leave, "to go home and get married."   That was Saturday, August 1, 1942.   The leave was to last until Monday at reveille.  Saturday evening, we were to catch a Greyhound Bus for Madison, so we did what shopping we could:   a ring, a dress, and a hat, which with the hotel, used up all we both had.  We arrived in Madison before daylight on Sunday morning.

We had sent a telegram, "Coming home to get married."   Brother Rowe's home was six miles north of Madison. While my Frances stayed at the Madison hotel, I walked out to Brother Rowe's.  I got there just before daylight. Brother and Sister Rowe got things in motion for us to be married at Lee Baptist Church that afternoon.  He got the Judge to open his office and issue the license before Sunday School time.

With money I borrowed from Brother Rowe (I paid it back double), we arrived at the farm in a Madison taxi.  The whole family was standing on the front porch. They thought the telegram meant that we were already married.  Soon all was underway for the ceremony.  I handed the license to Mr. Ezell and he, in his customary way, gave his approval.

The wedding was beautiful and spiritual and lasting (I say this after sixty plus years together).

Our first night together was from Madison to Tallahassee, driving a tired man.   We shared the front seat, and he slept in the back seat.  We boarded a Greyhound Bus that took us first to the Fort with a firm promise that the driver would deliver my bride to the hotel.  Our honeymoon cottage, which we quickly found, was a room with kitchen privilege on Saint Elmo Drive.  Because I was prompt in reporting in to my headquarters, I, together with a dozen more, had night passes, and I rode to our residence in a cavalry trailer.  We were given two weeks before I shipped out, and my bride headed to Florida State University.

- - - - - - - - - -.

I was five years, five months, and five days in ordinary, everyday army duty.

When I got back to California, Frances came to be with me.   We found a converted back porch with kitchen privileges.  I was able to buy a coupe Plymouth, and obtain some gas tickets and some sugar tickets.   We had all that we could ask for.

- - - - - - - - - -.

I was stationed at Camp Roberts.  I was the officer in charge of the social well being of the troops.   We two managed to see a little of the surrounding area, including Carmel By the Sea and the foot hills to the east of Atascadero.  We found a friendly little church that took Frances with them to a very special Retreat.

Our Teresa Ann was born in nearby Pasa Robles.  The hospital was a converted home place.  I wanted to, and was prepared to stay with Frances, but a very officious nurse ordered my off the premises.  I was only permitted a few moments visit after our firstborn was delivered.   But then in due time, we bundled her up and went back to our place.

Suddenly, and without warning, I was ordered to Fort Ord.   All I had time to do was to ask the pastor to look after my family.   It was a painful time before I was able to go for them and bring them to Salinas and a little garage apartment.   They were still much too far from the Fort where I was assigned to night duty with the computers that handled all the morning reports of men and women being shipped to the eastern warfront.

Before we moved to Pacific Grove, we bought a buggy among other baby things, (We managed to bring that buggy to Florida).  I found a Christian bookstore where I purchased some basic study material, like Strong's Concordance.

We tried to live closer even than Pacific Grove.   The house we found was comfortable, but we had a very unpleasant happening that sent us back to the city.  For some reason, I had been detained at the Fort until late in the day.   I came to our house to find Frances holding Teresa and sitting on a stool in the kitchen, all the blinds pulled down, chairs against the doors to the kitchen.  The husband of the landlord, in a drunken state, had been trying for some hours to get in our house.

The place we found, rather promptly, was an old fashioned, but neat little house with the garage situated so that the doors opened on the ally.   The whole thing was so arraigned that it seemed much less unsafe both inside and outside.   Frances grew a garden.  We had enough of a surplus of black-eyed peas for her to can them and store them in the garage, (but that's another story.)

We found a church, but quickly discovered that you could not bring a small child into the sanctuary.  That didn't sit well at all.

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I spent some time in the base hospital, and was eventually taken before a medical board that decided that I should be sent home with a medical retirement.

We both, at separate times, had traveled to California by train, and that is how we together with our Teresa would return to Florida.   The military packed all our belongings in a huge crate that was delivered intact to Lee, Florida.   We three were sent home by a Pullman without even one change.   Mr. Ezell was waiting for us in his green Chevy.  I do not remember how we got the big, heavy crate out to the farm.

We arrived back in Lee, Florida, in the fall of 1946, my Frances and Teresa Ann, and Susan was on the way,

I was immediately called, with Brother Rowe's guidance, to serve as pastor of Pauline Baptist Church.  We had purchased a Jeep for transportation.  The three of us traveled on the stated Sunday mornings over the slippery clay roads to minister to that gentle congregation.

Susan was born in the hospital in Madison.  The attending physician was the same doctor who used to sit many a late night in the bus stop Café where I was the short order cook.  It was Aunt Edna that we were counting on to be with Frances.   She was a trusted midwife.   I took her to the hospital in our Jeep, but I was not allowed to be anywhere close at hand.

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It was during those days that we purchased a house in Gainesville that was just being built.  I hired out to the contractor building the house as a carpenter.  During the week, I stayed in a room over the Primrose Grill.   I bought early breakfast across the street, hard by Wise's Drug Store.  The woman that served me became a member of Eastside along with her husband, who was an engineer with the downtown fire department.  I remember that I had to get the attic fan in place before the ceiling joists of the little hall were nailed.  Because we had two little ones, we decided to have a hall-circulating heater, and we found the one we wanted up in Mayo.  While the house was being built, Frances, Teresa, and Susan stayed on the farm with the Ezell's.

- - - - - - - - - -.

From Pauline, we were called to Bethel Baptist, just beyond Trenton.   The sixteen months that we were at Bethel were filled with precious memories.  For one thing, a dear saint that was a prayer warrior sat to my right on the front pew over against the wall.  It was after a year and a half at Bethel that Dr McCaul of First Baptist, Gainesville called me to be the pastor of Eastside Baptist Mission on the far eastside of the city.

We four came to that newly formed Eastside Mission in June of '48.   We had a grand old Spanish-American war retired pastor as our Counselor and strength.  He moved far away to his daughter's home after his wife died.   I was privileged to go and visit him briefly before his going to be with the LORD.

The Eastside Baptist Mission was organized into a regular, autonomous Baptist church on the first Sunday of January 1949. We later sold our buildings and property to a mission organization In March 2003. We kept our name and our Day School, and had the privilege to hold our own Sunday evening services on the property now belonging to the new church.

March 30, 2003, was Eastside Baptist Church’s 55th "Homecoming Sunday."   It was also Transition Sunday, because on that day, our buildings were officially turned over to "The Gospel Lighthouse International.

Eastside Baptist Church is to continue as a Sunday evening service and to continue, uninterrupted, our Christian Day School which has been in continuous session since September 1976.

We did not merge with the Gospel Lighthouse, so we use the meeting and school space at the discretion of the Gospel Lighthouse.

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I had the closing message of our Special Day before "dinner on the ground," in which I spoke from three passages of Scripture.

Deuteronomy 8:2-5:  "Thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness."

Joshua 3:3-4:  "When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites bearing it, ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. … … that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore."

And Titus 2:11-13:  "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."

Our four children were present, Terry Ann, Susan, Timothy, and Jonathan. Also, six of our grandchildren were present, Jill, Maresa, Elisabeth, Roy, Rachel, Jacob, and Hanna.  There were some sixty or seventy people present for the service and for the dinner.   At least three of the couples present were members of Eastside back in the fifties; two of the couples married by me in the early years of this pastorate.

Susan played the old baby grand piano and Timothy lead the singing of about fourteen of the special hymns that were displayed on the overhead screen.   My 'Young'un' gave her testimony, closing with the final verse of Psalm 102, "The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee."   Our two daughters also spoke a few choice words before my message.

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What lies before us is in the LORD'S hand and for His glory.   On that final day, there wasn't even a clue as to what ministry we were to have, other than helping with the Sunday evening service.

I preached my first sermon when I was close to fourteen years of age.   My home church licensed me, shortly thereafter for my ministry with Brother Middleton.   South Gate licensed me as their youth director.  My first license expired even as I was received into the First Baptist Church of Lee, Florida.   I was ordained into the ministry in 1939 at Pine Grove Baptist Church, Madison, Florida.

I went to College under the GI bill.  I completed both the B.Ed, and the M.Ed, at the University of Florida.   I earned the BD, the MD, and the TH.D teaching at Luther Rice Seminary of Jacksonville, Florida.

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