It is a thrill to look back into our six years at Riverside and remember the many happy experiences we had together. But before we do so “recollect”, I must take a moment to express my appreciation once again to the staff and to those dozens of people who contributed much to bring honor and competence to our mission for Jesus Christ. No Pastor could ask for a more dedicated Session, nor Diaconate, nor Trustee Board. And those who served our staff, a special thanks to you.
Now, remember the days when we made the decision to “go for broke” in education? Those early months were chock full of planning and organizing a “first string” of Riversiders who would carry us to where we wanted to be in education. And we made it! We spent many busy hours in teacher education, curriculum planning, communicants class, vacation church school and even spent whole weekends away from Cocoa Beach in order to attend seminars and workshops in education!
Our effort “paid off” in greater commitment and involvement. I was genuinely delighted to be part of a people who took education seriously. The commitment undoubtedly strengthened worship, stewardship, and outreach. Our twenty-five to thirty teachers made an impact on our church far beyond their number and five became Master Teachers for the Presbytery.
In this area of concern with education, we invited Dr, Dietrich Ritschl, Rev. Robert Taylor and Professor David G. Buttrick each to spend a number of days with us as “Preacher/Teachers”. Your Riversider response was exhilarating, and we were led to new ideas, concepts, and questions.
We furthered our interest in contemporary questions by inculcating a number of one evening seminars on various topics such as the “Exorcist”. And then each year many took part in longer seminars on such subjects as Human Sexuality and Transactional Analysis.
One of the most meaningful experiences for me as Pastor was the “Log In Groups”. You’ll remember some twelve of us gathered for six weeks to share, study, and pray together.
God surely blessed these groups for it was through them that many discovered a new meaning for life in Jesus Christ. Others found joy and peace for their lives.
Worship has always been extremely crucial for Riversiders. Even in the supposedly “off” summer months, you involved yourselves in the central act of the Judaic-Christian faith. Our church was the stronger for it, to be sure.
I appreciated so much the excellent music and Choir, the participation of the Elders, the Communion Service, the welcome liturgy for our new members, and the special services at Christmas, Lent and Easter. Worship gave us strength.
Looking back over the past six years, it’s obvious we were faced with many challenges that strengthened our faith and discipleship. Not many communities experienced a ten percent drop in population in 1970! Not many saw its major industry retreat so severely. Not many witnessed the tremendous change in its denizens as we did. Further we were enmeshed in a culture that gave little strength to the values we espouse. Our community was known throughout the fifty states as a “fast” place. Divorce, alcoholism, and rootlessness ran rampant. Throughout the past half decade, much of this is no longer true, and the area is becoming an attractive place to live and raise a family. Riversiders can thank God for this.
And we were continually challenged by newness and change. Every week it was apparent that our friends and neighbors were finding it difficult to live successfully in a place of fun and leisure with little in the way of heritage and guidelines. We found it necessary to review our vows of churchman ship and discipleship in order to remain faithful to His calling. It wasn’t always easy, nor without pain.
And now a personal word of deep appreciation to Riversiders for many rewarding experiences. I can remember the hours in which we shared the significant questions of life! I appreciate the hospital visits, the talk-it-over times. The weddings were always a joy, and the times were extremely meaningful when we gathered to remember a friend or loved one who had died.
I appreciate learning from and with you about what it means to be a Christian minister in these times. The whole Lowry family knew of your love and devotion without which the Pastorate would have been at times a burden.
May God bless and keep you in His care as you invite Rev, Rex Pedlow and his family to be with you. If you share your life with the Pedlows as you did with us, they will know a most fruitful ministry indeed.
No Church, no matter how small, could be complete without a choir. During our first few weeks of services in the old St. David’s Episcopal Church on Orlando Avenue, Helen Trabue was our organist with Ted Azulay the sole choir member. After about the third or fourth Sunday service there, lightning found its mark in the afternoon, and although the Cocoa Beach Volunteer Department responded in short order to save the sanctuary, the devil must have been upset to the point that he directed his wrath toward the organ — it fell through the smoldering floor!
Following that catastrophic event, future services were held in Helen’s home (La Joya) on Atlantic Avenue. It was during that time that she made her “pitch” to our small congregation to lend their voices to sing the Lord’s praises. Within a short time, nine volunteers responded, and Riverside’s Choir came into being, with Helen directing and daughter, Barbara Cox, our organist (she would rather have sung, but mother persuaded). Our first “performance” was in the meeting room above Ramon’s Restaurant on Palm Sunday, and our second, on Easter Sunday in Jake’s Bowling Alley across the street (which we lovingly called “St. Jake’s”.
Back to Ramon’s for the next couple of months until our sanctuary (Knox Hall) was ready for occupancy on June 23, 1957, and which by now, our Choir had increased to an even dozen. Within a few weeks we felt that we were ready to be robed, but on Riverside’s limited budget (we had just purchased our first little organ), how were we going to acquire them? Well, we were so enthused with our status as a full fledged Choir, that each member provided enough money (some buying their own outright) to supplement contributions from a few members of the congregation, with about three or four spares to be used in anticipation of expansion (we didn’t want to be “caught with our robes down”).
Some time later, Jane Stimson became our organist, relieving Barbara of that responsibility and adding her alto to the choir (which is what she preferred in the first place). A few months later, Ernest “Pop” Bilson (now at rest with the Lord) directed for a short time, followed by Jeweldine Calvetta when “Pop” decided he wanted to sing. Caroline Zehr took over the console and direction when we moved into our present sanctuary with twenty-one in the choir. As time went by, Jean Walker became our director and Phyllis Barger the organist.
In 1967, Glenn Arnold was lured into the fold as Choir Master (title his preference), and during his tenure the Choir reached its peak membership of thirty voices with new robes (our present ones), and some new innovations in presenting the music for worship.
We are a happy and dedicated “crew” under the direction of a great and lovable “captain”, and are always on the look-out for new voices to help us praise the Lord with song.
Please forgive if there are any errors or omissions in this sort of historical narrative. Just blame it on the fading memory of the “old man of the Choir”.
The Cocoa Beach Presbyterian Church gained official status when the Congregation gathered in the Community Church for the Service of Organization, thus establishing the Riverside Presbyterian Church.
The Service was opened with a Call to Worship, followed by an Invocation pronounced by the Rev. Claude Fausnaugh, Minister of the Palmdale Presbyterian Church, Eau Gallie, Fla. The Rev. Dr. George Bost, PhD., Pastor First Presbyterian Church, Stuart, Fla. led the Responsive Reading, and offered the “Offertory Prayer” …. during the Offertory Mr. Ted Azulay presented “The Lord’s Prayer”.
Our Scripture lesson that evening was taken from Matthew 5:1-16, the Story of the Beatitude: with their application to the Christian life. This was followed with the Evening Prayer by the Rev. Charles Sellers, Pastor of the Rockledge Presbyterian Church. The Sermon for the evening was delivered by the Rev. Charles T. Martz, Synod Executive of Synod of Florida. Dr. Martz spoke on “The Church In Your Community”.
Presbytery then proceeded to the matter of acknowledging the List of the Charter Members. The Roll of Charter Membership was to remain open until Dec. 31, 1956. At that time we reported 78 names. Presbytery then proceeded to the Election, Ordination and Installation of Elders. Six men were chosen by the Congregation: M. T. Azulay, David Birrel, Joel Brown, Edwin Kyte, Don Butler, and David Glasser. Three people were nominated for Trustees: Mrs. J. Watson Shurtz, William T. Taylor and Garland Reynolds. Then followed the presentation of the Official Books by Presbytery; the Rev. E. A. Finn, Stated Clerk of Presbytery, and Pastor of the Community Church in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, in charge.
The Business of the evening having been finished, a closing Hymn was sung, and the Benediction was pronounced by the Rev. C. W. Pfeiffer of the new Riverside Church. This concluded the Organizational Service of the Riverside Presbyterian Church, Cocoa Beach, Fla.
How many times have you heard someone say “Remember the good old days” or “Boy, don’t you miss those good old days?” Well, as far as I’m concerned, these are the good old days, today and everyday. These days that we’re living thru now are the good old days for me.
Yes, the fine cars, fancy clothes, beautiful homes, and even air-conditioned churches. It hasn’t been too many days since Riversiders sat thru Sunday services in the heat of the summer without benefit of air-conditioning, and also putting up with the sand fleas and mosquitoes. No, we didn’t have air-conditioning then because we just didn’t have enough money in the church budget for any extra things; if it wasn’t essential, we didn’t need it. We even had to build our classrooms then, by adding a wall here, a partition there ““ an outlet here and so forth.
Well, one day I was doing the duties of an usher for the typical hot summer Florida Sunday service, and Lou Bonesio, one of our old timers, mentioned that the reason I didn’t see him there more often on Sunday was that it was just too hot to sit thru an hour of sweating and such. He asked why didn’t we get an air-conditioner for just the sanctuary, (Knox Hall). When I explained to him that we just couldn’t afford it, he wouldn’t believe it. So he said, “Joe, what would it take to air-condition this place?” I said, “Lou, a generous person.” He offered to buy them, if I would install them and my big mouth did it again. I promised to install them, and within a day or two I received a call at work telling me the air-conditioners were at the church awaiting installation. After a few hurried phone calls and my assurance that we could get it done in an evening, the work party gathered. We just happened to pick a spot on the wall that was poured solid with concrete and had steel rods in it too. To make a long tedious story a lot shorter, I’d just say it took a few extra days to get the job done. We didn’t have any power tools to speak of then, just strong backs — not too smart but strong.
Well, the following Sunday Riversiders sat in cool air-conditioned comfort for the first time. The nice part about this story is that the church budget didn’t get tapped for a single penny.
Yes, the good old days are the days you can sit back and recall as you are relaxed and comfortable. The most beautiful thing about those good old days is the “People” we knew and worked with, worshipped with and even cried with.
Another story that comes to mind is the time I asked Rev. Pfeiffer how the church school was doing since we had lost our Superintendent, Marlene Minella (now Mrs, Wells). Well again my big mouth did it. The following Sunday, Rev, Pfeiffer announced from the pulpit that good old Joe had offered to take on the chores of the Church School Super’s job. I didn’t recall that I had said that, but then I had asked about it, hadn’t I? In those days it wasn’t smart to inquire about things like that — especially if they were looking for people to fill slots. Well, thanks to a great person that was then working as the Church School secretary, I didn’t do too bad a job. Thanks to her, I looked pretty good. She had me doing the things that she thought needed doing. She had a way of getting me to think of the things she was thinking about and then she would agree with me and let me think that all the time it was my idea. Well, that person is still here sitting back there in cool air-conditioned comfort also. That beautiful person is Rilla Birrel. Thank you Rilla.
Yes, folks, the good old days “what are they? Aren’t they the days we enjoy the most, the days that bring back sweet memories? Well, these then are the good old days; TODAY, as we think back to those beautiful people we worked with as we built this church ““ those people who are not here today. So then how about today? Aren’t we indeed lucky to have you sitting there? Yes, we are. You who are also building a church ““ not with hammers and nails but with your time, talent and money. Yes, you are also builders, and thanks to each of you, us old-timers can sit back and enjoy the comforts of today’s sanctuary. So when you are thinking of the good old days, think a little about the days you are living through now. Yes, these are the GOOD OLD DAYS. Thank you, one and all.
The congregation had been meeting at the home of Mrs. Helen Trabue for several months, moved to the second floor of the Minella Building on Highway 520 for subsequent worship services, and as Easter approached we realized that our meeting room would not suffice for that particular Sunday. The Catholic congregation was meeting in the building directly across the highway “Jake’s Bowling Alley”. We arranged with them to have our service in that building on Easter Sunday and changed our hour of service to accommodate their schedule.
Easter Sunday arrived and so did we. Walking into a room reminiscent of beer and cigarettes was something different in the way of worship to most of us. Our pastor told us that while this building was used for something entirely different during the week, for this day it was the Lord’s house. The largest congregation ever assembled was present and when offering time approached it developed that the collection plates were locked in a closet, and the key apparently was not to be found. The only thing the ushers could find were Schlitz beer trays and they were trying to decide if they should use handkerchiefs as liners or just use them as they were. Fortunately the key was found and the regular collection plates arrived in the nick of time.
Even though it was in most respects a definite deviation from any experience, past or since, that service remains forever embedded in our memories as a truly rich experience. Never has the Resurrection been celebrated with more joyous songs or thankful hearts as we celebrated yet another milestone in the beginning of Riverside Presbyterian Church.
In 1971 my husband, Don MacPherson and son, Jym and I returned to the states from Latin America, where we served in the Diplomatic Corps. The Cape had a big lay-off and people sold homes for the loan amount. We bought a 3 bedroom house with a double garage on a canal for $27,500 with a GI loan at 4% interest. My husband had suffered two heart attacks and took early retirement. He wanted to build a boat, which helped heal his heart by the challenge.
We looked for a church with the most kids and Riverside won. The youth leaders were very active and we took bus trips, using the Lynx buses up to the Smoky Mountains. Buses had bunks and cooking facilities and some adults got to go. I did. We also had Easter breakfasts. Joe Rubino was the teacher and his wife, Hettie, can give you lots of history. Pastor Bob Lowry and his wife, a retired nurse, and 4 or 5 kids were great. We had adult Sunday school in the sanctuary. Milton Boren was the vocal teacher at the high school and between services he led us in singing. He really knew how to make us sing. He left us to go to a church in Cocoa.
Our area was known for the average age in the low thirties and with Engineer degrees. Life was very social and most women belonged to the Women’s Club and many volunteered at the hospital. We had big name bands come for dances for hospital funds and it was pride that we got to church on Sunday. Riverside people were leaders in social and government positions and had a big part in our community. By the way, women wore hats and gloves and high heels.
Sadly, Don and I were in an auto accident, taking out two spans of bridge. In saving me, by pushing me out of the windshield, he was drowned. The community and church were great support. Cell groups were formed at that time to help all of us. Drs. Harold and Kathyrn Bookbinder, who are psychologists, were our prime leaders. We also did “I’m OK You’re OK”. So many things happened at the Cape and people were looking for understanding. I recall when the shuttle exploded; the children in school had a lot of counseling. Dates I don’t recall. An interesting thing: when we had our accident, I had broken ribs and Reverend Lowry was to go to a meeting so our funeral was delayed . He said he had never lost a personal member of his family — his son and my son Jym were good friends. I told Jym he did not have to go to school on Monday, but he said what would he do — his courage built mine — the community helped a lot.
Glenn Arnold was our organist. I see Penny Dale, Janet Boardman, Sam Privett, and George Norton still singing. So many have passed away.
Aurilla Birrel was a strong woman leader. Ada Garvin has been a secretary at the church and I consider her a historian. Jean Menges, Louise Hurd, Millie Streiter, Marilyn Grigsby, Penny Dale, Janet Boardman, Arline Biery — look at the Honoraria for leaders.
John Dale had a very important place.
Roy Wegener, retired military and financial advisor became the head of the trustees and I served for two terms. During this time we decided to buy the land where today’s church stands. I had never spent $75,000, the cost of the land. Barbara Cox was the lawyer. We had owned back to the river and had many meetings about the land. I lost, as I thought the Presbytery should build a retirement home ““ hindsight, what a loss. We did pay off debts. Brian Grisby and Marilyn are another couple who can give you insights. Cleo and Norma Jean Clark. Just happened to think of the Lehmans who were transferred away and have come back to us.
We helped Bob Lowry to get his doctorate and he left us for St. Augustine. We then had some other pastors.
Finally Rex Pedlow and Rita came. Their Irish wit and ways were wonderful and they were with us for ten years before he returned to Ireland. I still keep in correspondence. We always had a party for Irish day with green beer — and he played the piano and he taught the kids to do the jig. To listen to him was a pure joy — he was taught elocution and also spoiled me for a person not reading the sermon. He was very determined in what he wanted. The question of enlarging the sanctuary was discussed and he said he needed our Fellowship Hall — a wise decision. We had rummage sales to raise the money and made several thousand dollars. Most of the money was used for the kitchen. Curt and Emily Bliss were very active in the choir and he did a lot of the electrical work as a volunteer. He is missed.
Allen and Ann Brindisi from New York came as a young couple with two boys. Again their ten-year tenure was great. I recall the night we were at a deacon meeting and he told us they would be leaving. Sadness swept over the group. I spoke up and said we will find out who is a Brindisi Christian and who isn’t. Later he gave me a big hug for reminding people the church is not the preacher.
Back to Rex — he was up on American rules. In 1981, I had been a widow for 10 years, receiving a good annuity and working for Naval Ordinance Test Unit and had met Bruce Clement, a widower. We decided to get married and I approached Rex — what age do you have to be to keep your annuity? — I said 62 and he said that is when I will marry you! May 19, 1982, we had a church wedding and my son gave me away. Our reception was in Knox Hall and Penny Dale and women of the church were in charge of the reception. Maggie Wegener played. Emily Bliss played the cello.
We had a big party for Rex and Rita and helped them have their sale. They were gracious hosts in our church home.
Sonja Walker, wife of Robert, started our children’s school (BCC Lab School). We also had a full time Sunday school superintendent.
Much thought was given to enlarging the church (now Riverside Chapel) and/or building a new one. Some of the member meetings were very heated with opinions. It was finally decided to build. Rev. Pedlow got us the Fellowship Hall and Rev. Brindisi the new Sanctuary. During this time, Allen also received his doctorate. Your records will show the trainees we had, including Jane who left to finish some college work and came back with her two children. Our Sunday school has had different ones as leaders — your records will show. Many of the regular schoolteachers taught — I taught kindergarten, under the leadership of Mary Kramer. She and her husband were also leaders.
Bea Lewis came at the time of Rex’s last sermon. Rex had a heart by-pass and several others did about the same time, including my Bruce.
Rebecca, Connie and Tricia
Reading in the DBR about the group of Riverside youth attending summer camp at Cedarkirk this year, reminded me of long ago times in the mid 60’s when Greta Jones, Bonnie Kennedy Mahon and I drove our daughters Becky (Rebecca), Patricia and Connie to church camp at Lake Placid.
That was before the union of the northern and southern Presbyterian churches and Riverside was of the northern persuasion. We were a member of the East Florida Presbytery with headquarters in Cocoa Beach in the Cape Royal Building. Bob Booker was the Presbytery Executive and he and his family were members of Riverside. East Florida Presbytery conducted a youth camp on beautiful Lake Placid in south central Florida.
After we moms deposited our happy campers in their cabin and saw them settled, we drove back and treated ourselves to an elegant lunch at Chalet Suzanne near Lake Wales. That was so much fun we did it again the next year. I remember one year after picking the girls up at the end of their camp session, the three of them sobbed most of the way home because they hated saying good-bye to their new friends and counselors.
As a postscript to her happy days at Lake Placid, my daughter, Connie, spent a summer there as a waterfront counselor when she was in high school. She had honed her aquatic skills and obtained a Red Cross life-saving certificate. John and I drove down to visit her one August day and she insisted that she wanted to take us both to lunch at Chalet Suzanne for our upcoming birthdays. We tried to dissuade her knowing that the cost of the meals was more than her meager wages could cover. She was adamant about it so we agreed. When we arrived at the restaurant and studied the menu, we all agreed that since none of us was very hungry, we would only have dessert.
RIVERSIDE IN THE 60’S
As Riversiders we should all give many thanks to the exciting 1960’s. The Church was only a few years old when things began to happen in a big way.
The 60’s began with the arrival of the manned space program and John Glenn sitting on a chair in the back row of the Knox Hall Sanctuary and the whole national press corps waiting across Pinellas Lane to get his picture. John autographed the Bibles of every child in the congregation. Our family got four, but all seem to have been lost.
The 60’s were the days of daily launches and the arrival of new families to launch Atlas, Titan, Polaris and many other programs in development at the Cape. These families consisted of two approximately forty-year-old adults and an average of four and one third children. They came from Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, Washington and other places participating in the programs. Many of these families came with a strong church background as leaders in a wide range of sizes and with various activities and programs. The worship service and the Church School grew until we had to build the Riverside Sanctuary and Calvin Hall to carry on the program. There were almost 200 children and two worship services f1lled Riverside with a crowd waiting outside to attend Milton Borens very popular song session between services. We were receiving new member classes every month and in the year 1966 we added 159 new members. In fact, 802 new members joined in the decade.
In the midst of all this wonderful success came tragedy. Our popular young minister was summarily dismissed by action of the Presbytery for inappropriate behavior and ordered not to appear in the pulpit again. This caused a split in the congregation and left us with a suddenly very empty pulpit. Somehow, as Clerk of Session, it became my duty to do something fast. I called Rev. Charles Marx, Presbytery Executive, who told me of a man in Evanston, Illinois who might be available for about three months. David Jones and I called him immediately and found he was interested and available. With Session permission we called him back and offered him $500 a month, an apartment and driving expenses to Cocoa Beach to serve as our preacher and “to do what ever else preachers do”.
We knew very little about Rev. Buttrick but soon found that he had been the senior minister at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York for twenty five years, was the senior editor of the twelve volume “Interpreters Bible”, the author of several published books and one of the most renowned clergy in the denomination and that he was Dr. Buttrick. I felt embarrassed about the financial arrangement, but we could not afford to change it.
Dr. Buttrick set out to heal the division in the congregation, and to be a small church pastor by visiting every home to hear their story and try to convince them to stay with Riverside. He had not done this type work for a long time as head of staff of a big city church but he entered in to it with energy and compassion. He gave us three months of outstanding and healing sermons and put us on the path for a new decade of growth and dedication in HIS service.