Miss Tillie, my Sunday School Teacher held my attention like no other before or since, giving the class candy, bubble gum, and tiny little paper umbrellas if we learned our Bible verses. Mother thought she ought not to bribe us to do our lessons. I thought Mother ought to mind her own business. Miss Tillie had already taught Sunday School for thirty years by the time I had her in 1956. She still wore lacy dresses left over from her daughter’s high school days when she didn’t opt for gabardine suits with oversize shoulder pads from the forties. She showed up once a month with robin’s egg blue hair that faded over the next three weeks to a pale lavender. We always complimented her when it was at its brightest and she’d shyly say, “Can you believe I don’t even have to color it?” I couldn’t. She still wore seamed stockings long after the other ladies wore seamless. I always looked forward to seeing a special one with a mended run she wore every third Sunday. I got to know Miss Tillie before I was old enough to know she was a little wacko, so I admired all her differences.
Miss Tillie was so sweet I wouldn’t have wanted to misbehave. The naughty words in the Bible caused her a big problem. She couldn’t bring herself to say the bad words like lie, sin, Hell, and ass, so she made modest substitutions such as fibbing, doing wrong, the bad place, and donkeys. The lesson of Samson versus the Philistines was a challenge for her. Starting out fine, she described Samson’s great strength and glorious hair, reminding us of his obedience to God. Things were going well until the battle reached its zenith. With her modesty, she couldn’t possibly say, “Samson slew ten-thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass,” so after a great deal of obvious preparation and practice, she concluded the lesson with a flourish, “and so Samson picked up the assbone of a donkey and slew ten-thousand Philistines.” That lesson is still burned in my brain.