City Woman Attends Church Camp For 77 Years

Pauline Whitcomb has sewn blankets and dresses for the children of Haiti for many. She is pictured with some of her latest creations. Submitted photo

“Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for the glory of God,” says Pauline Whitcomb, who will celebrate her 96 birthday in August. “I don’t want this to be about me, but about God and God’s work. I’m where I am today because of Him. I give God the glory for everything we’ve ever down.”

As a young girl she often walked five miles one way to church, sometimes taking other children with her.

“Once a little girl got a blister so we took turns carrying her on our backs,” says the nonagenarian. “When I lived in the country, I just wanted to go to church and I wanted to be a missionary.”

She reminisces about summers spent on the farm her father’s relative left him, which became their year-round residence after he lost his job during The Great Depression. Moving there enabled him to plant a garden and keep a cow to feed his family of eight. The building they stayed in wasn’t winterized, therefore cardboard was used for insulation and oil lamps for light. Her father dug a place in the creek, in order for the children to be able to swim. When she was seven or eight years old, Pauline and her brother went door to door selling their mother’s baked goods. She remembers reoccurring illness from diseased tonsils and her parents not having money to have them removed. At that time the State of New York would remove the tonsils at Randolph Children Home to help families who did not have the means to pay for the service. Her father used money she had saved to buy gas for the trip. On the third day after the surgery, when the children were released to go home, Pauline was the last to be picked up.

“I was afraid I would be left as an orphan for fear they didn’t have gas or broke down.”

Mrs. Whitcomb celebrated 64 years of marriage with her husband, Reverend Paul Whitcomb, a United Brethren in Christ minister, before his passing in 2006.

“Paul was the Sunday School Superintendent and older than me. He had to wait for me to grow up before we could get married when I was 19 and he was 26,” she says.

Whitcomb had studied to be an embalmer, but took the advice of his pastor when he told him he thought he was called to preach.

He moved from New York to Pennsylvania and back again throughout his ministry. His first assignment before marriage, where he filled in for another pastor, was in Millport, Pa. He covered four churches with a total monthly wage of $100. From there he was assigned to serve two years in Sweden Valley, Pa., where he and his new bride lived in a parsonage with an outhouse, a wood cook stove and no refrigerator or washing machine. The next move was to a two-point charge in Warsaw, New York where they spent two years.

“We were snowed in for nine days straight when we were in Quakertown, Pa. The snow was 15 feet deep,” she recalls. “It took eight hours to clear the road one mile when they finally opened it and when we returned from getting groceries, the road had drifted in again.”

Their annual income for three churches while living in Little Cooley, Pa., was $1,800. Whitcomb served four churches when he was reassigned to Millport, Pa. During the eight years served they adopted two infant daughters, each two weeks old. The babies were given to them by the stepmother of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a pastor and the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Mrs. Peale was in charge of a children’s home in Ulysses, Pa., and trusted the couple without a background check or a home visit.

“That was God’s doing,” says the pastor’s wife.

Their twelve-year assignment in Rew, Pa., allowed the children to attend most of their years in the same school. A year and a half in Sawyer, Pa., three and a half years in Delevan, N.Y., and 8 1/2 years at Stillwater United Methodist, outside of Jamestown, completed Whitcomb’s 40 years of preaching The Word. During those 40 years, his wife taught Sunday school and filled in wherever needed.

She has held many jobs in her lifetime. One of the first was at Weston’s Cookie Factory, where she packed cookies as they came off a conveyor. She tells about the time the cookies came so fast the workers pushed them off the belt and has since been able to relate to an episode of the TV show “I Love Lucy” where Lucy and Ethel worked in a chocolate factory. She also tells about having to bandage her fingers when she handled coconut bars with rough ridges which made her hands sore.

During World War II, when she was 19 years old, she worked in a munitions plant in Eldred, Pa. Later, she worked in the school cafeteria where her daughters attended and after moving to Jamestown, worked in the hospital’s coffee shop. Over the years she babysat for at least 75 families and had six children in her home every day after her husband and she retired from the church.

She tells the story of hearing her husband mention many times in his sermons that he was going to go to the Holy Land one day and how she decided to surprise him with a tour package to Israel using the babysitting money she had saved. He would not accept the gift unless she went along.

After they returned from the trip, several people told them they would like to go to Israel one day, giving Mrs. Whitcomb the idea to put together a group, which she led. Over the years she took three more groups to the Holy Land. On one of those trips three bored teenagers passed a note to a stewardess telling of a bomb planted on the plane. This caused the plane to return to England where they were quickly evacuated, missing their connecting flight after being awake 24 hours.

She also served as a tour guide on 80 bus tours and remembers one trip where the bus driver ran out of gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The group arrived at their rooms in Nashville, Tennessee at 4 AM, missing dinner.

Next week, she plans to attend Family Bible Camp at the Camp at Findley for the 77th time. She was a newlywed, married just two weeks, the first time she attended with her husband in 1942. The young couple prepared to stay three days, having no idea what to expect, but enjoyed the Bible teachings and had such a good time they stayed for an entire week. The couple’s first experience was a memorable one from start to finish. They were awakened one night by loud noises and much commotion only to discover they were about to be the participants of an old-fashioned horning bee.

“The men were banging garbage can lids and they made us get on the truck that picked up the garbage and ride around the campground,” she tells with a smile on her face. “And we had to sing a song.”

After all of these years, she can still remember seeing her nightgown hanging on top of the bell tower and another article of clothing draped over the camp’s flagpole. The sheets from the bed from which they had been awoken were hanging on the volleyball net and one of Reverend Whitcomb’s shirts was never found.

They were greeted by another not so pleasant surprise when they returned home at the end of the week. The church they had been serving had been flooded and the flood waters had surrounded their home, but had not gotten inside.

She holds fond memories of Family Bible Camp and says it is impossible to count the number of children she has taken to the weeklong event over the years.

“I’ve taken family or anyone who will go with me, sometimes kids from church,” she says. “The best thing I can say about it is the wonderful people we have met over the years. So many, many friends.”

A few years ago, she was reunited with a congregant from a church they had served over 50 years before. Her children have remained friends with some of the kids they met at camp many years ago. Her great niece from Kentucky so enjoyed her week at Family Bible Camp, she saved her money so she could return the next year. Two years ago, Mrs. Whitcomb’s niece brought her own daughter and grandchildren.

Her affiliation with the camp goes beyond Family Bible Camp, as she served as a counselor at some of the facility’s summer youth camps.

The amazing woman does not require a chauffeur, hangs her clothes on the line to dry in nice weather and uses an iPhone to get the news and communicate with family and friends. She loves bargains and is a coupon clipper.

“I went to the drug store the other day and I think they owed me money when I got done,” she says jokingly.

Another of her many ways of serving God’s people is sewing dresses and blankets for the children of Haiti and has no idea how many she has sent. For awhile she was going to Charlotte, North Carolina with 2-3 others from Kidder Memorial United Methodist Church to inspect and ship shoe boxes for Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.

The active senior has six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Some of the recipes she shares were those she made for her family while some were acquired more recently.

She requested the Dishpan Cookies recipe when she was vacationing in Pleasant Lake, Florida, after a lady gave her a fresh-baked one to try. They were given the name because it takes a dishpan to mix a full recipe, but may be cut in half and made in varying ways. The Blackberry Pudding recipe was used often when the berries were in season while she was residing in Rew, PA.

“There were enough wild woods around that we could pick berries anywhere, but you had to watch for bear.”

She adds coconut to the Vanilla Cream Pie, uses a premade graham cracker crust and often shares it with her handyman friend, John. She was given the Zucchini Soup recipe after enjoying it at her friend, the late Mae Schwab’s home.

For further information on The Camp at Findley’s 83rd annual Family Bible Camp, which runs from July 22-28, call (716) 769-7146 or register online at www.thecampatfindley.com/book-a-room. Participants may visit for the day or stay overnight for any number of days. Tent camping, RV sites or rooms are available. Meal packages are optional. Featured speakers are Reverend Joy Moore and Dr. Ben Witherington III. The camp is located in Findley Lake. It’s address is 2334 Sunnyside Road, Clymer, New York 14724.

Zucchini Soup

1 lb sweet or hot sausage or ground beef

2 c celery, diced

2 lb zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces

1 c chopped onion

2 large cans tomatoes

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Brown meat. Drain fat. Add celery and cook 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and simmer an additional hour. Sprinkle each serving with parmesan cheese. Makes 3 1/2 quarts.

Fruit Salad

1 can pineapple chunks

1 can mandarin oranges, drained

1 can fruit cocktail with juice

1 small pkg vanilla instant pudding

2 bananas, sliced

Maraschino cherries, rinsed and halved

Combine canned fruits and dry pudding mix. Stir in bananas and cherries. Chill.

Dishpan Cookies

2 c brown sugar

2 c sugar

4 eggs

2 c vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla

4 c flour

2 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

4 c cornflakes

1 1/2 c quick oatmeal

1 c coconut

1 c nuts, chopped

Combine sugars and eggs and beat well. Add oil and vanilla and continue to beat. Add flour, soda and salt. Beat well. Stir in cornflakes, oatmeal, coconut and nuts. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until centers are nearly done. Do not overbake. Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Recipe may be halved. Dough may be separated into 3 parts, adding coconut to first part, chocolate chips to second part and nuts to last part.

Blackberry Pudding

6 c blackberries, washed and drained

1 1/2 c sugar

1 c sugar

2 T shortening

1 egg

2 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp soda

1 c sour milk

Mix and heat blackberries and 1 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Pour into 13” x 9″ pan. In a bowl, combine 1 cup sugar, shortening and egg. Add flour, salt and soda alternately with milk. Spoon mixture over berries and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Vanilla Cream Pie

1 baked pie shell

3/4 c sugar

1/3 c flour or 3 T cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

2 c milk

3 eggs, slightly beaten

2 T butter

1 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir in milk and eggs. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir in butter and vanilla when thick. Cool. Pour into prepared crust. Cover with meringue and bake at 350 until meringue is golden brown.

For butterscotch pie substitute brown sugar for the sugar and increase butter to 3 tablespoons.

For chocolate pie increase sugar to 1 cup and stir 2 oz unsweetened chocolate into hot pudding.

Meringue

3 egg whites

1/4 tsp cream of tarter

6 T sugar

Beat egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff peaks are formed. Add sugar and continue to beat.

Amish Sugar Cookies

1 c sugar

1 c confectioner’s sugar

1 c butter, room temperature

1 c oil

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cream of tarter

1 tsp soda

4 1/2 c flour

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Chill. With floured hands, form into walnut-size balls. Place on cookie sheets. Flatten with bottom of chilled glass dipped in sugar. Bake in 350 degree oven until edges are golden brown.

Ranch Beans

2 c onions, chopped

1 lb ground beef

1 tsp salt

1 c catsup

2 T mustard

2 lbs pork and beans

1 lb kidney beans, drained

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Brown onions with ground beef. Drain. Combine all ingredients. Bake in oven-proof dish at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until heated through.

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