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Johnny 5

Johnny Jones, 20 February 2004

The love we had for the children in the Quadrant continued, and impacted our early days of marriage. When Chip and I looked for an apartment, we told our prospective landlords that we intended to have the kids over. Many doors slammed on us.

When we were getting discouraged, we found a two-family dwelling right across the street from a small industrial area, separated on both sides by a single driveway from more two-family houses. The place was older. The waist-high radiators were a decorating challenge, and there were no light switches to flip, but older push buttons. The tub had feet, way before that was considered cool, and the bathroom sink sat with its pipes exposed. No vanity of any kind.

But there was a park right behind the garage, and the place was spacious. And the Polish landladies who lived upstairs were accepting of our wanting to have the kids over. Mrs. Darash expressed it as, "What the h...." So East Avenue became our first home.

Our Sunday School also needed to find a home. We found it at the YMCA, which we rented for Sunday mornings. It was walking distance for the kids, but it wasn't the Ritz. Weekly, I moved the cat food out of the cramped room where I taught Junior High, so no one would trip over it.

Chip was the principal, the guidance counselor, and the pastor all rolled into one. He would roam the halls outside the rooms where we taught, and if one of the kids needed help, he would take him out and talk with him. One of them threatened to jump out of the second story window. I asked Chip what he said to the kids. He told me, "I just asked them what was going on." And they always calmed down. That's Chip's gift.

Our church was also renting a facility, Newfield School, for our Sunday morning service. After a few years, we looked into constructing a church building.

The only affordable way was to do a lot of the work ourselves. So we did. We spent Saturdays with hammers, saws, and paintbrushes. About the time the church was ready to move into the building, a controversy arose about what to do regarding the two Sunday School programs. There were complaints that the Quadrant program was siphoning off teachers, and that, since we would have our own building, we should integrate the programs. Why should the church continue to pay the rent at the Y? The decision was made. Instead of going to the Y, we would bring the children to the church building. The church would buy a bus.

It was over the protest of many of us who worked with the children. The kids would not be able to go home after Sunday School, which was targeted for them. And our church services were not participatory, not geared for small, squiggly children who had not been trained to sit still and be quiet.

And I wondered - after having spent so much of our own labor painting the walls - would it be OK for the children to touch them? What is their hands were not clean? What would our church members think about dirty fingerprints on white walls?

In the Sunday School classes at our church, there were sons and daughters of vice-presidents of United Airlines and corporate executives of IBM. Did they really want their children in classes with some of the poorest children in the city?

Ideally, yes they did! Most people had good hearts. The church supported what we were doing, and some of them wanted to help. They thought of us as local missionaries.

But the practicalities ate us up! When you bring a busload of kids 30" each way, you need someone to sit with them, and love them, and keep them out of trouble. Otherwise - well, you've ridden in cars with kids. You know! So we were forever trying to get enough people to ride the bus.

And to sit with the kids during church. I remember times I had four or five children on each side of me during a service. All of us who worked in the Quadrant did.

The program didn't last long after Chip and I moved to Tucson. I was seven months pregnant with our second child when we moved. We named him Bryan.