I was in Taunton during the winter of 1965-1966. I arrived around October or November 1965 from Tamerton Foliot near Plymouth and was joined by Jose Valencia, a new missionary from Lima, Peru. In January or February, I believe, Jose was transferred and Jeffrey Stein joined me. He was from Salt Lake. I remained there until late April 1966 when I was transferred to Jersey.
I do remember the weather! It was a very cloudy and rainy winter with some flooding along the river. Nothing like the reports I've read of this last winter though. I remember taking photos of tiny patches of blue sky among the clouds in March, the first I'd seen in months. We were always wet from the knees down. Oiled capes that fit over our handle bars kept the rest of us from getting soaked, just continually damp, but we took no notice of it. We wore two pairs of shoes every day with the change occurring around 5:00. The wet pair was kept next to a paraffin heater in our bedroom. There used to be, and must still be, an old Tutor structure in the center of town. A restaurant occupied the ground floor and we would go there for steak and mushrooms. Actually, I probably only went there three or four times in the five or six months I was in Taunton as it was quite dear, but we thought about it all the time and frequently cycled passed it.
There were very, very few members then, only three or four, all older sisters (older compared to us). One had three teenage daughters. None was currently married and all had difficult lives of different kinds. I believe they all joined the church during my stay but perhaps one was already a member. I recall the faces but no longer the names. It's been such a long time. A few weeks before I left, while tracting along one of the main roads in town, we met a very bright, lively and charming 75 year old man that owned a small shop that sold novelties and games of various kinds. I'm sorry I can no longer remember his name, but Jeff Stein told me he became a member not long after I left. He would have been a great help to the sisters. Of all the places I lived during the two years, the church seemed to have the most difficulty in Taunton. I assume that has changed a lot over these many years.
We were treated very hospitably in Taunton. A Methodist minister invited me to speak at a large midweek gathering in this church and was just as cordial after I spoke as he was before, albeit mentioning that he wasn't in accord with everything I said. A wealthy Jewish couple who seemed to have no real interest in the church for themselves, we're nevertheless sincerely curious and invited us to their home frequently to discuss it and things American. She was from Poland and he from England. An older woman had a kind of literary club that met every couple of weeks. We didn't have time to read her selections but she always invited us anyway. We'd attend for just part of the evening and it was always a well attended, interesting gathering.
One very sad memory, the saddest really of my two years in England and the Channel Islands: our landlord was a bitter and broken man who worked as a member of a gang that repaired and replaced rails on the rail line. He had spent five years in forced labor in a coal mine in Poland as a prisoner of war. During our stay he would rise early every morning about the time we did, before his wife, and pedal off alone in the dark. He'd never really talk to us except to say more to himself than us that he knew we were off chasing "tarts" everyday, snicker in a derisive way and then leave. Our landlady was a good woman who tried hard. She never said much about her husband when he was out but frequently said that the only man she ever loved was killed in the war. I believe our presence was her only pleasure because she could see that their despair wasn't ours. They had a teenage son who lived away for some reason and would visit occasionally. One day he came by and dismantled the family's pump organ when every one was out and burned most of it in the fireplace, for no apparent reason. The mother was bewildered and distraught. He commuted suicide not long after I left. I've never known well a sadder family.
I'm sorry to end on this note, particularly as so many people in Taunton were so good to us and also led happy, normal lives.
Also, I know that all of the forgoing is more information than requested. But I'm rarely asked about Taunton these days and these thoughts just sprang to mind.
Daniel M. Allred | Attorney at Law
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