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“Memories of Mrs G” by Karen Ross

9 February 2011

Looking back over the past twenty years I cannot believe how fast it has gone. The mind can play tricks and my memories may differ from others but here goes.

I was in Paul and Jean Hicks’ house group at the time and heard first-hand of the problems experienced by the churches and the people in Cluj and the small village of Stejeris. I heard about the initial road trips and the problems taking goods in and out. When Romanian goods were brought back to sell within our church to raise money for them I happily went along to purchase. Well you had to support it all! Helen Haque, one of the original members, still says I have more goods than anyone else in the church and she remembers that I came to every event.
Craft Stall
I keep telling her most of my purchases were given away as gifts to family and friends!! Although I will admit that I do have a collection of beautiful glassware, which is still in use. My Bible is still covered in a traditionally embroidered cover and I still have cloths and cushions. The painted eggs I bought are faithfully hung on my tree every Christmas. They have lasted well over the years. I hang the Easter ones on a branch. They have a new meaning for me now as I eventually got to visit the lady who paints them. She uses a small table and works at night as it is warmer next to her heater. (Last year the visiting group carried over 200 eggs back in our hand luggage to sell. Ask Karen Newell or me to see them. They are all for sale.)

I remember helping whenever I could to sell the goods around Leeds. We went to Allerton High and also hired a shop at the Stainbecks. I even took them to my school events in Adel, setting up a stall. Over the years the money sent out to the two churches supported many people and very worthy projects. Do others remember the pipe that stood at the back of the church? We dropped £1 coins into it every week and soon had the cash to fund the water project, which gave fresh piped water into the village and is still used today.
Chipettes
My most vivid memories however are the 60’s and 70’s nights when the church was filled with the sounds of the past and everyone dressed up accordingly. Three of us dressed up in red wigs and mini dresses to sing as part of the backing vocals. Luckily very few recognised me!! The outfits were home made and of the period. I still can picture Paul in his black wig and the band in their silver waistcoats and kipper ties. We practiced for weeks to perfect the songs. The band loved playing together. Any lull during rehearsals turned into ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles. Most people were astonished to see ‘Viking Pie and the Chipettes’ appear on the stage but danced the night away anyway. We were very good even if I say so myself. Does anyone else remember being there? Can you recognise present members in the photos ?
Viking Pie
‘Viking Pie’ consisted of Paul Hicks, Philip Hicks, Murray McEwan, Martyn Gray, Mike Barker and Chris Norton.
Chipettes and Paul Hicks
‘Chipettes’ = Michelle & Karen Ross, Zoe Hornby (and later Helen Cope). Paul Hicks is in the background.

We served 60’s food (sausage rolls, sandwiches, cheese on sticks!!) and fruit cocktails which proved very popular. There was a quiz covering general knowledge of the era. Most people were good at that. Why do we remember the 60’s and 70’s so well? I remember decorating the church with Mary Quant flowers and my clothes from the 60’s. I have still got the bands’ costumes and the clothes stored in my loft, including boots and ‘hot pants’. I got a few offers for the clothes at the time. Some of them are back in fashion. I wonder if they are worth something now?

I think we should have another blast from the past. How many of you would come if we could do it again?

Linking with Romania I remember seeing the Soos family, from Stejeris village or the Hungarian ‘Celefalva’ as they prefer to call it, when they joined us at Moorlands for our church holidays. Their daughters were then aged 9 and 7. They played with my daughter Michelle and the language barriers were easily put aside. Always the case with children I find. Michelle went out to Romania in 1998 aged 19, and has vivid memories of her time there especially visiting the orphanage and seeing the village that Szuszi came from. She got a video camera for her 18th birthday and returned with some interesting footage, including a church service taken by John Hawksworth in the Cluj church. It is still relevant today and we hope to show it when the Romanians come in March. She still laughs at the hairstyles everyone had then, although hers was equally funny.

It was good to see the youngest Soos daughter, Szuszi, return as an adult to work in our church in 2007 as part of her pastoral training. In 2008 she returned bringing a group of fellow students with her for a short visit to Leeds and they had a meal with us on one of the evenings. They were all keen to be pastors and return to their villages with the message of Christ. I remember it as a fun, happy time. These young people grew up in a freer Romania than their parents. They have visited other countries, met other people and seen the differences at first-hand. They know where they are going and what to do. Two of the young men present that evening we agreed to sponsor, to allow them to complete their training. The small part we played in their lives was it seems as God planned it. I certainly felt we were meant to meet them. I prayed that the work they wanted to do would be fruitful. They are due to graduate in July 2011 and we pray they will find the work they need to carry out their calling.

We were delighted last year to learn that one of them, Andor, is now to be married to Szuszi and we will hopefully travel out to be at their wedding this coming October.

The times I remember are small pieces of the past but were important in the scheme of things. Romania became part of my life then and this has grown now as I became more involved. I am glad I did.

Karen Ross
February 2011

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