Like all directions in Utah, these directions begin at the Church. The old Erda Chapel was a magnificent building located on Church Road. We do like to keep things simple that way – it is good for the Californians.
In small Utah towns, these Mormon chapels were the absolute center of our universe. In my universe of the 1950’s and 1960’s, that was no different.
The Erda Church was constructed much the same as other rural churches of the era. The chapels I have visited in rural Utah have a familiarity emanating at the molecular level. These chapels have a large, central meeting room that serves as meeting hall, dance floor, auditorium and funeral parlor – depending upon the need.
These buildings were required to be the spiritual center, social hall, voting place and, as mentioned in a previous blog, centers for celebration.
One end of these multi-dimensional rooms consisted of a stage. The community stage. On this stage, the major happenings of our lives took place. These stages had a seemingly magical link to a deeper part of our consciousness – the part that is never erased in the normal hubbub of life.
The stage, of course, had the spiritual connection – it’s primary purpose for existing. Many other magical events took place such as the yearly family portraits – many times the only common photograph that these isolated family units would ever have.
In addition to the annual photographs, the stage served as the initial experience that many a budding artist or earth-shaking orator would have – this author included. All children were conscripted to nativity plays, Easter plays and Halloween skits. As we aged and the expectations of us by others grew, the dreaded ‘two and a half minute talk’ was assigned and judgment given. On Roadshow nights, out would come the guitars and banjos – accompanied by adolescent voices cracking at the most inopportune moments.
For many a young farmboy, the ‘cultural hall’ was the first place to dance with a girl. A couple of times a year the 45 RPM records would come out and the shoes would come off. Who knew dancing the Twist could be so fun?
The outside of the church was where the real meaning of a community center was earned. Here was the concrete slab with basketball standards complete with hoops and, once a year at least, nets.
On this concrete court the game of Erdaball was created. To be played properly, a player should be wearing cowboy boots and a long-sleeved shirt. Some may say that our version of full-contact basketball was uncivilized but there was a high degree of skill involved in determining the thin line between personal foul and assault. The golden rule applied in this case as one would never do anything that they were not willing to have done to them – multiple times.
The center of reverence and respect was at this location – not necessarily the church itself but the baseball field behind the church. Here was the absolute axis of the community in summer months. The arena of rural America!
The ball field in Erda was very special, it was the icon of our small town. The ball field was where sinner and saint could co-exist in a common cause, – community pride. Come back soon and share the story of Erda, it’ll still be here.