The Pop Stand

by Penrod

Everything at Koochiching Covenant Bible Camp near Big Falls, Minnesota revolved around its main event—the evening service. At least that was the way it was supposed to be.

The service started at 7 p.m. At 7:15 we would hear the whistle as the Great Northern approached the high trestle spanning the Big Fork River about 125 yards west of the Big Meeting Tent. (The tent was replaced after a few years by the Tabernacle.) As the train noisily chugged across the trestle, we were challenged to sing above the clatter. It hissed to a stop and the attentive ear could hear the trainmen refilling the boiler from the deep watering well just over the river.

I wondered: Did the hobos who camped there duck out of sight while the train was being watered, or did they just sit around chatting, deciding whether they wanted to hitch a ride? My mind would return to the service about five minutes later as the last sounds of the Great Northern, heading north, faded away.

From that moment until the closing prayer was a long haul. By then it would be dark. It was sad to think that the. Day was almost over and that these last wonderful moments of daylight would have to be spent on a wooden bench. No more tag, hide-go-seek, softball, swimming, horseshoes, or hiking. What faced us was bed and then a morning of religious instruction. Bed meant literally hitting the hay on the hay ticks we filled the day we arrived.

But there was one very fine thing left. After the service—barring an extended after-meeting—the Pop Stand would be open. This was something I eagerly awaited. I learned at an early age that it was important to get out of the service quickly or I’d have to swat a lot of mosquitoes while waiting for the line to move before I could get mitts on a Nesbitt’s Orange or some other goodie of my choice.

By the time my Bible Camping days were coming to an end, I had a lot of experience and many delicious times involving the Pop Stand. Because my dad was a preacher and my mother a teacher and spiritual counselor, I got an early start at Camp.

By midweek of my second summer (age five) at Koochiching Bible Camp, I had the timing down. I was out of the tent door at the crack of post-prayer silence, down the dark dirt road, moving as quickly as the forest animals in the surrounding wilderness, and first in line at the Pop Stand.

I was a bit quick for the operators. I hoped that whoever was assigned Pop Stand duty was already a dedicated Christian who would not need to get saved or rededicated that night. I thought about what I would buy with my five cents. Pop? Which kind? Strawberry? Cherry? Grape? Hi Spot? Nesbitt’s? Hires Root Beer? A popsicle? A candy bar? Some evenings I knew exactly what I wanted. On others, I wouldn’t know for sure until they lifted and hooked the stand window and I surveyed what could be seen from slightly below the wooden counter. Some big kid would lift me up so I could see all. On hot nights it was almost impossible not to pick a bottle of pop from among those delicious samples lying in the wet, cold ice.

With my cold, wet bottle of Grape pop from the Falls Bottling Works, I would look for a friend and a handy rock or spot on the river bank where I would sip it slowly and wonder if there was any way I could get my mitts on another nickel.