No, dollar bills did not fall out of the pages, but something even more interesting showed up when I turned back the cover of this ordinary looking Bible.
With the help of a bit of book tape and a dime-store notebook, Pastor Benny C. Turner made some very creative DIY enhancements to his teaching Bible. He expanded the Bible by six pages in the front and and another six in the back by adding an entire signature from another notebook; this gave him an additional 24 pages to fill with notes, photos, and pull-out charts.
The Santa Ana Bible Church at 1103 West Third Street, Santa Ana, California was only one of hundreds of small evangelical Christian congregations dotting the Orange County landscape in the 1950s and ’60s. Pastor Benny led the members in worship services every Sunday morning and evening with the support of his wife Frances, my aunt.
I’m learning more about this little church group all the time as I work my way through the bits and pieces in my aunt’s estate. I had forgotten much about the church until we came across Benny’s Bibles — not one or two, or even a few more, but dozens and dozens of Bibles. The first two dozen or so we put in a box and a lady from the church took them with her when she saw them in the house. The remaining ten or twelve were books with personal notes, photos, and extensive annotations. Pastor Benny clearly “worked” his Bible.
This particular Bible was special to Benny and he notes on the first page “This is my first Bible teaching Bible — purchased in either 1952 or 1953?” The next eleven DIY-added pages are filled with quotations, notes, Bible verses, and personal mottos. He has typed some passages and glued them onto the paper. Others are handwritten in ink or pencil. The flyleaf showed a careful scrapbook-style layout featuring photos of Benny and his wife, an advertisement for his little church, an interesting bookplate, and a typed Bible verse.
The back section shows more notes and verses and pull-out diagrams that could be used as a reminder for his sermons or when talking with a church member. One of these is a miniature colored panorama Jamison’s New Chronological Panorama of the Bible Abridged. Somewhere in my aunt’s estate we found this same graphic image in two other versions — a poster size print and a huge oilcloth rendition suitable for hanging on a church wall.
Uncle Benny’s Bibles are adding to the story of this little church. A few years ago I found a group photo and my aunt identified many of the people who were pictured. We’ve also found the church membership book, guest book, account book, and even an embossing seal.
Benny’s Teaching Bible isn’t the only book to be personalized. In the box I brought home, I found at least two other Bibles with photos, stories, and captions. Together they are helping to build the story of this little church that no longer exists. I’m so glad we looked inside the book.