I Remember Papa

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Bryant Current Perrin
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I Remember "Papa"

A memoir of Gloster R Bryant by his grandson, Gloster Bryant Current for the Bryant Family Reunion, 1989

We called him "Papa".

Dr. Gloster R. Bryant was the pastor of the South Park Methodist Church, located at 33rd and South Parkway.

It was a large house of fourteen rooms -- three floors and a basement. When relatives came North to get a start, they sometimes occupied a room in the basement.

Papa Bryant had three daughters -- Effie, who was the last to marry; Myrtle, the youngest, and Earsy, my mother.

Effie married Rev. Charles T. Parker. Myrtle married Eugene Perrin. Mother married John T. Current.

In 1918, when "Papa" Bryant came to Chicago from Indianapolis, Indiana, we all lived in the parsonage. As I recall, I believe Myrtle lived on the second floor. Also Aunt Effie who was single longest, lived on that floor. Dad, Mother, and Lester, Isabell and I, lived on the third floor.

Since the three grown daughters called him "Papa", the Current children--Gloster, Lester and Isabell, and the Perrin children--Anna Mae and Vera Lee--called him "Papa" also.

My earliest memories of "Papa" start with that large house on South Parkway. I wish now that I had done research on his life and recorded the information. Memory is an uncertain vehicle for recall.

Papa was born in Texas. He was sixty-five when he died, I believe, in Pittsburgh, so that would put his birth at or around the year 1871.

Our grandmother was Anna Bryant and I believe she was also born in Texas. She died in Detroit in 1942, at about seventy years of age, so she was born about 1872.

I don't recall much about Papa's education, except to say he was a very studious man. His education in Texas we assume, for in order to pastor a church in the Texas Conference, he would have had to have received some basic education as well as some theological training.

He also studied in Los Angeles and received a doctorate either honorary or earned some time during or after California.


Papa's early ministry was in Texas charges: Sequin, San Antonio, Waco. It was from Waco that he went to Los Angeles, around 1907. While serving as pastor of Wesley in Los Angeles, he built a new church at 8th and San Julian streets.

He also organized a new congregation in Pasadena, now Scott Church, Pasadena. Mother used to tell the stories of the three young girls--Effie, Myrtle and Earsy--traveling by Inter Urban Street railways to Sunday afternoon church services in Pasadena helping to build this new congregation.

He left Los Angeles about 1910 or 11 and returned east to pastor a church in Paris, Kentucky.

It was in Paris that Myrtle and Earsy met their future husbands. The Paris church had a quaint custom, which I understand exists until this day. The men and women sat on opposite sides of the Sanctuary and husbands and wives did not sit with each other. Dad kept up that habit until the day he died.

A few days ago I met a white woman minister who was the first white minister of the Paris church. What an exciting time we had comparing notes about that Paris church!

When he left Paris, he became pastor of Simpson in 1912. It was while serving the Indianapolis church that Earsy and John T. married June 19, 1912. I was born April 26, 1913.

I have a stenographic notebook of Papa's sermons written in 1914, while serving the Indianapolis congregation.

He came to Chicago about 1917 or 1918 to serve as Superintendent of the Indiana District. He also took over the pastorate of a small mission on 35th street, known as St. Luke's.

Not one to sit idly by, Papa, noting that a wealthy white church, on 33rd and South Parkway was losing its members--Methodist Churches did not integrate in those days--he was able to work out an arrangement through which the St. Luke congregation purchased the South Park Church. I vaguely remember marching from 35th St. to the edifice at 33rd and South Parkway one Sunday afternoon.

The Church was large. It seated over 1500 and had a balcony which went around the church with steps leading down to the pulpit. When we first moved in there was a pulpit like the English pulpit which had steps for the minister to mount up to preach and a circular top which helped to provide resonance for the speaking voice. Papa removed this type of pulpit and replaced it with a pulpit in the center of the rostrum.

As superintendent, he organized churches in Wisconsin: Beloit, Racine, Milwaukee. His work on the District took him away from home frequently and when he returned he would bring the grandchildren exciting books or small toys.

He liked cottage cheese, ate sparingly on Sunday mornings, in order not to affect his preaching. At Sunday dinner, we would all crowd the dining room--the children sitting at a separate smaller table when all the grown ups dined.

I remember he would dictate his sermons on Tuesdays to his secretary, Miss Hunt, who was also the church organist. Charles Reese, who owned a garage, was the choir director.

Papa had one of those early dictaphones for dictating his letters and sermons. When Miss Hunt came over, there would be six or more of the cylinders of dictation for her to transcribe.

Once, Teenie or Mrs. Turpeau told me about Papa when he came to Pittsburgh in an exchange with Rev. Turpeau, they heard him in the study dictating to his machine. He was ahead of his time in the use of business machines.

While we lived in the Chicago parsonage, the famous 1919 riot occurred. The Race Riot of 1919 began with a bathing beach incident around 39th street. I was only six years old at the time. We were holed up in the parsonage for nearly a week while the authorities settled the fighting between the races.

Dad was superintendent of the Church School at South Park. The Church purchased a Pathe movie projector--an arc lighting machine and we saw such pictures as the Crucifixion and other church movies.

Papa also had famous speakers to come to South Park , including the famous evangelist, Rev. Becton, and the famous Republican orator, Roscoe Conklin Simmons.

He established the Hartzell Center in Indiana Avenue, a training center for young women, who recently came North, to learn the use of power sewing machines. At the Hartzell Center there was a cafeteria, managed by mother. Since I was attending Douglas School not far from the Center, I would go there for lunch each day.

Among the businessmen who ate there daily, was Oscar DePriest, a Republican leader, who later became a Congressman from Illinois. We used to go to the Republican Club on Sunday afternoons to listen to the Radio--the Republicans had an Atwater Kent Radio with a loud speaker.

Papa was a Republican and supported the mayor who at that time was William Hale Thompson.

Eventually, the exciting days at 3314 S. Parkway ended. We used to hear the older folks talking about the widening of S. Parkway and the prospective demolition of the Church. In preparation for this move, Papa's church had acquired another church--an ugly building, I believe formerly Catholic--and organized a mission congregation there serve by Rev. George Baber and Rev. Wallace. Baber was a brilliant minister and I recall Papa saying "That Young Man will go far."

Baber left our Church and went into business. Later he returned to the AME Church and became a preacher, finished Wilberforce Seminary and ultimately was elected a bishop in the AME Church.

The move to 3311 Prairie took Place early in 1923, and in May Papa was moved to Detroit to take over as pastor of the Scott Methodist Church.


Papa served as pastor of Scott, Detroit from 1923 to 1926, after which he moved to Cincinnati.

In Detroit, Papa paid off the mortgage on the church which was located in a frame building on St. Antoine Street. The upstairs auditorium was heated by a pot-bellied stove.

While there, he purchased a building one block away. We used to have the youth utilize that building for recreation and exercise workouts certain evenings.

Papa liked automobiles. In Chicago, he owned an electric car which was propelled by battery. Sometimes the batteries would become dead. I was a sickly child with weak lungs. Rev. Baber used to drive me for fresh air in the electric car.

In Detroit, Papa had a Peerless, a large automobile in the Cadillac class. We once used it to drive to Toledo, Ohio to a District Conference. We were speeding along at 65 miles an hour, but a man in a Cadillac was passing us as if we were standing. Papa rolled down the window and yelled: "Speed on Big Boy, Hell ain't half filled."

The ministry at Scott was not as happy as at South Park. The people were poorer and it was difficult to get going on buying a church building worthy of the congregation. I remember Mr. Anthony, treasurer, interrupting tone of Papa's sermons to say what kind of Church he wanted and to express some dissatisfaction with the way things were going. Not long afterwards, he was moved to Cincinnati.


Papa and Mama moved to Cincinnati in April, 1926. I finished grade school that year, and entered Northwestern High School.

This was the first time Mama had been alone without any of the family around since moving from Kentucky to Indianapolis to Chicago to Detroit. So, because Lester needed a change in scenery to help his school work, he was sent to Cincinnati to live with the grandparent. He apparently enjoyed it but grew lonely for the Detroit family.

After one year he returned.

While in Cincinnati, Papa was able within one year to move the congregation from an old building, to a fine building on Seventh Avenue which a white congregation was leaving.

This ministry was more enjoyable than the Detroit one, but the black bishop, Bishop Clair, lived across the river in Covington. It was easy for members who had a complaint, to phone the bishop, and apparently some did.

Papa had already had his problems with Clair in Detroit, for he was over the Lexington Conference, and in Cincinnati, he still had a bishop whom he disliked across the river.

It was inevitable what would happen. Although, the Cincinnati ministry seemed successful, Papa was transferred to Pittsburgh about 1928 or '29, changing pulpits with Rev. D.D. Turpeau, who with his family came to Cincinnati.


The Pittsburgh Ministry was uneventful. I have met congregants who attended the Pittsburgh congregation under Bryant. They say good things about his ministry, but he was disillusioned and after two years, attended Conference, headed by Bishop R.E. Jones.

It is reported that after making his report of work at Pittsburgh, he stood up and addressed the Bishop, saying, "Bishop, I'm leaving the Methodist Church!"

There was silence in the auditorium.

The bishop spoke up and said:

"Bryant, you have a great record with the Methodist Church. Have I ever done anything to you or mistreated you?
"No, Bishop," Bryant replied, "But the Methodist Church has."

With that said, he walked out.

Return to Chicago

I have a clipping which Dee Dee found in one of mother's books:

Clipping which Dee Dee found

From Chicago back to Pittsburgh

The Chicago effort failed. Many of his former friends were no longer interested in helping to found a new congregation. Papa and Mama were without funds and he was too proud to call on his children for help.

The failure of the Chicago effort, caused him to return to Pittsburgh hoping to get started there where he had many friends.

He rented quarters in an abandoned theater and used the basement for a sanctuary. He and Mama lived on the premises.

He became ill and diabetes took him to Heaven.

We Go to Pittsburgh

Mother, Effie and I along with Gloria, went to Pittsburgh to bury Papa. We brought Mama back to Detroit.

This was in 19365. Mama had a stroke in Cincinnati so she was not very well. Mother took care of her until she died in 1942.

A Great Preacher

I remember Papa as a great Preacher, who strutted in delivery and in preparing his sermons. He was over six feet tall and wore a swallow tail, Prince Albert, in the pulpit.

A great man, a great, builder, a great teacher.

We descendants of Dr. Gloster R. Bryant and Anna Bryant are indeed fortunate to have such grandparents...

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