commuterchroniclesdbh

Driving and Biking in the Big City

Remembering Jesus and Dollie

with 4 comments

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Jesus lives in the mojo that resides in my wallet at all times including family photos and Springsteen’s autograph from “Ghost of Tom Joad.”

As a romantic and imaginative child who later became a journalist and a story teller, I must admit to hyperbole. I have many stories in my repertoire that have been repeated often enough to gauge audience reaction. I’ve learned to draw out the interesting parts with clearer and more vivid descriptions or pause at the right spot for surprise or anxiety. In other words, I’ve punched up the punch lines.

This is not true of the story of Jesus’s appearance on the screen door of the house behind the Western Auto in my hometown of Port Neches in 1969 – even though that story sounds far more unbelievable than most of my old police reporter experiences. Like the times I was shot at, stumbled on dead bodies or got to the house of a murderer before the cops. Not to mention the Texas state representative who had his cousin shoot him for the sympathy vote and later admitted to me that he’d been hiding from the sheriff in a speaker cabinet. All these stories get knowing nods far quicker than the vision of Jesus on the screen door.

And, in fact, during my college days when I was attempting to acquire some sophistication, I never revealed this huge event from my past to my newspaper contemporaries – many of whom had high powered educations, came from generations of East Coast founding families and were in Texas and the South for the first time. It seemed to me like I would have been laughed out of the newsroom with such a story.

Jesus again

The image of Jesus appeared in Port Neches on the house behind the Western Auto in 1969.

After my year-end column and a mention of this event in a recent blog, I’ve had a few readers ask about it. Thus, I’m repeating some information and posting some pictures from the day back in 1969. Before my high school classmate Christopher Cook became famous for writing the story of “Screen Door Jesus” that later became a movie, I’m sure many of us from the old neighborhood considered writing about this unique event from our hometown. And, in fact, I was among them and have written the beginnings of a novel — only stopping when Chris beat me to it.But, as is the case with most of my stories, I had more fun doing the leg work than finishing the book. For instance, I returned to the old neighborhood, knocked on the door of the house behind the Western Auto and spoke to the new family there. No new information was revealed, but it gave me a “feel” for my writing.Most memorable to me is the rediscovery of my Polaroid of the image itself. This story reveals so much more about my mother’s personality than it ever reveals about the mystery of Jesus – both just as elusive to me at times.

So, I call up my mom, known by most as Dollie, about the turn of the century – say 1999 or 2000. This is a solid 30 years or more after Jesus appeared on the screen door. I was taking a shot in the dark, and it hit pay dirt. (Mixed metaphors, better than hyperbole?) Of course, Mom remembered, she said, and we attempted to figure out the year together. That’s when I realized it was during my junior high years and that surely I had a journal entry in my diary only to find out what a truly shallow teen-ager I was.

“Do you remember the Polaroids I had?” I asked her, and, again, she surely did.

“Do you think there’s a possibility we could lay our hands on them every again?” I asked.

And that’s when my mom, a survivor of the Great Depression, a country girl who once thought apples were a perfect Christmas present, a widow from the time she was 42 years old, told me that my Polaroids of Jesus could be found on display on top of her dresser in her bedroom at that very moment and 30 years after the event itself.

And, when I went to get them – leaving one for her – I found them right beside the Viking ship that I made in fourth grade – another five years before Jesus’s appearance. Treasures from the past and present all found homes in that dusty display. Thank heaven for my mom and for Jesus that I have proof of something that otherwise would seem unbelievable in my more pragmatic imagination of today.

Jesus and the crowds

Crowd who came to Port Neches

Jesus alone

This one shows a bit of the pretty little house.

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Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

January 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on commuterchroniclesdbh and commented:

    I’m reposting, this time with the original Polaroid as it resides in my wallet with the rest of my mojo.

    commuterchroniclesdbh

    January 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

  2. 01/25/2013: That’s my Great Grandmother Lela Bass’s house. She was a very devout Pentacostal woman. This is so cool to read. I was unaware of the movie. I’ll have to check it out. All my friends from Port Neches Groves Elementary have brought this up on Facebook and we’ve had some really cool discussions about it. People from all over the world as far away as China and Australia came to see it. She had a book for visitors to sign. I drove by and visited the new owner last year, 2012, Grandmother’s place looks very different in the back now. The screen door is in storage I’m told, but the fig tree that sheltered the door & was nearly torn down from all the people climbing it for photos remains and is healthier and bigger than any I’ve ever seen. in 1969, The University of Texas took the screen door down, with Grandmother’s permission and ran tests on it. The image disappeared while they had it but reappeared when they placed back on her home. I would love to see the door again now that I’m 50. I was only 7 when all this happened. Thanks for posting this. All the best friend, God Bless. Ps. My family & I would so enjoy seeing any photos you have of the door. I have to go to my mothers now and revisit this and see if I can post some pics. Of note too, the image would change. Sometimes Jesus had a crown of thorns, sometimes facing left etc. sometimes a cross appeared, angels and more. Awesome!
    Mitch Goody, Orlando, FL

    Mitch Goody

    January 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    • This information is so cool and so good to know, Mitch. Thanks so much for writing. You confirm a story I heard about the screen being taken down and the image reappearing when the screen was put up again. So glad to hear from you.

      commuterchroniclesdbh

      January 25, 2013 at 7:17 pm

  3. Mr. Goody, I wonder if we can be in touch. My name is Deanna Cheney. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I grew up in La Marque, Texas. Together with my siblings and parents we went to your great grandmother’s house to see the image of Jesus on her back door shortly before we moved to New Mexico. That event has had a profound impact on my life. I have read a number of posts now about this (thank heavens forums are being created as I have searched the Internet since it was invented looking for others who were there to reveal themselves/memories) and find all stories similar to my own but none going so far as to reveal anything “interior” transpiring. I’d like to share with you a related event which took place in 1971. And, I have a few questions I wonder if you can answer. You can reach me at dmdcheney@yahoo.com. I hope to hear from you. Thank you kindly.

    Deanna Cheney

    February 11, 2013 at 9:29 am


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