From the Archives: A Wealth of Information About The People of All Souls

Although there were archivists before me, when I became archivist the archives seemed mostly to be a repository for unwanted equipment e.g., two typewriters, a non-working computer, etc. Below this overlayer of detritus, it turned out that there was a wealth of information about All Souls and, more importantly, about its people. Over the years at least three brief histories of All Souls have been written. The latest was the one prepared by Jack Graves for the celebration at All Souls of the nation’s bicentennial. In his introduction Jack concentrated on parishioners.

Jack claimed that he was baptized at All Souls on Easter Sunday 1916, but that cannot be confirmed from the Baptismal Register. He may be recorded in the Baptismal Register of St. Mark’s, of which All Souls was then a mission. In his remembrances Jack recognized that what is important is the continuum of people, living and dead, that make up All Souls and all of Christ’s church. I hope that the following questions by Jack make parishioners, many of whom I never knew, come as alive for you as they do for me.

“Can you hear in this dusty place the sonorous snores of the Reverend Hugh E. Montgomery dozing through a dull sermon by a visiting bishop?

“Where is the lusty voice of Congressman Jeffrey Cohelan who on Sundays when home from Washington would join his beloved choir to raise his voice in praise of the Lord, rather than legislation?

“Where is the sound of the clergymen in conference assembled praying within the chapel that the Berkeley Fire of 1923 would spare All Souls, while the Servers Guild dashed about the roof with sopping wet gunny sacks extinguishing the sparks that fell upon the shingle roof?

“Can one hear the coffee hour rehashes of the Golden Bears’ Saturday afternoon skirmishes in Strawberry Canyon voiced by all time California football great Carl Van Heuit?

“Where is Admiral Pond with his Van Dyke beard and formal black cloak marching up the aisle to his pew?

“Where is the hearty laugh of Troop Four’s Ben Rogers, whose skeleton lies locked eternally in the rusting hulk of a sunken submarine somewhere in the Pacific deep?

“Do the records tell us who were the teen age devotees of Bacchus who stole the communion wine so long ago during the Prohibition era?

“Where are the prayers of the aged parishioners who struggled from death beds to worship one last time with their brothers and sisters in the eternal Christian family that is All Souls?”

All of these stories, and more, are stored in the Archives. Not just facts and figures, but the real stories of the lives of people, present in body or in spirit-the souls of All Souls which indeed “… are Mine, saith the Lord.”

—Thomas Burcham