The bond developed among U.S. soldiers serving in France during World War I lives on a full century later in the Hut Bible Class.
A large group of Conwayites gathered for lunch Sunday to celebrate the same common bond that people develop when they worship together.
The official anniversary date was April 27, 2019.
Although the group uses Methodist literature, there are two Baptists and one Presbyterian among the group. Women are invited to visit, but their names are not included among the membership.
“I’m there every Sunday if that tells you anything,” said Charley Frye, who’s been one of the longer communing members with 34 years of membership.
“We have a different speaker every Sunday. It’s just a great class…It’s just a good group of men,” Frye said, adding that people who don’t attend the class are really missing out.
Charles Timbes may be the longest participating member of the class with about 37 years of regular attendance. Heritage is also important to the class whose members refer to uncles, cousins, grandfathers, great-uncles and great-grandfathers who once attended the Hut class. Timbes’ father and stepfather were both members, and his father was a past president.
Timbes has served as president three times and as treasurer for 20 years.
“I just love the fellowship that the Hut provides. In other words, I hardly ever miss a Sunday. We live at the beach six months out of the year and we come back every Sunday…I just don’t want to miss.
“Our service in the Hut is like a small church service,” he said, including Scripture, prayer and special music each week.
The group has six teachers who teach on a rotating basis.
“It makes it interesting,” Timbes said.
People who can’t make it to the 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning service can always listen on the radio at 99.5. Broadcasting the service continues a 70-year tradition. In the past, Timbes said the service was broadcast live and at no cost to the Hut class. Today, the class records its service and provides it to the radio station for broadcast one week later at a cost of $150 a week. The group earns the money for the broadcast and other projects through an annual barbecue.
This year the group served 1,671 plates of barbecue.
Another Hut member who doesn’t mind traveling a little for his Sunday morning worship is Aynorite Paul Dusenbury, who says his grandfather, E.E. Dusenbury, and great-uncle, Claude Dusenbury, were once members of the group.
He said he always wanted to join the class, but wasn’t able to while his children were still at home and the family attended church together in Aynor. As soon as his children were gone, he started heading to Conway and the Hut every Sunday. That was two years ago.
He says the class has “great lessons.”
“I love the radio ministry and I’m surprised by how many people listen to the ministry and look forward to it every Sunday…The Hut’s a great group. I enjoy it so much,” Dusenbury said.
The men in the Hut class say they remember drawing 50 to 55 men each week, but they’re down to 20 to 25 most weeks now.
But that doesn’t keep them from being awfully busy contributing to First United Methodist Church and the Conway community.
They contribute to Epworth Children’s Home, The Shepherd’s Table and The Salvation army. They pledged $10,000 to the restoration of the Hut building where they meet now. Renovations to the building were extensive, even including finding a missing bell and returning it to the bell tower. The men continue to ring the bell every Sunday morning.
They once painted the front of the church’s sanctuary and the inside of the Hut. They have pledged money twice to aid the church’s capital campaigns and consider spending $35,000 to build a parking lot at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Laurel Street, where an apartment building once stood, one of their top accomplishments.
“The Hut tries to give back every chance that it gets,” Timbes said.
He also appreciates the church’s congregation that supports the group.
Conway attorney Jack McCutcheon says he is probably one of the group’s most recent joiners.
After being asked to teach one Sunday, he decided to keep coming.
“I’ve had a big time ever since,” he said.
And speaking of big times, the men say that although their class starts at 9:30 a.m., they frequently arrive as early as 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. for coffee and “a little bull session.”
Current class president Jim Ward says he’s been attending the Hut class for about three decades.
“I’ve always been a member of this class,” he said. “I was looking for a Sunday school class and I found this, and I’ve never thought about going anywhere else.”
He said he enjoys the teachers, the simplicity of the class, the good old-time hymns that they sing and, of course, the good group of guys that are there.
His family connection is plentiful and includes greats and grands, “so I just feel like it’s where I should be,” Ward said.
Dick Sayre is another faithful member.
“It makes it a joy to get up on Sunday mornings and I haven’t had a meeting yet that hasn’t been meaningful, not for me,” he said.
Louise Goodwin was also there Sunday munching on the fried chicken and cake.
She said her father, John Cartrette, a vice president at Peoples National Bank, missed being a charter member of the Hut class by only one year.
“He was so proud to be a member of it and there was so much camaraderie,” she said.
Goodwin said they used to take the men out in front of the church and take a group picture on a regular basis, and that’s exactly how they ended Sunday’s event