I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and stayed at their home often. My grandfather was a local pastor and I remember always going to Church and Sunday School. I can still hear my grandpa playing his trumpet, someone playing an out-of-tune piano, and everybody would sing the hymns because there was no choir. Wednesday they went to prayer meeting and Saturday afternoon they would clean the church building.
Harold Forest Knauss – Ronnie and Viva Knauss
One day while my grandma and aunt were cleaning, I set down and started to play my piano lesson. Grandma stopped me and she said, “there will be none of that kind of music played on the church piano.” I did not get it then but, as a mature Christian I do now.
When it came time to pray everybody turned around and bowed down on their knees. I can still hear my grandma quietly trying to keep me quiet. See struggled with me sliding on my butt under the benches. She kept pink wintergreen candy in her purse for times like these and one piece usually calmed me down enough to get thru the prayer.
My grandparents lived in Breckenridge about 1 hour drive east from my home. Their house was next to a railroad track and I loved to hear the train when it went by. My cousins stayed with them sometimes when I was there, and we would run to see the train when we heard the whistle blow.
Grandma’s kitchen – her bedroom
If we hurried and got down by the tracks before the engine went buy, we sometimes could get the engineer to blow his loud train horn. We used our arms to imitate the engineer pulling the whistle and sometimes he did. That was a big deal to us.
Viva and Harold Forest Knauss
I remember my grandpa taking me to the Stock Yards to see the animal’s. He would buy me Cracker Jacks carnal corn & peanuts to eat as we watch the men move the stock from one pen to another getting ready to be sold. The auctioneer could be heard over the loud speakers making a deal for someone with his gibberish. I never could make much sense of what he was saying but, I did enjoy watching his performance entertaining the audience in the arena.
Breckenridge Auction & Sales livestock barn and railroad tracks 1950
When I stayed with them my grandma would always have something special for me the eat each day. One day she would make homemade French fries, another day waffles, then blubbery muffins, all things she knew I liked. I can still her yelling at me and my cousin, “you kids get out of that cookie jar,” as we tried the keep the screen door from squeaking while we raided the cookies.
Grandma’s Hootie Hoot Owl cookie jar – the cookie bandit
I used to wait by the windows looking out for when my grandpa got home. He was always so happy to see his grandchildren ready to greet him when he arrived. This man was the strongest Christian I personally knew as a young man. When my grandparents said they loved me I knew they did.
At meal time my grandpa would reverently bow his head and start his prayer always the same way, he would say, “Our precious heavenly father.” I always knew he had a personal relationship with Jesus, and it was the most important thing to him. It was first and foremost in both my grandparents and Praise the Lord they passed that passion on to me.
Summer of my 7th year 1958 I asked the Lord Jesus to come in my heart and be my savior. This was a familiar Sunday school lesson and I knew what to say. Caroline and Pat were members of a church close to our home and I went there with them. One year when our church building was under construction on a second floor, the pastor met with me between the unfinished 2 X 4 walls.
Langston Church – Ronald Lee Knauss age 7 second grade
The scent of the fresh cut wood and drywall dust is still with me today. At that time and age, I was ready to make a life time commitment to love the Lord Jesus and to seek out HIS will for me in my life. I followed my pastor’s direction and turned my heart over to the Lord. But my personal experience with our precious heavenly father came a few months earlier in the spring.
My childhood was blessed by the Christian values of my family and the community I lived in. I learned from these Christians that you must take every word of the Bible as the true and complete word of God in faith, or not. It is our individual choice to believe fully or not at all. There is no place in the middle.
With my family I attended a local church on a regular basis. But something was missing from the experience of fellowship. I was a believer because I was told to believe. Yet I did not share the joy of having faith in the church teachings. Was the Bible a book of truth or had something been lost in the translation?
My grandfather’s church was out in the country surrounded by the local cemetery. The building was cold with that been-closed-to-long smell. And the piano was out of tune. I ask him once why he stayed at a small church instead of one of the fancy ones.
Pilgrim Holiness Church Brekenridge
His answer was right to the point, he said, “The larger churches have a lot of people attend to their needs. At a smaller church there are the same needs but less people to help. There is more to do at a smaller church.”
Then we talked about my faith in Jesus Christ. I ask him, “how could I love someone that I never met?” Then I told him, “I do not want to believe in the Lord just because my Sunday school lesion said to.” Grandpa listen as I continued asking him, “How can I know the Lord is real?
My grandpa Knauss
His answer is still blessing my life today. He put me on his knee and held me close. Then he said, “You need to just ask the Lord to make himself known to you when you pray”. Grandpa encouraged me to have a personal conversation with HIM. “Speak to the Lord the same way we talk with love towards each other”. Grandpa told me to, “simply ask the Lord for a sign that HE is there.” I was not aware that my aunt was listening to this little chat.
My aunt Violet
Then a short time later my aunt and I were in her car riding home from a family get together. It was after dark during a bad rainstorm. The rain was so heavy it was hard to see the road and drive the car. But it was the thunder and lightning that scared me the most. It was that quick flash of light so bright it lit up the night. A loud crack like a gun always followed.
Driving during a storm
I was having an awful day in the rain. My aunt tried to settle me down and get my thoughts off the storm. She did this by suggesting that I try to pray for what grandpa had shared with me earlier. I knew then she had heard him tell me to ask for a sign that the Lord was there.
I was blessed to grow up surrounded by men and woman that knew how to pray. So, breaking into a serious prayer during a rain storm was no problem for me. I closed my eyes and began to pray. Soon thereafter time stood still. My body was overcome with a breathtaking good feeling. This was also experienced by my aunt setting next to me. She was so affected that she pulled off the road and stopped the car. We just sat there hugging each other between the flashing light and the roar of the thunder. She was first to speak. “Honey you got what you asked for now let’s go tell grandpa”
Harold Forest Knauss
I was very much aware that I had experienced something spiritual and physical. Oddly enough I was also aware this new feeling would not last and it was slowly fading. This blessing lasted for three days then it was gone but the memory never fades. Members of the church came to my grandpa’s home to see and talk to me. Some of them said that the Lord had touched me because my face had a healthy glow.
All at one I could recognize sin and it was offensive and appalling to me. Sadly, this feeling would slowly fade and leave me back in the old way of thinking. But now I could firmly stand on the faith that the Lord Jesus had made himself known to me. Many times later my path crossed with someone that did not have any faith to stand on. I wished they had experienced something like what happened to me as a young Christian. I thank the Lord nonstop for answering the prayer of a young man. This experience is as fresh and real today as when it happened back in the 50’s. Several times during my life when I found myself in an uncomfortable position, I was able to call upon his name to help me.
After that day in the rain I had a desire to become some kind of a missionary. At that time, they were being killed in foreign countries and this discouraged me from wanting to go there. In Sunday School I learned that we can be missionaries right in our own community. My idea was to use music to witness to other young people and share what I had experienced that day in the rain.
My biggest fear when I graduated from High School in 1969 was getting drafted and having to go to Vietnam and fight in the war. During my high school years, the dreams of being captured by the enemy, kept me from getting a good night sleep. Back then if your grades were not good enough, they would draft you right out of high school. One day you were in school and before you knew the military was your new home. I still remember my draft number was 256. I would later write about this, “draft that sends a chill up your back, just when life has begun, when you are 12 to 21.”
Ronald Lee Knauss age 17, 12th grade – The Draft
When I was requested to register at the draft board, they told me they needed small young men like me for a special service. They would give me a flash light and a 45 pistol. They would make me a tunnel rat. My job would be to seek out and destroy the enemy that lived underground in the tunnels. I knew that the Lord was always there for me. It was easy to put my trust into HIM because of my personal experience as a child. To this day, how a 4F military deferment came to me in the mail, is a mystery. But I knew that my personal relationship with our Lord had saved me from what I feared.
Vietnam tunnel rat
I have witnessed other people struggling with the trials in their lives. With some, it was easy to see that they did not have the Lord in their heart. They could not fall back on the truth that the Lord was there for them also. Sometimes I tried to share my personal experience with them. But it seemed too hard for them to believe so my testimony sometimes was ignored. I felt almost ashamed that the Lord had made himself known to me, and I had that to stand on, and they did not.
My favorite prayer these days is to thank the Lord for my heritage that came during my youth from the Christian men and woman that raised me. The Lord was a real part of their daily lives. They taught me how to pray and worship HIM. I am sure that I did not live up to their expectation’s and I appreciate their patience with me. The best I can do is to follow in their footsteps and seek HIS will for me and witness to others.
“And the two shall be one flesh: so, then they are no more two, but one flesh.” Mark 10:8. I am the one flesh from two great families. The Knauss and Ostrander families were good role models. The Knauss family taught me how to love the Lord and have a personal relationship with HIM. Their daily walk with the Lord always put Him first in everything they did or said.
The Knauss family 1980’s
The Ostrander family showed me how good things only come from hard work. And they shared with me the pride of doing a good days work. The Ostranders taught me how to hunt for deer and other small game. They passed on to me the love of the out of doors and just walking thru the woods. No one in either family smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol.
Ostrander family’s greatest generation
When I visited grandpa and grandma in the summertime, they liked to pack a lunch, then take a drive to some road-side park and have a picnic. While she traveled, grandma would remember where these parks were and which ones she had not yet stopped at. One day Grandma told me, “Ronnie this Sunday we are going to have a picnic at someplace special.” Back then there were no modern roads, just old logging trails and the main ones were paved over. Grandma said, “we are going over to St Louis and see the freeway.”
This was very interesting and exciting to see something we had only heard about. None of us had ever seen a freeway. So, we took a drive and when we got there, we parked the car along the road and gazed in wonder at the new modern marvel before us. There in the middle of a farmer’s field was a big cement bridge. It was so out of place that it looked like it had been dropped from outer space. There weren’t any rivers to cross or running water for anyone to need a bridge there. This was the oddest-looking thing to us. We could not understand why someone would do such a silly thing. That was the first time I saw a freeway overpass.
Freeway construction site
I went to visit my grandparents for a week during each spring, summer, and Christmas school vacations. They had other grandchildren that lived close to them and they saw them often throughout the year. Because they did not see me during the year, they took me with them on their summer vacation trips. I still feel like they treated me special and it was not fair to the other grandchildren that did not get to go too. Grandpa and grandma took me to some great sites around Michigan and as far as Watkins Glen in New York.
Grandma’s vacation to Watkins Glen
One year when I was about 8 years old grandma asked me where I would like to go for a trip. Walt Disney opened his theme park in 1955 when I was 4 years old and ever since I heard about the place I wanted to go there. So, this was not a hard question to answer, “Disneyland,” I said.
Grandpa and grandma did not go to movies theaters. They did not approve of some things shown in movies. And they felt that when Walt Disney made films about magic and sorcerers this was satanic material and they should stay away from it. I already knew how they felt about movies, so it did not surprise me when grandma said, “this summer we are going to Pennsylvania to see some of my old relatives.”
Whenever my grandparents took a trip my aunt came along. She was a very loving and a kind and generous person. She was great fun to be with. She kept a log of everything she saw, did, and ate on the trip right down to the minute. I would love to have those time logs today to look at and refer to.
Harold Forest, Viva, and Violet Knauss
I remember sleeping a lot on the way to Pennsylvania. Eventually when we got there I woke up in the middle of a cemetery. This could not be as good as a trip to Disneyland I thought to myself. There was my grandparents and my aunt out in the middle of a field looking at grave markers.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Then something else in the corner of my eye got my attention. I looked that way and saw not only one but there were several cannons setting in the fields around. This graveyard was obviously a very special place to my grandparents.
Gettysburg battle field – Violet and Harold Forest Knauss
During that same trip back east, we visited the headquarters of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Grandma let me buy some souvenirs at the gift shop and I came home with a replica of a Civil War Canon and a little wagon. I don’t know what happened to the cannon, but I still have the wagon.
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