updated 7/17/2006 7:51:37 AM ET 2006-07-17T11:51:37

Vacation Bible School, long a staple for children enjoying time off from regular school, isn't just for children — 93-year-old Margie Brown has been attending classes most summers for the past 62 years.

For the past 10 years, Brown, her daughter Zelpha Bates and 15 others have met for their adult class of Vacation Bible School at Sulphur Rock Baptist Church.

Directed by the church's young pastor, Bartley Hillis, the adults study the Bible using their own books, play games, take quizzes, work puzzles, make crafts and attend the opening and closing assemblies along with the children

"I love watching the pretty skits the kids do," Brown said. "We have some smart ones at our church, so talented."

A stroke in July of last year left Brown in a wheelchair, making it hard for her to attend church. However, fellow class member Gary Lynch volunteered to push her around if she'd come.

"The class also goes past her bedtime," Bates said. "But she'd rather be at Vacation Bible School."

The school began in 1898 as a means to get children off the streets of New York. The wife of Walter Aylett Hawes rented a beer hall to house the school, which was moved to a church building in 1900 by Hawes' pastor. The school became popular in the 20th century and today is used in many churches around the country.

Brown began attending Vacation Bible schools in 1944 at New Bethel church in Floral and has been to at least one nearly every summer since.

"I wanted the kids to learn the Bible and I wasn't educated enough to teach it," she said.

In 1944, her family didn't have a car, so it was hard to get to church.

"They asked us to come, so we walked a mile and a half through the woods with snakes and ticks to get there," said Margie, who eventually taught Bible school.

Settling fights
She loved recreation time with the kids.

"She would get out and settle fights and play baseball with the kids and keep order," Bates said. "Most parents wouldn't even try to get out and play."

Brown says the most important lesson VBS teaches is how to get along with each other.

Born in 1912, Brown said her family could only attend church every once in awhile.

"We didn't have church, only when a preacher would come by on a mule," she recalled.

On their way to church for a revival in 1934, Brown and her fiance stopped by the house of J.K. Southerland, justice of the peace at the time, to be married.

After marrying, the Browns lived in Floral in a log home they built, and raised four children.

The couple moved to Walnut Ridge in October 1948 so her husband, L.E., could go to Southern Baptist College, now Williams Baptist College, for a two-year degree. He taught school after graduating. They lived there six years, during which two of their four children graduated from Walnut Ridge High School.

Hunted to raise school fees
Education is important to Brown, which is why she sent all her children to Vacation Bible School and encouraged them to attend college.

"In the early years, Mother set traps and sold the hides to earn enough money to buy a subscription to the Kansas City Star," Bates said. "She read us every word."

Charles Dale went on to play basketball at the University of Arkansas, and Joyce married and moved to Missouri. She lives in Mississippi now. Zelpha attended the University of Arkansas, and their youngest, Judy, was a missionary in Africa for 30 years with her husband. She homeschooled their kids while he taught the locals how to farm.

L.E. and Margie moved to Fayetteville where he was a janitor at the University of Arkansas while completing his teaching degree.

In 1954 and '55, her husband pastored Sulphur Rock Baptist Church, where Brown currently attends. He retired in 1980 in Batesville, and died in 1998, just a few days before the couple's 64th wedding anniversary.

Brown nows lives with Bates in Sulphur Rock. She'll turn 94 in August.

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