Every year, St Paul goes retro and packs the house. While the 1950’s certainly weren’t the “best of times” for everybody, St Paul was blessed with a large community at that time, and many of our current members remember this time vividly and fondly. With singing, old fashioned hats, and Elvis Impersonator Bill Lindsey, current and former members of St Paul gather in a shared nostalgia. These events have frequently been featured in the local news.

Our next Throwback Sunday will be on All Saints Sunday, 4 November 2018. 


Seminole Heights church returns to ‘best of times’ with Throwback Sunday

For the fifth consecutive year, St. Paul Lutheran held its “Throwback Sunday,” an homage to the 1950s with members wearing period piece clothes. Prayers and a sermon were modeled after the era and Elvis impersonator Bill Lindsey joined the choir to replicate Elvis’ classic Gospel hymns.

SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Jimmy Dunn has taken a pro sports idea and turned it into an annual celebration at his church, drawing members, guests and local dignitaries dressed in their “Sunday best.”

This week, St. Paul Lutheran Church celebrated its fifth annual Throwback Sunday — focusing on the 1950s — with worshipers wearing coats and ties and dresses and hats while singing traditional hymns along with a well-known Elvis tribute artist.

Afterwards, everyone gathered on the church lawn for an ice cream social.

Dunn, a longtime leader in the Seminole Heights church, said Throwback Sunday was created to attract visitors to the church and was inspired by National Football League and Major League Baseball Throwback Games, where players wear uniforms of times past.

“The idea also came from looking through our wedding album from 1957 and appreciating the genteel way people were dressed,” Dunn said. “The ladies wore dresses, hats and gloves and the men wore coats and ties.”

For Sunday’s service at the church at 5103 N Central Ave., the congregation heard Elvis tribute artist Bill Lindsey, singing solo verses with the choir for traditional hymns and presenting two more recent gospel solos, If That Isn’t Love and He Touched Me.

His voice boomed and glided smoothly over the softness of the choir on How Great Thou Art, Amazing GraceSwing Low, Sweet Chariot and more.

“Friends go to church here and this is a way to give back,” Lindsey said after the hour-long service.

The congregation heard the Rev. Russell L Meyer’s sermon focusing on Jesus as a servant of God and a servant to the people. He also quoted former Beatle John Lennon for Lennon’s stance on anti-violence.

“This was the music of a great generation that many of you are from,” Meyer said about the songs presented. But the 60-year-old pastor added that Lennon reflected his era.

Dunn, who graduated in 1955 from Hillsborough High School, which is across the street from the church said, “This is the class that was the nucleus of the first one.”

He added: “We have now expanded to classes from 1949-1970. Now we are trying to expand to anyone who is interested in seeing what a church service looked like in the ’50s.”

Meyer, who has been pastor since January 2015, said he likes how the history of the church, built in 1927, is connected with the school as it offered many programs for the students.

“It is great seeing people who grew up together and how they recall the foundation of their lives and friendships,” Meyer said.

About 200 worshippers attended this year’s celebration, including newly elected Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp of Seminole Heights. Other years, former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller have attended with up to 400 worshippers.

Charlie and Christine Bean, both 76, were among the guests Sunday and attend each year. Charlie Bean went to Hillsborough and University of Florida with Dunn. He wore a suit and tie while she had a dress, wrap and black hat.

“I like everything about it, the service, the ice cream social,” he said.

Jim and Bonnie Parr came wearing Elvis Presley shirts and cross necklaces. They had heard about it through the Hillsborough High School Alumni Association newsletter.

Bonnie Parr, who graduated from HHS in 1963 as Bonnie Cheney, said they were big Elvis fans.

“I love the gospel music,” Parr said. “We go on a lot of trips to see (Elvis) tribute artists contests.”

Bill and Virginia Fuller, Jimmy Dunn’s sister and brother-in-law, came from Sun City Center, her sporting a black hat with a large brim and him wearing a stylish brown suede cowboy-style hat.

“It’s nice to go back in time when women dressed up,” she said. “We lived in the best of times.”

Contact Lenora Lake at hillsnews@tampabay.com.


Amen for air-conditioning, warm memories

By STEVE OTTO | The Tampa Tribune 
Published: September 14, 2012

Church events don’t usually show up in the column because there are so many of them. Write about one Christmas pageant or bake sale and you have to hear about them all. And, having been a shepherd and even Joseph for many years, I already know the story.

But when Jimmy Dunn called to tell me about “Throwback Sunday,” which is going to be Sunday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Central Avenue (right across the street from Hillsborough High School), he had me in his pocket.

Yes, I mean the former Gator quarterback Jimmy Dunn. He said his church was going to hold a service where you were supposed to dress like you did in the “good old days.” He said that meant kind of a ’50s look with the women wearing dresses and hats and the men coats and ties. He promised an ice cream social outside after the 11 a.m. service.

As he talked, my mind drifted back to being a 7- or 8-year-old kid when we were staying with my grandparents in South Tampa.

This was the Tampa you hear stories about from longtime residents. It was a simpler time when most people didn’t have air conditioning and the only relief was in a few stores or a movie palace. It was a time when Sundays really were days of rest. It was a time to go to church and come home to a big Sunday dinner.

For me the Sunday treat was going with my grandfather in his Studebaker to St. Paul’s, which at the time was not air-conditioned. Lutherans have these long liturgical songs and prayers at the beginning of the service that I wasn’t fond of, but it didn’t matter.

The good news was my grandfather made it a point to be late. I think he only liked the sermon. I never thought we were really missing anything because he had some church service with gospel music going on his AM dial.

He was also part of the group that counted the money, so we would always find a place in the back of the church and then slip into a smaller room when it was over. From the back you could see the constant flutter of dozens of those little fans sponsored by the local funeral home being waved, mostly by women who were wearing hats. I don’t know that it made it any cooler, but it was louder — like a great flock of birds in hats all ready to rise and take flight.

I had a suit on and one of those clip-on bow ties that never stayed clipped to your collar for an entire morning.
Counting the money was a big deal. Half a dozen men, and a mix of pipes and cigars in the room, and they let me feel important counting the loose change and putting it into those coin sleeves.

Driving home, Grandpa would still listen to his gospel hymns, although we would always stop at the store to pick up ice cream or a dessert for the afternoon dinner my grandmother was already working on back home.

It might be nice to stop by this Sunday for “Throwback Sunday,” especially now that I know the church is air-conditioned. I only wish my grandfather could be there, too, even if we were late.