Hiway Chapel and Pastor John Waldron


On My Curiosity page I mentioned that my family attended Hiway Chapel Assembly of God in Independence, MO back in the 1980s. My mom and stepdad were even married there. At the time we started in 1981-ish, the Pastor was Dearl Daugherty, followed by Tom Skaggs, Kevin McMullen, and David Middleton by the mid-80's. It was at this point there was a noticeable discontent in the church. As a teenager, the issues that I remember involved the youth group. Mainly due to us having a float in the local Halloween parade on the Independence Square. It was not anything evil, scary, or demonic. That was obviously one of the requirements of the youth leader letting us do this. It could have nothing to do with demons, witches, goblins, etc., but rather a harvest theme. But even though it was essentially a trailer of hay and cornstalks with us in the youth group dressed as farmers or something non-evil, that didn't matter to elders of the church. Just by being in the Halloween parade, we were celebrating Satan's holiday, which by the way I didn't know the Dark Lord had his very own holiday. Never mind that nothing we dressed up as or the parade float itself reflected anything evil. The name on our parade float was "The Pumpkin Patch" for the love of Pete! It doesn't get any more non-evil than that. As far as some people in the church were concerned, we may have well been blasting Slayer while sacrificing babies on an alter covered with inverted crosses and pentagrams. The youth group also had a couple video games in the basement. It was to raise money, one quarter at a time, to fund youth group activities. Most likely pizza parties or going to a Kansas City Royals game or something. Apparently video games were bad.

Aside from these pointless squabbles about Halloween floats in a parade, or video games in the youth group area downstairs, quite possibly one of the silliest yet divisive fights among the brethren was the tree in the parking lot. Apparently the founding pastor and original congregants planted a tree, if I recall it was a pine tree, when the church was started. It was where a parking space would be up front near the sidewalk leading up to the front door, so this fairly large tree was taking up a spot that could be used for parking. The congregation was growing so some wanted it removed in order to make a parking space. Some said it should not because it was planted by the founding members and should stay as a reminder of that time. I'm sure they worked in some allegory about planting a seed which will grow up and all that. This was a major fight, people took sides. Battle lines were drawn, until one Sunday morning when everyone drove up, there was no more tree. Completely gone. It mysteriously (not really) disappeared. I found out a while later, that an unnamed member of the church (a big ol' biker named Terry...oops) that lived in the mobile home court on the other side of 40 Highway, got sick of it all. To remedy this, he went up to the church the previous night with a chainsaw, cut that sucker down, and hauled it away. He ever told anyone. Boy howdy, were there a lot of pissed of church members who did not take kindly to this act.

Now keep in mind that this was an Assembly of God church. Think of Jimmy Swaggart and you get the general idea. It was a Pentecostal holy roller church. With the exception of handling snakes or drinking poison, it was the stereotype that people have of those crazy Christians that will do a "Jericho march" around the church, raise their hands, speak in tongues, roll around on the floor, or swing from the chandeliers, and howl at the moon. Ok, a little exaggeration but you get the point. It was pretty fundamentalist, but the idea that video games were unacceptable was ridiculous. Granted the church had their own rules, such as no drinking, no smoking, no gambling, no dancing, no movies, no rock music, video games? I don't recall what they were but this was the mid-1980s so most likely something along the lines of a Donkey Kong or Galaga. Once again, unless barrel throwing monkeys or spaceships are evil, there was literally nothing controversial about the arcade games we had. It was just a weird time at that church.

I am repeating myself from the My Curiosity page but it was around this time that one of the deacons came in on a weekend to get the place ready for Sunday. He was probably going to vacuum the sanctuary area, or put the hymnals back in their spots in the pews. While he was inside the church, he heard what he thought was someone preaching in the sanctuary. It wasn't Sunday and there would have been no cars in the parking lot, so what was he hearing? What he heard was some guy talking over the speaker PA system, and it just so happens the guy talking was the guy that started the church about a decade earlier. It seems when Pastor John Waldron started the church, he made a cassette tape of him talking about the church. The sound booth was in a loft above the back few rows of the church and the only access was a pull down ladder in a back room. That cassette tape was in one of the tape decks in the sound booth. How it got up there and started playing, nobody knows. It was just a little weird that with the church going through turmoil, the founder of the church was being played over the PA system on cassette that was made years before.

When I created that page a few years ago, I was wondering if that pastor had died. Who was he? What was his name? How long was he at the church? So I did a little research. His name was John R. Waldron and he started other churches in the Independence, Missouri area. He started Englewood Assembly of God in the 1950s, and he started Central Assembly of God in the 1960s. His next project in the 1970s was to be Highway Tabernacle Assembly of God. Initially they met at an American Legion, which is from whom they bought the church property. After a couple years of volunteer labor from people in the church with a construction trade background, Highway Tabernacle Assembly of God was ready to go in August 1976. He served as the pastor there until his retirement a few years later and subsequent passing away on May 16, 1980. Funeral services were held at the church and even though his obituary mentions his burial to be at Floral Hills, he was actually buried in north central Missouri at Wesley Chapel Cemetery. His wife Odetta V. Waldron passed away February 13, 1992 and is buried with her husband.

So that answers my question of had the pastor that started Hiway Chapel Assembly of God already passed when all that craziness was going on in the mid-80s, and a cassette tape that he made years earlier was playing. The answer is yes. To the best of my knowledge there really weren't many members left that were there when we started that still would have been around in 1985 or so when we eventually left, so I do not really see 80 year old Brother So-and-So reminiscing in 1985 about what the church was like under Pastor John Waldron a decade earlier, found one of his tapes, climbed upstairs, figured out the audio equipment, and hoped to freak out the one guy that would be in the church over the weekend cleaning up for Sunday services.

Now I am not saying that Pastor John Waldron orchestrated this from the great beyond, but given his ties to the local Assembly of God churches, and this was his another one of the churches he founded, he certainly would have a connection with the last church that he started. After his retirement and death in 1980, the church went down some strange roads, and eventually split into other churches with half the congregation leaving, and the remaining congregation bickering over video games, trees, and parade floats. Perhaps he wanted to make his presence known about what he thought about all the nonsense as if to say, "Hey! This is God's house! Cut it out!"

Given how fundamentalist the Assembly of God folks are, I should know since I was raised in that environment, I am fairly certain they would consider the paranormal to be demons performing acts in the physical environment. Seriously, if the Assembly of God organization thought KISS and AC/DC were evil bands that held alter calls to Satan at their concerts, then ghosts and the paranormal being demonic in nature is not a far stretch. But if the Devil is having his minions play tapes made by the dead pastor who started that church when there is disorder in that church, they're kinda shitty at being demons.

And yes it did not escape me that the church changed names often. It did start as Highway Tabernacle Assembly of God, then Highway Chapel Assembly of God. When we went there, it was Hiway Chapel Assembly of God. Up until recently it was Christian Assembly of God. Most interestingly though, in recent months the fancy church sign is gone and now has a banner announcing Courageous Life Church coming soon. The outside has definitely had a makeover and the stained glass window behind the pulpit has been covered over. By taking a casual view of the Courageous Life Church website, they have done some major demolition and renovation to the inside. I went to Hiway Chapel for probably 5 years and I had trouble recognizing some locations inside it was tore up so much. Anyone into the paranormal is aware of the theory of when construction or demolition takes place in a location that may have paranormal activity, well...things have been known to act up. I'm sure Pastor Waldron is looking down and checking on these new people remodeling the church that he started back in the 1970s. He may have poked his nose in back in 1985 and if the new pastor and church don't mind their P's and Q's, they may get the Pastor Waldron treatment...mwahahaha.

Rest In Peace:

Pastor John R. Waldron ( October 1, 1912 - May 16, 1980 )

Wife Odetta V. Waldron ( September 1, 1912 - February 13, 1992 )
since 2002