By Sam Singleton
There have always been parents who sent their young out to toil in the evangelical fields. I’ve seen children as young as six out on the sawdust trail. I myself preached my first message when I was seven. Peter Popoff was fourteen when he held a revival at the Amalgamated Full Gospel Assembly, a flock of twenty or so under the pastorship of Flora Gilder. Yes, there were women preachers. Holy rollers were very progressive.
The Amalgamated Assembly was a dingy little coop about half the size of your average garage. And Peter Popoff went over big, even if he did have a pip-squeaky voice. One or two times there must’ve been upwards of thirty-six, thirty-seven people. And this one night he picked yours truly out of the multitude to prophesy over. His whole deal was that god told him stuff that nobody else got let in on unless Peter Popoff said it was okay. I was in the second row with the rest of the clan and this little Peter comes and puts his hand on my head and lights into this big prophesy about how I am going to grow up to be a concert pianist and play before the crown heads of Europe. I liked the sound of that.
Years later the fraud debunker James Randi busted Peter Popoff and his accomplice Sister Popoff on nation-wide TV when he caught them using a transmitter and earpiece. The Popoff gang was having people fill out prayer request cards which Sister Popoff would read into little Peter’s hidden earpiece so he could make out like god was revealing all these personal details to the little prophet, except now he was a big ugly slob.
“You live on Elm Street and have been suffering with gall stones.”
But when I was eight, I didn’t know that I was dealing with a sleazy little crook bastard. And if Brother Popoff had checked out the Amalgamated Full Gospel Assembly’s parking lot before the service, he might’ve wanted to radio himself about what we drove up in, which was a 1953 Chevrolet with a black paint job that had been applied with a brush. Both back doors were tied shut with clothesline. He hadn’t finished his prophesy before I was wondering how we were gonna tie a Steinway to the roof of the Chevy. Them things is heavy.
It put my folks in a bad spot. I could tell they wanted to be able to throw out their chests and crow about how they had it on the very highest authority that their boy was set to launch a career on the concert stage, but the lord was tardy in providing the means.