Number 111

“You haven’t changed a bit,” I said as I pulled the old burgundy colored hymnbook from the shelf.   I’m not in the habit of talking to books but it might be interesting if this particular hymnbook could talk back to me.

I have a collection of old hymnbooks that friends have given me or I have gathered from various places over the years but this hymnbook was special. The old hymnbook with an arched church window etched on the front and the words “Tabernacle Hymns” looked quite the same as it did the first time I saw it.  An edge or two was frayed but it was still in good condition.  I opened it up and inside the cover was the date, 1957, so it would have been fairly new when it was given to me.  I remembered this hymnbook well because it was the very first one that I had used as I learned to play the piano.  Tucked away in the back of that old hymnbook I found the numbers that I had written down and titles that I had underlined as I learned to play those hymns.

I was just a little girl about eleven years old and I was just beginning to learn to play the piano when Willie Slocum, the Sunday School Superintendent, came up to me after church and asked me to accompany the congregation for the opening of Sunday school that next week.   I thought the idea was exciting but really scary.  I told him that I didn’t know very many songs yet but he assured me that it would be fine.  He said that I would learn and he asked me what I could already play.  Mostly I had played from my piano lesson books but I told him I could play number 111 in the hymnbook, At Calvary, pretty well because it was written in the key of C and had no flats or sharps.  Without hesitation, Willie said that would be a great song to play next Sunday morning

I immediately went home and began practicing number 111 all week long until my family probably heard it in their sleep.  I practiced it slow, I practiced it fast; I practiced it while singing, and I practiced it while Momma or Daddy sang it for me so I could get the feel of accompanying someone else.

The next Sunday came and I played number 111 and got through it just fine.  Willie seemed pleased and told me to write down a list of songs that I could play and he would choose from them when he picked the hymns for Sunday school opening.

As time went on, I worked hard to learn more hymns to add to the list.  I knew number 111 well by then and so did the congregation!

By the time I was a teenager, I was often playing for the worship service as well as for Sunday school.  I am thankful for Willie, a Sunday school Superintendent, who believed in a little girl who he had never heard play a note.  It probably wasn’t so unusual for Willie who had lived by faith for many years.

Although it was written in 1895, by William R. Newell, it’s melody and message is timeless and as needed today as much as ever.   The refrain still plays in my mind as I often go back to number 111, back “At Calvary” where “mercy there was great and grace was free”.

As Willie would say, “Take your hymnbooks and turn with me to Number 111.”

~ Pamela Perry Blaine ~
© August 15, 2007

At Calvary

Years I spent in vanity and pride

Caring not my Lord was crucified

Knowing not it was for me He died

On Calvary



Mercy there was great, and grace was free

Pardon there was multiplied to me;

There my burdened soul found liberty

At Calvary.


By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;

Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,

Till my guilty soul imploring turned

To Calvary.


Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus everything,

Now I gladly own Him as my King,

Now my raptured soul can only sing

Of Calvary!


Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!

Oh, the grace that bro’t it down to man!

Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span

At Calvary!

Words and Music by William R Newell 1868-1956
and Daniel B Towner 1850-1919 - Public Domain.

About Pamela:  She enjoys writing, music, and country living.  She writes"Pam's Corner" for the local newspaper and many of her writings have been published on the internet as well as in several books.

Pam says, "I have loved music and writing ever since I can remember. I play piano at church and I'm an avid reader. One of my goals is to be able to write for my children and grandchildren so special memories will not be forgotten."  She has a CD entitled "I'll Walk You Home".  If you would like one, they are available by freewill donation.  More information as well as a clip from the CD is on her website at

[ By: Pamela Perry Blaine, Copyright © 2007 ( -- {used with permission} ]


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