We are heading into our 50th year of singing and recording gospel music. We are an Iowa based ministry comprised of two families, Dave and Jan McSpadden have three children and Don and Vikki Hunt have three children. Jan and Vikki are sisters. Our six children spent their growing up years singing with the Gateways on the road. Each of them began singing on stage around age two. All six of our children walk with the Lord and busy themselves in their own ministries! And now there are nine gateway grandchildren and one more on the way January of '09.
Our singing ministry started...
back in 1968 as a male quartet called, "Sing For Christ Quartet." At that time, four guys who attended Midwestern School of Evangelism Bible College in Ottumwa, IA were asked to sing for a college rally. One of the songs we sang was "Pity The Man". We kept messing up the words, yet the people liked our music and made us sing it until we got it right. After several requests from minister friends and churches for concerts, we decided to take a summer and travel across America coast to coast with our talents. Three of the guys were married by early summer of 1969 and Don Hunt II was single on that hot summer tour.
A church in Hamburg IA...
donated the quartet a 1954 forty-two passenger Ford school bus. We removed all seven seats on each side of the bus and sort of made living quarters in the bus for seven adults. it was very crowded! We built two NARROW 32 inch single beds above both rear wheel wells. One sleeping compartment was for Mark and Sheri McDowell who had been married 6 months. The other sleeping compartment was for Dave and Jan McSpadden who had been married only six days when the bus headed towards the west coast. And there were only cloth curtains hanging between the compartments with about a 12 inch isle. Those were the days!
An old hide-a-bed was put...
in the front for Lee and Merna Vandeveer who had been married eleven days before we departed that first summer tour. Don Hunt II, the single guy slept on an air matress the floor up where the brake and gas pedals were located. The cheap air mattress wouldgo flat every night within a 30 minutes. There was no heat in the bus and up in the mountains, it wold get very chilly. Occassionally Don would get weary of the floor and tell Leland, "Roll over, i'm coming in." So there were 3 in the hideabed. Of course there was no plumbing on board the bus, just a few friendly gas stations and lonely bushes along the way. The bus was small enough that when you said, "Good night", everyone would answer. Yes, those were the days!
We painted the bus an ugly...
kelly green. The hood of the bus kept flying up as we drove, so we named the bus, "Gator". Whenever the hood did it's thing, several in the group would rush to the front of the bus and help the driver see enough to get off the road. It didn't have a working gas gauge, but did have a odometer. We knew we could go about 130 miles on a tank each tank of gas. Before long, the odometer broke, so we had to write down on a map where we last filled the bus with gas and circle on the map where we needed to gas up the next time. There were several long walks to town and back with a gas can! Those were the days when air conditioning was NOT an ordinary expected option on a vehicle. We had 14 window AC -- 7 windows on each side -- called "sweat city".
By the end of the first summer,
Mark an Sheri McDowell moved to Monterey, Louisiana to preach -- leaving the Vandeveers and the McSpadden couples and Don. May 1, 1970, Don married Vikki Gilliland just 14 days before our second coast to coast summer marathon tour. We three couples we made a lot of close friends, sang and preached in many churches across the USA, attracted some young people to become Christians, and encouraged many Christians during those early years.
For five years 1970 - 1975, the Gateways volunteered to sing for 10 days each summer at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. This was a booth sponsored by several SE Iowa churches. We would sing 15 minutes every hour, on the hour from 9 AM - 9 PM. Our singing would and gather a nice crowd, then a preacher would share something from the Word of God, and then the GateWays would return to the stage for a final song. Those were the days! No AC, verylittle money to buy food, sleeping in a hot green metal bus in hot muggy August. We were Christian young people wanting to make a difference for Jesus and thought it was a great thing to do. It paid spiritual dividends because we still run into people who tell us that they first met us at the Iowa State Fair.
We voted ontwo names and GATEWAY SINGERS won the vote. (It's sort of like "Gateway to heaven -- an/or "showing people the way to heaven.")
For two summers,
the old bus took us to CA, OR, WA, ID, MT, WY, CO, NE, IA, IL, LA, IN, OH, PA, VT, MA, NY, MA, MN, VA, WV, KS, TX, NV, etc. We must have put 50 thousand miles on that old bus. How our parents could watch us pull away in that rig, is beyond us. We have lots of memories packed in our brain cells from those journeys in the bus. Someday we ought to write a book telling about lots of joyful, yet sometimes hair-raising experiences. There was a lot of youthful energies bottle up for days at a time riding across America; devoting themselves to serving the Lord with good music. We can still hear some of the tunes we used to harmonize on together while bumpily riding down the road the in that old kelly green bus. Of course acappella -- unless Don played his guitar.
We'll share one memory and leave it at that. At the end of our first week on the bus, we ended up in Morro Bay, CA. No one in the quartet had ever seen the ocean except Don, the bus driver. Don said, "We'll just drive out on the beach." He had seen this done down in Florida. We'll we went about 100 feet and sunk the buss down in sand to the axles. We had to dig our way out of the sand by our hands and a board or two that we laid under the rear duals. By the time we got out, we were covere with sand, the bus was full of sand, and we had broken the motor mounts backing up and going forward to many time. We never did see the ocean! Here's the rest of the story.
We drove into town looking for a car wash where we could vaccum out the bus and wash the salty sand off ourselves. We didn't find one, so we went into a shopping plaza and asked directions to a car wash. The manager of the store saw the name on the outside of our bus and asked us to sing a song. We did and it was good enough that he gave us a candy bar each and said, "Sing me another song." BOTTOM LINE: When we finished he said, "Why don't you guys come to our house? Well BBQ some burgers and have watermelon. You can shower and vaccum out your bus at our house." Those were like" words from heaven"! Home cooked Food and a hot shower never tasted or felt better! We sang throughout the evening in their beautiful home overlooking the beautiful Pacific ocean. We never forgot that night. I don't think we ever saw those generous people again, yet we knew God had brought us together for that one night.
SING FOR CHRIST QUARTET LIVE RECORDING
You can listen to the only SING FOR CHRIST QUARTET recording by clicking on......Sing for Christ QUARTET cd with songs -- like David's Victory, Fourth Man In the Fire, Walk, Talk, and Sing.) This was back before Don Hunt had a stroke -- brain aneurysm -- when Don sang high tenor.)
We blew our bus engine in the middle of August in Wendover Utah
That's only 10 miles from the Salt flats. Was it ever hot! We're talking 105+ everyday. We didn't have enough money with us to fix the bus -- so a preacher friend, Bro Bob, from Boise ID drove 300 miles to bring us some money. The mechanic pumped people's gas, drove the ambulence, delivered the new babies, sold the groceries, and occassionally worked on our bus. In about four or five days, he had the bus running -- enough to get us to the edge of town. Before we got to the city limits sign, smoke began to come out around the hood. We drove back to the station. He had failed to tightened a water hose. WE DROVE ALL THE WAY HOME FROM UTAH TO IiOWA AT 35 MILES PER HOUR. He put in a used 1954 Thunderbird 312 V8 engine that he found in a junk yard in Salt Lake City -- but he never changed the spark plugs. When we got home we changed the spark plugs and it ran 70 mph for about 3 hours before we cracked a head on the engine. This was....
Towards the end of our second summer tour.
That second bus engine was got tired real quick. On the buses last journey, we came off an exit on I 80 and there was lots of white smoke coming out the tail pipe. We had cracked a head. A college friend, Gary Douglass, drove up and put a 292 head on from another junk yard. When he put the engine together, he said, "Boy, the inside of that 312 engine is full of crud." So he poured in some stuff to clean out the crud. From that time on, every 50 miles we had to stop and pour in two quarts of oil. The FINAL CONCERT THAT WE DROVE THE BUS, the church in Mishawaka IN gave us a LOVEOFFERING and FOUR CASES OF OIL to get home! After that trip to IN, we respectfully retired the Gator. Ironically about 20 + years later, the Gator washed down the Des Moines river in the '93 flood. We know that "Gators" belong in rivers anyway.
After three years of traveling, in September of 1972, Lee and Merna Vandeveer decided to move to Mooresville, Indiana and settle down to raise their family. That left Dave and Jan McSpadden and Don and Vikki Hunt and our children as the GateWay Singers. The Vandeveers now live in Roscoe, IL, close to Rrockford. Theyt have three girls and 6 or 7 grandchildren.
We raised all six of our children on the road. No it wasn't easy. With God's help, lots of support from friends and family, and lots of prayer, our families traveled across America averaging nearly 200 days a year baxck in the days before our boys, Chad and Matt reached school age. Our children attended public school; yet missed quite a few days along the way. As mentioned earlier, our kids started singing on stage around age two. As they matured, each of them sang and/or played several different instruments with us.
For Five or six years, each family traveled in small minihomes, which served as a place to call home and be individual families. Family has always been our first ministry. Staying as guests all the time in Christian homes has it's plus, but several negatives. Our children were always on display and couldn't really let their hair down. The mini motor homes gave each family, time to be a family, yet allowed us freedom to travel and sing.
Today, 45 years after we started singing, we're back to four adults, Dave and Jan McSpadden and Don and Vikki Hunt. Rarely are we fortunate to have any of our children to sing with us. Yes, we miss the days of singing with all six of the "Little GateWays". Now, we've already begun a 3rd generation of GateWay Singers! Andf there are soon to be 21 grand children.
Over the years, we've seen a lot of highway pavment, worn out numerous vehicles, met many special people, witnessed hundreds of people finding the Lord, and have encouraged thousands of Christians across America and around the world with our recordings. Who would have thought that this many years later the Lord would still be keeping us busy in Kingdom work? Only God knew that from the beginning!