Primetimers and ‘Kooter’ Thrill Kids

By LORETTA FULTON

“Can I have your attention, please?”

The man asking the question was hard to ignore–Kooter the Clown, also known as Barney Johnson, was talking and the kids were listening. Johnson, 87, is a member of a senior adult organization at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, which is a neighbor to Bonham Elementary School. 

Every September members of the group, the Primetimers, invite kids over on a Friday morning  for snowcones and entertainment from Kooter and his sidekick, Anthony the Doll.

“He’s in his element, Jeff Reid said of Johnson. Reid is associate pastor for senior adults at the church and leader of the Primetimers.

The kids didn’t exactly get quiet when Kooter spoke, but he had their attention as he entertained with clown tricks. Dressed in full clown outfit, painted face, and big red nose, Johnson definitely was in his element as Kooter the Clown. 

The snowcone party started in 2016 when Bonham Elementary School students returned to campus after a year’s absence. They were relocated while their new school was under construction. Their neighbors at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church wanted a unique way to welcome them back.

“We missed the kids,” Reid said.

Their effort was so successful that it’s now become a tradition. On Friday, Sept. 24, Primetimers served snowcones to about 575 students and staff from the school. The school and church have a long history, dating to 1954 when both opened for the first time. At the time, Abilene was growing to the west, with new schools, new houses, new churches, new businesses.

Having the elementary school as neighbors has proved to be a blessing for both the school and the church, Reid said. Church members love opportunities to interact with the children and staff.  “Every time I walk across the street, Reid said, “I’m pinching myself.”  

Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene

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