Rev. Edgar F. Wheeler: 32 Wheaton College “Fresh from the Farm”

In January, 1941, I was off to Wheaton College. Mom gave me practical advice on caring for my clothes, without her to wash and mend, and such practical things. She helped me pack and gave me last-minute suggestions for living away from home. I later found that she had attached a note in my new leather-bound Bible encouraging me to be faithful in reading it. Dad took me to St. Joe, Missouri, where I boarded a Greyhound bus for Illinois.

I arrived the next day at the bus stop at a saloon in Napierville, Wisconsin, a few miles from Wheaton. The proprietor was interested in my plans and took me to my destination, the home of Mrs. Benson who lodged college boys. A couple days later, he arrived at my boarding house to offer me a job as bartender! Naturally, that did not fit into my plans in a Christian college, preparing for ministry.

What a life change from a rural Kansas farm with day-in-day-out work in all kinds of weather, to an urban, scholastic atmosphere! No more overalls and muddy boots, no more days exposed to the elements. Now it was study, classrooms, schedules, and meals at a cafeteria.. Now it was exposure to fellow students from many backgrounds and cultures: Paul Votaw, Kansas City; Leslie Flynn, Canada; G. Graham; Dr. Spaulding; Dr. Gregarian; and T. Richard Caufield, another country boy from Kansas.

I had a job working at the college cafeteria for meals – a good job although with late hours. I washed dishes, pots and pans at night, usually finishing around 11:00 o’clock. As a supplement, I took work for an evangelist, John R. Rice. I found the work not to my liking, and him overbearing. I quit the position after only a brief time. I found other supplemental work of odd jobs in outlying areas. Some of those jobs, and employers, were a story in themselves. Once I did house-cleaning for a woman who believed in horoscope. “Your “sign danger (March),” she said. Her husband fancied himself as an inventor – a spading fork (?)” High cleaning jobs were part of my hiring out.

I enjoyed the campus atmosphere and two classes, particularly: Introduction to the Old Testament under Miss Spaulding; and Anthropology under a German professor, Gregorian. Professor Gergorian was a blunt German. War was threatening. He counseled male students, “Pray you don’t have to go, and if you do go, pray you shoot straight.” “Miss” Spaulding’s teaching enriched my own teaching and preaching through the years.

I truly “kept my nose to the grindstone.” Right at the end of the semester, I had one date with a chubby, freckle-faced girl, Grace Nevines, from New Jersey. I felt like a real country boy and that was the end of that. And, of course, I did not return to Wheaton the next year. I did pass through Wheaton the next year, however, and our chance meeting was no more than a passing, “Hello.”

Reality dawned on me through acquaintance with other students that a “Christian” college did not ensure perfect Christian students. There were morally weak students, those with psychological problems, those in whom the love of Christ was not evident. Yet the atmosphere was generally uplifting. I learned that Christian ideals, even though not always attained, make better people. Beyond that, I experienced more of the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

I was excited about college – but homesick! That was somewhat assuaged by the companionship of my long time, hometown friend, Allen Bond, was also in Wheaton. That helped me feel more at home. Our Sabbath days were generally spent together. One Sabbath afternoon I recreated the old home scene by sketching a picture of the homestead.

Allen Bond Dad had shipped my bicycle via Railway Express. It got used daily to go to classes, and often on busy traffic ways where a bicycle did not belong – for extra jobs in Glenn Ellen and other outlying areas.

During my time at Wheaton, my sister Louise was married at Pekin, Illinois, to Roy Sullivan of Minonk, Illinois. I was able to be there and participate in the wedding party at the ceremony. I especially enjoyed seeing my parents, who were also there.

I eagerly awaited spring, so I could return home in Kansas. I rode with Paul Votaw of Kansas City, who was delivering a new 1941 Chevrolet. Merlin met me in Kansas and took me home the next day. He was very solicitous that I was “going straight” at college. That summer, home was a welcome sight. My Wheaton sketch heightened that expectation. That summer, and the next two were my last summers there.

I spent several years working my way through college. Necessary employment made it necessary to curtail college schedules.

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