60th Anniversary Conversations with Mom and Dad (Xenia Lee and Edgar Wheeler)

60th Anniversary Visit with Mom and Dad

(Video of these discussions is available from Rob)

August 5, 2005

Mom’s first memories

*Mom tells of hiding under the house when the nurse came to give her a shot.

The hornets.

Dad’s first memories.  Going to Ohio to visit Lugebihls.

*Memory of train in Chicago, uncles teasing him.  Put him in a closet, screaming bloody murder.

Mom describes what childhood was like.  Happy.

*Remembers playing on big rocks on the knoll.  They played house all the time.  Walks, nature walks.

. . .

Dad’s childhood described

Rob: How would you describe what it was like growing up in Kansas?

Dad:  Well, it was adventuresome, for one thing.  Some parts of it were traumatic.  There were very difficult years, the Depression years, storms, such as tornados, and also there were epidemics that were taking lives, like spinal meningitis – we were scared of that – some of our acquaintances were dying of it.  So that was one side of it.  The good side outweighed it.  And, of course, that is life: there is always trauma.  [Three of his siblings died shortly after birth.]  One, the last one, died when he was a senior in high school.  The other two, I remember they had a home funeral service for one of them, I don’t know which one.  They were between Bob and I.  One of them I do remember we had a little funeral service right at home.  I remember sitting on a chest there while they had the service.  But I don’t remember which one it was for.

Rob:  I thought you had told me that with one of them you had some responsibility.

Dad:  Yeah, I don’t know how that came about, but it was my job to carry the body of the last infant into the funeral home.  And I don’t remember much about it.  Everyone else remembers it better than I do.  I suppose maybe I shut it out.

Rob:  It’s one of those experiences that stays with you, but you don’t know it’s there?

Dad:  Yeah.  Grandma Randolph liked to talk about how she could outperform the fellows on the farm, but I suppose it is my boast, if you want to make it that, the folks gave me the jobs that were kind of hard, that took determination.  That was one of them.  I remember that Dad would give me jobs to do that one of my other brothers would not do, so they would give me jobs that took the patience and he would work in the field.  One time he had a disk, a field disk, one that the horses drew, he thought the blades were so dull that I should sharpen them.  So he got a big file and he gave me the job of sharpening all the disks on that whole machine.  Again, I didn’t think much of it: it was a job that had given me to do.

Rob:  So you are saying you did a better job at that than I did at weeding?

Dad:  [Laughter] You were pretty thorough, I’ll tell you that.  You took out the cover crop and everything.

Rob:  Is there any memory from childhood that comes back to you as an adult?

Dad:  Uncle Bob would tell you that I was a stubborn kid.  He said that just recently, “You were stubborn.”  And I was.  I would get so mad I would fly off the handle.  My mother would say, “Edgar, you just can’t live like that.”  And I can remember that over, and over and over.  And I tell other people, “You just need to straighten up and fly right.  You just can’t live like that.”

Rob:  So that is something you have had to adjust your behaviors to?

Dad:  I had to.  I had to.  I was spoiling for a fight right up through my high school years, and I tangled once or twice with someone that was a little more capable than me that calmed me down a little bit.  . . .I was a little bit of a show-off at times, a little kind of smirk.  The teacher didn’t always appreciate me.

Mom:   I remember times when I had to be kept at a job.  I always figured maybe that was how I learned to stick with jobs that were difficult because I got punishment for not doing it.  [When punished,] you would have to go get a switch, you would have to go down by the creek where the willows were keen, and if you didn’t bring a keen enough willow, you had to go back to get another one.

Rob:  Dad, what do you remember about your dad?

Dad:  Of course, Dad was never well.  He started yout with tuberculosis earlier, and it ended up with lung problems and heart trouble.  He was never well, so I think that contributed to the fact that he had a little bit of a short fuse, and he would kind of fly off . . . Uncle Bob is like him.  Dad was a good man.  I – you just knew that he was never a pretender – he was just a good man – very determined, and the thing I really considered remarkable was the state of health he had, the way he held on in those Depression years, other farmers were going broke, going onto welfare, WPA where they could do certain work and they would pay them, well dad had a good size family.  He just hung on and carried on, and he could always find a way to do things.  If he needed roofing and didn’t have money for it, he would hear about a building down in Atchison with the flat roofing, they were tearing the metal off, well I don’t know what he paid, maybe nothing for it, well he hauled that back and covered the hay shed with it.  During the dust storm years, when the farmers in Western Kansas and Colorado couldn’t afford to feed their livestock, he would buy it pretty cheap, force feed it and get it on the market, and that helped.  But he was resourceful.  If he hadn’t been he wouldn’t have been able to get through.

Rob: What is one of your favorite memories from childhood?

Mom:  Oh, making snow ice cream.  [Laughter]  I don’t know where that came from, but I just happened to think of that.  If we had a big snow that was maybe six inches, at least, we would skim the top off, and then you would have nice, clean snow.  And of course, you did this when you were stuck in the house.   Mom would go out and she would bring in a dish pan full of that nice snow, and she would add sugar and heavy cream and vanilla and beat, beat, beat.  It made “snow ice cream,” we called it.  We thought that tasted heavenly.

Rob: How did you first meet Dad?

Mom: Well, even to take notice of him, . . .

Annita: All I remember is, you said he was a show off.

Mom: Well, he was.  He was.  Yeah.

Annita: How did he who off, Mom?

Mom: Well, he had a whole bottle of Evening in Paris one time.  And, of course, the college girls, they were just “goo goo” over him.   If he came into the store and the college girls were there, they were all over him.  I observed that before I really knew who he was.

Rob: Did he object?

Mom: He laughed.

Rob: He played to it.

Mom: Yeah.  Probably was embarrassed.  Anyway, when I first spoke to him, he came into the department store where I worked.  To the left of the front door was an old fashioned candy counter, because we sold all our candy in bulk. . . . Daddy came in.  We had been taught to say to any customer who came into the department store, “May I help you, please.”  So he came in.  I was the only clerk close to the front, so I said, “May I help you, please.”  I had just been hired by this store and gone through the training.  Summers Department Store.  And it was Christmas “rush,” and I had been hired because of the extra help they needed at Christmas time.  So, I was behind the candy counter and I said, “May I help you, please.”  And he looked around, and he said, “Well, I would buy that box of chocolates, but I don’t have anybody, I wouldn’t know who to give them to.  So, I said, “Well, you could always give them to me.”  And as soon as I said it, I thought, “Good night a-livin!  What have you said?  And he grinned . . .

Annita: You were flirting, Mother.

Mom: And he grinned and went on a-doin’ whatever he came into the store for.  He came back and he said, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I will buy that box.”  And they were chocolate covered caramels.  And he said, “Please wrap them to mail.”  And, you know it was Christmas time, and I knew he was a college kid because I had observed him with these college girls, . . . so, I wrapped them to mail.  Then . . . I lived with my aunt through the week in Salem near the store so I could walk – Aunt Liddy – and Mom and Dad got me Friday night and brought me back at sundown – because these people were Seventh Day Church of God and they opened their store back up at sundown Sabbath night, so I had to be back sundown Sabbath night and I worked all day Sunday – and we closed sundown Friday night, so they would pick me up.  And I got home and I had a box of candy in the mail that had come during the week.  So, I said, “I’m not opening that,”  because I knew where it had come from.   Well, I finally opened it, and I am sure I ate some of it, but my brothers and sisters cleaned it up in a hurry.  And some day – this was weeks later – Grandpa knew I was upset.  Of course, I didn’t tell him that I said he could always buy it for me.  So Grandpa said, “Did you thank that fellow for that candy?”  And I said, “Of course not.”  And he said, “You know that really isn’t very courteous and nice.”  So he made me sit down and write a letter of thanks.  This was February, any way.  Now you know I got that before Christmas.   Now you know what comes in February.  And pretty soon I got another box in the mail.  I thought, “Boy, I’m not waiting until Easter time.”  So, I thanked him for that box.  I kept him encouraged.

The next time I saw him, it was sometime in the spring.  I stayed at my aunt’s.  They lived on the other side of the railroad track, and there was a filling station there.  I waited at that filling station for one of the teachers to pick me up to go to school, because I lived with my aunt and uncle.  They kept me on at the store.  I got $15 a week working at that store and I worked evenings until they closed through the week and then on the weekend.  That helped Grandpa and Grandma.  That was in 1942.  You could buy a lot of groceries for $15 in those days, and I would take groceries home with me.  I was standing at that filling station, and who should drive in, but Daddy.  I had my first brand new coat on, and that was my first clue, conscious clue, that I really did like him.  And I thought, oh, good, at least I have this new coat on.

He got his gas and he did speak to me.  Of course, I was very careful, because I was afraid he was going to ask to take me to school.  I said I was waiting for Mr. Seeger. . . . That year I was a  sophomore. . . .

[Dad joins us.]

Dad: We kind of looked google-eyed at each other and, you know, hung around a lot together, and finally F.L. Summers, who hire her, said, “Edgar, why don’t you throw a gunny sack over her head and go off and get married.

Mom: This a couple years later.  I  had graduated from high school by then.  . . .

Dad: The gunny sack business I didn’t like that.  I thought we’re going to do this in style.  So, we dated.  We got permission from her parents.

Mom: That wasn’t too easy. . . . I already had won a full scholarship to college in high school, so I was ready for college, and I had enrolled – at Salem.

Dad: Her dad was quite put out. . . . He made the comment, that’s the end of college.  As it turned out he was right.  As I look back, I can look at things two ways.  I could say I robbed her of a lot of her youth – I really did rob her of the opportunities in college, and I’d say, being the resourceful person she is, she was able to make something good out of it.  I could really make it sound something romantic of myself, but I really was a stupid smartie.  I was a farm guy in college and I was carried away with her, and I thought I was really great stuff.  Well, [turning to Mom] is that what you would say?  [Laughter]  I wouldn’t go out on the street and stuff – and say, “Look at me. . . .”

Mom: No, he would just trip over his feet so everyone would notice him and did look at him.  Or put his shoes on the wrong feet.

Annita: He still does that, Mom.

. . .

Mom: And there weren’t that many boys in college in the war years, so he got all the attention of all the girls in college, he and about two other boys.

Dad: [Shaking his head]  Well, you know, I wasn’t anything great . . .  [laughter]

. . .

Dad:  I remember driving alone and we were going to talk to her folks about getting married.  And we did and they put up some resistance.  And one of the things her dad said, . . .

Mom: The clinching thing.

Dad:  He said, “Do you have the income you could support a wife?”  Times were different then, and I said, “Well, I’m earning a $100 a week.”  And that satisfied him.

Mom:  Do you know what my father earned?  $125 a month.   So he had no more questions after [Grandpa] told him what he earned as a linotype operator.

. . .

Dad: You know, it sounds glamorous, but to tell you the truth, I was a country boy, I fell in love, which people have a habit of doing, and . . . a very lovely girl.  And she was the best thing I thought I ever ran across, which is true.  And that led to marriage.  So we can glamorize it.  I was just one of the common herd.

Rob: What about your wedding, Mom?

Mom: If you are going to get married, you’re going to get married.  So, once we decided, why . . . We got engaged in June, and married the 10th of August.  We were married the 10th of August because my father could never remember anybody’s birthday, not one of the seven of us kids, and he never remembered our birthdays, but he never forgot Mom’s birthday.  So the 10th of August was Mom’s birthday, so that is when we got married.  On our first wedding anniversary, Daddy always wrote the letters.  Momma didn’t  have time in the summer.  And so, some time in July, Dad wrote, “Don’t forget.  The 10th of August is Mom’s birthday.  And I thought, “Yes, Dad, and it’s our Anniversary.   We got married so you will remember our anniversary, and you don’t remember it.”

. . .

We were married outside, where we had our church camp – Middle Island, West Virginia, which was in the country.  We had an outdoor wedding, which was in Nature, so you didn’t have any decorating to do, and we had it where we had our vesper knoll.  At camp we always had our vespers right where you sun, you could see the sun go down.  So we planned the wedding right as we watched the sun going down.  It was symbolic of the end of our single years and the beginning of our married . . .  Marion Van Horn came from Lost Creek. He got caught behind the train.  We thought the sun was going to go down before he got there.  And Uncle Louis and Aunt Mae stood up with us.  It was a beautiful wedding.  There were probably fifteen people at our wedding.  Mom and Dad did the reception at home.  There were a lot of people at the reception.  We had cake and homemade ice cream.  And that was the reception.

Rob: Dad . . . what are your memories of your mom”

Dad: She was a very gentle, loving woman.  I remember being sick and how she would care for me.  And one thing I remember that we kids didn’t like, if we had a bad cold in the chest, “take turpentine and lard,” [laughter] and I remember my mother, of course she always worked so hard, and her hands were rough, but you didn’t mind.  It was a loving act.  She would rub that into your chest real good, and it would do the job.  But she was a very lovely woman; she was typical offspring of Mennonites, old fashioned Mennonites, very high principles.  Her maiden name was Lugibihl.  They were of German blood, but they came from Switzerland.  When relatives came from Ohio, they talked German.

She was very modest.  She didn’t like us boys running around without a shirt.  She didn’t want us to neglect shaving.  I at one time made up my mind I’m going to see what it’s like to go a week without shaving.  Finally, she said, “You look awful.”  [Laughter]  That’s an interesting thing, uh, those German ancesters, they didn’t quite know how to handle the language, like my Grandmother Lugibihl talking about one of my uncles marrying, and he married a big woman, and Grandma said, “Raymond, he married a big fat woman.”  [Laughter]  It wasn’t very flattering, but it was their way of saying it.  She didn’t want any slang-like language.  I know that at one time brother Bob and I got into a fight, and I was so mad that after she separated us, I said, “The darned little fool!”  [Motion of a slap, and laughter]  That was the only time I remember my mom using any force on me.  Dad made up for it, [laughter] but he was reasonable, but when he punished you were punished.

Rob: Now when Grandpa was upset with something you did, there were some signs that you knew you crossed the line, weren’t there?

Dad: Well, you know, when he or my uncle, either one, was mad, you could get the idea that man did descend from ape.  [Laughter, motion of an ape stomping.]  He just had a certain walk.  But, back to Grandma, I was very proud of her.  I loved her dearly.  She – one time in school – we had a school teacher who was really a wonderful teacher, who had a program, and there was a spelling contest, and my mother out-spelled the teacher.  I was really proud of that.

One time, my mother was short, and a little on the plump side, and a couple of young squirts came boy and hollered out, “Hi, little woman!”  I was so mad, I’d like to have got my hands on them.  She was a great woman.

Rob: Now you finished your pastoral work serving your mom.  What was that like, being her pastor and her son?

Dad: Well, at times I was a little self-conscious, but that was my problem, because she was never critical, and she was very supportive.  I know my study room in the parish house faced her place, and I’d get in their early and she looked out her window and could see that I was in the study and she would mention that she saw him.

Rob:  Others may chime in, but I have noticed particularly that Mom might chide you but you don’t react to that, which could be taken a number of different ways . . .

Mom: Yeah, he probably doesn’t dare.

Nathan: He probably did the first time.

Dad: Well, I don’t react, but somehow I seem to have an ulceric condition.  [Laughter]  I don’t know what’s behind that.

Rob: What of your experience of choosing a spouse and starting out with a relationship would you want to share.

Mom: I think one of the things that has helped us the most is that we liked each other.  Period.  Not the physical appearance, not that we didn’t like that, but we liked what the other person was.  He had a garden, a HUGE garden, and I don’t think we ever had a bigger garden when we had all the kids at home, while he was in college, and he, you’d see him, I’d see him, if I happened to be where I’d see who was on the sidewalk, walking by the store carrying – he had radishes in season, in a package with a string tied around the bunch, going to the grocery store beyond our department store, and he would sell all his fresh produce, packaged, and that was her income in college, and so we – most of our dating was either him walking me home from the store and saying goodnight on the porch – it had a porch swing, that is why we like porch swings, . . .

Dad: I just said, “Goodnight.” [Laughter]

Mom: No, we sat in the porch swing for a while.  That summer before we were married, we didn’t sell that much produce.  We canned it.  Shelled peas, canned peas.  We were married in August and we had our food for the winter.  So, we did things together, and that was certainly helpful, so if you like your spouse, so number one, be sure it is someone you are sexually attracted to, only; you like them, you play games with them so you know they are not [flarers?].  And some times he had studies and I had studies and sometimes we would get together and we would be sitting at our own desks studying, but we were where we saw each other.

Rob: Dad what about your decision this is the woman you want to spend your life with?

Mom: Remember, he is eight years older than I am.

Dad: I’d say mainly I wanted a girl who had character, . . . and then I met her.  I realized very shortly that it was more than a matter of infatuation seeing her, but that she was of higher character, and I realized she was so much more mature than so many of the college girls who were kind of flippant.  I didn’t realize how young she was, but she did have the air of maturity that came a lot by experience.  It was only later that I realized how young she was.

Rob: How did your marriage begin and how did it evolve over the years?

Mom: That last summer I graduated from high school, I got an apartment, and I think I graduated from high school with four girls whose husbands were in the service.  We lost a lot of our high school senior class because as they got old enough they had to leave, and they graduated them anyway, but they were in absence.  We had one girl who should have been two classes ahead of me, but once they were married, they weren’t allowing them in school with the other kids, and she had to drop out in her senior year when she got married before her husband left, and her brother was in my class, so she came back to graduate with us.  So we had several that were married.  One of the girls was married to a Navy boy, and many of you have been in her home and eaten with her when Grandma or Grandpa, one or the other, died – Freda – and she and I got an apartment together because we both worked at the department store and we were within walking distance of the department store.  So, when Dad and I were married, her husband was still in the Navy, of course, and so she moved out.  I think she must have gone back home.  She had gotten her drivers license and so she drove from home.  So Dad and I already had a home; that was our apartment.  Before we were married, her husband came for a leave and so I went back home and let them have the apartment for a week.  Her husband mentioned that not long ago before he died . . . how he appreciated my leaving and just letting them have the apartment while he was on leave from the service.  So, we had that apartment and that’s where we lived. . . .

We went on our honeymoon on the Greyhound bus because there was no gasoline; it was rationed.

Rob: I know I’m skipping around.  Mom, there were some rules you said you had for children, how you treat children, what you expect of your children.

Mom: Dad and I have tried to have only three things that we were really going to be emphatic with, and you children just made us proud in those three areas, every one of you. . . .

Rob: Especially Richard.

Mom: No, but you

Richard: I can’t wait to hear what it is.

Mom: . . . got punished for disrespect, . . .

Richard: Oh, it was those things.

Mom: . . .dishonesty . . .

Richard: It’s coming back to me now.

Mom: Disrespect, dishonesty and disobedience.  Willful disobedience.  You would be surprised how many things go into those three categories if you stop and think about it. . . . And obedience carries right over to laws of the land, laws of your employer.  If you learn obedience, these other things follow.

Rob: Did you have similar rules that applied to marriage, and I assume, Mom, that begins with obedience.  [Laughter]

Richard: She expects obedience.  [Laughter]

. . .

Mom: Kind of an openness and trust that you can say anything and the other person is going to love you anyhow.

Dad: Well, I am an idealist and it can be a real problem. . . . and a sentimentalist.  One of my friends said I was nothing but a sentimental slob.  He might not have been too far wrong – I never quite got over that, but I soon realized that I had in a sense married someone who was superior to me intellectually. . . . And while I wanted to be a person of honesty, integrity and so on, I realized there [were] areas where she definitely was far ahead of me in seeing through things.

Rob: One of the things I noticed growing up is that I never heard you argue.  But I also witnessed, visiting your home, Mom asserting herself, you seem to disagree but you handle it in a different way than “get off my back.”  How about that relationship.

Mom: He does say, “Get off my back.”  [Laughter]

Noelle: We never heard that.

Mom: . . . No, but he never used those words, like, “let me drive.”  And that was only come about in the last year.  [Laughter]

Dad: That was out of utter frustration.  [Laughter]

Mom: Because I can’t turn my head and see out of this side [her left side], and this last trip, I think, we rented a car and Daddy says, “Just let me drive.” [Laughter]  So I thought I’ll just go to sleep and I’ll not see what he is doing.

Dad: I’ve got to tell you what I told Richard – I hope Mom won’t mind – but we were in the wide open country in Ohio and I saw quite a ways up ahead an Amish buggy.  Of course, I was just gently slacking off and she says, “Watch out!” . . .

Mom: I already had my foot to the floor on my side and it didn’t help a bit.

Dad: . . . And she said, “Well, you were coming up on it awful fast.”  [Laughter]  And I remembered Grandpa Randolph . . . [more laughter]  Anyhow, . . .

Mom: I have to really guard that – I’m too much like Grandpa.

Noelle: I think what Robert is saying . . . that little tiny conflict, whatever it might have been, never escalated, you know we never saw that being the underlying thing for the next day.

Mom: Well, we always had a philosophy – and we always had a prayer together before we went to bed – from the day we were married there were devotions and prayer time together before . . . we went to bed.  But, we had started that even in our dating – we had been in Bible studies together, so that was just a natural, normal part of our lives . . .

Dad: Yeah.

Mom: And we started the morning with our own, individual devotion, at breakfast time you will remember, there were devotions at breakfast, . . . so I don’t think anything got escalated just because –  something about listening to each others prayers, knowing the sincerity of heart, you get to know the intent of the will of that person, and you don’t see these little things the way you would if you didn’t know the other person.  Now I am so afraid that he doesn’t see something after he says, “I missed that car.  I didn’t see that car at all,”

Richard: Mom, he means he saw it but he didn’t hit it.  “I missed that car.”  [Laughter]  “I missed another one!”

Rob: You know, there is a certain intimacy of prayer people don’t think about, to pray opens you up to criticism, makes you vulnerable, which is what intimacy is about.  You mentioned rules for children, where did you get them?

Mom: Part of it was probably the way I grew up and the fact that I had taken care of a lot of kids before I got married.  But . . . we got Child Life from Southern Baptist every month.  This one mother zeroed in on these three things.  We were in Salemville at the time, and I thought, “You know, I should reevaluate why I punish and see if I am doing that.  And, low and behold, that was what I was doing.  So, I never consciously developed it, but after I read that article and I saw it consciously put in categories, then I could see, that’s right, these are the only things that are really, really important because that helps you relate to other people, and all through life we have to relate to others.  So, that is when I really had it categorized.

Rob: Dad, [in your pastoral counseling] did you ever get to a point that you could say, “If you really want a relationship that is vital, here are some things too avoid, or to cultivate, or both” . . .

Dad: I don’t think I was ever as organized as Mom.  Really.  I grew up in a different atmosphere.  Hard work on the farm.  The example of consistency and honesty.  But philosophically, I don’t think I had quite the background she did.  In counseling, I had to learn a lot from the book.  And then, practice, discover what worked and what didn’t.  I learned over time you had better ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening, and being very cautions of leaving the impression, “I’m up here and you’re down here.”

Mom:  [When asked if she condensed those, since she was the philosophical one] I just raised kids who were philosophical.

Noelle: They were just consistent.  I don’t even know that that realized how incredibly consistent they were. When we kids came along, the consistency was already so clear.  We didn’t have to ask – we already knew. . . . When Mom said, “No,” it was “No,” and there was no going to Dad and getting a “Yes.”  . . . And whether you realize it, or not, it was very impactful on us.

Rob: A statement “People think that Christianity is all about dying and going to heaven.”  What did you mean by that.

Dad: For one thing, life goes on.   People talk about, “When I die I want to be raised to life.” But I don’t think we are ever made to be “throw-aways.”  I think we were created for eternity.  I really do.  And, we have to see life in the light of “We are working to become what we were intended to be – what God intended us to be.”  You can’t see life that way if you get as far as you can go and suddenly it is cut off and that is the end of it.  I think we were preparing for something bigger.

Rob: What you had written was . . . “No, it is living a life of eternal significance.”  How does a person live a life of eternal significance?

Dad: Well, I guess the 25th Chapter of Matthew is the best place to look for that, where Jesus says, the Judgment settles your final destiny in the light of how you have treated your fellowman – how you have invested your life in the lives of others.  As you may remember, there were those condemned who were told, “I was hungry and you didn’t feed me, I was homeless and you didn’t give me a home.”  And these people said, “Well, when did we ever see you like that?”  And Jesus said, “Well, the people around you.”  And some people, when they saw the need, they met the need.  They involved  themselves in them.  And I think that is what “eternal significance” is, it’s living a life of love, not just emotionally, sentimentally, but of investing your life in the lives of others.  Because, after all, if our faith in God, our faith in Christ, is what we say it is, we’re talking about a God who is not just up there, who runs the show, but a God who has come to share our lives, to be a part of them, and take us into partnership, you know, as His friend. . . . I think that is where the significance of life is – you invest in something that is bigger than yourself.  In fact, Christianity, at its best, says, “I don’t really own my life for myself.  I belong to something bigger than my own interests.”

Rob: Now, Mom, Dad is the professional preacher, every one of us kids, though, has gotten letters from you and . . .

Mom: And I preach in them.  [Laughter]

Rob: . . . what does that mean to you?

Mom: Living a life of eternal significance?

Rob: Yeah.

Mom: Are there other things to talk about?  Living a life of eternal significance.  There is nothing else to talk about, right?

Dad: I think she would agree with me that one of the frustrations that we have at church, and at the Sabbath School class, is people getting carried away with religion in the abstract.  They just don’t seem to be able to carry it out in their lives, and they don’t want to.  What they want is to feel good, they want to feel like  forever they are taken care of, and are pretty well content in that.  So, we sit at the table sometimes, and here is where I think that Mom can agree with me very much, and we talk about these things, and we are distressed.  Can’t these people get beyond this?

Mom: Questioning every verse.  The Word. . . .

Dad: Everything is about me, me, me? . . .

Mom: That is what I was saying – there is nothing else to talk about.  That is the core of it – life is about eternity.  You don’t even think about it – subconsciously you life it.

Noelle: That is why your integrity remains so high, because you don’t get caught up . . .

Rob: Mom, have you seen images, even fleetingly, of that eternity?

Mom: I have had opportunities to.  I think everybody has opportunities to see it.  Some of my personal experiences?  One of the things that centered our lives, I mean, for me – of course, we lost our first baby.  Daddy says he is an emotional person, and that was an emotional time because I was in college, and I was only four months pregnant, and everything was going good as far as everyone knew, and then, all of a sudden, something happened, and the baby was gone.  And the, a couple years later, when I got pregnant with Annita, and then traumatic childbirth – forty-eight hours or so – and remember this was right after the war years – so you didn’t have gynecologists like you have today, and so the treatment wasn’t – humane.  And evidently I heard them say, “She’s dead.”  And evidently I had died.  I thought the baby had died, and yet I could see the operating table, and I also saw some other things in the  hospital that I had never been in certain sections, and I heard words, and I knew Daddy would be concerned, and I kept telling them, “I have to go back.  He needs me,”  because I knew the baby had died.  And so when I finally came to, the baby hadn’t died, and I thought, “Now I know.  That’s the reason I saw all of that.  And they finally said, “Yes, you can go back.”  And so that was a real spiritual experience.  And I knew that after death, death is not the end.  And I had already told the Lord, “Let me just get through a pregnancy,” because I had trouble with pregnancies – Leon was the first the first one . . . With Helen, every time it was time for my period, I started hemoraging . . . so they put me on medication to keep me from having another miscarriage, and I would be in bed for a few days.  And I just said, God help us to have this child and we will have the children that You want us to have.  And that’s how you all came about. . . . From Leon, on, I never had problems.

Rob: Ah, Leon, you helped.

Leon: No, I think it was Helen who ended it.  [Laughter] . . . I have a question

Mom: After the fifth month, I would be alright, but with Helen, into the eighth month . . .

Leon: So, I have a question just about kids, and I know, I suspect you don’t think of us kids in terms of the problems that we gave you, but each of us has our own personality, and we each gave you some sense of joy and at the same time you must have thought, “Hmm.  This part of their personality is going to be a real challenge for them as they grow up, and made it a matter of prayer, so I am curious about both the joys and the challenges either for yourself or for us, for each of your children.

Mom: The first thing that comes to mind, and I know that Richard has gone somewhere, but he was a clown from the time he was born. . . .

Richard: Yeah, but you beat it out of me . . . [Laughter]

Mom: And Robert learned a persistence that was amazing.  A hard task that he would take time to do.  Cathy Jean was born on the run. . . . I walked up a flight of stairs to have Catherine Jean because they did not have elevators in that hospital, and the delivery room was on the second floor and my  room was on the first floor.  So, I walked up that flight of stairs – I was having a contraction as I went up and the doctor was coming down the stairs.  And I said, “Doctor, you had better get back up here.”  He said, “I’m getting my coat.  I put my instruments to sterilize and I’m getting my coat.  And I’ll be right back.”  He didn’t get back.  And the water hadn’t broke, so when the water broke, with the next contraction the nurse went right on down the hall.  “This is the delivery room,” and she went on down the hall to get my enema ready, ‘cause you couldn’t have a baby without having an enema first.  And she said, when I told her I had better get upstairs, she said, “I can give you an enema upstairs as easy as down here.”  So she said, ” You can walk up there.”  I went in there.  I got on the table in between those contractions, and she comes back to see what had happened to me.  And she said, “What are you doing there?”   And I said, “It’s easier to get on these tables between contractions.”  When I had the next one, fortunately that nurse had arrived because Cathy didn’t even land on the table [Laughter], she came with the water, and then, it was terrible, and then she didn’t even breathe.  And they had to really work to get her to breathe because she had arrived too quickly.  And she was black-blue – David was blue, too – and, she hasn’t quit running yet.

Leon: What about Annita?

Mom: Annita had a horrible birth.  It was as hard on her as it was on her mother. . . . I had to wait for the doctor because in that hospital no baby allowed to be born unless a doctor is there, and they hadn’t called a doctor yet, and the head was there.  They strapped my legs together until they called the doctor and got the doctor there.  And they had me strapped to the table.  They don’t do that today.  In my mind I remembered they did this during the war, this was the way of taking care of things during the war, and I had had a friend one month before who had died and her husband never found out why.  I never, never questioned why she died after that experience.  But God was good.  He let Annita live through that and He brought me back to life, and he let me live all these years since that experience.  And of course, my first implication was, “No more children,” but I thought, “No, I must trust God.”  And God was good.

Richard: So, what about Annita’s personality?

Mom: Of course, she was our angel because she was the first born, and when I was pregnant with Robert I said, “Honey, how are we going to live through this?  We love that child so much, I’m scare.  And here we loved Robert just as much, and then I decided God gives you more love – if you really love, God gives you more, it just keeps going on: the more kids you have the more love God gives you, so you can love every one of them the same, and yet see the different personalities and want them to be individuals.  But you have your traumas with each one.  – Daddy, I’m talking all the time, just like a Randolph would.  [Laughter]  Daddy is the quiet one like a Mennonite would be.

Leon: A deaf Mennonite, especially.

Mom: But Daddy was the biggest support.  But then with Richard, he was the first one Daddy was there with and then that was better.  Daddy knew what was going on, and he does much better when he knows what is going on; and I do much better if he is there.

Rob: . . . [Ruthie]

Mom: Well, Ruthie was my only breach and my only lady gynecologist.

Richard: She has been the butt of a lot of jokes since then.

Mom: Well, my doctor was Dr. Blood.  How do you like that for a doctor.  And she was expecting her first baby, which was twin girls, and her girls were born at 2:00 that afternoon, and Ruthie was born at 2:00 that night, the next morning.

Ruth: And she delivered.  [Laughter]

Mom: No, no, no.  The last three months someone else took care of me.  Dr. Hand.  Dr. Hand was the one.

Richard: Can you give me a hand?

Nathan? Now we will deliver the baby.

Mom: But Ruth was our first really happy baby.  Robert and Annita, – but Annita had colick and would cry.  Robert would cry every evening; he was the best baby during the day.

Rob: But I made up for it at night.

Mom: Every evening from six to nine he cried; and no matter what you did he cried, and the neighbors two blocks away would come, and stay and help hold him through those hours.  And then he would sleep through the night.  And you know – well, Esther tells of how hers were up all night long, and I never had that: Robert slept after he got done crying all evening.  But they said it had something to do with acid reflux.

Rob: But Ruth was a happy baby.

Mom: Uh! She was the happiest little thing!  All you had to do was – feed her . . . and she’d sleep between every feeding . . . and I thought, “Boy, God, you gave me the angel here,” because we were having to do exercises . . . the day she was a month old, Robert came home from the hospital.  And then, from that point on . . . and Robert was a very unhappy baby by that time because he didn’t know us, and he didn’t know where he was, had never been in the dark, so you couldn’t even turn off the lights at night, and he cried.  We ended up having to move out of the apartments at the seminary and back to Hammond to the parsonage just so that he didn’t . . . we didn’t want conflict with neighbors.  But it was three times day hot compresses and therapy.  If Ruthie hadn’t been such an angel of a baby, so we figure we mistreated her but she was so good we just bathed, fed and she slept.

Rob: Annita was the caregiver at that point?

Mom: Annita: “Mamma, she needs her diaper changed.”   And, you know, [indistinguishable] right.  She was with you, even.

Richard was a good baby, only, when he got upset, he’d just flop on the floor and started rolling, and he didn’t stop rolling until he’d hit something.  And then he’d sit up and grin at yu.  [Laughter]

Richard: I still do that.  [Laughter]  Patients get very upset about it.

Rob: You know, what is amazing to me is that mothers always have a different memory of their babies than the fathers.

Mom: Well, he always had his schedule, and he talks about not being an organizer, he – you had your schedules.  He found out that he couldn’t really study if he didn’t get to his study – early – because the phone would ring.  [To Dad] You were up by 4 o’clock and in your study, and then he would come out for breakfast and have a break with you kids and then go back.  His mornings were spent in the study.  His afternoons were spent calling.  And he’d end up with games at the high school and so on – from calling – he’d make his calling schedules so that he could be as much as possible at your games, and he did that all the way through everybody’s.

Richard: We’re going to have to be going, and I was hoping to hear about each one of the children, so if we could wrap that up.

Mom: Helen was our happy one.  If she heard footsteps she started to laugh.  She was born September, and I can remember at Christmas time May and Harry stopped by, and they were on their way to Mom and Dad’s for Christmas, and Harry could not get over Helen. . . . [Evidently Ellen] had not been like that, and he just over and over commented that he never saw that child cry, and how she laughed all the time, and she did.  If she’d hear footsteps, no matter whose they were, she would start grinning, so that by the time you got to the little basket, why, she was laughing.  But she was a happy baby.  Let’s see, Willy . . .

Rob: You forgot Leon.

Leon: The point is, the middle child is always forgotten.  [Laughter]

Mom: He was born in a maternity home just because this remote place where we were, they were back in barbaric times.  Robert had his tonsils out on somebody’s kitchen table – the nurse in town.  And another nurse had the maternity home, and that’s where Leon was born.  And Leon was a good baby, too, but he gave us some scares that first of life – a couple times he quit breathing on us.  Fortunately, one time I was in the doctor’s office, and uh, just for a routine shot, and he quit breathing in the waiting room.  The other time I had just finished bathing him and I had put him in a seat – the hanging swing in the door frame – and I turned, and looked back, and the kid started to turn blue.  And then we found out he had walking pneumonia.  He was in the hospital a while – the oxygen tent.  But, he was a good baby, too.

Willy.  Willy, when he was six weeks old, had Asiatic flu.  I had had it, and he got sick, and he started coughing and – he was born September so that would have been late October or early November – and he coughed himself until he couldn’t nurse.  He would be so exhausted that he’d be sleep.  And then we would just have to forcefully keep him awake enough to get anything down him.  And whenever I took him our – the parsonage was right against the church so you didn’t have to go twenty feet to church – but I never had him out the door without a blanket over his head to protect him from germs and any breeze, and so on, until spring time.  And then all of a sudden he perked up and began to really gain weight and he was okay.  But those first months with him were really rough.  And the doctor wouldn’t believe me that he was coughing, and it wasn’t until the doctor’s daughter, who was a special friend of Annita’s, was there at the house that she said, “You’d better tell my dad.  And the next time he had a coughing fit, I took him to the office.   Then he realized.  He gave me some medicine and it began to take care of that, whatever it was.

Rob: Now, Noelle was born to our family in a unique way.

Mom: Absolutely.  We got Noelle the day after Christmas.  How’s that for a good name?  On the 26th of December . . .

Rob: Was there anything unique about her delivery . . . to our family?

Mom: That was a challenge because we already had a family, because Cathy Jean . . . would have been three  when Noelle came, and she was part of our family from day one.  She slept with Helen, and we did that on purpose just so she felt the security of someone with her, and Helen was a teenager, already.

Rob: What were the circumstances – I mean, why did Noelle come to live with us?

Mom: She was living with Uncle George, she loved them and they loved her, but Aunt Joyce couldn’t handle . . . her being there just because of the new baby.  Wendell was the chaplain in the hospital where he mother was, and that’s how they got . . .

[Mom retells the story of Cathy] . . . Cathy’s delivery was so fast that I had a heart problem from the time whe was born.  Cathy had a heart murmur when she was born, and they watched that for about a year and it finally cleared.  I had a problem until I got pregnant.  All of a sudden my heart was beating and I didn’t know I was pregnant.  And then found out I was and from that point on – that’s how Esther got her name – “who knows what – you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.  And it cleared completely.  And then Esther, of course, was like having Annita over again, I mean . . . good baby although – Annita had the collick – she had all kinds just because of the type of delivery, she had all kinds of early problems and she was a month early.  But Esther was right on the day she belonged and happy baby, beautiful baby – all you were.  And then we thought, you know, we hope we have another one because wouldn’t this be terrible to raise one child by itself?  You know, the others all had somebody.  And sure enough, we have another one.  But it wasn’t like starting out again because those two, they needed a lot more.  You other kids were all so good together.  We loved taking you on trips because you were all so happy on trips.  You sang all the way.  You memorized lots of scripture on trips, and then just sang, sang.  And then Esther and Ernie, they were careful where they sat in the car, and if one of them touched the other one – so we thought that’s the reason God gives you lots of kids.  But, anyway, they were just the joy of our heart just because we thought, “Here we are.  God’s given us a chance to do a better job with these kids.  But Esther was really a happy baby, and so was Ernie.

But Ernie had all kinds of problems.   The day he was a month old he ended up in the hospital with a bowel obstruction.  The day he was two months old we had him back in there because a fistula had developed around where the obstruction had been and we had to have more surgery.  And the day he was three months old he had a double hernia.  So he was in the hospital a  lot.  But they were good babies.  Esther was kind of like Annita – she was a  little mother to Ernie.  She would pull him around – so afraid we would leave him somewhere.  People thought they were our grandchildren.

Rob: [We grew up]

Mom: That was the hardest part, them one by one going out, and then you realize, “That’s what you are training them for, all these years.”  You have prepared them to be able to be adults, and Noelle’s the one who’s amazed us the most.  We were told we would probably always have to take care of her, she would probably never be able to be on her own.  And – brilliant, happy person – full of love, joy and life.  And it’s, “Hi, Mom!”  You answer the phone.  “Hi, Mom, it’s me!”  And God is so good, you know, the way He’s . . .  And we felt, you know, we didn’t have any experience with that kind of needs.  And you kids, all of you, were the ones that we took her because you kids said, “Mom, we want to.”  And then we thought, “You know, they asked us.  It wasn’t anything we had asked for, but we can’t tell them no.  There is a reason we need her.”  And so, it’s like she was born into the family.

Rob: Any parting thoughts before everyone leaves.

Dad: Well, this is not on that subject, but one thing I might miss out on is that I might be able to tell all of you how much this has meant to us.

Mom: Oh, yeah.

Dad: This  has just really been a high water mark in life, and I just want you to know that – all of you.  Appreciate all the planning you’ve done, all your goodness.  We look back – I boast to people about how good our family is to us.  You hear it the other way quite often, you know, “Dad and Mom were good to us.”  Well, I boast the other way, how good our kids are to us.

Rob: [Notes the history of the family leaving others with a sense of completeness, without tears or regret.]  How do you want us to leave now?

Dad: I want you to leave with a sense that your life really has a purpose.  I know that when you get into theology you get into a lot of problems about God.  Accept reality.  If we could explain it all, we would be bigger than he was.  We can’t.  It has to be a faith thing.  Our life and history is under the control of someone with a higher purpose than we can fully fathom.  But one thing we can do, we have learned from God, is to recognize our lives don’t just belong to us.  Our lives belong to God, they belong to each other, and live life in that direction.  Don’t live for what you can get, but give.  President Kennedy said it, “Don’t ask what you can get, but what you can give.”

Mom: I know that you will succeed in what you feel is your work and what you want to do.  I always loved working with children because I knew children were real  – they weren’t putting it on.  And I feel that way of all you children: what you are is inside of you – not something external, but it’s . . .  I love you, every one, you are just as much with me because I can visualize you right where I am, and trust you to God’s care, and God is there, and your memory is with me.  That’s why we love getting into your homes and we can think about you where you are.  We can see Cathy in her office; we can see her in the delivery room.

Rob: You have used the phrase, “building memories.”

Mom: That is what we have done this weekend.

Willy did such a tremendous job this weekend.  {The disk]

Rob: Helen, anything you want to comment on or ask?

Helen: Not on tape. . . . I’ll say that we missed Ernie, Cathy and Linda, Dawn, Kenney, Dan, Michelle.. . .

Mom: Daddy thinks he robbed me, not letting me finish college.  What greater thing can you do – there are eleven kids that really loving people and serving needs all over this country and even on islands.  And what greater blessing do you want than that?

. . .

Helen: I didn’t want Mom to give me attention.  Usually it was not a good thing.

Rob: Oh, Mom I meant to ask you if you remembered that little poem that Helen read yesterday.

Helen: Do you remember reciting that all the time.

Mom: It’s been a long time since I recited it –

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,

But I, with a chuckle, replied that maybe it couldn’t

But I would be one who wouldn’t say so ‘til I tried.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

there are thousands to prophesy failure.

There are thousands to point out to you one by one

The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle right in,

Just start to grin

Just take off your hat and go to it

Just start to sing as you tackle the thing that could not be done and you’ll do it

I put all the verses together.

[Family closes and leaves.]

Subsequent visit with Mom and Dad in North Platte, September 8, 2005

Rob: One of the things I hear from people today is, “I wouldn’t have any children in this society, today.  It is too awful a world.”  And my suspicion is that the world hasn’t really changed all that much . . .   What historical event had an impact on your lives? . . .

Mom: Because I don’t remember things before the Depression, Daddy would do a better job of what impressed him, but we never really suffered from the Depression because . . . we knew that our neighbors were suffering, but Dad had a stable job because he was a school teacher and other people didn’t have jobs.  So the WPA, most of them worked for the WPA.

Rob: How did the Depression effect you, Dad, and your family?

Dad: Well, it kind of struck us, first of all, that it could happen.  I can remember that life was just going along pretty smoothly and then in 1928, 29, all at once we were getting word that the banks were closing and Dad lost money in one bank – couldn’t get any money out of it.  But I remember the over-all effect was when the word came out the banks were closing kind of a feeling of disaster, and people were quite depressed.  What was interesting about it was that about the time the Depression really hit was about the same time that the Great Drought or dust storms came along.  That kind of doubled it.  I think at that time there was kind of a sense of doom in many people.  I think religious faith was certainly a great salvation in many ways.   We had our church, we worshiped, we had our faith that God was in control.  There were many people, of course, who were –  bankers and so on were jumping out of upstairs windows and so on.  There were quite a few suicides, and people just got into debt and new they couldn’t pay off and they committed suicide.

Rob: So, did the Droughth hit you in Kansas, too?

Dad: Very much, very much.  In the 30’s – I think the Droughth had broken in 1938 – we had three years that were pretty dry.  Times were hard.  We on the farm, where Dad always had his anxieties trying to raise a family with income like it was and the economy like it was, nevertheless we always had security.  We had our own eggs, our own meat, we had, uh, even at the worst of times we had  something to eat from crops, and so we had security that way.  Didn’t have a lot of money to spend.  A nickel for candy was pretty valuable.  We drove old cars.  We had one that we had to, the kids had to sit on the front fender and hold the light sockets in at night.  Finally moved up to something a little bit better around 1928 or ’29.  But, really, it’s a sad thing to say but the war improved a lot for many people economically.  I know it did.

The Droughth ended about [1938].   The real Depression just seemed to gradually ease up in particular – uh, I don’t know how it came about.  In particular, it seemed that gradually we began to have a little bit more.  When the war came along, somehow that did something for the economy.

Mom: I remember, I do remember when he mentioned the banks closed, we never heard the banks closed.  We heard the banks were going under, and let me tell you I was careful not to go into a bank.  I didn’t want it to go under when I was in it. . . . That’s what it meant to a little child. . . . And I did lose money in the bank because my Aunt Xenia had put money in my bank for my education – and the bank did pay that back during those Depression – or – I think they began getting money back.  But Mom and Dad were in such a state that they used that money –  as they got payment – small payment along until they had given back everything.    And Mom and Dad were so conscientious that long after we were married that – we got little by little – we got all of my investment, and I don’t remember how much my Aunt Doc had put in.  It probably wasn’t that much but in those days a little was a  lot.

Rob: What was the next – I can guess, probably the Second World War was the next biggest world event that effected you, but was there anything else before that?

Mom: I do remember enough about the Depression because I helped Momma with whatever she was doing, and I do remember when Uncle Rex was just – maybe a year or two – and he had a little silk suit, and I hung that on the line and when I went to get it it was totally riddled – it had been eaten up – by grasshoppers – on the clothes line – along with some +other clothes.  But that silk suit, it was the first time it had been washed, and it was totally riddled, and [to Dad] you must have some grasshopper stories.

Dad: Yeah, we did.  And chinch bugs – they would destroy the corn crop.  They were little bugs that got in around the stock where the leaves joined the stock, get in there and kill it.  They moved over ground – didn’t fly.  And what we did for them, we made a furrow around the field and put in poison for them to eat, and that was for the grasshoppers, too.  And also we used creosote that turned chinch bugs back.  But we made poison bran for the grasshoppers – got bran and put poison in it, and spread that, and they’d eat that and killed them.

Rob: That would take care of some rodents, too, I suppose.

Dad: I am sure it did, but we were desperate to get rid of the grasshoppers.

Mom: Did they come in droves, like in West Virginia?

Dad: They –

Mom: It was full of them.

Dad: Yeah.  They could move pretty fast, almost like a cloud at times.

Rob: So you can understand the Salt Lake City thing with – what was it – locusts?

Dad: They called them locusts.  I think they were a grasshopper, actually.  Yeah.  We just didn’t have the seagulls to help us out.

Rob: What do you first remember about the Second World War, because the U.S. wasn’t involved as early as the people in Europe?

Mom: Well, I was in high school, so, of course, in our classes we were talking about that all the time.  And it was the – I graduated in ’45 – that was in ’42, Pearl Harbour?  So I was in early high school because we started the seventh grade.  But I remember – of course, everybody remembers what they were doing.  Somebody hears about it and they tell somebody else and then on Monday, when we went to school, . . . somebody actually brought a radio to school, and we just didn’t have school that day.  We were in the auditorium listening to that radio.

Rob: . . . Was there ever talk about it before then?

Mom: Yeah.  The war itself we were studying – we got what was going on.

Rob: What was your feeling about safety as you were hearing what Hitler was doing?

Mom: Oh – scared to death.  As a child – especially when I’d go someplace else to stay, when you didn’t have the security of your parents – because, for me, I spent eighth grade, one semester, in New York State.  In the ninth grade I spent one semester in Weston going to school.  Then I was at home. . . . But it was really scary for me when I was a long ways from home.

Rob: Dad, did the war impact you at all when it began in Europe, before the U.S. got involved, directly involved?

Dad: It did.  I remember my dad was always worried because us boys were the age that we could go to war.  And I remember Dad just – he really got quite depressed.  He’d listen to the reports and hoped we wouldn’t have to go, so it had him quite worried.  And of course, us boys, we were old enough except Bob, to have some connection with World War I, because there were still some of those veterans around who had been crippled, one leg, or maybe they had gone insane under the pressure.  So, there was a – memories of World War I made us really very uneasy, and our parents.

Rob: Mom, you mentioned about Pearl Harbour. . . . I remember John F. Kenney, and 9-11.
What was that like?  Probably worse . . .

Mom: Probably not because there was no TV, so – although at times your imagination can be worse than the real thing.  But, yeah, Pearl Harbour was scary.  And to see newspapers and pictures and hear what was going on on the radio . . .

Rob: What was the talk in school?

Mom: In school they spent a lot of time in geography, especially, showing us where things were going on, and teaching us – we had all these generals, their pictures – we could tell you who every general was by his picture.  And so, all during those years that we were in the war there we stayed right on top of what was going on there – Africa – and then they moved to Japan.  And it was scary because you just didn’t know – we knew where Russia was, but then there was the question, “Yeah, Russia is helping us, but are they our friend?”

Rob: Even back then you were wondering . . .

Mom: . . . back and forth even at that time about Russia.

Rob: Dad, what do you remember about Pearl Harbour?

Dad: I remember the suddenness of the news.  I was in Milton College, and I was the assistant janitor.  I did the night janitor, and the regular janitor, he came to me, his eyes just flashing, and said, “You know what those dirty Japs did!?”  And so, he told me about the attack on Pearl Harbour.  And that’s how I got the news.

Rob: Did either of you have any sense of, like, despair? . . . or like, you know, they are coming and going to take my home? Or were you more detached because of the distance.

Dad: I don’t think there was any doubt in my mind that we would win out.  I did realize that it would be a horrible battle to win because I realized that Nazi Germany had been preparing for war and they had their allies; and so I knew it was going to be tough, and I knew that all of us boys of service age would probably be called up.  I was, but by a fluke I was not taken.  But Bob went, Bob was called up.  Merlin went very late, but was put in counter intelligence.  Charles was exempt because he was farming.  I was called up.  I was turned down, and as a result, I had gone, I got some help with my college education financially.   I was told that I probably would be called up again.  I never was.

Mom: Well, you had the flu and had to drop out of school, and that’s the reason he was turned down.

Dad: It was the health thing at that time, pretty much.

Mom: And he didn’t have good eyes.  So that and the fact he was – he had flu really bad – and he told the draft board he had dropped out because he had been exempt for ministry.  He wasn’t in health to pass a physical test.

Rob: That’s when those little nuisances and curses become blessings?

Dad: Yeah.  The head of the draft board – Dad knew him –he told Dad he was sure glad I didn’t have to go; he said he wouldn’t have had to tell us he dropped out of college, but he did.  “I’m glad he didn’t go.”

Mom: Because he was in college in West Virginia.

Rob: Yeah, and that would have made you eligible once they knew you weren’t full time in college.

Dad: Yeah.

Rob: Mom, how about your brothers, your dad or your close family involved with the war?

Mom: Not until it was over.  Bond was in right at the end of the war, but he was still in his basic training, so on our honeymoon you couldn’t get gas ‘cause everything was rationed ‘cause the war was on when we got married.  And the day we got to Kansas, there was a song very popular at the time, “Honeymoon on a Greyhound Bus,” and that is what we did, we took the Greyhound bus ‘cause he couldn’t get gas, and so we sent word to Mom, I’ve probably told you this before, to Mom and Dad, we sent a telegram, that if they’d bring our car out, why, we would take them down to Texas where Bond was in basic training and Mother’s brother was a doctor at another Army base in Texas, and he . . .

Rob: Who was that?

Mom: Uncle Ian, Uncle Doc. . . . and they were stationed less than a hundred miles apart.  He was at Camp Hood, . . . but he was on Dallas Lake, so Bond had a leave on the weekend and he came up there and we came back home . . . so Mom and Dad went on the rest of the honeymoon with us.

Rob: And how was that?

Mom: That was good.  They appreciated it because they would never have been able to . . . they had never been out West, they had never been further than Tennessee, where Dad had a sister that lived.

Rob:    Dad, is that the time that Grandpa suggested to you that you didn’t have to hold the roof down?

Dad: Sure was.  We would often drive out in the country, you know, casually with the hand up on the rail, and he said, “Some people think they have to hold the roof on when they drive.”  He had a way of saying things that . . .

Mom: He never – never lambasted you, but made general comments that you knew exactly what Dad meant.

Rob:  Mom, Dad says he had a confidence that we were going to win that war.  I often wonder about how confident the people might be, because the Japanese that they got the jump on us and the Americans were not going to last their onslaught.  Did you have a similar sense, or was there a sense of precariousness.

Mom: My parents were confident, so therefore I didn’t – I wasn’t fearful.  They felt that we had overcome some terrible things, and of course, the whole nation was working towards it, not just the boys who were sent over, so it really became everybody’s war.

Rob: Now, how long after you were married were the atomic bombs dropped?

Mom: That was before we were married, and the war was over when we got to Kansas.  And when the war was over, and that very day, that evening we knew the war was over, and the rations were off – everything.  I mean the food rationing and the gas rationing, everything was off that very day.  . . .

Dad: This thing had drug on so long, there was a generation that could hardly remember anything but war.  And so, there was a lot of excess celebration that came about because people were so delighted when it ended.

Mom: I remembered – the bus, the trains, every mode of transportation stopped for 24 hours, and that was a, you know, a law, I guess.  Nothing was to move.  They were just going to celebrate for 24 hours.

Rob: How about the enormity of the bomb?

Mom: That was scary.

Rob: Why?  What was there about that at that time?

Mom: At that time?  When it came on the news of the enormity –  what a horrible thing we had done – that was really scary.  You began to think this has to be the end of the world because now they’ll come over here, because we thought they had these bombs ready. Fortunately they didn’t or they would have.  But we could visualize them coming over and no one was safe anywhere in the world, so it was extremely scary.

Rob: That had to be – I mean you are looking forward to your wedding, and yet the world is being ripped apart.

Dad: Well, that’s life, you know.  You have to live.  It was just normal for romance, for marriage, for raising a family . . .

Mom: But you didn’t do any real celebrating – like today they prepare months, or maybe a year in order to have a wedding.  You had a simple wedding with what you had, I did get a new dress, but I don’t know if Dad got anything new.

Dad: Except you.  [Laughter]  F.L. Summers, he resorted to the West Virginia way of doing things.  He said, “Ed, I think you and Xenia Lee have been hanging around together long enough.  Why don’t you throw a gunnysack over her head and run off and get married.

Mom: A lot of people did run off and get married, because if they went to , they could get a license and get married that day.

. . .  [getting married]

Dad:  I had my moments of despair.  I was about twenty-five, I did want to get married, and I wanted to marry her, and I began to think that they weren’t going to agree, and I was really in despair.

Mom: No, they weren’t disagreeing, but they were disagreeing “for now.” Because I had a scholarship, a full scholarship for Salem College, and they had in their mind that I should go to college, so naturally – they both graduated from college. . .

Dad: When I ran out of words and arguments, Mom kind of stepped in and after a little, said, “Oh, you kids go on and get married.”

Rob: What was disease like back then?  It sure seems it was different than we see it now.

Mom: It was experimental, a lot of it.  They used things [that] today we can get over the drug counter.  And, of course, the little boy that sat right beside of me in school did die with pneumonia.  They didn’t have anything, like we do, no antibiotics to fight disease.  But, Momma always – and they quarantined you – so we – I think my brother got sick the week after school was out, and they put this big sign out in the front of our house, “Quarantined,” so nobody’d come near our house, . . .

Rob: What was that like?

Mom: No one came near our house.  If they did, after they’d see this sign they left.  And fortunately, we had two sections of the house, and there was a hallway that you went into first that you went to the right or the left  My father – we had to stay on the right side of the house, and my father on the left side because he went to college, he was doing some work, and he couldn’t come near us except to call through the window to us through the summer.  So Momma had to take care of us kids, and every one of us had scarlet fever.  They thought Bond had diphtheria, and it wasn’t until I got scarlet fever that they discovered that it really wasn’t diphtheria, it was scarlet fever.  But they used what my Aunt Doc called “white liniment,” and used it on our necks to keep our throats – and that was what happening: the throats would close, would just swell up with this infection and close, and your lungs – you would end up with pneumonia, and that would be it.  So, they always credited Aunt Doc with her white liniment that she made, it wasn’t something that she had bought, but, of course, my Aunt Doc had gone through medical school in Chicago – first woman to graduate with the men at the medical school at Northwestern, I think, in Chicago.  And that was her senior year.  She moved from the women’s medical school because they opened it up to women, and so she moved over there to the other medical school, and was in the first graduating class.

Rob: Hmm.  There’s a lot of medicine both sides of the family, isn’t there.  Now you mentioned Uncle Ian, and Aunt Doc, . . .  Now Dad, at that time you had not had a lot of doctors in the past family, did you?

Dad: No, not at all.  I had an uncle by marriage that started to become a doctor.  He failed in it.  But no, we didn’t have any.

Mom: And he’s the one we called Uncle Doc.

Rob: But your mom and dad both were nurses, and you have a brother who is a doctor, and it was Jane, wasn’t it, who once was a nurse and has now become a doctor?

Mom: Janice, – the oldest.  The oldest is a pediatrician – their mother was a nurse, . . . Aunt Louise, . . .  – and the youngest is a physician’s assistant, so they call her doctor – Sullivan.  She never married – neither one of those girls . . . married.

Rob: So you folks were dedicated to the soul, and they to the body, heh?  [Laughter]  There is a lot of helping profession in our family.

Mom: Really and truly, you think of you childeren’s professions, they all of them deal with justice for people, helping people, helping the ecology – every one.

Rob: Do you –I know that things were uncertain then – and that people – well we’ve gotten through the Cold War and haven’t had the unimaginable actually happen – but, what do you folks have for hope for the future, I mean, either the challenges or the hopes.

Dad: Well, I think the future’s not going to be easy.  I don’t have [a vision] of the perfect world.  I do think that in the end, with the transcendent power of God that is going to lead the final solution that we see in the end of Revelation.  I have no doubts in the world about that.  But, I don’t think it is going to come smoothly.  I think we are going to continue to see war, continue to see tragedy, but the good side of it is that there is always going to be people of faith, working with a sovereign God for good.  Maybe it [is] outnumbered, but like Jesus said, “You are like leaven in the world, like salt.”   And I think it is that smaller group that is the hope of the world.  And right now it is a little bit like that story of Hans with his hand in the hole in the dyke, that saved the people.  I think it is about the situation that we’re in – not hopeless, but just recognizing that we are key people, it’s people of faith in God and Christ.

Rob: Mom, what about you – what do you expect, the way they preserve things, the these things, we have photographs from back at the turn of the century, and maybe even this tape will be around in a century.  What uh – either hopes or fears, or words do you have about what you expect in the future?

Mom: It’s all – I just feel like today live each moment and make it the best you can and the future will take care of itself.  And I think it’s true, if you’re faithful now, because God is sovereign, God will help you.  Just like the accident you had, and it could have been such a, such a different story . . .

Rob: Life is full of accidents, isn’t it?

Mom: Full of just sudden accidents that you can’t prevent, and yet, miraculously, God takes care of you.

Rob: Do you ever worry about any of the kids?  Or the family?

Mom: Yeah.  And I have learned to pray when I worry: thank God you are there.  I learned that when you were tiny.  I have been very thankful I have learned that.  God is there, and God is able to put the person that can help where I would like to be.  And He has been faithful all these years.  And I am very thankful.

Rob: How do you – I mean, for many people, if you care you’ll not let go, and you’ll keep holding on and keeping wanting to control it and you’ll think of nothing else.  But apparently you have learned a way to let go of that in a healthy way.

Mom: Yeah.  I think you just have to.  Just knowing that God is where you would like to be – and God has His way of working things out.  When you were a baby and there were weeks that they would not let us see you – they sent us a telegram and told us that they had closed visiting hours temporarily and they would let us know when they opened them up again.  And at that time I was taking a course from the director of the polio hospital – because there were so many for such an epidemic, and there were eighteen babies under a year old in the room that you were in, and I did not know when I signed up for that course – I wanted to know how to take care of you when you came home – so I signed up for that course, and they were having outpost hospitals where they would take care of these kids because the hospital where you were was full, so it turned out this woman was the director of the hospital teaching this nursing course and she had no use for parents because they would not follow the rules.  So she kept threatening that they were going to close visiting hours – you know she would tell us in class that they were going to close them because parents wouldn’t cooperate.  They gave crayons for kids to color and toys that – and the kids didn’t have enough use of themselves that they could choke on things – and so that was God’s way of preparing me for that telegram and not making me think that something terrible had happened.  And so then weeks later I saw somebody in the grocery store – you get to know all the parents because you could only see children for two hours three times a week, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and so you stood outside because the place was locked, nobody could get in, and so you stood outside and visited, and so this woman from our town – it was the only hospital in the state that had taken polio victims, so there were there from all over the state, and I said, “When do you suppose they will ever let us go see the children again?”  She said, “Oh, I go every visiting hour.”  And I said, “You didn’t get a telegram saying you couldn’t go? They were closing that?”  She hadn’t.  And, where we knew better than to try to find out anything, – so we decided, okay, at the next visiting hour we will be there.  And we were.  The trouble was, you weren’t.  And so we had – they had no record that you had ever been in the hospital.  So, then they suggested that we could look at all the beds and see if we could find you.  That’s when I went to pieces, because I knew I wouldn’t know you if I say you, it had been so many weeks and you had lost so much weight, and I thought if I even saw him I wouldn’t know for sure, so when I went to pieces, they said, “Well, you could go over to the main building, and maybe they would have some record,” because we insisted we had left you there, and you had been there for a month or a month and a half by the time we had gotten the notification they had closed visiting hours.  And she said they never had closed visiting hours.  So, anyway, we went to the main building.  They finally said – we told them, you know, the date we got the telegram, and we showed them that, and so they went through the records and they said, “At that time we had an epidemic of diarrhea and many of the babies died,” and said, “we moved all those that had it to the infectious building,” and said, “you might go over there.”  They didn’t even have a record that you were over there.  “That you might go over there,” because the dates coincided.  We go over there, and sure enough you were over there.  And that’s how we found you.  But the little boy right beside you had died.  We were closest to that parent because your cribs were side by side.  I think the ones on both sides of you had died.

Rob: Dad, I know about that time, maybe, probably after the polio experience, your dad died. . . .

Dad: We had a spell where you had been in the hospital, Annita had been in the hospital . . .

Mom: She had pneumonia.

Dad: [And Mom had been in the hospital with Ruthie], all three, and Dad died – I got word, you know, he died suddenly – I just wasn’t ready for it.  And I just found myself overwhelmed.  Fear took over, of all kinds . . .

Mom: And you had had an accident at the seminary . . .

Dad: Well, yeah,

Mom: On top of that, right at the same time.

Dad: False hope was one of my problems because I had accepted the idea that if you had faith nothing bad could ever happen.  It did.  And it crushed me.  And with these other things, too.  It was just an overload that I couldn’t handle.   And it was a time of crisis where I had to face realities I never had before, period.  And it took a while to get over it, and it effected me mentally, and it effected me physically, and in every way.

Rob: How did you get through that, I mean – Mom, maybe you have some thoughts.  I’m sure it had to be a struggle . . .

Mom: I know the telegram arrived at night that his father had died, so the nights, I think, were the hardest for him, and I think for many people, nights are hard.  But all of a sudden, he couldn’t breathe, and his stomach had trouble.  So he ended up in the emergency room over and over, and they would give him calmatives and send us home until he finally felt like, you know, this isn’t really physical.  It is something else.  And he got slowly, very slowly, quit the ministry . . .

Dad: Well, of course, I was in the midst of the course there and I talked with my favorite professor and he agreed maybe it was time for me to drop out for a while.  But, I remember when I flew up to the funeral I was just so overwhelmed.  And after the funeral I started home on the train.  I just got desperately sick.  I ate a big meal.  I thought, “You know this is over.”  And I ate a big meal, and  I got terribly sick.  I never thought I would arrive home alive.  And, I did.  But, this thing hung on, and the thing that really helped me was to get back into an occupation I liked and to get to work.  So I went back to the linotype operation and I gradually just got better.  Work was a therapy.

Rob: You had some friends in seminary that were killed about that time, didn’t you?

Dad: Well, there were some that were killed.  They were out on a mission.  And they – on the way back some drunk come across the highway and hit the car head-on.  And one or two of them died and one of them was so injured mentally, his brain, that he never would be right again.  That just seemed to me that things like that shouldn’t happen to people of faith.  And so that was part of the whole thing.  It was a crisis.  I think that everyone that really thinks goes through some kind of crisis in life.  That’s where the big decisions are made.

Rob: Do I understand that what you did was you got busy with something that you liked.

Dad: I did.

Rob: You hold on to something.

Dad: Yeah.

Rob: How did you get through all of that then? – because you are in ministry now.

Dad: Well, I just began to feel better and more confident, and then I got a call to a pastorate.  And I just announced that I was going to go back and was able to do it.

Mom: But you felt all the time like we were going to get through it because all our furniture and things, we didn’t take them with us.

Dad: Yeah.

Mom: We went up home, actually.  Mom and Dad said, “Come up here.”  So, we were up there through the summer when Richard was born, ‘cause Richard was born at Clarksburg.  And then, in the fall you got the call, and we went back.  And he continued to linotype work while he was pastor in Paint Rock.

Dad: Huntsville, Alabama.

Rob: Mom, about, I mean, you’re there with Dad, your dealing with, what? a couple more births and dealing with me, and Annita had polio, Dad had polio, how did you get through all of that – how did you help Dad get through it.

Mom: Probably, Momma had gotten through all of Dad’s illness, so I never questioned that I couldn’t do it, and I imagine that prepared me.  I really – for our ministry and everything, I feel like just all through life God was preparing me.  I saw Mom get through things that looked impossible because the doctor – when we took Dad to the hospital the doctor said there was no way he could live.  And they took  him.  It was when sulfa and penicillin was being experimented on and wasn’t being use but was being experimented with.  And he had a doctor that was willing to experiment if Dad was willing to sign papers.  So, Mom and Dad signed papers that if he died as a result there would be no suits or anything.  And Mom got through that, and she had a baby during that time.  So, I don’t think I ever questioned it.

Rob: So, when did you learn this poem about . . . buckle in . . .

Mom: I don’t remember.  I may have learned that from Mother. . . .

Dad: That’s the West Virginia culture, a lot of that – a lot of the sayings, and so on.

Mom: I had to memorize a lot in school.  They just don’t memorize a lot like we did back then. . . .

Dad: They are, West Virginia mountaineers, were – had a lot of interesting poems and so on, and they are great story-tellers.  They’re great story-tellers.

Rob: Well, you know what I find interesting is some people might accuse you of just being idealistic and you don’t really see the world the way it is.  . . . But your faith certainly didn’t come cheap.

Mom: Well, does any of it?  I guess it shouldn’t come cheap.  I mean, it was costly, and when you really think about it, why, Christ gave his life and so, what more can we give?

Rob: I really think that a lot of what we talk about, it’s easy to think, “They really have no idea what we are going through today.”  But, every age has its challenges, it seems like it is more awful than anybody before, but I would really have hated to live in the Dark Ages.  Every age has its challenges.

Mom: I think the hardest part for us, anyway, was letting the kids go, one by one.

Rob: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, just you always knew what they were doing –  every minute of every day.  You were there when they came home from school, and then, all of a sudden, you didn’t know.  Fortunately, it worked out all right because every one of you were good about at least once sending a letter home.  And then, when these computers came in, why then you didn’t know what they were doing three days ago, or four, when they mailed their letters: you knew that very same day.  And then for a short time we had where we could talk to them and if they were on, their name came up if they were using their computer at the same time: you could do something and you could talk to them, and it was like being on a telephone.  So, really in our lifetime we have come from people who left home and went on the wagon train West – you never expected to see – you might hear from them but it would be weeks after they had written their letter, and they never expected them to be able to come home again.  So, I really thought we were living in a much better time.  We’ve seen a lot of changes.

Rob: Well, I know we, every one of us, appreciate what you have done.  I see I’m about at the end of the tape.

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