CHAPTER 04 Wheaton College, IL (April 1946- Fall 1949)
Many of us who had been in the service arrived at college with two mixed motivations: a. to catch up on the “fun” we had missed while away, and b. to get on with our adult lives and responsibilities. The priority varied from time to time.
Betty and I were married on 14 June 1946 and took a honeymoon trip to the Midwest and Western US. Betty was by then a Junior in Wheaton College and I started as a Sophomore (having picked up some credits while in the service). With both of us in college, marriage had a different pattern. But we were still very lovingly and helpfully tuned to our two families in Wheaton. I pursued a major in zoology/pre-med. Betty graduated in 1948 and I in 1949.
On campus there was great camaraderie amongst all. I recall no psychological or social distinction between veterans and those who had not been in service. It was so different from the ‘Nam psychosis. The GI Bill was of course the great financial enabler for most ex-GIs. While in the service at U. of Michigan I had taken a medical aptitude test. A few of the test questions resonated in my thinking, giving me a hint of medicine as a possible vocation. This led me to take pre-med courses at Wheaton. But acceptance to med schools hinged heavily on straight-As in science, which I lacked. So, I did not pursue that goal at that time and instead considered education, preferably back in Africa.
- Marriage and first home
- Wheaton College days
- Marriage and first home
I was discharged from the Army a Fort Dix, NJ and headed straight for Wheaton. We were married in the Gary Memorial Methodist Church chapel in Wheaton. My Dad officiated. Reception was at the Lane home, 811 N. Main St.
Honeymoon in Black Hills
Our first home was a small two-bedroom house at 1026 Michigan St. SE. One of our first guests in the second bedroom was my cousin Ralph Thiers. He had come to Chicago on his first job after getting his PhD from Toronto University. Our first ever viewing of TV was at our west-neighbors’ house. Sixty-seven years later, in 2013 our granddaughter Eileen was in Wheaton College housing in that same vicinity. We later moved to a small apartment in the third floor of the Lane home on Main St.
- Wheaton College days
The Wheaton College class of ’49 was a mix of just demobilized servicemen and younger students. World War II, for Americans, had had relatively clear-cut reasons and goals and thus a unified national spirit. Everyone, regardless of sex or age had felt personally involved in the war. Hence there was relatively less special adulation of “heroes” back from the front. We ex-servicemen just blended in. We were anxious to make up for lost time in terms of both study and social life. Hence the relatively high enthusiasm of us “forty-niners” for college life in all its variations. Some of those variations, like competition for “The Bench” raised a few faculty eyebrows. Nevertheless, our class went on to set a high mark for percentage going into missionary service. Two classmates, Jim Elliot and Ed McCulley were killed on a river in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. The cause was a cultural misunderstanding.
While I was in my senior year Betty supplemented our income through employment by the town’s main portrait photographer KHOLI. So at my graduation President Raymond Edman granted her, and many others wives, honorary PhTs – for “Putting Hubby Through”
First ”Urbana” Conf.
A frequent house guest at the Lane house was an Australian named Stacy Woods. He was one of the founders of what became IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship). Because of that connection a party of Wheaton students drove to attend the “First Urbana” which was held at the University of Toronto in Canada. Included in that party were Jim Elliot and Dave Howard.
We had to night stop somewhere near Detroit. To save money the group doubled up as much as possible on accommodation. So Betty and I, though just a few months married, spent our first night apart. Once we got to Toronto we (Betty and I) were hosted by my Uncle and Aunt Frank and Edith Thiers. The conference was stimulating and led to a remarkable heritage. Now, known as “URBANA” it is into it’s seventh decade (over twenty conferences).
Betty graduated in 1948 with a major in Bible Archaeology. A ’48 classmate was Betty Howard who later married Jim Elliot a fellow ‘49er. After Jim’s martyrdom in Ecuador Betty stayed on in the jungle for a few years. She then became a professor at Gordon College and a popular columnist and radio speaker known as Elizabeth Elliot. Her biographical “Through Gates of Splendor” has influenced many lives.
1949 (first half)
We members of the class of 1949 were a rowdy bunch. In the spring of 1949 we seniors organized to get away from campus for a weekend. This was the traditional “Senior Sneak”. Secrecy of date and destination was difficult. I believe Ed McCully and Dave Howard were the main organizers. To collect individuals’ “luggage” for the trip in advance, without public detection was hard. We rented a van and stuck on the label “Suburban Laundry”. Then class members were secretly notified about readying their one bag in advance for collection by this “laundry man”. On the planned date a chartered bus awaited us off-campus. We drove to Egg Harbor on the Wisconsin peninsula (Door County) which juts into Lake Michigan. Our venue was the_________ lodge. There we had a lot of fun including games, charades, bike rides, fellowship and some “dunking” in the cool lake. Ed was a bit late arriving. He had been in an oratory contest on the west coast where he won his category. We gave due celebration at the sneak.
Ed McCully was class president in our senior year. He with Jim Elliot went as missionaries to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. Both were killed. Dave Howard served with Inter-Varsity around the world. He was Active in the early “URBANA” mission conferences. Chuck and Betty Holsinger went to Philippines as missionaries. Later Chuck was a leader of Christian athlete teams to foreign lands. I do not recall who was the speaker for our graduation. Soon after graduation I arranged a get-together on my Uncle Jack’s ex-PT boat. He took us (49ers) out on a sentimental evening cruise on Lake Michigan.
Following is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for a Wheaton devotional titled “Living Stones”:
“From Wheaton student days (‘46-49) one important recollection has been of the equanimity of the profs. They were relatively under-paid and under-recognized. They had plenty of reasons for carrying “chips” on their shoulders. But I recall no evidence of any one carrying one. Rather they gave themselves wholeheartedly to each student personally. To me they were “chip-free” Christians, fitting the description of Eccl. 5:18-20, i.e. happily preoccupied with God’s provision and purpose for them. From such stones one is honored to have been “hewn” in part.”
My favorite Profs were Mixter and Leedy, They were examples of personalized professionalism. I feel gratified at the degree to which Wheaton College has been able to preserve its Christian stance in a world that is increasingly intolerant of religion. During the war an occasional visitor on campus was an impressive Naval officer named Hudson Armerding. After the war he returned and eventually succeeded Victor Edman as President of the college. Fifty years later, in Albuquerque, NM we became friends with Hudson Armerding’s son Jonathan and his wife Debbie. In turn Jonathan’s sons went to Wheaton a bit ahead of our grand daughter Eileen Armes. As we once sang “Wheaton, dear old Wheaton, live forever!”