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Memoirs of Alvera Johnson Mickelsen


Maternal Grandmother--Johanna Sandberg.  born in Smaland, Sweden 1/30/1864.  Died 1/17/1921 in St. Paul, Mn., following brain surgery for malignant tumor.

            When we visited Sweden in 1979, we visited Nils and Maria Sandberg.  Nils was a cousin to my mother, (Ruth Anderson Johnson). His father was a brother to Johanna Sandberg.  Nils and Maria Sandberg lived in Aneby in Smaland . 

            While we were in Aneby, Nils and Maria took us to visit the tiny village of Brunswyrd, the place where Grandmother Johanna Sandberg grew up,  about nine miles from Aneby.    The house where the Sandbergs lived is still being used by descendants of the family--when we were there it was Goran and Ulla Sandberg and their three children--Tomas, Anders, and Mariann.  The house was about 200 years old. (in 1979)

            In the Baptist church at Aneby (that we visited with Nils and Maria Sandberg) we found the record of the baptism of Johanna Sandberg, my grandmother.  She was 19 years old at that time--had been to USA for three years (she must have been an adventurous and brave soul!) and had returned to Sweden. She apparently was the first member of her family to be baptized by immersion--no doubt all the others before her had been members of the State church (Lutheran).


Maternal Grandfather--Karl Victor Anderson (Fasth).  3/17/57 to 2/29/40.

For details, see his autobiography, written in 1936.


Paternal Grandmother:  Johanna ?  9/12/1835 to 12/21/1925. Lived in Sweden all her life.  Mother of 9 children--6 girls; 3 boys.  She was left a widow when she was 51.  My father (Oscar) was five years old when his father died. That meant she was 46 when my father was born.  She supported herself and other children by cleaning houses and took my father with her until he was old enough to go to school at age 7.

All three of her sons emigrated to USA and she never saw any of them again.   Victor first, then Johan, then Oscar in 1900 (when he was 19).


When we were in Sweden in 1979, one of my relatives (Mae Gustafsson) took us to visit all of the relatives on my father’s side.  Along the way she stopped at Om Berg (translated "bad hill").  We went up to the top and saw a plaque that identified the place as the spot where many relatives went to wave good-bye to their loved ones who were going to America during the years of heavy emigration.  The émigrés would take the boat from this place to Jonkoping on the other end of the lake.  There they would get a train to Gothenberg and then a boat to USA.  I thought about my grandmother who no doubt stood there in tears three times, waving at the boat that carried her sons away from her--never to be seen again in this life.  So much sorrow!


Paternal Grandfather; Johannes Larson.  9/12/35 to 5/28/86.  I know nothing about him except that he died when my father was 5.


Early years on farm near Michigan City.


I was born at Holy Family Hospital in LaPorte, Indiana, on Wednesday, April 3, 1919, at 7:10 p.m.   I weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces.


My baby book, on which my mother made occasional entries, says that my first outing was  on May 9 when she took me to the closing exercises at Merchant School where Gil went to school.  He probably would have been in third grade since he was nine years older than I.   My recollection is that Bernice and Ray were sent to Chicago to stay with our cousins, Sadie, Edna, and Esther Johnson, while my mother was in the hospital with me.  In those days, women stayed in the hospital for childbirth for ten days.


I remember very little of my early years.  The first memory I have is of my father coming home with a bathtub tied to the side of our old Dodge Touring car.   I was probably 3 at that time.  We did not have running water in the house or electricity.  We had an outhouse, as did all farm families.  My father built a small room off the kitchen in which he could put the bathtub. 

My parents filled the tub with water warmed on the coal stove.   In the winter time, we all took baths on Saturday night in the kitchen, using one of the wash tubs.  The youngest (me) got to be first in the tub, followed by everyone else (in the same water) on the basis of age.  We had a cistern (from which water was collected from running off the roof) and that water could be pumped by hand into the kitchen sink and used for baths and washing dishes.  For cooking and drinking, we had a well about 100 feet from the house and from that well, water was carried to the house for cooking and drinking.


I remember my mother telling of one time when something went wrong with our well in the winter.  They had to carry all water (for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing, feeding the animals) from our neighbors the Wilhelms who lived about one block away.


As soon as we were old enough, we each had assigned chores.  I don’t remember at what age I got the job of feeding the chickens and sometimes collecting the eggs.


During our years in LaPorte we attended the Baptist Tabernacle, a small church associated with the Baptist General Conference.  When we started going there, the sermons were in Swedish, of which we children understood nothing. (My parents spoke English at home because they wanted us to know English before we went to school.  They only talked Swedish to each other when they did not want us to understand!) Sunday school was in English, and eventually they began to preach in English, too.  We had many friends from that church with whom we maintained contact through the years.  In 1992, when Ray and Gil and Mel and I were all at Mel’s  cottage (near Sawyer,Mi) at the same time, we took Arvid Anderson out to dinner.  He was then in his 90’s but he loved to see us; his mind was keen and he was a great kidder. (He and his wife, Marie, had visited us on the farm many times.  I think he died in 1993.)  We all attended the 100th anniversary of the church in 1984 and met several old-timers who remembered us from the 1920’s!


We used to go to LaPorte almost every Saturday.  It was our weekly outing.  We could go to the dime store and buy something for a dime.  My mother did her grocery shopping and any other shopping necessary. In the summer  on the way home we often stopped at the ice house (where they stored ice that had been cut  from Pine Lake in the winter and saved for summer.)  Father would buy a chunk; we would drive home as fast as possible (maybe up to 25 miles an hour!) and take out the old hand-crank ice-cream freezer and make wonderful ice cream.  We always had plenty of cream from the cows we kept.


I remember yearning to go to school. (There was no kindergarten at one-room Merchant School.)    Mother let me get on the bus to go in September when I was five, but I was sent home at the end of the day with instructions that I was not old enough.  What a disappointment.  I know Mom sent away for some pre-school materials and she probably spent time in the winter months teaching me whatever was in them.


The next September (after I was six in April) I was permitted to begin first grade.  That was the first year that the school had two teachers--Miss Swanson for grades 1 to 4, and Miss Merchant for grades 5 to 8.  Miss Merchant was a very short, small woman, but she had firm control of all those big 8th graders. 


In the school, there was a "cloak room" where we all hung our coats, overshoes, etc.  After Miss Swanson came,  that "cloak room" became the "recitation room" for grades 5 to 8.  Grades 1 to 4 had a "recitation bench" at the front of the room where we sat to "recite" our lessons. Each group went up to this bench for each of our subjects--reading, arithmetic, spelling, writing, etc.  You can be sure the time for each subject was small, since there were four grades with each of their subjects to take their turns on the "recitation bench." 


Miss Swanson, being young and inexperienced, was not always able to keep order in the school.  But if it got noisy, Miss Merchant would open the door to the cloak room where she was with the older grades, give a hard stare at the offenders and they settled down quickly!


There were distinct advantages in the system.  I was never bored.  If I finished my reading, or writing, or arithmetic assignment, I could just listen in on the second or third or fourth grade kids doing their "recitations"  and learn a great deal.  In fact, at the end of the first year, I was promoted to third grade instead of second--because I had learned so much from the others.  There was one exception--I was weak in arithmetic, so I "recited" both with second and third grade in arithmetic.


I was always good in spelling.  I remember once I missed a spelling word and I was so upset that I cried.  That disgusted the other kids, who usually missed several words!   My tears did not make me popular.


I adored Miss Swanson.  She was pretty and young and nice.  One day she came to school with curly hair (her hair had been straight) and told us she had been to Chicago to get a "permanent."  The idea that someone with straight hair like mine could get something done to make it permanently curly was overwhelming.  From then on my dream was that when I was grown up I would get a "permanent" and have curly hair forever.  It never dawned on me (nor, I think on Miss Swanson) that her hair would grow out and the new growth would be straight!  Many years later, about 1967, I was talking with my 65-year-old hairdresser in New Brighton about my silly dream as a child of having "permanently” curled hair.  She laughed and said that even the hairdressers in the beginning honestly thought that the hair would be forever curled!


I had one unhappy experience with Miss Swanson that I remember vividly. The one-room school also had an out-house (one side for boys and one side for girls.)  There were two stalls on the girls’ side.   Once when I was in there (age 6 or 7) I had not fully closed the door to my stall.  The toilet paper was attached to the door, and I was in the process of tearing some off.   Someone came along and grabbed the door and closed it--causing the toilet paper to unroll.   I carefully rerolled it as well as I could, but it was not perfect.  Apparently Miss Swanson or Miss Merchant came out shortly after that and saw the crudely rolled paper.  They wanted to know who had done this dastardly deed of unrolling more paper than needed!   Apparently one of the girls saw me come out shortly after that and reported that I had done it.   When I was questioned, I said "No, I had not."  I did not honestly think I had.  It was an accident but I was too shy to explain exactly what happened.  Miss Swanson took out a ruler and told me to lay my hand on the table and she would hit my hand until I admitted my lie!    I was devastated--mostly because I adored Miss Swanson so much.  So I finally said, "Yes, I had" although I did not honestly see that I had done anything wrong.  Strange that this episode  should stay with me so clearly.


At the end of my second year at Merchant school (completing third grade) the school was closed and we were all taken to a "consolidated" school (Center Township) about five miles away.  There I began fourth grade in a room devoted exclusively to fourth graders!   It was a good experience but I missed Miss Swanson.  I didn’t miss Miss Merchant--I was just scared of her.   Both Gilbert and Bernice completed 8 grades at Merchant school. 


At the end of that year Gil had  completed  high school in LaPorte, and my parents decided to move to Michigan City.   Our little farm of 60 acres was not adequate to support a family of seven.  My father, who was a skilled carpenter, worked both at farming and at carpentry to try to make ends meet. In 1928 (two years after Melvin was born)  we moved to Michigan City.  As was often the case then, my parents and the owners of the house in Michigan City exchanged houses.  I have no idea what the rest of the financial arrangement was, except that I learned later that my parents had to take a loan to buy the Michigan City house.  It was larger than our farm house.  When we moved in, there was only one bedroom (on the first floor) and there was an unfinished upstairs.   My father made three bedrooms upstairs.  Bernice and I shared one; Gil and Ray shared one; and Melvin had one to himself.    Through the years, my father made many improvements on that house and it became a very comfortable place to live.   When they decided to move to Wheaton in 1959 (Bernice, Mel & Joyce, and Berkeley and I were all permanently settled in Wheaton)   I felt as thought my roots were being torn away.


School and life in Michigan City. 


The best part about Michigan City was that it was on Lake Michigan.  During the summer we often swam there, had wiener roasts on the beach, etc.  We lived about 2 1/2 miles from the beach but I remember that my girlfriend and I would walk to the beach with our tennis rackets, play a couple of sets of tennis, go swimming, and then walk home!    We could have ridden the bus for a nickel but we rarely had a nickel.


My mother was not a strict disciplinarian, but she had her own way of letting us know what was expected of us.


When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I got into an argument with one of my girlfriends who lived about a block away.  We wrote nasty, name-calling notes to each other, sticking them under the door, or getting another girl to deliver them.


 My mother intercepted one of the notes Genevieve wrote to me.  When I sat down to answer it, she said, "I am going to tell you what to say.  You will write, ‘I ‘m sorry you have such an opinion of me.’"    I was mortified, but my mother was insistent, so I had to do it.   I sent it to be delivered by our "third party courier."  I was humiliated beyond words.


But wonder of wonders, I soon saw Genevieve come down the street crying.  She put her arms around me and we cried together.  My mother’s advice was a practical application of, "A soft answer turns away anger."


 Michigan City had a wonderful music program in its schools.  I began violin lessons (no charge) with a violin owned by the school when I was in fifth grade.  By the time I was in 8th grade I was playing in the high school orchestra, although I had never had private lessons. Later, in high school, I did take private lessons for a year or two until the depression hit its worst and my folks could no longer afford the $1 a lesson.  But my teacher, Walter Johnson, bless his heart, told me to keep coming and if we could pay some day, fine.  The most astonishing thing about Walter Johnson was that he thought anyone playing the violin should understand something about music theory.  So he had a weekly class in music theory that included all ages of his students.  The basics that I learned from him were so ground into me, that when I was at Linfield College, I took second semester college harmony and passed!   As a result of Mr. Johnson’s teaching, I thought in triads, sub-dominants, dominant sevenths, etc. and the relationship of the various key signatures was second nature to me.   I owe him a great deal. 


When I was in high school (in 9th grade, I think) our orchestra entered a state competition down in Evansville, Indiana.  My mother wasn’t sure I should go, but since Ray also played in the orchestra, she thought it might be safe for me.  (The joke was that in the five days we were gone, I saw Ray only at rehearsals and performances.  I never told my mother that!)


On the way home from Evansville, as a special treat, our bus stopped at Turkey Run State Park.  We were told we had one hour to hike and look around.  Two other girls and I took a short path (marked for 15 minutes) and got back too soon.  So we took another and got lost.  And I mean lost!  We knew our hour was long since past and wondered what we would do if the bus left without us.   In desperation we tried one direction and then another, sometimes rolling down hills, etc.   Eventually, we heard someone calling us.    The director had finally summoned the park rangers to find us. We were so scared and humiliated and so dirty and weeping that the director said little at that time. She had had to call Michigan City where parents were supposed to pick up their kids, and tell them we would be a couple of hours late.  We were NOT popular with anyone!  (The other students had been waiting at the bus for two hours!)  We would have been kicked out of the orchestra were it not for the fact that Ethel Korn (one of us) was the pianist for the orchestra and had just won first place in the piano contest in Evansville.   And they could hardly kick the other two of us out and not her!


I remember one other humiliating experience in high school.  I was on the Discussion team (quite similar to a debate team)  and that year our topic was "socialized medicine" (imagine--it was being discussed back in 1935!) Because of my Swedish background, I knew that Sweden had some form of socialized medicine, so I wrote to the Director of the program in Sweden and asked him to send me some information.  I got a letter back saying that he was going to be in Chicago at the Palmer House hotel on a certain date, and he would be glad to talk with me and others if we could come and see him.  I was thrilled and rushed to my teacher with the letter.  She thought it was a good idea and was able to arrange with one of the boys on the team to drive to Chicago.  She and I and two young men would go.  When they came to pick me up, I was astonished to see that the teacher (she was only a year or two out of college) was sitting in the front seat between the two boys.  They opened the back door for me and I got in.  It was a very lonely and somewhat embarrassing ride to and from Chicago (about two hours each way) with me in the back seat and the three of them laughing and joking in the front.    I once told that to one of my college classes as an example of what a teacher should not do.   They were all very indignant that a teacher could have such poor judgment and be so thoughtless.  Such is life.


I graduated from high school in 1936, fourth in my class of about 200.


The beginning of World War II


 In 1936, while I was working at the South Shore railroad company, I remember standing at the little station near our home after hearing about the Russians invading Finland, and the Finns trying to defend themselves with their "ski troops."   I remember the heavy feeling in my stomach hearing about that.  But the idea of USA getting involved in that war was far from our thoughts at that time.


In the summer of 1941 (just before Pearl Harbor) I had worked in a munitions plant at Kingsbury, Indiana.  I worked for the architectural firm that was putting up the huge plant. It was like erecting a whole college campus. I knew little about what would be done there except that it had something to do with munitions and thus with war.


Pearl Harbor Day--December 7, 1941


This came during my senior year at Wheaton College.  I was living in a "co-op" with 14 other college girls.


On that Sunday afternoon, Mabel Thornley (I think it was she) came running out into the hallway upstairs shouting "The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor." (She had just heard it on the radio.  TV did not come into general use until about 1950) I wondered "Where is Pearl Harbor?"  but we all rushed to our radios to hear the details..  Although I followed the news more than most of my classmates,  (I was on the college debate team and keeping up with the news was essential) the name Pearl Harbor meant nothing to me--I didn’t even know it was in Hawaii!   Yes, we knew about Adolph Hitler and his effort to overrun Europe.  But on that fatal day, I did not understand that Pearl Harbor committed us to entering World War II.


The next day at Wheaton college chapel, we listened to the speech of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his declaration of war against Japan and Germany. 


Our lives changed.  I wondered, "After I graduate in June, should I join the Waves?" (Waves were the women’s division of the Navy.  The army and navy did not then have women in their regular forces.)


After a few months we were having practice "black-outs."  On certain nights, no one was permitted to have lights in their homes and all street lights were turned off so an enemy bomber would not be able to recognize a town.


We soon learned to save grease in tin-cans and take it to the meat market where it would be sent to munitions factories to be made into bullets.  I had mixed feelings about that.  Did I want to help kill Germans and Japanese by saving grease?  But if I did not save grease, was that helping to kill our American soldiers because they might be short of bullets?   I pondered such questions when confronted with war.


We soon got rationing coupons for meat, sugar, and gasoline.  The amount was much less than we were used to having.  On meat, some kinds needed no or fewer coupons--like tongue, brains, sweetbreads, and even liver, I think. We learned to eat some of those things if we wanted meat!


When I had been a student at Linfield College in 1937-38, there was strong anti-war sentiment on campus.  Women marched with signs saying, "I will not be a gold-star mother."


But by 1943, just 6 or 7 years later, gold star banners began appearing in windows.  They indicated that a son or a husband in that family had been killed in World War II.


During those war years, "News-reel theatres" began to appear.  They showed ONLY news reels (black and white) of the war and other news.  When I worked in Chicago (beginning in 1944) I would stop in such a theatre at least once a week to "see the news"--especially of the war.


I often went to Michigan City on week-ends.  There was a Coast Guard station at the harbor in Michigan City and it was filled with young men in the Coast Guard.  Some of them began coming to the church where my parents went.  My very hospitable mother often invited them home for dinner.  Two or three almost made my parents’ home their second home.  There was a basketball hoop out on the garage and I often came home to find Paul and Steve (I don’t remember last names or the names of others) out there shooting baskets and later staying for dinner.  They kept in touch with my mother for a long time after they left Michigan City.


In 1945 we suddenly learned that FDR had died--the commander in chief of the armed forces, as well as the president of United States.  I learned the news from the little wizened man who ran the elevator at 800 N. Clark St. (where I was working for Sunday magazine.)   When I stepped into the elevator at 5 p.m. he looked at me and said, "Roosevelt is dead."  I was stunned.  When I got on the street-car to go home it was strangely quiet.  The people in the aisles hanging on to the straps (it was always crowded) hardly looked at each other.


 The following days, as we learned more, I was filled with a strange grief and dread.  What would happen to our country now?  Vice-president Harry Truman was an unknown.  I had always considered him to be a cheap politician.  I was to learn differently in the days ahead.


By the time VE (Victory in Europe) day  (May 7, 1945, and then VJ day (victory in Japan) came (August 14, 1945),  several of my friends had been killed.  I had learned a little about the horror and sorrow of war.


By the time the Vietnam war came in the 1960’s, I was skeptical about war.  Vietnam was far away.  Yes, the Communist threat in China and the Far East seemed real, but did we need to send our young men to fight them?   In 1964, at the Democratic national convention in Chicago, we watched on TV the street fights between anti-war demonstrators and police.   Even then, we could sense our country being torn apart.


We moved to St. Paul in 1965 and I remember being riveted to the TV set for the "Gulf of Tonka" hearing in the U.S. Senate.   Although I learned to say little about my feelings on the war (most of my friends were "pro-war") I never could feel truly comfortable with the U.S. action in Vietnam--noble though our purposes were.


JFK Assassination


Although they might not agree with John F. Kennedy’s politics, most Americans were buoyed up by his great energy, sense of humor and ability to inspire people. And we all adored Jackie. (We knew nothing then about his aberrant sex life.  Reporters "protected" public figures from having such information known.  How things changed later!)


Berkeley and I and Ruth and Lynnell were living at 615 E. Willow St in Wheaton when Kennedy was assassinated.  I had just sent Lynnell and Ruth back to school after lunch when my phone rang.  My dear friend Alice Holmes was on the other end.  "Kennedy has been shot.  Turn on your TV."   I ran for the TV and sat there watching with dread the news bulletins as they came in--with the final one about 1/2 hour later saying that Kennedy was dead.  The shock was unbelievable to me and to everyone else in the country.  The news had been relayed to Lowell school where Lynnell and Ruth were students, and the school was closed early and students sent home.


For the next several days, the schools stayed closed, and we were all glued to the TV with a terrible sense of loss.  It was several days of mourning for everyone.  We’ll never forget the dignity of Jackie as she walked down the street following the horse drawn carriage with the casket.  And little John saluting as it went by.  It broke all our hearts.


Work Experiences


Ticket counting.

            My first job out of high school (1936) was for the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad--a commuter line that ran between Chicago and South Bend.  I got the job because the company had called Mr. Knapp, the high school principal, and asked him to recommend someone.  The Knapps lived near us and his daughter was a friend of mine.  He knew me and he suggested me.


            I felt very fortunate, for this job paid $15 a week--and the National Recovery Act (NRA) set minimum wages at $12 a week.  I was called a "passenger accountant," but my work consisted  of counting the tickets that the conductors turned in  after every run, to see whether the tickets in the envelope coincided with the numbers  they had recorded.


            It was unbelievably boring. We were never permitted to talk with the people sitting near us.  After a few months I thought I would lose my mind. But eventually I got so used to it that it did not bother me any more. Then it began to dawn on me that if it did not bother me, my mind must be turning off! 


  There was one advantage to the job.  I got a pass to ride on the train as much as I chose.  So I enrolled one night a week at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and took two  courses each semester.  I took conducting from T.J. Bittikofer--a  great teacher (although not a very nice man I later learned!).  I also took sight-singing.  Those two music courses were a great help to me later when for a short time I directed a choir in Chicago, and as I sang in choirs in college.  I also took a couple of Bible courses.   These studies helped keep my mind active  and gave me something to look forward to each week.


At the end of one year working at the South Shore, I decided to leave and go to college.  I had saved $200 from my earnings (after paying $5 a week room, and board to my parents. )  Uncle Elam, then president of Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., wrote and offered me a 1/2 scholarship and opportunity to work for room and board in their home.


            It was a very hard decision to make.  I had enough to get through one year.  What would happen after that?  I had a "good" job -- for the times-- and I might have nothing at the end of my first year.  My parents told me it was up to me--I should do what I thought best.  I prayed a lot and sought guidance from God.  One night in my Bible reading I came to Rom 12:,2. "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might know what is the good and acceptable will of God."  I felt that was God’s message to me, and it really became my life verse.  I wrote that I was coming to Linfield.


            When I told my supervisor, Mr. Hansen, that I was leaving to go to college, he said, "Well, I suppose that’s all right, but look at me.  I never went to college!"   I thought, "I AM looking at you, and that’s one reason I want to go to college."



The Great Depression


We moved from the farm near LaPorte to Michigan City in 1928.  During the years on our 60-acre farm, my father had farmed in summer and worked as a carpenter when  possible.  A 60-acre farm could not support the seven people in our family. 


Years later he told me that one of the reasons he had decided to move to Michigan City was that Gilbert, the eldest son, had graduated from high school and Father believed Gilbert would have better opportunities for work if we lived in a town.


In Michigan City, for the first two years, Father worked  full time as a carpenter and joined the Carpenters Union.  Gilbert got a job at Angsten Manufacturing Company.  Then the depression hit.   Carpentry work became very scarce, and for two years Father had no work but he had a wife and four children to support. (By then Gil had moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut, for his company) 


The situation was made much worse because Father had signed a note for Ernie Alm, a friend whose father-in-law (Mr. Lindgren) had signed a note for Father when he moved to LaPorte.   But in the depression, Ernie lost his job and could not make payments on his note.  So Father had to produce the money to pay his note (I think it was about $500)  or the bank would take OUR house.   Father borrowed from relatives to pay off Ernie’s note. 


After the Depression lessened, Father tried to get Ernie to repay him.  But the statute of limitations (seven years, I think) had run out and Ernie refused.  My father would say to us, "I would rather be in my shoes than in Ernie’s."  Later we heard reports of Ernie having alcohol problems.  He would start church and drop out again, several times.  Many years later (in 1969) Ernie wrote a letter to my mother (he knew my father had died).  Mother was then in a nursing home.  Ernie enclosed a check for $100.  He said his wife had died; he was living on Social Security in a Welfare hotel and was so sorry he had never repaid the money when he could have. It obviously had bothered him all those years.


My father said later that he was so thankful for the Home Owners Loan program that was part of Roosevelt’s program to help people own their homes.  Up to that time, if you had a mortgage, you only needed to pay the interest on it (nothing on the principal) but the bank could recall the loan at almost any time.  Because the banks needed money after the run on them after the stock market collapsed, many people lost their homes when the bank called their loan.   The Home Owners Loan made it possible for my parents  and many others to pay off the bank and save their home. 


During the Depression, my mother took in washings to make a little money.  Bernice and I helped hang up clothes on lines and sometimes helped with the ironing.  Father would deliver the clothes. 


Then Mother started a little home bakery business.  She would make pies and cakes and father would sell them.  There was one little diner down on 7th street for whom she made pies.  Later, my parents made an arrangement with the Profant’s (they had been neighbors when we lived in the  country) son-in-law who had a bakery in Laporte. Father would drive to Laporte early in the morning and pick up sweet rolls  and other things.  Father made a rack in the back of his car so that it became a kind of truck.  Then he sold house to house.  Once he was picked up for selling without a license.  He went to the police chief and said, "O.K. this is the way I’m feeding my family.  If you stop me from doing this, I will have to go on Relief like everyone else.    I can’t afford a license for the little business I do."  The chief said, "Well, let me think about it."  Apparently the chief sent word around that Father was not to be bothered, because he was never stopped by the police again.


Later Father got a job for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) working on building the bath-house on the beach in Michigan City.   Another carpenter was putting up the scaffold and had one end up and was just finishing putting in the nails or supports for the other end when someone called him to come and get a drink or something.  He forgot to go back and finish the job.  When Father got up on the scaffold, it gave way and he fell and broke his arm.  He was taken to the hospital.  A Carpenters union official came to see him in the hospital and told him he was fined $50 for taking a non-union job.  That was the end of Father and the union.  He said he wouldn’t pay the fine and would no longer be part of the union.


During these depression days and the FDR program, many fundamentalists were saying that the NRA (National Recovery Act) was the "mark of the beast" in Revelation.  My parents didn’t know what to think about such teachings, because the NRA had helped them. (It established a minimum wage of 25 cents an hour.)  Many years later, my father told me that he thought Social Security was the best thing that had happened to our country because when he could no longer work, he had a little income that he did not have to depend on his children for.


During the Depression, we all worked at whatever we could find to do that would pay us pennies.  Bernice got a secretarial job in Portis hat factory (probably at $12 a week--the minimum wage under NRA) Ray had a paper route.  I worked on Saturdays baby-sitting for a woman for 50 cents a day while she worked Saturdays in Woolworths (probably for $2 a day).  Gil had been sent to Bridgeport to oversee manufacture of card tables for Angsten.  Angsten went out of business but Gil stayed in Bridgeport and got a job driving a bakery truck.


After Ray graduated from high school he also worked at Portis Hat Company--on the second floor of a frame building before the days of air conditioning. Bernice worked in the office and I think Ray pressed hats.  Can you imagine the temperature in that factory in the summer?!!  Later Ray quit and went to Bridgeport to be with Gil with the hopes of a better job. He got a job driving a bakery truck.  Bernice quit in ‘35 or ‘36 (she graduated from high school in 1930 or 31, I think.)  She went to Moody Bible Institute where she could work her way through school and studied voice.  She was a very fine singer.


College Years


During my first year at Linfield  college in McMinnville, Oregon, I lived in a college house (where we all slept in double deck bunks on a sleeping porch).   I worked for room and board at Aunt Colena and Uncle Elam’s home.  He was the president of Linfield College and lived in a wonderfully fine house on the edge of campus.  I got there early every morning (7 a. m. I think) and dusted the furniture in the downstairs rooms and ran the sweeper.  They had constant company of big-wigs (the governor, etc.) and the house had to be in presentable order all the time.  I and another young man who worked for them took turns doing dishes after the evening meal and did other kinds of work.  I also worked in the office of the president part-time because I had some office skills.   I learned a great deal that year--especially how to conduct myself in more formal social situations--something I had little opportunity to learn at home.  I owe a great deal to Aunt Colena (a remarkable woman who lived to age 94) and Uncle Elam. Their daughter Francis was six months older than I; their son Victor was about 16 when I was there, and Elam Jr. was the same age as Melvin.  Among the other highlights of that year was singing in the Linfield acappella choir which was a wonderful group--on the caliber of St. Olaf.  We took a spring concert tour through Washington and Oregon so I saw a lot of the country.  I also sang in a women’s trio that year and we often represented the college in various churches.  It was a rich year for which I am forever grateful.   The school had about 600 students, as I recall.


At the end of my freshman year, Uncle Elam was invited to become president of the University of Redlands, in Redlands, Ca.   By that time my self confidence was growing, and I decided it would be better for me to find a college closer to home for the next year.  I wrote to several schools and discovered Bethel Jr. College and Seminary in St. Paul, operated by the Baptist General Conference--the denomination that my parents belonged to when they lived in Chicago  and on the  farm near LaPorte, Ind.  Tuition was cheap (I think it was $100 a year!)  and if you were the first person from your Baptist church to attend that school, you could get a half scholarship!   I was, so I did!


College years.


            I arrived at Bethel and there were no dorms so we looked for rooms we could rent in the area.  I rented a room with Viola Waihela (a Finnish girl from Massachusetts.)  Vi and I became good friends and remained so throughout our lives.


            Because of my office experience I got a job in the school office (there was only one at that time!)  The school had about 150 students--including the college and the seminary.  Edith Larson was office manager.  She walked on crutches as a result of being crippled from childhood polio.   She was a wonderful woman.  I operated the switchboard and did miscellaneous other work.  She asked me one day if I knew shorthand.  "Only  a little, " I told her.  She asked me to try taking dictation from the school president, Dr. G. Arvid Hagstrom . He was a fine man who dictated as he looked out of the window and muttered his letters.  I usually got the idea and wrote the letters.  He thought I was great!


            A few weeks later Miss Larson asked me to take dictation from Dr. Emery Johnson, the school dean and also the biology teacher.  I did.  But he was the opposite of Dr. Hagstrom.   He wanted a word by word transcription of what he said!    I got every letter back to redo with corrections.   I was never asked to do his letters again and I was thankful.


            Most of the teachers at Bethel were very good.  I especially remember a class in American history taught by Dr. C. E. Carlson.  He was a Canadian and he taught American history from the British viewpoint.  It was an enlightening experience!


            Bethel had only two years of college, but I decided to stay another year and take seminary courses.  It was a good decision.  I learned a great deal about the Bible and differing viewpoints on many subjects.  I also began singing in a girls’ trio with Joyce Johnson and Ruth Olson.  We often went out on week-ends with a gospel team to perform in one of the many small country churches in Minnesota.  The people often brought potatoes, vegetables, and other farm produce to take back to the school for us to eat in our "boarding club." 


            During the summer months following that year, our trio traveled for three weeks around Lake Michigan visiting churches in the interest of Bethel College and Seminary.  We were accompanied by Ethel Ruff, an older woman who was an ordained Baptist minister (very unusual for those days) and she was a superb speaker.  We had a wonderful time during those week together.


            Before we did our three weeks of travel, Joyce Johnson and I did several weeks of Vacation Bible schools in northern Minnesota in small country churches.  One was in Lengby, Minnesota, where we stayed with an older widow whose husband and sons had been killed in an auto accident  about 25 miles from home.  She was probably about 60 years old and had never been farther from Lengby than the next small town!   We slept in the living room--one of us on a davenport and the other on an old-fashioned kind of settee in which the head was sloped about one foot higher than  the foot.   We took turns sleeping on that uncomfortable thing.


            Our next place was in McIntosh, Minn.  There the church had been closed for about 5 years and they were hoping that  the Vacation Bible School would arouse enough interest to get it started again.  (I don’t think it did!)  Joyce and I not only taught all the kids, supplied everything, but also used her car to go and pick up most of the kids before school and take them home again.   After the first day, we noticed that the church pews (really church benches) were sticky and every kid who wore corduroy pants left part of them on the bench!   We decided we had to do something about it before our closing evening exercise when all the parents would be invited.  So we spent a day scrubbing every bench and then waxing it so that clothing would not stick to them.  Everything seemed fine.  We invited a special speaker from a nearby town for that closing session.  When it came time for him to speak, he got up and the chair came with him!  (We had forgotten to scrub and wax the chairs on the platform! )   I can still see this dignified man reaching down and trying to push the chair away from his pants!


After my one year at Bethel seminary, I knew I had to go on with my college and I enrolled at Wheaton, having no idea how I was going to make it financially.  If I remember rightly (which I may not!), Wheaton was twice as expensive as Bethel--meaning the tuition was $200 a year!


I took a job working for my room and board in a private home and looked for other odd jobs as well.  I became a speech major (emphasis on debate and public speaking) and became a member of the debate team.  There I met the creme de la creme of students and had a wonderful time.  I had to borrow some money from Ray that year to pay my tuition.  During the summer I went to Michigan City and got a job in a defense factory.   I also became an assistant in the speech department, working for the head of the department, Clarence Nystrom.  He was very good to me.


In my senior year, I had to do practice teaching in the junior academy (the private school run by Wheaton--7th and 8th grades--because students could get credentials for either elementary or secondary teaching in that age bracket. )  There I worked with Supervisor Clarabelle Hiney. Through her, I got a two-day-a week job in Chicago working for the Christian Workers’ Foundation which at that time was helping Best Seller Publicity get started.   I worked for Josephine Peterson, founder.  She was talented, sickly, and hard to work for.   Best Seller Publicity arranged with Christian artists to design very attractive posters with a Bible verse which were placed in street cars and buses in Chicago and other cities.  I did everything--correspondence, some fund-raising (I often went to Chicago on Sundays to give a five-minute speech in a church, and  parishioners gave a free-will offering as they left.  I learned how to find my way anywhere around Chicago (alone) on street-cars, buses, and elevateds!


At the office of Christian Workers Foundation, I became acquainted with Robert Walker, who later invited me to become assistant editor of a magazine he started.  It eventually developed into Christian Life Magazine, which was published from 1944 to about 1982 when Walker retired and there was apparently no one to take over.  It was sold to and combined with Charisma magazine.


My introduction to journalism really began in my senior year at Wheaton when the registrar’s office was trying to figure out how to get my needed English credits to graduate.  I was supposed to take advanced college composition my last semester--but the teacher (K. B. Tiffany) fell and broke her hip and the class was cancelled.  Carl F.H. Henry was teaching a course in Religious Journalism and although that was not supposed to fulfill the English credit, the registrar agreed to let it pass because nothing else was offered on upper division Level and I needed those credits to graduate.   Henry thought I had some talent and encouraged me.  He also suggested my name later to Robert Walker.   (It is good to know the right people!)


After I graduated from Wheaton (with high honor) in 1942, I was offered a fellowship in the speech department.  That meant teaching two classes of freshman speech, for which I received free tuition in the graduate school.  So I decided to stay there and earn an M.A. in Christian Education. I completed the course work in one year and had only my thesis to finish.


In September of the next year I began working for the magazine in Chicago and working on my thesis in spare time.   My committee changed completely in the middle of my work and my second committee had entirely different ideas from the first!   By the time I got it OKed I was so sick of it that I never took it out and looked at it again after I finished it! It was a marvelous example of crushing the creative ideas of the writer,  while the various 6 members all wanted me to write what they  thought it should be.  It was a mish-mash at the end.


In 1943 to 1944, I and my sister Bernice and three other friends rented the first floor ("a flat") of a house in Wheaton.  We had a great time together, but at the end of that year the owner decided to sell it, I think.  So we had to find another place to live.   I was then working in Chicago.  Bernice was working for the director of the Conservatory of Music (Peter Stam) and we decided to move to Chicago and she would look for another job.  We moved into Bethany Place, a residence for working women.   It was lovely.  Bernice and I shared a room and she was hired to work in the office there.  We were served breakfast and dinner there. 


Unfortunately, at the end of that year, the residence was sold to a school and we had to move again.  Meanwhile, Bernice was offered a job as choir director and director of Christian education at a church in Cleveland.  She moved there and I moved to another women’s residence on Kedzie Avenue--not nearly as nice as Bethany.  I stayed there five years.  During that time, I worked at Christian Life Magazine, took evening courses toward a Masters in Journalism at Northwestern University, directed a choir for one year, and was then invited to teach some evening classes in journalism at Wheaton College.    I was busy!


About 1949, I began to sense personnel problems with Robert Walker and so I resigned.  I was offered a part-time teaching position at Wheaton (day-time classes) and I decided I would like to work on a missions publication.  I was interested in the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society (it was quite new then--having begun about 1943), so I put together a proposal for a revamped news publication and made an appointment with the director, Vincent Brushwyler (I had never met him).  God obviously led in that, because the day I went to see him he had just learned that their current editor was leaving.  I was hired on the spot and spent a wonderful 16 years working part time for them.  Brushwyler and I got along famously and I had a great relationship with the other people there. (Dr. Ray Buker, then in charge of overseas work for CBFMS, later performed the marriage ceremony for me and Berkeley.) I did most of my work at home and went to the office only one day a week to get material approved, pick up information etc.  I made all the arrangements for printing, etc.


The same year, I began teaching part--time at Wheaton College, daytime classes.  For a couple of years before that, I had taught one class a week in the evenings.  I would take the train out after my work in Chicago and stay overnight with my former roommate who now had an apartment in Wheaton and was working as a church secretary.


I soon found that I thoroughly enjoyed my teaching, and it was nice to meet students in the daytime when they were not so sleepy!




Although Berkeley and I graduated from Wheaton the same year (1942) we did not know each other.  We later figured out that we had probably been in the same anthropology class but had paid no attention to each other.  He was fighting to maintain his life with severe diabetes, and I was struggling to work my way through college while being on the debate team, etc. I worked, studied, and slept!  After he graduated from college, he made a trip to Mayo Clinic to see if they could do anything for him, but they told him to see a good doctor in the Chicago area (Dr. Henry Rickets, U. of Chicago clinics).   For one year, he did not go to school at all.  He then re-enrolled in Wheaton for a Master’s degree and then a divinity degree.  After that he began his Ph.D. work at U. of Chicago, commuting and living at home all the time, and seeing Dr. Rickets at regular intervals.


We did not begin to know each other until we were both teaching at Wheaton in 1950.  Then he began meeting my train when I came home from Chicago (on Wednesdays when I worked at CBFMS.)  When two college teachers begin to date, it is surely life in a fishbowl!   I learned even in our dating days to recognize when his blood sugar was dropping and I should urge him to eat something sweet.   His parents did not want him to get interested in me, because they were sure that if he ever left the protection of his home and their concern with his diabetes that he would soon be dead.   I never met them until after we were engaged.  His mother, who was really a saint, told me she had nothing against me (how could she?  She didn’t know me!)  but she was sure that no one would "take care of him" as she had.  Also, he was an only child and her whole life was wrapped up in him.  Berkeley’s father had an anxiety neurosis and was hard to live with.  Neither father nor mother had any social skills and as a result, Berkeley was also lacking in social skills, which he had to work on later.  They were an isolated family that had little contact with other people.


We were married on August 9, 1952, in Missionary Baptist Church, Michigan City, Indiana--my parents’ church (now called Evergreen Baptist).  We would have preferred to be married in Wheaton where all of our friends were, but I knew it was important for my parents that we be married in Michigan City.  Bernice made the bridesmaids dresses (for her and Joyce) and my wedding dress!  She was such a good seamstress. Ray and Mel were the groomsmen, and Gil sang. (It was clearly a Johnson-dominated wedding!)


Two days before the wedding, I came down with a high fever!   It was during the polio epidemic and that was our fear.  In those days,  a doctor would make a home call, and my mother’s doctor came to our home (Dr. Fargher). He came up to my room and my wedding dress was hanging on the door.  I pointed to it and told him I wanted him to get me into it on Saturday.   He examined me--especially my ability to move my neck and decided I did not have polio--just an infection of some kind.  He gave me a potent injection of penicillin.  I remember lying in heavy perspiration all night and wondering how we should reach people if the wedding could not go on!   But by the next morning I was clearly improved.  At 11:30 my brother Melvin came up to my room and informed me that we had until noon (Friday) to cancel the order from the florist.  I took a deep breath and said I thought I could get up and walk down the aisle on Saturday!  I did.


 Berkeley drove from Wheaton on Saturday morning and we had rehearsal at 11 a.m.  The ceremony was at three (I think) and all went well.  Dr. Raymond Buker of CBFMS performed the ceremony.  There was a reception in the church basement. (That’s the way we did it those days!)  The church was filled with my parents’ friends plus about 40 or more out-of-town guests (from Wheaton, plus my brothers and their families, and some other relatives and friends.)  My mother felt we could not let those people drive home without more food, so we had an  "in our backyard" picnic at our house.   Berkeley’s parents did not come to the wedding.  His mother had been battling a urinary tract infection for a couple of years and was not at all well.  Also, they probably would not have felt comfortable among so many people they did not know.  Although they had reconciled to the marriage, Berkeley was quite sure they would not come.  The Harold Bensons from Wheaton (who had been friends of my parents for almost 50 years) came to the wedding and took wedding cake back to them.


After the "back-yard picnic," Berkeley and I drove up toward Michigan to a motel where we had a reservation.   The next morning I remembered that I had left my raincoat at home, so we drove back to Michigan City (about 20 miles) to get it and the family had a good laugh.  We then took a 10-day honeymoon, driving around Lake Michigan and spending a few days on Mackinac island.  (The summer of our 10th wedding anniversary, we took Ruth and Lynnell and retraced our steps from that trip.  On Mackinac, we rented two bicycles built for two and rode around the entire island.  Berkeley pedaled with Lynnell (she was then five and Ruth was eight) and I rode with Ruth who could give some genuine pedal power.


Our first home was a second floor apartment on S. Cross St.  Just across from what is now Jewel Tea Grocery Store.    After we were married, Berkeley said we had more company in the first six months than his family had in six years--and I thought we had very little--compared to my family!


We lived there two years.  By then I was pregnant with Ruth and we bought a small, pleasant Cape Cod house at 615 E. Willow (south of the RR tracks in Wheaton.)   My father took a couple of weeks off work (he worked until age 77) and came to Wheaton and put in a new kitchen for us.  What an improvement that made!   A few years later, he built beautiful cabinets in our dining room.  When we moved to St. Paul two years after his death in 1963, it was hard for me to leave that beautiful handiwork of my father’s.


My parents moved to Wheaton in 1959, knowing that none of us would ever be moving back to Michigan City.  They bought an old house and fixed it up.  They refinished all the woodwork--stripping and sanding.  Bernice eventually rented out her house that she had bought in 1952 and moved in with Mother and Dad where she was sorely needed.   She took the major responsibility for their care, seeing both of them through their final illnesses (Father in 1963 and Mother in 1970).  From about 1961 until 1970 she took very few vacations and devoted herself to their care.  That’s why it seemed such a terrible tragedy  that only 11 months after Mother’s death she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had surgery in April 1971 and died on January 1, 1973.  During August of 1972, Mel and Joyce had planned a trip to Europe, but they felt they could not leave Bernice alone.  So Berkeley, Lynnell and I drove down and stayed with her that month.  Ruth had then graduated from high school and had a summer job.  Her friend Ruth Carlson stayed with her at our house.   It was a very stressful summer for all of us but I was so glad that I could spend that month with Bernice and that Mel and Joyce could take their much-deserved trip to Europe.


Berkeley and I discussed the wisdom of having children even before we were married.  We had a session with Dr. Rickets at the U. of Chicago diabetic clinic and I asked bluntly what Berkeley’s life expectancy might be.  He said he did not see any serious problems for 15 years--after that, he could not say.   To me that meant that I must maintain my marketable job skills in the event I would have to become the chief wage earner.  That proved to be a blessing because it kept me mentally alert and I was never tempted to follow the pattern of that day when mothers stayed home and took care of their children while fathers supported the family.


Stories Regarding Our Children


One episode I remember as clearly as if it had happened yesterday.   We had gone to Chicago on Thanksgiving Day (1958) to be with my cousins, Edna, Esther, and Sadie Johnson, and my parents came from Michigan City and Mel and Joyce, Bernice and we came from Wheaton.  Also Dwight Ericsson, my cousin from San Diego was studying at the University of Chicago and he was also invited.


A generous amount of snow was on the ground.  After a wonderful dinner, we decided to go outside in the snow, build a snow man, make snow fairies, etc.  After a while, Berkeley said that he and Dwight were going to take a walk (as was his custom after a meal. ) The rest of us stayed outside a while and then went back in.  When we were going back in, we noticed Lynnell was not with us.   We assumed that she had gone with Berkeley and Dwight on their walk (she loved to do that.)  About 1/2 hour later they returned and we asked where Lynnell was.  She had not gone with them!   The house that my cousins owned was about one block from a huge freeway.  Lynnell was then about 2 1/2 years old.  We were frantic.  We all grabbed our coats and ran outside, scattering in various directions and shouting "Lynnell,  Lynnell!"   After a few minutes I heard Mel say, "I see her--there she is."


She had gone for a walk all right--by herself!   Two men who lived nearby had seen this little kid walking alone and they did not recognize her as being from the neighborhood.  Bless their hearts, they had put on their coats and followed her--about 100 feet behind her so as not to frighten her but close enough to see that she did not get in any trouble!   We were all scared to death, but she did not seem frightened at all.  We thanked the men profusely and went home so thankful to God for sending two guardian angels to watch out for her.


Lynnell was always a nature lover, animal lover, and an outdoor child.  When she came home from school after we moved to St. Paul, she always wanted to walk along the swamp in back of our house. (It later became a Ramsey County Open Spaces, but at that time it was owned by Bethel College.)  I never felt safe letting her do that.  But there were several dogs in the neighborhood with whom she quickly made friends.  So I would never let her go back there unless she took with her at least one of her dog friends.  She often had  two or three with her--each of whom would have defended her with their lives!   Later she got a dog of her own, a pure-bred short-haired German pointer that had been owned by the Johnsons who lived next door.  Their two boys as they grew older became uninterested in the dog and Lynnell was the one interested.  So eventually they asked if we wouldn’t like to have the dog.  They gave us their dog-house and the long chain on which the dog used to run, and it was all moved about 50 feet to our yard.  Lynnell loved that dog, and so did Berkeley, who often took him for runs across the hills back of our house (before it was built up with a school and houses.)


Lynnell was the "outdoor" girl and Ruth was the "indoor girl" who much preferred in-house activities.   When a new neighbor moved across the street who had a girl the same age as Lynnell, she asked the father, Dick Erickson if their daughter was an outdoor girl or an indoor one.  When Dick answered, "I guess I’d say she was "indoor," Lynnell lost interest in her. (Eventually they did become friends, but it was not an easy trip!)


Lynnell and Ruth were different in almost every way.  Ruth was exceedingly orderly.  Her dresser top was always clear, her drawers were always organized.   Lynnell was the opposite.  Papers and clothes scattered everywhere.  She had enough stuffed animals to cover every surface.   They did not make good roommates in Wheaton where they had to share a room.  In desperation in Wheaton, I took their furniture (dressers, desks) and lined them across the middle of the room and told them not to look at or find fault with each other’s halves.


 In St. Paul they had separate rooms and that was a tremendous advantage and decreased the fighting by 1/2.


Ruth tended to be a very private person, and it was hard to get her to talk about what went on in school, or her friends, or her problems, etc.  Lynnell was the opposite and could hardly be turned off!  Ruth came home from school each day, went to her room, closed the door and did her homework before she did anything else.  Lynnell came home from school, changed clothes, went out in back with her dogs and/or her friends.  Getting her to do her homework was a chore--it was often done late at night when she was too tired to know what she was doing!  And her papers were usually late.


Sunday morning routines were typical.  Getting ready to go to church, Ruth would be dressed and sitting in the back seat waiting for us.  Lynnell would come running out with socks and shoes in hand, finishing dressing in the car on our way to church!


Both girls took piano lessons both in Wheaton and in St. Paul, but neither wanted to practice, although both could have been fairly good if they had tried.  Ruth ended up playing the viola in high school and Lynnell the flute.  She started on the cello but it was too big to carry on her bicycle so she chose the flute!


Neither of the girls liked to go on trips in the car.  Twice we went to Young Life camps in Colorado (where Berkeley taught) and two summers we went to Winona Lake School of Theology (near Ft. Wayne, In) where he taught.  They liked it fine when we got there, but the process they did not like. We did not then, like now, have cassette players and tapes to play in the car.  They did read comic books.


Berkeley’s battle with diabetes


Berkeley was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 15 or 16--about 1935--just 15 years after insulin was discovered and was just coming into use.  Before that time, all those with juvenile-onset diabetes (Type 1) simply died.  Those who got it when they were older than 40 could often control it with diet and exercise. 


He was placed on a diet and given the kind of insulin that was available at that time.  He improved rapidly.  As time went on, he was able to use less and less insulin until he was finally able to discontinue it completely.  Needless to say, his parents, devout Christians, and all their friends were praying earnestly for his healing and they all rejoiced, believing that God had indeed healed him.


For the first couple of years in college, he seemed to do all right.  Then the diabetes began to return.  There were some who said he should not go back on insulin--that showed a lack of faith in God’s healing power.  When he was a senior in college (I think), he did go back on insulin.  But by that time his weight had gone down to about 120 (from his normal weight of 150).  (He was about 6 feet tall.  The year after he graduated from Wheaton (1942) he was in such bad shape that he did not go to school at all.  He went back to the doctor and was hospitalized.  When he returned from the hospital, the doctor had placed him on a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet.  (That was considered the proper treatment at that time since diabetics could not digest carbohydrates.)  He tried that diet for a few weeks and felt himself getting sicker and sicker.  He finally told his mother that if he stayed on that diet he would die.  So he stopped it and began eating more carbohydrates and less protein and fat and began to improve. (People urged him to go to Mayo clinic, and he and his mother did make a trip to Mayo.  The doctors there told him that he had classic diabetes and he just needed a good doctor in the Chicago area.)


As time went on, he adjusted his diet more and more toward carbohydrates and less and less toward protein and fat.  He completed a master’s degree in theology at the graduate school and then what is now the equivalent of a master of divinity degree at Wheaton.  He then enrolled at the University of Chicago graduate school in humanities (in the classics division) and began working on his Ph.D.  He completed it in 1950 after writing his dissertation on Methods of Interpretation in the Book of Hebrews.  I have a copy of his 259-page manuscript that he typed himself!  (He also taught himself to type.)


While at the University, he began going to the U of Chicago Clinic on diabetes, headed by Dr. Henry Rickets, a renowned specialist in diabetes.  When he went for his semi-annual check-up there (I went with him after we married in 1952) the dietician always wanted to see a copy of his diet and they were horrified that he ate so much carbohydrate and so little protein and fat.  It was not the prescribed diabetic diet!   He refused to change and eventually stopped talking with the dietetics department.  During the last 20 years, the whole field of diabetic diet has changed drastically and the new diets are the kind that Berkeley ate!   He would never have lived as long as he did if he had not be stubborn enough to stick to his guns.


After we moved to Minnesota in 1965, he saw (at Dr. Rickett’s suggestion) Dr. Fred Goetz, head of the diabetic clinic at the University of Minnesota hospital.  At first, he went through the same thing with the dieticians, and Dr. Goetz finally told them to let him alone--that he was doing better than many of their other "traditional diet" patients.


Berkeley’s diabetes was extremely brittle  (unstable).  His blood sugar could fluctuate from 250 to 25 within a few hours.   Until about 1980 the only blood sugar tests were urinalysis, and that really only told where the blood sugar was about two hours earlier (when the urine was formed.)  The result was that he could do a urinalysis that showed 250 (high) and be lying on the floor unconscious in an insulin reaction five minutes later!


The insulin reactions were the bane of our life.  I probably found him unconscious at least 50 times in the 38 years of our marriage.  In the first few years, I had to call a doctor to come and give an injection of glucose into the veins.   Later, something called glucagon came on the market that could be given with insulin needles (subcutaneous) and I used that many times.  The problem was that it took about 30 minutes to work, and those 30-minutes seemed like 30 hours when you weren’t sure it was going to do the trick.  A few times when I was away he had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance to get a glucose injection.   There were periods when he was much better and might have a slight reaction (that could be caught with a glass of orange juice with a few teaspoons of sugar in it)  once or twice a month.  Other times, he might have reactions two or three times a day. 


He learned to tell his students at the beginning of a semester that he was subject to insulin reactions and that if his speech slowed down, became slurred, and he didn’t seem quite with it, they should tell him to drink a coke. (He always carried Coke in his brief case.)  Seminary faculty members learned how to deal with it, and if he was unconscious they would call me.  Students and faculty were wonderful in helping him to live with the disease. (And they learned a lot about diabetes in the process.)


He was meticulous about exercise .  He knew that the three factors in managing diabetes were exercise, diet, and insulin, and all were essential.  He knew what to eat and how much of it.  He exercised every day.  He either walked to school (about 1 1/4 miles each way) or rode his bicycle or skied in the winter across Lake Valentine with his huge backpack.  He had an exercise bicycle at home which he rode at least 5 miles on the days when rain or something else did not permit him to do outdoor exercise.


His love was for the biblical languages.  He could read Greek as easily as English.  His Hebrew was also good but he was not as proficient in that as in Greek.  He wore out two or three Greek testaments and read the entire Old Testament through in Hebrew--I think.   He was aiming for that but he may not have gotten all the way through the Minor Prophets by his death. 


Former students often called him in their sermon preparation to ask about Greek or Hebrew words or phrases and the correct translation of certain passages.  He really enjoyed that.





Berkeley and I both loved to travel, and we had many opportunities.  In January, 1979 he was invited to go to Sweden to teach at Oregrom Missionskola  and also at Betelseminariet  near Stockholm.  He took his sabbatical leave to spend that semester in Sweden.  We had a marvelous time in both schools.  In Orebro, one of my second cousins (on my father's side) lived there.  We already knew her because she had spent one year in Wheaton, working for the Dr. Geiser family (he was head of the eye clinic where Bernice worked) so she was fluent in English.  She introduced us to many people and helped us through the adjustment phase.  The school had rented a small apartment for us on the 3rd floor of a building near where the school was located.  It was wonderfully convenient.  During that semester we visited Nils and Maria Sandberg (my mother's cousins) in Aneby and they later in the summer invited us to visit their summer home on the island of Gotland, which we did.  They knew no English and we knew very little Swedish but with sign language, lots of laughter,  and dictionaries we got along famously.  They were relatives on Grandmother Johanna Sandberg Anderson's (my maternal grandmother) side.  We also made contact and had a wonderful week-end in Jonkoping  with some relatives on the side of Grandfather Karl Victor Anderson.  Ther name was "Fasth" --and that is a story in itself.


While in Stockholm we met Viola Engborg, and Inez Anderson, cousins on my father's side.


After our teaching was finished in the two schools, we took a two-month Eurorail trip through Finland, Norway, and Sweden.


We returned to Sweden again to teach in those schools in September, 1989 and stayed until Christmas.




We went to Australia twice.  Once we went in connection with a conference on women and the ministry, sponsored by some Anglican women.  They furnished us with a lovely apartment in a suburb of Australia and we made many wonderful friends.


On our second trip, we made a stop at Fiji islands for several days and went out to a small island where we had stayed in a small cabin (grass-roof) and ate wonderful food furnished by the resort and walked the beaches.  We also stopped for several days in New Zealand, rented a car and drove through the north island. It was in August so that made it winter there, and it was colder than we anticipated.  They told us not to drive down to the southern island because the roads would be snow-packed and icy.  We decided we had enough of that every winter in Minnesota so we skipped that part!  In Australia, Berkeley read a paper at a scholarly meeting.




Our trip to Argentina in 1984 (I think) was in connection with a series of lectures that Berkeley gave at a Baptist Seminary in Buenos Aires.  We didn’t see much beside the school but we met wonderful people and enjoyed the fellowship with the missionaries who were teaching there.  We were there at the time the Argentines were voting on whether to make divorce legal, and Berkeley was sometimes asked his opinion on that.  "What should the attitude of Christians be?"  He was always very good at handling these knotty questions, and so he gave the response that Jesus had given when he was asked the grounds for divorce.  Jesus said, 'It was for the hardness of men's hearts that Moses gave the regulations on divorce.'  If we don’t have hard hearts in Argentina, then we don't need a divorce law!"   (The divorce law passed, of course.)




In about 1971, Bethel Seminary and Luther seminaries jointly sponsored a trip to Israel.  Passengers were students and some faculty.  Berkeley was invited to be one of the leaders and to do some of the lectures at the sites we visited.  It was a very successful trip.  We stayed for a while in a Jewish kibbutz where we celebrated communion together on Good Friday. 


After Berkeley's death, I made two other trips to Israel.  Once with Clarence Bass (former teacher at Bethel and a tour leader par excellence) in 1994 and again in 1996 with a group of women called "Sisters in Jerusalem."  For this later trip, I was on a committee of several women who planned the tour.  We chose 5 women of the Bible to study in a short worship time, and then went to the places where they had served.  There were 44 on the trip, and about half were African-American women.  It was a great multi-cultural experience that was highly enriching.




Cruises were Berkeley very favorite form of travel because we didn't  have to cart luggage and pack and unpack over and over.  I think we did a total of 5.  One was on the Alaskan inter-channel and the others in the Caribbean.  I think we touched almost every island in the Caribbean.  The last one was a trip with by brothers and their wives--Gil & Lylith, Ray and Sheila, and Berkeley and I.  (Mel was not yet resigned so they could not come.)  After Berkeley's death, the six brothers and inlaws and I did another cruise through the Panama Canal.  That was also wonderful and we had such fun together that one woman came up to us afterward and said, "If you all take another cruise together, I hope I get on the same one, because you have so much fun!)


Christians for Biblical Equality


During the last ten years of Berkeley's  life we were both deeply involved in the organization Christians for Biblical Equality.  It began in 1987 following a meeting of interested people at the home of Cathie Kroeger in Cape Cod.  We were both on the first board of directors and participated in seminars and conferences.  Berkeley was the acknowledged Greek and Hebrew scholar and was called on to answer many problems about biblical texts.


For several years before that we had been experimenting with team teaching on this subject.  I had done some alone, but I knew that men would be more likely to come if he participated with his scholarly background.  We developed a series on "Biblical Teachings about Equality of Men and Women."  We did 6 to 12 week series in adult Sunday school classes in many churches in the Twin Cities--Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Covenant, and also some colleges.  (College of the Ozarks, Evangel College in Springfield, Mo and probably some others that I cannot recall at the moment.)



Family Deaths


Berkeley’s mother died on December 22, 1959.  She had suffered from bladder infections for seven or eight years; had had two or three surgeries to try to correct it, but to no avail.  She also had a cancerous growth on her neck but the doctor said to do nothing about it because it was slow-growing and she would not live long enough for it to kill her!


She loved her granddaughters (Berkeley was an only child)  and often took care of Ruth Ann when she was little and I needed to go to Chicago on Wednesdays for my work with Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society. She was a saintly woman and we got along fine after she finally became reconciled to our getting married.  She was sure nobody would take care of Berkeley as she had.  Berkeley’s father was a difficult man to live with (had a persistent anxiety neurosis) and taking care of Berkeley gave meaning to her life. After Lynnell was born she was too sickly to do any childcare, but Berkeley often put both girls in our little red wagon and pulled them over to see his parents.  They lived about one mile from us and that was good exercise for him.  Berkeley's mother (Anna) died on December 21, 1959. Her funeral on December 23 was in the midst of a bad snowstorm!  His parents had cemetery lots in Chicago, and we asked that no one other than us follow the hearse into Chicago for the burial. (Perhaps Melvin and Joyce and Bernice also went--I don't remember for sure.  We did not want anyone in an auto accident.


The first in my immediate family to die was my father who died in May, 1963--four years after he and Mother moved to Wheaton.  He had congestive heart failure and grew progressively weaker for about one year.


Mother died in June, 1970. She had had a series of small strokes and had been in a nursing home in Wheaton across the street from the Eye Clinic where Bernice worked.   She stayed with Bernice until Bernice felt she no longer dared leave her at home alone.   She was in the nursing home for about two years.  Bernice stopped in to see her once or twice a day and saw that she had good care.  The last time I saw her was at Easter, 1970, when we went down to Wheaton.  On other times, she had not seemed to know me, but that day she did, and we even had a few words of conversation.  I was very thankful for that.


Bernice had spent the last ten years seeing both of our parents through their final illnesses.  Father often said to me, "Bernice is so good to us, so good to us."  I agreed.  Now that was past and we all hoped that Bernice would have some good years to do some of the things she wanted to do.  The summer of 1970, after Mother’s death, she did take a trip to Washington and visited some of our relatives there.  But in 1971 she was diagnosed with breast cancer!   It seemed so unjust!    She had a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation--all the usual things, and we all hoped everything would be fine.  But it had apparently already metastasized, and it soon appeared in her bones and finally her lungs.  She died on January 1, 1973.


She was in the hospital at Christmas time and we went to Wheaton, took her gifts to her hospital room, sang carols, etc.   She did better at it than the rest of us who were struggling with tears, knowing it was our last Christmas together.


Both of my parents and Bernice are buried in the ____________cemetery just outside of Michigan City. 


In her will, she very generously left some money toward college expenses of Ruth and Lynnell and Douglas and Stephen.  That was a tremendous help to both of our families.


Berkeley died very unexpectedly on May 3, 1990.  He had not been feeling well and had quite a bit of trouble with incontinence.  When he visited Dr. Goetz in April, he suggested he see a urologist.  The urologist said he definitely needed prostate surgery.  Berkeley was pleased, saying, "I have something that can be fixed!”   The surgery was set for Friday,  April 27.  Ruth and I stayed with him during the surgery, which seemed to go well.  When I went back on Saturday he was up and had had a shower.  Same on Sunday.  He was up walking around. The doctor released him on Monday.  Lynnell went to the hospital to get him because we had been burglarized on Friday when Berkeley was being operated on and the house had been trashed.  I worked hard to get it put together so there would be some order when Berkeley came home so I asked Lynnell to pick him up.  When he came home and walked into the house, he said, "I don't feel well, I'm going right to bed, which he did.  On Tuesday, he felt worse. I talked with the doctor and he said he was on antibiotics and to call him the next day.  Wednesday he was worse.  I called he doctor and he said to bring him to the office.  He said he was too sick to go.  I said he could just put on a robe, get in the car in the garage, and we'd get a wheelchair for him at the doctor's office.  He refused.  But by evening he was so much worse, that I had a neighbor come in to help me get him into the car and we took him to the emergency room at United.  He sat in a wheelchair an unreasonably long time while I begged the nurses to get him into a room where he could lie down.  Meanwhile, Ruth had come to the hospital.  When a doctor finally came in to see him, he could do nothing until our own doctor was reached.  Tests indicated his electrolytes were very low.  He was admitted to the hospital and immediately put on intravenous. I went home.  Went back early the next morning.  He was very restless.  Said he had no pain but did not feel good.  I was worried about his insulin control and drove back to the doctor's office to talk.  I could not get in.  Went home to check our mail and the phone rang.  The hospital had called saying he was not doing well and the doctor had ordered him moved to intensive care and for a urologist to see him.   I immediately drove back to the hospital and in the elevator I met our pastor, Robert Brunko.  He said when he checked the church had gotten a message that he was not doing well so he was on his way to see Berkeley.  We stepped out of the elevator together and were met by the hospital chaplain saying that Berkeley had died a 1/2 hour earlier!



People who influenced me.


Mrs. Billman (about 1930)

When I was in about 7th grade, my Sunday school teacher was Mrs. Billman. She had a voice problem and could hardly speak above a whisper. 


One Sunday she announced that she was going to ask the pupils to take turns teaching the class.  When my turn came, she gave me the Sunday school quarterly and I went home to prepare.  I worked hard.   I was timid and lacking in self-confidence.


After my class turn was over, Mrs. Billman put her arm around me and said, "Alvera, I think you could be a teacher."   That idea was quite new to me.  It meant going to college.  No one in my family had gone to college.  I didn’t know anyone in my church who had gone to college except the pastor’s daughter.  Michigan City was a factory town.  Men worked in factories--women worked in offices and stores, and factories.    My parents had not completed high school.


But the idea of being a teacher (and having someone think I COULD!) stuck with me and eventually I did go to college and became a teacher and a writer.


Some 50 years later when we visited Michigan City, I learned that Mrs. Billman was still alive and living in a nursing home.  I got her address and after I returned home I wrote her, telling her of the encouragement she had given me and thanking her for it.  I received a letter back, written in a wobbly hand, and saying she did not remember the incident and could not imagine that she had helped me, but was very glad if it was true.


Later, I sent her a Christmas card.  When it came back marked "deceased" I was very glad that I had written her.


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