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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the first oral history interview of Carol S. (Hammond) Carlson (CN 58 T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded are omitted. In a very few cases, the transcribers could not understand what was said, in which case "[unclear]' was inserted. Where the transcriber has entered a word but is not absolutely sure that it is the word on the tape, "[?]" is inserted after the word. Also, grunts, verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers of this transcript should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and even rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Word in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.
This transcript was made by Robert Shuster and Katie Baisley and completed in February 1993.
Collection 58, Tape T1, Interview with Carol Elisabeth (Hammond) Carlson by Ellen Balmer, November 11, 1978.
BALMER: This is an interview with Mrs. Carol Carlson by Ellen Balmer for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at 319 East Seminary Avenue on November 11, 1978 at 4:00 P.M. [Tape recorder turned off and turned on again.] Mrs. Carlson, both you and your husband grew up in the Wheaton area, and your husband went to Wheaton College for a short period of time, and I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your family background.
CARLSON: Well, my husband was born here in Wheaton. His parents came as immigrants from Sweden. They came to Wheaton about 1890. My family moved here in 1910 when I was fifteen and eventually we met. But he did go to school...I guess he started in college the first year. But then World War I came along and he was in the Navy for three years. When he was released, we were married, and then went to Bible school. I should say that we both came from good Christian homes. My father was a minister and Edwin's parents were very devout Christians. And as a young fellow, he thought of going into some kind of Christian work, but he thought of the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] or something like that. He knew nothing of missionary work. And in fact at that time, I didn't know much either. But I did often hear my father pray at family prayers that the Lord would call some of his children to work for Him in the mission field. But it was here that we had our first contact with missionaries, and then as...when Edwin entered as a freshman, Mrs. Helen Ekvall and her two children had come from the field out there in west China on the Tibetan border and Bob [Robert Ekvall, son of Helen Ekvall] and Edwin were in the same class and became very close friends. And through them we learned of the work that was out there and of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. And that was really what led us to that connection. In fact when we were married, we went back to New York because he was reporting at Pelham Bay [apparently the site of a naval base]. But Mrs. Ekvall had suggested that we go to Nyack [Missionary Institute, the training center in the United States for CMA missionaries] and visit there. Well, of course, we had never heard of the place before, but we went there, and stayed there for a little while, and were very much impressed with the school, and knew that we wanted to come back as students. So that is how we got into the Alliance and how we became acquainted with their missionary work. So then he applied for his release from the Navy, and that fall we came back and graduated from the class of 1921. But...and went to the field early in 1922. So it wasn't until we came home on our first furlough that he finally finished college.
CARLSON: So I guess that's as much as we need to say about [chuckles] how we got into the missionary work. It was really through them. Mrs. Ekvall's husband had died out there and she came here for her son and daughter, for their education. [Tape recorder turned off and on]
BALMER: Were you able to get into the Tibetan country immediately upon arrival to [sic] China, or...?
CARLSON: No, not at all. [Chuckles] Now, missionaries had been up there since (I think) about 1895 or '96, and they had made or some of them had made short trips in and out to some of the near...nearby lamaseries and nearby villages, but there was no possibility for many years of really getting over there [in Tibet] to live. They did make friends with some, and even at the time that we got up there in 1922 there were a few who had come to the Lord, a couple of...of the Tibetan priests, and two or three others who for a while had been what we would call secret believers, but the opposition was pretty bad. And of course, we couldn't go anywhere in China...in Tibetan country unless we had an escort from that village or that encampment to take us in...guarantee that we were all right. See, there wasn't any overall government. The clans were more or less under the Chone prince, but there wasn't any government that we could appeal to for safety or protection, so even during our first term there, from 1922 until 1927 we were living in a little town called Chone, and...the ruling prince, he was called the Chone Prince, and he had over...I think it was twenty-eight clans of these Tibetans. And of course, we had to settle down anyway on the border first and learn some Chinese, and then we went to...to Chone and worked in the Chinese church there, but at the same time one of the Christian river Tibetans (that is, that lived right along the river which divided the two countries) was teaching us. And we had heard that the Tebus, these clans that were under the Chone prince.... We also knew that some years earlier they had come over to attack one of our mission stations. It was really a little out station to which some of the missionaries had fled during the time of...what was known as White Wolf Raid. And White Wolf was a Chinese bandit that was devastating the country with his followers, and the...the missionaries were there in Lupa, having escaped from one of the Chinese [mission] stations where they...property had been destroyed. Well, at the time the...the Tebus attacked, they said that there was silver buried on the station, and they came to get that, and of course if any of the missionaries happened to get in the way, they wouldn't be averse to doing away with them, rather hoping to weaken the missionary staff thereby. Well, then, that was some years later when we were living in
Chone, became quite friendly with the Chone prince, although he was never interested in the Gospel, and we would never fully trust him at all. But he was curious about us, and, and he liked to come over and eat our food and talk, and...very few places to go, so we became interested in the Tebus through that. And during our first term, we made one trip (that is as a family myself, and my husband and our little girl) and stayed over in one of the villages for a couple of weeks. My husband previous to that had made several trips with a Chinese merchant, just in and out and [chuckles] well, to get them used to a...a blond, blue-eyed foreigner. And [Balmer chuckles] so we didn't get in to live over there until 19... [pauses] it must have been very, very early in 1929. We were home on furlough in '27, went back in '28, and then it was very early in 1929 that we went over there. And we didn't go over there in...well, just to pick up and move over there.
CARLSON: But there was a very serious Mohammedan rebellion, and there were many Chinese Mohammedans along the border. And they were the...the towns on the Chinese side of the Tao River were being destroyed. And we knew that we'd better get out because the Tibetans were ruthless in their destruction of life and property. And so we went to this same little out station, Lupasi, and were there for a while until we saw the villages right across the river being burned. And then a Christian Chinese merchant who lived over in Tibetan country (I should say half the time) as a trader said to us, "I think you better come over with me." And so, we...we actually fled into Tebu country with him. Well, that was the Lord's way of opening the door for us.
CARLSON: He said, the wrath of men shall praise Him. [paraphrase of Psalms 76:10]
CARLSON: And it was the awful conditions at that time that opened the door for us to get over to Tebu country. Well, to jump ahead a number of years, the man in whose house Su-ta [the Chinese merchant] had his shop and all of his goods, was the one that the Lord had foreseen would be the first Christian over there. But at that time AhDang let us stay because we had come as refugees and we were with his friend and he was duty bound to give hospitality to one who was such a good friend as Su-ta was. So we spent the winter there in his house, and he found out that we were, you know, not so bad as they thought [Balmer chuckles] in spite of our blond hair and blue eyes. [Balmer chuckles] But later on he rented us the upstairs. Well, the upstairs of his house was just sort of a little addition on a corner of the flat roof of the first story. So we had a tiny bedroom, a living room, and a tiny kitchen there, and lived there for two and a half years. So it was a rather impromptu getting into the country and yet it was God's provision for us at the time. They...well, I might say that the...one of the things that the Lord used to make the people a little more tolerant of us was the fact that we had what was a small supply of medicine, only those things that we had taken in for ourselves. But we could do a few things in that way, and the first thing...the first man that came to us was a man that had stuck a thorn into his hand while he was cleaning out his stable, where the cows and horses were. And the thing was tremendously swollen and red streaks going up his arm, so we took a pail of water and put some put...some ashes in the bottom and poured boiling water into that, which makes a sort of a lye...a lye solution, and kept the man's hand and arm submerged in that for hours, keeping it, the temperature of the water, as hot as he could stand it. Well, we did anything that we could do, and I'm sure that the real doing was the Lord's mercy, and His way of opening a way for us. Well, that man recovered...
CARLSON: ...which meant that he and his family would be obliged to take us in anytime we came to their door, but then of...we had...we had a little boy [Robert Carlson], and just beginning to toddle about, blond hair and blue eyes...
BALMER: Yeah [laughs].
CARLSON: ...and curly hair, and the Tibetans used to say right in front of us, "You know the woman's bad enough, but that man [Balmer chuckles] and that boy, I ask you, have you ever seen anything so horrible?" [Balmer laughs] And of course, being pure Swede, [chuckles] my husband was very blond. But there were little things like that that broke down the initial opposition. And yet to the very end, the widespread opposition was still there.
BALMER: So this had been the very first time that anyone had been able to get across the....
CARLSON: The...the very first time. One or two had...foreigners had been through there, and we don't know just what. But there was someone, not an American, who evidently was a foreigner who had been through the country and stayed there and left a very unsavory reputation behind him. But we were the first to go in other than that, and the very first to live over there.
BALMER: Was that the reason that they didn't care for foreigners too much?
CARLSON: No. Well, of course it might have been somewhat of a reason, but the Tebus were an extremely wild and rebel...rebellious people. All the Tibetans were, I was going to say, anti-foreign. Very much against others encroaching upon their territory. Of course, we recognized the fact that it was Satanic opposition.
CARLSON: And basically that was where it all came from. But you had to have friends who would take you in or let you come in to be at all safe. And then, you were never too safe.
BALMER: Uh-huh. I wanted to ask you one question about what the travel was like even initially to China, and then from China to Tibet....
CARLSON: Well, of course, in 1922 there were good steamers across the Pacific. I've forgotten whether it was eighteen or twenty-one days across the Pacific. Then we went up to Hankow on a Chinese river boat where we got our [chuckles] first introduction to real Chinese life and food. And that was four days. Then from there, we went three days by train. The train didn't always travel at night, but anyway, that brought us to the end of the railroad, and from there on we went by mule, and that was, oh, thirty, forty days, 'til we got up to the area where the out stations were located. Then, of course, as we settled in, we made our trips. As I said, the first term, we made our trips into Tibet, in Tibetan country, but didn't live over there.
[There is a thirty-two minute blank space on the tape. Apparently Balmer had accidentally taken the recorder out of the record mode.]
CARLSON: You were asking about their [tape recorder turned off and on] ...us. Well, not only was it that we were very, very ugly, because we were blond and blue-eyed, but they would just say plainly and without a smile, "You stink." [Balmer chuckles] And I asked Drimatso, the woman who helped us, I said, "Well, what is it, Drimatso?" And she says, "Oh, Niang niang, it's that white stuff that you use when you wash." [Balmer chuckles] And she picked up a ba...bar of...of Lux soap and said, "This stinks." [Balmer laughs] "And when I came to work for you," she said, "I...I...I wanted to quit because," she said, "I didn't know that I could get used to it, or stand it, but," she said, "I figured this way: you are a little cleaner than we are." She'd never had a bath in all of her life. "And so, whatever it is that they use, it won't hurt me. And you treat us so well that we don't want to go, and so I just have to get used to it." Well, when we had gone back on furlough, Mr. Carlson had taken one of our packing boxes, lined it with zinc, and then he took out a soldering outfit and soldered it, and so we had a little washtub...a little bathtub that we could sick in...sit in. And we had put it in what they called their "god house." Now there were old, broken saddles and stomachs of butter and yak tails and everything else in there. And so, of course, they said, "Sure, you can put that box in there." Well then, some days later, AhDang came to Pao Ke and said, "You know that box? You say they wash their bodies in it?" "Yes." "Well," he said, "I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't want to offend them, but, you know, that thing stinks so that it's going to drive all the gods out of the god house if we let it stay there." And Pao Ke [Balmer chuckles] very seriously said, "Well now, that's all right. I'm sure I can take care of that." And so he picked up this box that we washed our bodies in and carried it out to the straw house and left it out there. [Balmer chuckles] We didn't hear any complaints [chuckles] of...from the horses as to the...their straw and hay being contaminated, so...
CARLSON: ...that was over. But they had to get used to us, just as we had to get used to them.
BALMER: What...you mentioned the stomachs of butter, what...?
CARLSON: Oh, well you see, their main staple, their main diet is barley flour and butter in hot tea. And of course, they have huge flocks and herds, and so they wash the butter, oh, slightly, you know, and roll it around a little water, and then they pack it away. They always save the stomachs of the sheep and the cattle, and they pack this butter away in these stomachs. And so, we didn't buy our butter by the pound. We...we'd say, "Well now, for the winter we'll need so many stomachs of butter. Not for ourselves, let me add [both chuckle], but for the Tibetan guests who would come. Well, of course, in a few months that would be all streaked with green wherever there had been a little bit of buttermilk left in. But they were very, very practical about it. And they'd say, "Well, you know, if the butter gets old, it takes less to flavor the food [both laugh]...considerably less. I used to make soap out of it, butter, not being able to get any other fat and so we had a use for it, but not what they thought.
BALMER: What were some of the [pauses] things you would eat?
CARLSON: Well, our diet was wholesome, but very, very limited. Before the freezing weather set in we would bring over several yak loads of potatoes, cabbages, anything that could carry we could keep [sic]. And then they had frozen foods long before we did because they would put down a layer of spinach or a layer of green onions, cover it with water and that would freeze. And they'd put down another, so then we'd bring over a load of frozen spinach and frozen green onions and have cabbage and carrots and turnips and very, very little fruit. We'd bring in...they'd bring in frozen persimmons from the southern part that way. That was practically the only fruit, unless I canned some. But we had lots of good milk, and of course we made our own butter, and we milled our own flour, which would not be highly refined, such as it is at home, and so...and wonderful, wonderful mutton, grass fed, and we'd butcher in the fall and keep it frozen during the winter. So, oh, in a case like that there are lots of things you work out and...just like our pioneer folks here in...in America...
BALMER: That's true.
CARLSON: ...in the early days. So it was a, a good, a very healthful diet, but rather monotonous [chuckles].
BALMER: Did they have any...are there any other...unusual, particular everyday living habits the people had that...that come to your mind?
CARLSON: No. I suppose we got so used to it and lived there among them that things don't stand out too clear and too sharply...
END OF TAPE