Billy Graham Center Archives

Collection 74 - Beatrice Gage Merzig. T55 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of of the unrestricted portion this interview (22 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Beatrice Gage Merzig (CN 74, T54) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English. Foreign terms or phrases which may be unfamiliar appear in italics.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 [ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
 This transcription was made by Bob Shuster, Katherine Graber and Paul Bartow was completed in September 2013.

Collection 74, T755. Interview of Beatrice Gage Merzigby Robert Shuster on May 1, 2010.

SHUSTER: So this is Bob Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives. Speaking with Mrs. Beatrice Merzig from...

MERZIG: Oneonta [New York state].

SHUSTER: Can I start to ask when and where you were born?

MERZIG: Yes, I live in my home area. I was born in 1922 in a little town just a short distance from where I’m living right now named Morris, New York.

SHUSTER: Morris, New York. And why did you attend...and what years were you at Wheaton College?

MERZIG: I was there ‘41 to ‘43. Now I was a transfer student.

SHUSTER: Oh, where did you transfer from?

MERZIG: I transferred from Houghton College in New York.

SHUSTER: Oh yes.

MERZIG: And we lived with...we were put in a freshmen dorm and put in a wing with other transfers. So it’s a social disadvantage, you may know [both laugh] being a transfer.

SHUSTER: And why is that?

MERZIG: Well many of the friendships and social patterns are formed in your freshman year I think. And again, they put us in a freshman dorm so I met the other the transfers. But many of the upper class students were already living off campus. So I felt it was a social disadvantage.

SHUSTER: Sure. Which dormitory was it, do you recall?

MERZIG: Well they called it East Hall at that time.

SHUSTER: Is that McManis?

MERZIG: It’s across the road. Yeah, they called it something else now. Across the road from Williston.

SHUSTER: Oh yes. That’s probably McManis then.

MERZIG: That sounds right.

SHUSTER: Why did you transfer from Houghton to Wheaton?

MERZIG: I transferred because I didn’t really find a major. There’s not one simple reason. But I didn’t find a major that I liked at Houghton. I had decided to go into Christian education and their department at Houghton was very undeveloped at the time. And Wheaton had a better one, and I’m very grateful for my experience there. Dr. Rebecca Price was the head of our department. And she contributed a lot to me. I’m grateful to her. So that was the main reason that I was there.

SHUSTER: Were the Lebar sisters teaching at that time at Wheaton?

MERZIG: No, everyone associates the Lebars with the Christian Ed Department, but they had not come yet. They were not there yet. The chairman of the department was named Rebecca Price. She left Wheaton and went on to Fuller Seminary and taught there for the last years of her life.

SHUSTER: Well why don’t we just talk a little bit about her. What kind of....You say she was a large influence on you. What kind of teacher was she?

MERZIG: Yes, well she was personally inspirational. And she taught me...she taught us Inductive Bible Study long before other people were even aware that there was such a thing [laughs] and we were a small department, rather intimate, and spent a lot of time...you know...spent quite a bit of time with her. And...just a personal inspiration as a student. And her viewpoint about Christian education was very helpful. We had very little literature in those days. Almost everything that we had to use for reference materials were done by what we still call liberals. And she taught us how to glean what was good from them. I think she helped break me out of kind of a narrow...what we have called a fundamentalist position [laughs]. I think that’s all I have to say about it.

SHUSTER: As a teacher, what was her method in the classroom? How did she reach her students? How did she...?

MERZIG: I guess I’m not prepared to give you a good answer on that.

SHUSTER: Okay. What did she look like? What was her appearance?

MERZIG: Oh well you can look in the old archives, I’m sure there are pictures of her [laughs].

SHUSTER: Oh yes indeed. But I mean, somebody who actually knew her and....

MERZIG: She was not physically beautiful but she was very...she was an inspirational teacher.

SHUSTER: Okay. Well when and how did you first meet Billy Graham?

MERZIG: Well I need to tell you that I never met Billy Graham [laughs].

SHUSTER: Okay.

MERZIG: Except to say hello on the campus. You know, I think he recognized my face as having been in a class with him. And occasionally I would meet Ruth and Bill on the sidewalk together. She lived in Williston. And as you walk towards the Stupe (I don’t know if they still call it that or not, the central area). We would occasionally meet on the sidewalk and say hello. And I was thinking that...one way you might think of me...of my part as being...an extra in a movie.

SHUSTER: Well [laughs].

MERZIG: I was there. And had my part to play. But...when the people who were in the starring roles came around, you observed. You noted them. So.

SHUSTER: So you only had known him and Ruth from classes that you...?

MERZIG: Yes I knew her very little. I saw them about campus and you know when we had class events they were there and I was there. But we were not interacting.

SHUSTER: What did he look like? What was his physical appearance at the time?

MERZIG: Now I’m going...I’m speaking as a college girl. Age twenty.

SHUSTER: Sure [both laugh].

MERZIG: And also as someone from the North. There were quite a few Southerners in Wheaton while I was there. And I’m a Northerner. I remember him as being very tall, quite thin, a big head of hair, and kind of a rural, Southern manner about him that I didn’t find particularly attractive [laughs]. You know, I didn’t...I don’t think I ever thought of him as boyfriend material or anything. He was already...by the time I got there, he had been at Wheaton a year. I think he was there three years. And perhaps he got credit for his time at the Florida Bible College. But I think he had three years, and I was there for two years. But by the time, the year that I came on campus, he and Ruth were already engaged. And...and they kind of moved around in a different group than the one that I was in.

SHUSTER: You said he had a rural, Southern rural manner. What did you...?

MERZIG: Well there were certain Southern manners that I picked up that were a little...you know....

SHUSTER: Can you think of an example or...?

MERZIG: No I can’t. But you do know that both of them...became more glamorous as the years went on [both laugh].

SHUSTER: Were you in any classes with Reverend Graham?

MERZIG: Yes. The story that I have told...relates to a Christian Ethics class that I was in. It was a required course of anyone who was taking a Bible major or a Christian Ed major. So it was in a large lecture room with a sloping rows and curving. The seats were on a curve. And...my maiden name began with the letter “G” and...

SHUSTER: What was your maiden name by the way?

MERZIG: Gage. G-A-G-E. And I was...so I was seated in the same row with Billy Graham. And because the seats were in a curve, I could look right at him and could see what he was doing even more clearly than I could if he’d been sitting beside me. And it was conspicuous to me that as soon as we sat down in that class, he would pull out some manilla folders that were...that were full of pink sheets. And he was sitting near his friend (I don’t know how the alphabetizing worked out here) but he sat near his friend Phil Foxwell. And Phil Foxwell was also what we called a BMOC.

SHUSTER: Big man on campus.

MERZIG: Yes. And have you heard him mentioned in your research?

SHUSTER: Well actually we have an oral history interview with Reverend Foxwell.

MERZIG: You’re going to have one?

SHUSTER: We had one.

MERZIG: Oh, you’ve had one already?

SHUSTER: Yeah.

MERZIG: Well at any rate, he was also a BMOC and he was a professional magician. And not only occasionally on campus, but he went out off campus, wore his tuxedo, put on a professional magician shows. And Billy Graham was two or three years older than the rest of us. And I think Phil Foxwell may have been a little older too. He was also engaged to Dr. Buswell’s daughter. And Ruth Bell, of coruse, was the daughter of Nelson Bell. So they were already somewhat celebrities on campus because of their family connections and their... .So they were conspicuous. Alright. So Phil Foxwell and Billy Graham. I never knew them to even acknowledge that there was a professor there or listen to a lecture. They paid absolutely no attention. But they busied themselves immediately and during the whole hour with these pink sheets. And finally I became curious and I asked around, “What do you think Billy Graham and Phil Foxwell are doing in Chrsitan Ed...Ethics class?” They said “Oh, they run a car rental service, and they’re doing their office work.”

SHUSTER: [Laughs].

MERZIG: Well I wonder now...you’re question thirteen you say, “There was a student trucking service for which he worked....”

SHUSTER: There was a student who had a trucking service...you know a kind of freight service. He moved stuff...he would move stuff for people. Furniture or whatever and Billy Graham worked for him for a while.

MERZIG: Well maybe they didn’t have a car rental service. Maybe it was this company.

SHUSTER: Well...possibly.

MERZIG: But you don’t know anything about a car rental?

SHUSTER: No...no, not off hand. That hasn’t come up but that doesn’t mean that it’s not so.

MERZIG: Well, I didn’t verify that, but that’s the way I recall the explanation. But they were definitely doing book work for a business. And they did it all...every time so that I was thinking...how I reacted to it as a student, I thought several things. One was, I thought “Isn’t this ironic, this is a Christian Ethics class, I suppose Billy Graham thinks he knows all about it already and doesn’t need any,” [laughs]. That was a little bit of my student reaction to that.

SHUSTER: How did the professor the class react to it?

MERZIG: I don’t think he paid any attention. I think that it was rather impersonal. I don’t think it was particularly well taught class. I thought it was pretty boring and dull myself. Although I was being concerned about...my own...grades. Again, it was sort of amusing to me that upon graduation, they sent us postal cards telling us...giving us certain information. And one was where your standing was in the class. I was in the upper quarter and he was in the lower quarter. And I remember....

SHUSTER: So you were doing better in Christian Ethics than Billy Graham was?

MERZIG: Yes [laughs]. I remember at the time that I thought “Well it’s clear to me.” I mean I didn’t have to wait seventy years for this. It was clear to me that there was very little correlation between grade points and success in your career. But it...I always remembered that and occasionally would recount it. Because I’m sure that all the people you talk to from the class of ‘43...continued to follow Billy Graham with interest as his career unfolded. So that some of...what I’ve heard or think about has been amended as time goes by. But you were asking for how we reacted at that time.

SHUSTER: Absolutely. Yes.

MERZIG: [Laughs].

SHUSTER: Yes. And was that the only class that you had with him?

MERZIG: No, and now you ask about Anthony Grigolia. I was in one anthropology class with him....

SHUSTER: Excuse me. Anthony Grigolia of course was the professor of anthropology at Wheaton.

MERZIG: Yes. And Grigolia was the teacher.

SHUSTER: Right.

MERZIG: But it was a much smaller class than this Christian Ethics class. It might have been twelve or fifteen of us in there. And he participated in there.

SHUSTER: Billy Graham did?

MERZIG: Yes. He wasn’t doing other things he was doing in the Christian Ethics class [laughs]. He definitely was taking part. But you ask...we called him Griggy and you were asking us to describe him as a teacher and a person. We thought he was somewhat entertaining because he spoke with a very strong (I think) Russian accent. Do you know anything...have you learned about him in asking others?

SHUSTER: Not very much.

MERZIG: Yeah, well I’m curious as to why this question was included about Dr. Grigolia.

SHUSTER: Well...Graham always cited him as a very influential professor on him.

MERZIG: On his life.

SHUSTER: Yes.

MERZIG: Well I know he was an anthropology major. And I would be interested to know what Dr. Graham said about him, because I thought he was rather mysterious. I couldn’t quite figure him out. But that was the only course that I ever took from him.

SHUSTER: Was he a good teacher? I mean did you learn from him?

MERZIG: Yes, I think I learned something about human culture. I seemed to retain a little bit. But I only took a one semester course. You notice that my accolade is for the head of my department where I spent many hours.

SHUSTER: Sure. Did you ever go down to the Union Gospel Tabernacle where Graham preached?

MERZIG: Yes indeed. Yes indeed I did.

SHUSTER: What did...well let me just ask you first: what was the physical setting of the tabernacle? What did that look like?

MERZIG: They rented the Masonic Hall and when it was set up for a service, they set out folding metal chairs. And....

SHUSTER: Was this on the third floor or the second floor?

MERZIG: We went upstairs. I don’t recall.

SHUSTER: So it’s kind of an auditorium type room with folding chairs?

MERZIG: Yes. And it was makeshift. It wasn’t a typical church setting. I did not go to the Wednesday night prayer meetings but I had gone on... but I went several times on Sunday evening.

SHUSTER: How many people were usually there at the services?

MERZIG: I would say seventy five maybe. A hundred.

SHUSTER: And were they...did they seem to be mostly from the college or were there...?

MERZIG: Well I would say there were college students but there were also people from the town of Wheaton.

SHUSTER: And what were the services...what were the services like?

MERZIG: I don’t seem to remember much about it. Interestingly enough... I seldom went down there except on Sunday evenings. And usually if I had a date. Because I much preferred listening to Reverend Welsh from the College Church or Dr. McCully from the Bible Church.

SHUSTER: Sure that’s Evan Welsh and....

MERZIG: Evan Welsh. Right. And I would much prefer to listen to his preaching. But...if I had a date, then we could walk downtown and stop and buy something to eat. And afterwards have a nice long walk back up to the campus.

SHUSTER: Gave you more time.

MERZIG: Yes [laughs]. And that was my attraction for going. It was not to hear Billy Graham. Well “What kind of impact,” you ask “Did his preaching have on the congregation.” I can’t answer that. But on me, I would...my evaluation at the time was “Billy Graham has one message. And if you’ve heard him...if you’ve heard that message, you don’t need to hear him again.” And...that was about where it stood when I was a student. And actually, as the years went by, I stood by that position [laughs].

SHUSTER: What kind of preacher was he? Did he move around a lot? Was he...did he grab the podium? Did he tell stories or gesture? How would you describe his preaching physically?

MERZIG: I can’t think of anything that others wouldn’t have seen when he was on television. It was very much the same except he was a little younger and a little less...poised perhaps. But he...he sounded...he always sounded the same to me.

SHUSTER: Anything else you want to add about his Tabernacle preaching?

MERZIG: No, I don’t think so. I think I’ve told you about everything in mind I have about that.

SHUSTER: Okay. I know he was president of the Christian Council during his senior year. Did that have any impact on you or do you recall...?

MERZIG: No it didn’t. I have...I wasn’t even aware of it.

SHUSTER: You mentioned he was a big man on campus....

MERZIG: Yes, he was.

SHUSTER: Generally how was he regarded by the other students?

MERZIG: He had a coterie of male friends that he seemed to enjoy very much. And I saw them together doing things together. But...on campus I mostly saw him walking with Ruth. And...as I say, he had this group of friends (men friends) that were with him.

SHUSTER: So they hang around...hung around together mostly?

MERZIG: Yes, yes. I will say that I don’t know what he talked about or what he was interested in, but I will say this: I expected that he would be an evangelist.

SHUSTER: Why was that?

MERZIG: We were all...he was already an evangelist. And we certainly expected him to be. But we never expected ...we never envisioned him as being an advisor to presidents or you know to have had any of the celebrity status. Honorary degrees, you know all that kind of thing that came in his future. We would not have dreamed that that would come to pass.

SHUSTER: You had mentioned you only knew him slightly so I imagine you never went over to his rooms or...?

MERZIG: No, I have a friend that was encouraging me to say “I was only there once, but it was dark!” [both laugh].

SHUSTER: And it sounds like you didn’t know anything about his work with the trucking company.

MERZIG: No I didn’t.

SHUSTER: You’ve mentioned a couple times him and Ruth as a couple.

MERZIG: Yes.

SHUSTER: Anything else you want to add about them describing them as a couple or what they looked like as a couple?

MERZIG: Yes, I remember them walking...I recall them walking around campus with her looking way up. You know her head up so she could see him. And they were very much in love and wrapped up with each other at the time as I say. She was not.... We had lit societies at that time and she was not in my lit society. And....

SHUSTER: Which was your society by the way?

MERZIG: Philesian. I think he was a Neolian. I must say that we did tend to travel with the girls from our own society. They have since done away with them I understand.

SHUSTER: Yes.

MERZIG: Long gone.

SHUSTER: But they were much beloved in their time.

MERZIG: Yeah. It was probably a good thing though. They had the negative aspects of fraternities and sororities although at a Christian school they didn’t call them that. But they did...you were a little bit separated and rather tight. So I think it was a good thing not to have them. But...she struck me at the time...when I saw her, she looked almost like a Mennonite [laughs].

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

MERZIG: Well her hair was pulled back very straight.

SHUSTER: Very plain and simple?

MERZIG: Yes. And the reason that...yes. And one reason I mention it is that there was such a change as she got a little older. She was really...became quite a glamorous person and photographed beautifully!

SHUSTER: This was while she was still a college student?

MERZIG: No, later [laughs]. Oh no after...

SHUSTER: After she got married?

MERZIG: Afterwards, yes. But again, some of the things I know about them, I’ve had some cracks filled in. Things that I learned after we were both out of...all out of college. For example...I heard Billy Graham say on more than one occasion that he really regretted that he didn’t apply himself as a student when he was in college. I heard him say it more than once. When I say I heard him say it, I heard him on television. And...or in some speaking situation. And so when my little story that I told you earlier about the Christian Ethics class, I thought I was here to testify that he did not apply himself as a student [both laugh].

SHUSTER: Some things that I haven’t mentioned the Mooseheart Sunday School that Ruth and Billy were involved in. Did you know anything about that?

MERZIG: Only to know that I would taught...occasionally on a Sunday morning I would say something to a friend and she would say “Well I’m going over to Mooseheart today to teach.” But I never went over.

SHUSTER: Was Mooseheart a town? Or...?

MERZIG: I thought it was a school...

SHUSTER: A school.

MERZIG: ...that maybe the Shriners or someone like that ran. I think it was a school for special children. But that’s all I know about it. I’m sure you’re in a position to find out.

SHUSTER: Well I hope to right now. We don’t...we don’t know too much about it.

MERZIG: I’m quite sure it was a school for special children.

SHUSTER: Now Graham, even when he was a student was holding meetings in Illinois and the surrounding states. I take it from what you’ve said that you never went to any of those.

MERZIG: No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t.

SHUSTER: Okay. Is there anything else that you wanted to add about Billy and Ruth Graham after...Billy Graham and Ruth Bell at Wheaton?

MERZIG: No. I think that was...you know as I say, I remember we had various class events. Our senior skip day when we traveled off campus. And...I can remember Ruth Bell playing and we put on ...they put out a pantomime of how the professors were lined up on the platform during chapel (which we had required chapel every day when I was there). And the professors lined up across the platform in the chapel. And I remember at this skip day program, students took the part of faculty members and dressed up like them. And many of them were hilarious! They were so well done.

SHUSTER: So this was something you did for the whole school?

MERZIG: No, no, we just did it to entertain the class. You probably know how many members there were in the class of ‘43. Do you have that?

SHUSTER: Not, I don’t have that off hand, no.

MERZIG: I’m thinking somewhere between three and 400.

SHUSTER: That sounds about right. So this was skip day, a day that the whole class skipped together as seniors?

MERZIG: Yeah. We took a trip. We took a weekend trip. We went to Benton Harbor, Michigan I recall. And stayed overnight in little cabins. We were there for a weekend.

SHUSTER: Was your class...was...Ruth and Billy with that?

MERZIG: I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.

SHUSTER: Were Ruth and Billy part of that?

MERZIG: Yes. That’s why I was mentioning it was because they were there...

SHUSTER: Oh she was imitating one of the professors?

MERZIG: She did one of the professors. I can’t remember. I’m not sure which one it was except that I remember she was very good! And the whole thing was hilarious. We had some very clever people in our class when it came to doing something like that, you know? So we were well entertained by our own class members on this weekend trip that we took. The senior skip day, the reason they call it skip day...there was a competition between the juniors and seniors. And the seniors tried to get away without the word getting out as to where we were going or when we were going, and it was something like eloping. And the joke was...the secret was to try to keep it a secret. And...

SHUSTER: Yes, they still have that.

MERZIG: Oh do they? Then I won’t try to explain it [both laugh]. Okay, I thought that was one of the things that probably went by the wayside when technology came in.

SHUSTER: No that tradition they have kept.

MERZIG: Okay.

SHUSTER: Anything else that you wanted to add about...?

MERZIG: I guess what I want to say about them...the next question: “Did you maintain contact with Reverend and Mrs. Graham after graduation,” the answer is no with the word “contact.” But I certainly followed, you know, all that was going on over the years. And I had the highest admiration. Growing admiration for them as the years went by. For his accomplishments and for the grace and poise which both of them exhibited in their contacts particularly with secular people, presidents, the Queen of England, Hollywood personalities...

SHUSTER: The Pope?

MERZIG: ...Appearing on the Late Night Show and [laughs].

SHUSTER: The Pope as well?

MERZIG: Yes I’d forgotten about that. But there were all these contacts. And they just moved among them with such confidence. Such poise and grace. And never compromising their Christian stance. I thought that that was...something I thanked the Lord for time and time again.

SHUSTER: You mentioned of course that you often saw them on campus. Were they...even at that time you see them moving with poise and grace among their classmates there on campus in that little world?

MERZIG: Well...it was very different. You’re asking me to compare different things. I think they were very much at home on the campus with the students. He was...he was not...a cut up really, but he had lots of fun. I think they just...they just participated with students although he was a little older. He was in a different category from the rest of us...or from many of us because he had already attended a school in Florida and he had an open door to the president’s office. I found out later how that came about. I didn’t know it when I was there.

SHUSTER: But he had a close relationship with Raymond Edman, the president of Wheaton?

MERZIG: Yes, that’s Dr. Buswell was the one who first arranged for him to come there. I’m sure you know that story, don’t you?

SHUSTER: Well I know that...Edman of course was president at that time.

MERZIG: Yes.

SHUSTER: And he...his brother had known Graham at the Florida Bible Institute. But as far as your story with Dr. Buswell who had left Wheaton by that time, what was the story there?

MERZIG: Well I think I have it correct...but I will just tell you what I understand. And that was...I thought it was Dr. Buswell. You said Dr. Edman’s brother went to the Florida Bible College?

SHUSTER: He didn’t go there, he was down there on a golfing trip on a vacation trip.

MERZIG: Oh well I thought that was one of the ones...

SHUSTER: And Graham was one of the ones who caddied for him.

MERZIG: Okay. But I thought it was Buswell.

SHUSTER: It was...

MERZIG: I may not have been correct about that.

SHUSTER: It was Dr. Edman. But of course at that time, Dr. Edman was president of the college and was...

MERZIG: Okay. Then it was Edman. Okay. And Edman was there when I was there of course. So I may have...I may be confused about that.

SHUSTER: Now you came...

MERZIG: Now Billy Graham caddied for him, and he told him he needed a college education if he wanted to move ahead. Now this was Dr. Edman, you say?

SHUSTER: Dr. Edman’s brother, yeah.

MERZIG: Oh.

SHUSTER: He mentioned...Dr. Graham mentions that in his memoirs in his autobiography.

MERZIG: Okay, well he ought to know. Alright, it was Edman’s brother then. But I had heard this story that he told him he should go to get a college degree. And Billy was only half convinced. But I understood that he was given the information (and I haven’t seen his biography)...that if he could find a way to earn his board and room, his tuition would be taken care of, and they encouraged him to come. And he did. He accepted the offer. But he was only half convinced that he really needed it. Which I think accounts for what I was telling you about my story in Christian Ethics.

SHUSTER: Oh sure, sure.

MERZIG: Yeah, I didn’t know that at the time, you know that he was...that he really felt...he was only half convinced that he really needed it. And...but he came and...thought this was an opportunity he might as well take.

SHUSTER: Sure.

MERZIG: There was a touch of arrogance. He thought “Oh, I’ve been preaching since I’m sixteen years old now. Like this college education is going to make any difference,” [laughs]. That was kind of his attitude, I think. But...

SHUSTER: Now let me ask you, you had come in 1941 correct? To Wheaton?

MERZIG: Yes.

SHUSTER: So you were there in December of ‘41 during...when Pearl Harbor was attacked?

MERZIG: Oh yeah.

SHUSTER: What do you recall about the effect that had on campus?
                         
MERZIG: Well I have what you used in your letter as “strong memory of it.” I was in East Hall dorm. It was a Sunday afternoon. And we girls were just taking it easy. And somebody had radio on in their room and heard the news and came up and down the hall telling us about it. And we all kind of gathered together and gasped [laughs] together.

SHUSTER: Did any of you know where Pearl Harbor was at that time? Had you heard of it before?

MERZIG: Mmm...I don’t think so particularly. I mean we knew that they had attacked Hawaii. No. The answer is no.

SHUSTER: So what effect did it have? How did people respond?

MERZIG: Well, we were of course all shocked and...discussing it, the tragedy. And well if you’ve been through 9-11, you know how we felt. It was something like that.

SHUSTER: Were...and what was the reaction on campus? Were people angry or despondent or fearful? What was the reaction among...of the people on campus?

MERZIG: I don’t have any recollection of that particularly. I think we had a prayer meeting. I think Dr. Edman called us together in the chapel. And we had...I think we had a special prayer meeting. That seems to be all I recall. As time went by...of course...more and more students...more and more of the men were drafted...so that we finally had many fewer men on campus. Mostly those who were deferred either for physical reasons or because they were theological students. Otherwise...

SHUSTER: So the population was largely women then or a large predominance of women on campus?

MERZIG: Well somewhat. I think life went on. We were all aware of it but college students are rather insular, I think [both laugh] tend to go on with your life.

SHUSTER: Anything else that you want to add?

MERZIG: No, I don’t think it...anything that I think would be of any particular interest to others.

SHUSTER: If you’d like to say a few words about your activities after you left campus. You said you were interested in Christian Education. Did you become a teacher?

MERZIG: I worked...no I didn’t actually. I worked one year in a Presbyterian church in Detroit, Michigan and then I married the man who I’d fallen in love with my freshman year at Houghton College [laughs]. And came . . .and he liked...he lived in Buffalo, New York but came...but liked the county that I lived in. He fell in love with it ... with the countryside here and so...much to my original dismay, we came back to my home territory [both laugh]. After we were married, I worked to pay our living expense while he went through medical school. And then he opened an office. I was a homemaker and had three sons and managed my husband’s business office for about twenty five years. I didn’t actually have a career of my own.

SHUSTER: Well it sounds like a career to me, I mean...

MERZIG: I worked for ten years...I served ten years on the Board of Trustees for a Baptist Seminary here in...that I enjoyed doing. But I worked, you know...just the usual thing of being active in Sunday school and church activities. And my husband passed away in 2004. And...but I have one son who lives within walking distance of me.

SHUSTER: Oh well that’s nice.

MERZIG: Yeah. And when you talk to the people in the class of ‘43...you know they’re all approaching ninety years old.

SHUSTER: Somewhere around there, yeah sure.

MERZIG: [Laughs]. So you have a little insight into...

SHUSTER: Indeed. Anything else you’d like to add?

MERZIG: I don’t think of anything, Bob.

SHUSTER: Well Mrs. Merzig, it’s been very kind of you to take this interview. I appreciate it and think it’s very worthwhile to have recorded your impressions this way. I’m going to turn off the recorder now.


END OF TAPE



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Wheaton College 2013