Billy Graham Center Archives

Collection 74 - Beatrice Gage Merzig. T56 Transcript

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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, T756. Interview of Charlotte Cook by Robert Shuster on May 5, 2010.

SHUSTER: This is an interview with Ms. Charlotte Cook with Bob Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College. It took place at 10:00 AM on May 5th, 2010.

COOK: Right.

SHUSTER: Very good. Let me first ask you Ms. Cook, when and where were you born?

COOK: Oh, I was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1920.

SHUSTER: In 1920. And what years did you attend Wheaton?

COOK: Let’s see, I graduated in ‘42. That’s the Fall of ‘38...

SHUSTER: ‘38 to ‘42.

COOK: Yeah.
 
SHUSTER: And why did you attend Wheaton?

COOK: Well actually, it was the only Christian college I knew about [laughs] and I was a young Christian and I wanted to go to a Christian college. And the Glee Club had come to Boston. And I’d heard that and realized what a good musical program they had. And I wanted to major in music. And I didn’t know any other place to go [both laugh]. That helped my decision.

SHUSTER: Where did you hear them at? The Park Street Church or...?

COOK: Tremont Temple Baptist Church...

SHUSTER: Tremont Temple Baptist.

COOK: ...in Boston, yeah.

SHUSTER: When did you first meet Billy Graham?

COOK: Well when he came on campus, I don’t know what year...

SHUSTER: That was the Fall of 1940.

COOK: Okay. He was a transfer student, I know. And he was outstanding from the beginning. I mean, you noticed this tall, good looking blonde [laughs]. And everybody was interested and heard that he was already a preacher I believe, did some preaching. So he just was outstanding, so we just noticed him.

SHUSTER: How did you meet him?

COOK: Of course I didn’t really meet him personally for quite a while. Just saw him on the campus and observed him and heard kids talking about him. But....

SHUSTER: So what was the...you said that he made an impression on campus. What was the impression that people had of him?

COOK: Oh, he was well respected and liked and just...just was an outstanding student, honoring the Lord.
 
SHUSTER: What was his physical appearance at that time? What did he look like?

COOK: Well if I say, tall and good looking [both laugh], which attracted the girls of course [laughs]...

SHUSTER: Sure.

COOK: ...and he also had a good character that people admired. It wasn’t just looks.

SHUSTER: Now, you had mentioned in your note that you sent me that you attended the Gospel Tabernacle in downtown Wheaton.

COOK: Yes, that wasn’t until my senior year that I did that. I know that he became a student pastor there, I’m not sure when he started. Probably you have that.

SHUSTER: I think he started as a minister there in the fall of 1941.

COOK: ‘41. Oh well it was ‘42 when I graduated, yes. And the students kind of flocked there, a lot of them did, because they knew Billy and liked him. And it was a lot going. I had always gone to the Bible Church at Wheaton so...and I still did in the mornings, but I started going in the evenings to the Gospel Tab along with a good crowd of young people.

SHUSTER: Where was the Gospel Tabernacle?

COOK: Oh downtown Wheaton.

SHUSTER: Was it on the second or third story of a building or...?

COOK: I don’t really recall. I think it had its own building in downtown Wheaton.

SHUSTER: And what did the inside of the building look like?

COOK: Oh, just an auditorium with a [laughs] I think they were probably folding chairs. I don’t think there were pews or anything really churchy about it, but it was a good place for a meeting.

SHUSTER: You mentioned it was quite a crowd. How many people were usually there?

COOK: Oh...several hundred I would say. I’m not sure at all about that. But it was generally well filled.
 
SHUSTER: And who was it who came to the services?

COOK: Mostly college students. But I’m sure they had members who were locally residents there too that really ran the church. The students didn’t. The local members, the local members I mean.

SHUSTER: Did the...let’s see. So you say you thought there were some town members who came. Did faculty from the college come as well as students?

COOK: I don’t remember that they did because a lot of the faculty did go to the Wheaton Bible Church.

SHUSTER: As you did too.

COOK: As I did too. Yes.

SHUSTER: But you were, you say you were usually going only in the evenings.

COOK: In the evenings, yes.

SHUSTER: I know they had a Wednesday night service at the Tabernacle, did you go to that as well?

COOK: I don’t recall going to that, no. Just Sunday night.

SHUSTER: So what were the services at the Tabernacle like? What happened during the services?

COOK: Well...just like a gospel meeting. A lot of singing, and I think there were testimonies quite often, informal. And then a message by Billy.

SHUSTER: And people gave testimonies about their faith or what they had...?

COOK: Yes.

SHUSTER: What...what...?

COOK: And music and taking organ lessons. And they used to be youth meetings before the evening service and the last semester there they wanted someone to play the organ for this youth meeting. I didn’t play the regular evening service, but I did play for the youth meeting, so that was one reason I was always there [laughs].
 
SHUSTER: Oh so they had an organ at the Tabernacle too?

COOK: Yes we did.

SHUSTER: And the youth meeting was for who? You mentioned that there was mostly college students at the....

COOK: Mostly college students I guess. I don’t really recall.

SHUSTER: Was it for teenagers or...?

COOK: Yes. I think so.

SHUSTER: So they were slightly younger than the college students at the main meeting?

COOK: Well, I don’t even recall that. I can’t say.

SHUSTER: And the youth meeting, who...what happened there?

COOK: And that, I don’t remember besides seeing him.

SHUSTER: Did Billy Graham lead that too or did somebody else?

COOK: I don’t think he did. I think somebody else did.

SHUSTER: But...so generally every Sunday night, as far as you recall, there was a meeting for the youth and then there followed a regular church service after that.

COOK: Uh-huh.

SHUSTER: And were they each about an hour long?

COOK: I think so.
 
SHUSTER: What kind of preacher was Billy Graham at the Tabernacle? How would you describe him?

COOK: Well...he kept your interest alright [laughs].

SHUSTER: How did he do that?

COOK: Well, I don’t know. He was just enthused and enthused in the Lord and the Word and gave good Bible teaching. I can’t remember.

SHUSTER: What was his teaching style like at the pulpit? I mean did he move around a lot? Did he stay in one place? Use a lot of hand gestures or what do you recall about his style?

COOK: I don’t really recall. I don’t think he moved around a lot. Although he tended to be informal sort of...

SHUSTER: How do you mean informal?

COOK: Oh...well I don’t know [laughs].

SHUSTER: Do you recall any...anything from his sermons? Topics or any particular interesting...?

COOK: No.

SHUSTER: ...quotes or passages from it?

COOK: I cannot. I enjoyed his messages, I know that. But I can’t recall much about it now.

SHUSTER: Did he use the Bible during his sermons?

COOK: Oh yes.

SHUSTER: How did he use it?

COOK: Well...it was always there whether it was in his hand or on the pulpit I don’t recall.
 
SHUSTER: Anything else about the Tabernacle that you wanted to mention?

COOK: I don’t think of anything.

SHUSTER: Okay. Did you have any classes with Billy Graham?

COOK: No I didn’t. My...let’s see...my junior year, my cousin came out to Wheaton to attend the academy. And she stayed at the Lane home that I mentioned in that note...

SHUSTER: This was the home of one of the professors at the college?

COOK: Yes, they were an outstanding family. I forget what his position was at the college. But they had a large home in Wheaton and they were always hosting young people. They had a large dining room table that would hold about twenty. And they were most always had friends in to that table. And a couple of....My cousin had become acquainted with a couple of the Lane daughters before that, so she was invited to live at the Lane home when she came to attend the academy that senior year for her. So, she was of course...and Billy Graham was frequently invited to come to this Lane home for dinner. It was just...just it was open a lot to the campus students. And...so I began to hear stories about Billy from her [laughs] because she ate with him a lot. And...I can always remember when he started, you know, getting really interested in Ruth Bell. And the one thing that worried Billy was that Ruth just would never even look at him [laughs]. Because he thought that she was so wonderful, he reverenced her and he was so afraid that she would never even look at him. And of course, most of the campus girls were already looking at Billy [both laugh] so we...didn’t doubt that she would. Anyway, she was a lovely girl. I knew her somewhat, not real well but I mean...we all admired her and knew she was deeply spiritual too. So...but that is what always impressed me was that he would talk at the table about this lovely person and that was his main worry. That she would not even look at him [laughs].

SHUSTER: So I imagine of course that Ruth wasn’t at these dinners when he was talking?

COOK: No, no.

SHUSTER: Did...were you ever at one of the Lane dinners with him?

COOK: The only time was the Thanksgiving dinner. I got invited...maybe other times...but because my cousin was living there, they invited me to come to the Thanksgiving dinner. And Billy Graham was also there at that dinner.

SHUSTER: About how many people were at the dinner?

COOK: Oh, twenty at least.

SHUSTER: Wow. A large group for a dinner. A family dinner.

COOK: Yes.

SHUSTER: What do you recall about that event?

COOK: Oh it was just...I enjoyed it very much. I don’t recall any details about it, but...I was really pleased to be included.
 
SHUSTER: You mentioned that your cousins had stories about Billy Graham at these dinners. Do you recall some of those?

COOK: I...wish I could. But I can’t now [laughs].

SHUSTER: Okay.

COOK: But she got to know him quite well that way and....

SHUSTER: What was her impression of him? What was her name by the way?

COOK: Her name was Hope Prockhurst.

SHUSTER: Hope Procker?

COOK: Prockhurst.

SHUSTER: What was her impression of him?

COOK: Well she thought he was outstanding too. Fine, fine fellow.

SHUSTER: During his...I was going to say during his senior year, he was president of the Christian Council, but of course you had graduated by then.

COOK: Yes, I graduated before that.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that you got to know Ruth Bell a little bit. How did that happen?

COOK: Well it’s just on campus informally. Nothing...nothing formal, but we’d meet in your corridors or in the ladies’ room or something like that. I got to know her as a person, but not...not really close personally. We all admired her and we knew that she was a lovely gal. And knew she’d come from China and...

SHUSTER: Why did you admire her?

COOK: Oh, just her character I guess. Her sweet way and her kindness. And her love for the Lord, it shone through.
 
SHUSTER: Now, had they...did they become a couple while you were still on campus?

COOK: Yes. He...he was real happy that she paid attention to him too. He was pleased with that.

SHUSTER: I know that they both were involved with the Mooseheart Sunday School. Do you know anything about what that was?

COOK: No, I’ve heard the word but I wasn’t involved with that, and I don’t know.

SHUSTER: Anything else that you’d like to add about the time where Billy Graham was at Wheaton? Anything that comes to mind about his...?

COOK: He really respected Dr. Edman. I think that Dr. Edman counseled him quite a bit, didn’t he?

SHUSTER: Ah...yes I think so. Why, did you see some of that or involved in some of that...?

COOK: No. I didn’t see it. Dr. Edman did take a great interest in students and he saw possibilities I guess in Billy and was encouraging him.

SHUSTER: Now, did you have any contact with Reverend or Mrs. Graham after graduation?

COOK: No. I didn’t really. My cousin and I, we both followed the alumni news. The alumni news would frequently have, you know first about the wedding of Billy and Ruth and the...oh the youth meetings they were having, Youth for Christ, he began preaching at. And you began reading about his preaching here or there and doing this and that, and . . . we followed it with interest, my cousin especially where she’d been quite personally acquainted with him. And so we followed all that news with great interest. And at one time, in the alumni news, somebody said they believed this...he was the coming evangelist. And he was so right whoever it was! But nobody dreamed...

SHUSTER: Sure.

COOK: ...to any extent how the Lord was going to use him.

SHUSTER: Now you were on campus in December 1941, is that right?

COOK: Yes.
 
SHUSTER: That was your senior...senior year.

COOK: Yes.

SHUSTER: Do you recall how the campus reacted to news of Pearl Harbor?

COOK: I remember it was a Sunday afternoon. And I was in the Williston dorm at that time. And usually Sunday afternoons, we were writing...I was writing a letter home to my father. And a girl came running down the corridor who had the radio on and that’s when the news came over about that. So that’s the way I remember hearing about it. And we all went to church that night. I went to the Wheaton Bible Church. And I remember that...the preacher spoke on (what was it?) Psalm 41, I think. Was...I remember that.

SHUSTER: What was the sermon about? 

COOK: Oh, my memory isn’t as good as it used to be [both laugh]. What is that...”God is our refuge and strength, the very present help in the time of trouble.” That was the theme and he went through that. And...what does it say there about God’s power and [laughs] the nation and everything within that.

SHUSTER: “God will sustain him on his deathbed. Lord will protect him and preserve his life. He will bless him in the land, he will not surrender him to the desire of his foes.” How...how did people in general on campus react to the news?

COOK: Well I think none of us really comprehended of course what it was really all involved. I do remember one history class I was in before this happened...before Pearl Harbor and the professor was teaching about the Japanese and how they were taking one island after another in the Pacific. And some of the fellows in the class were in the back row just kind of just whispering and not paying much attention. And he broke in, the professor says “You fellows better pay attention. You’re the ones that are going to be fighting on these islands.” And that was really startling, you know? We did pay attention then. So he saw what was coming, but we didn’t at that time.

SHUSTER: And do you happen to recall the name of that professor?

COOK: No, I don’t.

SHUSTER: I know there was...let’s see...was there a professor Tiffany who was teaching history at that time?

COOK: Uh-huh. I don’t remember that. I know we had a Tiffany, a lady Tiffany I think. But not...this was a man.

SHUSTER: Did the...what kind of impact did America’s entry into the war have on campus, if any?

COOK: Well...that was early on and it was after that that the fellows were all getting called into service and were leaving. But that was mostly after I had ... gotten graduated and was home.

SHUSTER: After graduation, what was your...what were some of your activities after graduation?

COOK: Well, I graduated with a music degree and a major in organ. And I just knew I wanted to work in the Lord’s work but I had no idea. My roommate asked me to help her in a Vacation Bible School at her father’s church in upstate New York, and so I did that. And then I got home and still didn’t....You can’t earn a living just playing an organ, you know. So I know I needed some kind of a job and a little more training that I could use to earn a living. And so I found there was a secretarial school in Newton where I was living that had a four month course just for college graduates, that you just to learn typing and shorthand, office skills like that. And ...without English and other things, because a college graduate, you didn’t need that. So that sounded good to me. We went to school in the mornings and in the afternoons we went out...they sent us out to local businesses that wanted part time help. So that was both good experience and learning for me and gave me some skills that I could offer to go get a job. And in the meantime, I had put my name into the...Moody Bible Institute had a Christian workers bureau there. I don’t know if they still do or not. People could write into Moody if they wanted a worker, a Christian worker in a church. And so my name was in there and it got sent out to different churches and one of them was in Rockland, Maine. And the minister and his wife wrote me with, “Would I be in to coming to work in Rockland, Maine in music and in office work”.
 
SHUSTER: Which church was it?

COOK: First Baptist Church...

SHUSTER: First Baptist Church in Rockland, Maine.

COOK: ...in Rockland, Maine. And my first thought was “No, I don’t want to go to Maine, I want to stay here.” [laughs] but I went in to see my pastor at Tremont Temple Baptist Church and he said ...oh he read the letter and he knew pastor MacDonald and he knew the church. And it was a wonderful opportunity. And he said, “I’d jump at the chance.” So the Lord changed my mind. And so I said yes I’d come. And so I came for two weeks trial. And then they made it a six months trial. And I’ve been here ever since. I’ve played the organ for sixty years.

SHUSTER: Wow! That’s an impressive record.

COOK: And I’m thankful, so thankful, because it was just the right thing for what Lord had prepared me, the music and the office work and vacation Bible school my roommate had with me . . . everything. And many things at Wheaton too were all...when you look back, you can see the Lord prepared.

SHUSTER: Indeed.

COOK: They’re just what he had in mind for me all along.

SHUSTER: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

COOK: Well...I look back at the Wheaton experience with the greatest of joy. I enjoyed it. I loved it very much. I loved the fellowship and the testimony meetings and the Christian atmosphere, the fact that you had professors that were teaching you from a Christian, God-honoring perspective, you know? And all of those things were all very helpful. Dr. Lester Groom was my organ teacher. And he meant a lot to me too. So it was all...all in the Lord’s hands which has been wonderful. And still is.

SHUSTER: Well, Ms. Cook, I want to thank you very much for being interviewed today and for sharing your memories. It’s very good of you, and we’re glad to have it for the archives.

COOK: Well, thank you very much. It was a great experience for me. It meant an awful lot.

END OF TAPE



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