Billy Graham Center
Collection 74 -
Jane (Levring) Miner
. T62 Transcript
to listen to an audio file of this interview (35 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Jane (Levring) Minor (CN 74, T62) 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 and Paul Bartow was completed in July 2013.
Collection 74, T62. Interview of Mrs. Jane Levring Miner by Robert Shuster on August 3, 2010.
SHUSTER: This is an interview by...of Mrs. Jane Levring Miner?
MINER: Miner. [prononuced Minor]
SHUSTER: Miner. By Bob Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives for Wheaton College. And this interview took place on May 26th, 2010 over the telephone. Let me first ask you when and where you were born.
MINER: I was born in Jackson, Mississippi.
SHUSTER: And when was that?
MINER: In 1925. In March.
SHUSTER: And how did you...come about being at Wheaton?
MINER: Well, Corinne Smith, the dean of women [from 1929 until 1959], had kept asking my mother if she would please come to Wheaton College and be a house mother. And my mother couldn’t go the first few times she was asked because we were looking after our grandparents. But they had both died and Corinne found out about it and she wired my mother to please come, that somebody in that little house called Maranatha had to give it up. And she needed somebody for that right away. It was at midterm, it was right at the Pearl Harbor in 1941, December. And so she said...
SHUSTER: And a house mother of course was a...would be an adult who would be living in a house where college students roomed.
MINER: Yes. And sometimes they called them house directors.
MINER: But what it was was a house mother. They looked after the kids and...everything like that. And so, they said that if she would bring me, if I would live with her, I could finish my last few months at Wheaton Academy and then I could enter the college [chimes in background] in 1942.
MINER: Which I did. So, well I mean I started right when I was supposed to. So that’s how we happened to go in the wintertime, and when we got off the train, people in those days always wore high heels and gloves and hats. It was really quite an ordeal to travel [Shuster laughs] from Mississippi all the way to Illinois. And all that dress. And we got there and I’m pretty sure it was Billy and his partner who took our bags up to the college, but we had to walk in the snow. It was white...
SHUSTER: So you arrived at the train station and that’s where they met you?
MINER: Yes, we got off at the train station. The Northwestern we came on.
SHUSTER: And you walked through the snow from...?
MINER: Down on the train place up to the college. It’s about a mile or so.
SHUSTER: Oh at least I’d say, yeah.
MINER: Yeah, and we got there and it was time for dinner. And we’d sit in line at what they’d call North Hall. And the first person I met has been my best friend ever since. Jean Wiggs Bolinder and she said “Oh, I’m from the South! I like your hat!” [Both laugh]. And she could tell I thought differently and she said “I’m from the South and I go to the academy, come on out and I’ll introduce you to some people who were there.” So from the very beginning, I had a good friend.
SHUSTER: And the academy of course was a secondary school, a Christian secondary school.
MINER: Yes, it was right on the campus. It was for a while Schell Hall and then the library (it’s not the library now)nbut it was right on the campus. It was in the same block with North Hall.
SHUSTER: Now, you said that you thought your bags were moved by Billy Graham and his...
SHUSTER: ...John Streater.
MINER: Yes. But I didn’t notice. I didn’t notice when they came in that night. But the next year, when I was living in North Hall, I’m pretty sure Billy and somebody else delivered our bags because they said “man on the floor.” And it was the first time I’d ever heard that. And I noticed what they were wearing and this guy, that I found out later was Billy Graham, had on these old country shoes. You know they were high topped leather. They’re just right in fashion now with what the fellows are wearing but back in those days, most of the boys wore saddle outs with something like that. And I looked at his shoes, and I thought “My goodness, he must be from the farm.” [Shuster laughs]. And sure enough he was!
SHUSTER: But did you meet...did you meet him at that time?
MINER: I don’t think I met him. I didn’t...no. I mean we...I don’t know if we paid him fifty cents or a dollar for all our bags, I don’t remember. But it was a small amount and there was an exchange. But I didn’t...I didn’t meet him.
SHUSTER: Did you get to know him as you were...?
MINER: I got to know him. Now he was already...I believe he was in the class of 194...
MINER: ‘43? Yeah. Well I was in the class of ‘46. So he was quite a bit older. But, he was interested in Christian things and as the year went on, I was friends with...one of the Lane boys. I probably shouldn’t say who it was, but I dated...
MINER: ...the oldest Lane boy alot. And that’s why, at night, we would go to the...I would go to the Tab[ernacle] with him.
SHUSTER: The Union...the United Tabernacle.
MINER: The Union Tabernacle on Sunday nights. And very often, I was invited to their home for Sunday dinner. Because it was a time when they had all these missions...the Lanes had all these missionaries that were their friends and they would have them there. And they would have prepared the meal the day before so that they could just put it in the oven and it would be nice. And this was on Sunday noons and I would be there, and that’s where I met Billy and Ruth.
SHUSTER: So they were often guests too?
MINER: Yes, they were there. And then after the meal, they would often pray with...the Lanes would have everybody...we’d all pray. It was a huge table. At least twenty people very often. It must have been several tables together in a long dining room. And it was quite close to the college. It wasn’t much of a walk from the college. And they always had some missionary kids living there too. And so you’d always meet interesting people.
SHUSTER: Well that’s quite a lot of hospitality to do that every Sunday for...
MINER: Yeah. Now Mortimer Lane taught economics at the college. I heard he was a dollar a year man. I don’t know if that’s true or not. That’s just what I heard.
SHUSTER: A dollar a year man of course was someone who volunteered their services to the government.
SHUSTER: So you got to meet Ruth and Billy at the Lane’s house, what kind of...
MINER: Yes I did.
SHUSTER: ...what kind of impression did they make on you?
MINER: Well, that they were really nice people. And I don’t remember if it was at this time that he was head of the Christian service organization on campus, and...
SHUSTER: Yes, that was in his senior year. So it would have been in ‘42 or ‘43.
MINER: And I remember that I took part vigorously in that. I used to go and...I used to go to Elmhurst and do child evangelism. The lady in whose home we met would tell me “Honey, the children don’t understand your Southern drawl. You’re going to have to go a little slower.” [Laughs] But Billy was in charge of where people went. Some people went to something called Mooseheart [orphanage in Batavia] and other times we would go on the train. We would pay our way to go on the train and back to Chicago and just sit by people to practice child...practice evangelism. Personal evangelism.
SHUSTER: Just to witness to them...
SHUSTER: ...and talk to them about Jesus.
MINER: Yeah. And one time, see this is during the time that the war was going on. And there were a lot of boys coming and going. And very often, the Lane fellow, Warren, that I’d been dating. He’d been out of town, so I’d date other people. And one time, with Jack (I don’t remember his last name) we double dated with Ruth and Billy. And we ate supper all together. The main street (I think it was called Front Street, but I’m not sure)...
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. In Wheaton?
SHUSTER: What do you recall about that dinner?
MINER: Well, what I recall about that was that they were perfectly normal people [Shuster chuckles] and they laughed about things. They were funny and spiritual. But not oppressive at all. Not, you know....
SHUSTER: What kind of things did you talk about?
MINER: Well I just don’t remember. Remember, I’m eighty-five years old and that’s a long time ago.
MINER: We probably talked about the spiritual...things on the campus. Because all of us were involved in things like the Student War Board and the boys that were going off that we might never see again. Very often, we’d hold a chapel service because one of the boys that had gone off had already been killed. And so we’d hold a memorial service. And I don’t remember ever hearing Billy ever speak in chapel, although he probably did. But I just knew him as a...as a friend. And I liked Ruth a lot too because they were both from North Carolina. And although I was from Mississippi, I spent every single summer of my life in North Carolina. And, you know it kind of draws you together.
SHUSTER: Sure. Did Billy have a strong Southern accent at that time?
MINER: Yes, I think he.... Yeah [laughs] he had a good, strong Southern accent. I don’t notice things like that. People notice me [Shuster laughs] but they...I don’t notice things like that that much.
SHUSTER: Tell me for yourself, what was it like being a Southerner in a northern college?
MINER: Well, it was really fun because...the kids on the campus nicknamed me Yankee [both laugh] because it just was a joke because of how I talked. And one time, the head of my department when I was a sophomore said to me “Ms. Levring, I want to see you after class.” And I was scared, I didn’t know what it was. But he called me into his office and he said “Why are you so impudent to me? Why do you say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir?’” And I said “Oh Dr. [Clinton O.] Mack, that’s the way we’re taught to do in the South.” [Shuster laughs] But he thought I was being impudent.
SHUSTER: Being sarcastic, he thought or...?
MINER: Impudent, well yeah. I guess when I answered questions I would say “no sir.”
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. You had mentioned that you often went to the Tabernacle...
MINER: Yes in the evenings because I went to the Bible church you know. I went to that with my mother.
SHUSTER: What was the service at the Tabernacle like?
MINER: Well, it wasn’t like a beautiful church. It was somewhat small. But, you know, they sang normal songs. But I think they had some choruses too, which I liked. And I thought that was nice. And I enjoyed hearing Billy preach. My friend Warren [?] was the treasurer of his church. So that’s why he would always go there.
SHUSTER: He was the treasurer of the Tabernacle?
SHUSTER: How many people were usually there?
MINER: I couldn’t really tell you. I...you know I could take a guess. But I couldn’t tell you.
SHUSTER: Was it a big group like 200 or a small group like twenty...
MINER: No, I would say by the way I recollect it now that there were under 100.
SHUSTER: Under 100. Yeah.
MINER: But I could be wrong.
SHUSTER: And what were Billy’s sermons like?
MINER: Good old Southern sermon, like I was used to in Mississippi.
SHUSTER: So what makes up a good old Southern sermon?
MINER: Well...they usually had an altar call at the end. Not necessarily an altar call, but a chance for a person to accept Christ. And every church doesn’t do that now. But maybe, maybe the [Wheaton] Bible Church did it too. I didn’t think of it being anything real different. Just small. Because I had come from a large church and the Bible church was pretty large, not too large.
SHUSTER: Do you recall anything about the sermons that you heard him preach?
MINER: No I don’t.
SHUSTER: What kind of preacher was he? What was his preaching style?
MINER: Well, he was enthusiastic. You see, it’s mixed up to me because ever since then, my husband and I, Paul Stam (he was the class of ‘44), he and I would always...be...I forget what you call it...counselors at the Billy Graham Crusades. We were twice in New York doing it and once in the South where we were somewhere.
SHUSTER: In Jackson?
MINER: Well not in Jackson, no. I’ve forgotten. We’ve lived several places. But because we’ve been counselors, I’ve seen Billy Graham preach an awful lot. And when we settled in North Carolina, when we were...I don’t know when it was...well when we settled here for quite a while when my husband was with the textile companies. Um...he...my husband was president of the Wheaton club and I remember one time, Billy and Ruth coming to it. Maybe it was held in Charlotte, I’m not sure, but they came to the club.
SHUSTER: So this was the alumni club?
SHUSTER: And what did...what did you talk about...what did he talk about then?
MINER: Well, I couldn’t say. I don’t think he was a speaker. I really never spent a lot of time talking with him. But I’m really good friends with one of his daughters, Anne Graham Lotz. She lives in Raleigh not far from me. And we’ve been on some trips with her and her husband. She’s the one that preaches.
SHUSTER: Yes, indeed.
SHUSTER: At the Tabernacle, do you recall any of the.... Sometimes, I think they had Dr. [V. Raymond] Edman spoke there and Gorden Clark and H.C....H.Z. Cleveland. Do you recall any of those speaking...?
MINER: I don’t.
SHUSTER: No? I know that...Billy also said in his memoirs that it was first at Wheaton that he had...that he first encountered African Americans as fellow students. Do you recall any of the black students at...?
MINER: Well, listen, the only one that I kind of knew (and I’m not sure of this) I was told that a relative of Haile Selassie [Emperor of Ethiopia] was the black boy that we would see. Not his son, but maybe a nephew. I’m not sure who it was. But I just was told by somebody that that’s who it was. And I’d grown up in the south, so I’d never been [pauses] in any school with a black person. I wasn’t against ‘em, it just wasn’t the custom.
SHUSTER: Do you recall that student’s name?
MINER: No. I wasn’t in the class with them, I just know that he was in the hallways. You’d see him sometimes.
SHUSTER: You mentioned how Billy was the president of the Christian Council.
SHUSTER: What kind of leader was he as far as the council was concerned?
MINER: Oh I think he was a good leader! I mean people followed him. People chose...they had a lot of people doing different things. That was a big group that went and taught Sunday school. Another group that rode on the trains and did personal evangelism and they probably did a lot more things that I don’t know about because I was kind of young then. I mean, I was in the lower class.
SHUSTER: Did he have any special projects or did he initiate anything new as a leader?
MINER: [Pauses] I don’t know. But you know was so enthusiastic about things that I’m sure it was easy for us to follow him. I always remember it was a positive experience if we went to a meeting of...of the group.
SHUSTER: Went to a meeting of the group?
MINER: What’s that?
SHUSTER: I’m saying you were saying it was a positive experience if you went to a meeting of the group?
MINER: Well, of the group...of the people that were in the Christian service.
SHUSTER: Oh I see.
MINER: Organization. It seems to me that we might have met once or twice. It wasn’t the kind of thing that you were in it. Just if you were assigned what to do.
SHUSTER: In other words you chose what you were going to do?
MINER: ...wanted to do.
SHUSTER: You said that you admired his enthusiasm. Can you think of an example of that enthusiasm?
MINER: Well, as I recall he would give instances of people that had been saved on the train. Or sometimes, some of us...I was in a group that would go to the Cook County hospital. Now, he was never in my group. He was just in charge of it. He probably went with other groups. But I was one of the underlings.
MINER: I went to the Cook County hospital and would visit people that didn’t have any relatives.
MINER: And that was kind of scary. But I got over it an enjoyed it. And I think generally that it’s helped me be...a soul winner all my life. That it...having had these experiences has let me see the normality of.... You know the Christian life is to share. Is to grow yourself and to share Christ with those around you.
SHUSTER: And these experiences witnessing helped you start on the right path?
MINER: Yeah. And it seems to me that sometimes we’d get together and share these experiences. I don’t remember specifically. I don’t have a picture of where it would be but I can remember stories of people telling what had happened. And I do remember that Billy asked my husband Paul in the class under him (I wasn’t married then)...
MINER: but he asked my husband, Paul Stam if he would...consider being the chairman of...Christian service organization next year. And Paul said no because he had been elected to be the student council president next year.
SHUSTER: So he was looking for somebody to succeed him as president of the Christian council?
MINER: Yeah. I guess he was just feeling people out. Seeing who might be good.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that you were with Ruth and Billy at the Lane house and you double dated once. What were they like as a...?
MINER: Yeah, but it wasn’t at the Lane house. That was when we went on Front Street. And that was when I was with Jack (I can’t remember his last name). But he was the guy who was in charge of the flowers. All the boys would buy their flowers for the girls from him [Shuster laughs]. He went on to become a doctor. But he had just asked me out one night and he said “we’re going to go out with some friends of mine for dinner.” And that’s who it was, Billy and Ruth.
SHUSTER: How did Billy and Ruth relate to each other as a couple? What were they like as a couple?
MINER: It was just normal! It was really nice. It was just normal. He was always full of life and laughing and talking.
SHUSTER: Is there anything else you wanted to add about being at Wheaton with Billy and Ruth?
MINER: Well I don’t know if...I don’t think Billy and Ruth were here one night, the night this happened. But I don’t know. They might have been. But one day I saw a fellow named John Parks who had come to Wheaton to visit Betty [unclear]. He had come from...Princeton and then he had gone to Faith Semniary and had known her in Tennessee. And he had came...she had asked somebody where was a nice place to go for Sunday dinner after church. And she said “well I’ve heard people say that it’s fun to go to the Lanes.” So after the dinner was over that day and after all the praying for all the missionaries and for Wheaton and everything, for Billy and the campus churches, I saw John Parks go up and try to pay Mortimer Lane for the dinner. And that was the first he knew that it was just a normal home and not a place where you would go and pay. It was so funny. They were so embarrassed. But I don’t know that Billy was there then. I don’t remember. The only thing I just can remember is the incident that I just told you.
SHUSTER: Now after Billy had graduated, he became pastor at the Western Springs Baptist Church...
MINER: Yes. And I used to go out there.
SHUSTER: What was that like?
MINER: It was wonderful. They would just sing and sing and sing and....
SHUSTER: Who would just “sing and sing and sing?”
MINER: Well it was Beverly Shea. They had a radio program out there.
SHUSTER: Yes, Songs in the Night it was called.
MINER: Yes and a lot of kids...I mean I would go with different people. You know it was during the war, and whoever was home, I’d go with them.
SHUSTER: So you’d drive out to...so a group of Wheaton students would drive out to Western Springs?
SHUSTER: And what was...where was the program broadcast from?
MINER: Well I think it was the church.
SHUSTER: The church had a studio?
MINER: Well it might have been the basement. I’m not sure. It wasn’t anything huge. It wasn’t a big thing. But I went...several times and I don’t remember it as being a big church.
SHUSTER: So what was it like when you went there? What was...what was the program?
MINER: Well it was very alive. And it wasn’t...whoopdedo.
SHUSTER: [Laughing] well what do you mean it was very alive but wasn’t whoopdedo?
MINER: Whoopde dois like when people are trying to make things a little more interesting than they really are.
SHUSTER: [Laughs] So it wasn’t forced.
MINER: Yeah. It wasn’t forced. It was real. And...he would preach. Over the years I would go at different times. I mean...I’d go because people....See not many people had cars back then. So you’d usually go with people who could get their hands on a car.
SHUSTER: Did you need special permission to be gone on Sunday night on campus?
MINER: I think so.
SHUSTER: Did you say no?
MINER: I think so. You’d have to sign out where you were going.
SHUSTER: And how many...?
MINER: You’d sign out and then when you came in, you’d sign in what time you got in.
SHUSTER: And how many people from Wheaton usually went?
MINER: Oh, it was...it would be about as full as the Tab[ernacle] on Sunday night.
SHUSTER: And you said...
MINER: That’s the way I remember it.
SHUSTER: And you said the Tab was maybe about 100 people?
MINER: Yeah, I’m not that good at estimating.
SHUSTER: And what were...what were Billy’s sermons like?
MINER: I couldn’t tell you, but they were always evangelistic. And I think a lot of us were kind of learning how to present the gospel in different ways so it made it more interesting because we were learning not how to preach, but we were learning how to go about getting people to listen to you.
SHUSTER: And he was...
MINER: And then presenting their need of Christ.
SHUSTER: And Billy was one of the ones you were learning from?
MINER: Yeah. He was. And I remember that they were very close to president Edman. Because sometimes I remember seeing them out on the grass talking together.
SHUSTER: Who? Billy and Ruth?
MINER: Billy and Ruth talking to Dr. Edman out on the grass near that gate. You know the stone gate?
SHUSTER: West Gate?
MINER: Is it West Gate?
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. On the campus. The gate on the western edge of campus.
MINER: Okay, except I don’t know east from west.
SHUSTER: [Laughs] Okay well....
MINER: At Wheaton. But it’s the one that was near the president’s house. That’s probably the alumni house now.
SHUSTER: Yes it is, yes it is. What was also on the program besides Billy Graham’s sermons?
MINER: You mean um...?
SHUSTER: At Songs in the Night when you went?
MINER: Yeah. I don’t know. But I think...
SHUSTER: You had mentioned George Beverly Shea.
MINER: Yeah and now I wonder if Al Smith would lead some of those. I’m not sure. I might have just heard him at the Bible church.
SHUSTER: So what kind of music did they have at the program? What kind of thing was...?
MINER: Oh they’d have good music. They’d have hymns, meaningful hymns. And...sometimes new choruses because a lot of us had not known any choruses like “He Lives, He Lives,” “Christ Jesus Lives Today.” We’d just grown up with hymns. But you know there are hymns and hymns.
MINER: So it seems to me they always chose one that had meaning to the words that college kids could identify with.
SHUSTER: Anything else about trips out to Billy’s church or the radio program that you recall?
MINER: I can’t. I’m sorry.
SHUSTER: No this has been very good! Is there anything else you’d like to add? Your memories from those times?
MINER: No, but it was all a happy experience. I loved being at Wheaton. And...I didn’t know that Billy Graham was famous until after I left Wheaton. I mean I knew I liked him. And I liked Beverly Shea singing. But I was aware...I didn’t just like them because they were famous. I liked them because they were genuine persons of integrity. Lots of fun.
SHUSTER: You mentioned a couple times that they were lots of fun, do you recall any particular instance?
MINER: Well I heard about Ruth coming home (I didn’t see this happen but) she came home one night after she was supposed to have gotten in at a certain time and she was quite a bit later. So she climbed in through a window [laughs] over at Williston where she lived. Haven’t you heard that story?
SHUSTER: No I haven’t hear that one before [laughs]. So it’s good that we have this interview.
SHUSTER: Anything else you’d like to add?
MINER: I’ve...I’ve been to their home in Montreat [North Carolina] one time. I wasn’t invited for a meal or anything, but somehow I was invited to come up there with a friend. And it was certainly a lovely home without being pretentious. And I’ve always liked the children.
SHUSTER: Yes, you have said that you were friends with Anne Lots.
MINER: One that I know the best is Anne Lots. Anne Graham Lots.
MINER: We went on a...I went on a Sea Cloud trip to the Mediterranean and she was on it. And my son, Carl Stam and his wife, were the worship leaders. And I told them that she was a really good speaker because I had heard her speak at Bible Study Fellowship. And so, they asked her to speak one morning when we were visiting the place [in Greece] where...they first in...they call it Philippi where this Jewish woman had become a Christian, so she and her friends would meet there by the river. She’s the one that was the dire of purple...Lydia. [referring to story in Acts 16:11-15]
SHUSTER: Oh yes.
MINER: And so they had the service right there. So Chip and Doris [?] told the head of the thing that we ought to ask Anne Lots to do something because she was a good speaker. It seems to me she spoke there.
SHUSTER: Mmm. Well I want to thank you Mrs. Miner [mispronounces name]for...
MINER: My name is Miner [pronounced as Minor].
SHUSTER: Miner, I’m very sorry.
MINER: I was in the class of ‘42. But he...was in medical school when I was in college. So both of us had lost our spouses. And I’d been alone for fifteen years. And he’d been alone for let’s say seven or so. We met at a Wheaton reunion and we decided to marry.
SHUSTER: Wow that’s...
MINER: So we spent part of our time in Vancouver, Canada. But...most of the time here because I’ve been running a camp in my backyard, a Christian camp for stringed instrument and tennis! We think the little geniuses should know something to keep their feet on the ground.
MINER: So we have that. We’d involve about 150 people in two weeks. It’s just a day camp. But we have orchestra and chorus and art and soccer and tennis.
SHUSTER: Oh it sounds you...
MINER: Music theory. Yeah, the music part is really serious. We have several of our instructors with PhDs in...music. But I don’t have a PhD, but I’ve taught over 3,000 people at least one skill level in tennis. And I do it because it’s a really easy way to get to know people and bond with them. Then they listen to what you have to say about the Lord.
SHUSTER: Oh it sounds like an excellent camp.
SHUSTER: I want to thank you for talking with me today and for recording this for the archives. Thank you very much!
MINER: You’re welcome!
END OF TAPE
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