Billy Graham Center
Collection 74 - David Dresser. T64 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 David Dresser (CN 74, T64) 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 Grabner, and Paul Bartow was completed in March 2014.
Collection 74, T64. Interview of David Dresser by Bob Shuster on June 30th, 2010.
SHUSTER: Bob Shuster from the Billy Graham Center Archives.
DRESSER: Right, Bob.
SHUSTER: I am recording this interview. Is that okay?
SHUSTER: Well, I will just go through the questions I sent you and you answer as long or short as you want to...
SHUSTER: ...and we’ll see how it goes.
SHUSTER: When and where...[clears throat] when and where were you born?
DRESSER: I was born in the Old Blanchard House in Wheaton in 1923.
SHUSTER: Oh. And where is the Old Blanchard House? I’m afraid I don’t know.
DRESSER: Well, then it was on 107 North President Street. It’s been demolished now. And Missionary Furlough Homes has...bought the property.
SHUSTER: And are you...are you part of the Blanchard family or...?
DRESSER: My mother was the granddaughter of Jonathan Blanchard. My grandmother was his daughter.
SHUSTER: Oh! So you’re his great grandson.
SHUSTER: Oh. A....
DRESSER: I am.
SHUSTER: I’m sorry, go ahead.
DRESSER: That’s it.
SHUSTER: And what years were you at Wheaton Academy?
DRESSER: I transferred from Wheaton High School in 19...let me see. I graduated from the Academy in ‘41.
DRESSER: And entered Wheaton College the following fall.
SHUSTER: And how...?
DRESSER: So I was in Wheaton...I was in college the same time that Billy Graham was too.
DRESSER: But I didn’t have any contact with him. I just was aware of him.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. And so how many years were you at the Academy then?
DRESSER: Two years.
SHUSTER: Two years.
DRESSER: Junior and Senior year.
SHUSTER: And you say you went to Wheaton in ‘41?
DRESSER: Yeah. I started Wheaton College in ‘41. The Fall of ‘41.
SHUSTER: Right. And...your...you graduated in ‘45?
DRESSER: No, I went in...’42...a bunch of us had enlisted in the army, and so we were in the reserves. And the College informed us that we should not enroll for the second semester because Roosevelt was calling up all the reservists. So [clears throat] I, with twenty-three other guys, we went in in February of ‘43, and I didn’t graduate until ‘48.
SHUSTER: Why...why did you attend the academy? You mentioned you transferred from the high school to the Academy.
DRESSER: [Laughs] Well, I was getting a little wild [both laugh]. The two...my parents sent me to the Academy to reform me [both laugh].
SHUSTER: Well, at least you didn’t have to leave home.
DRESSER: [Unclear]in the high school didn’t fit the rules of conduct [laughs] of College Church.
SHUSTER: So how did you feel about the Academy?
DRESSER: I enjoyed it. There was no...there was no pressure on the “no-nos,” dancing and movies and all that stuff. So.... And in fact it was my senior year that I really committed my life to Christ.
SHUSTER: How did that happen?
DRESSER: Well, I had.... I...College Church...there was a strong emphasis on...there was constantly a strong emphasis on accepting Christ and being born again. And we got it in Sunday school, we got it in.... In fact my Sunday school teachers were men from the College. Ed Coray was one of my Sunday school teachers and Dale Nelson and then also in Vacation Bible School and evening services and all. And so I had...I was always underconviction when the...when the invitation was given. And Dr. Welch, who was my pastor...
SHUSTER: Evan Welch.
DRESSER: Yeah, Evan Welch was my pastor. And he had...he had [A. W.] Tozer come out from Chicago and conduct a series of special meetings. That was when I was...I think I was junior high age then.
DRESSER: And [clears throat] so they asked us to come forward. And...the guy.... They had us go down, they didn’t have us come forward to the front, they had us go downstairs and Doc [Jack] Cardiff who used to be the welterweight boxing champion of the world and had been a masseur for Billy Sunday, he was there. And I had heard him in chapel in junior academy, so I knew who he was. And I didn’t need what [laughs]...he had put his arm around.... “Brother, “ you know, kneel, and went the whole nine yards. And I knew exactly what to say [clears throat]. I just got mad I wanted to get him off my back. So I walked out of there. Determined I was never going forward again. So my senior year in high school, they had at the beginning...each semester they had evangelistic services at the College then. And so I attended one another evangelistic service. And I was under conviction again. I got up, walked out, and went home and I sort of hit it out with the Lord. And I said “Look ,Jesus, if you’re real, then I’ll give my life to you. But I’ve got to know you’re real.” And so now there was no great flap. And that was the turning point of my life. The Lord met me and I became...I became gradually aware that he had met me. And that was sort of the start of my Christian life. That was in ‘41, spring of ‘41.
SHUSTER: Do you recall who the evangelist was?
DRESSER: No, I don’t remember who the evangelist was. I do remember though the...clears throat] in ‘42...when the... [clears throat].... Oh I remember two spiritual outbreaks. One was when I was in the junior academy, we used to come and sit on the steps. I don’t remember who the speaker was but I remember [clears throat] this guy they called him “Anthracite.”. His name was Powell. He came from Pennsylvania. He had been in the...he was older than the other guys. He’d been in a mining accident. And I think he came to Wheaton from the influence of Ed Coray’s brother.
SHUSTER: But he came as a student?
DRESSER: And I remember him and so he had a prosthesis on his right arm.
DRESSER: Right wrist and hand. He’d lost it in the mining accident. And I remember him getting up in front of the...walking up and standing in front of the chapel shaking that prosthesis. And there were a bunch of the jocks sitting in the back and saying “You guys better...come...you better come to the Lord before he has to do something like this to bring you to your senses.” And a bunch of the guys came forward.
SHUSTER: So he would....
DRESSER: And I remember that.
SHUSTER: So he would just be preaching in front of the chapel?
DRESSER: No, he just.... The classes would just shut down and the people were getting up and giving testimonies and stuff. So he just got up and...
SHUSTER: Oh I see. So this was during a revival on campus.
DRESSER: Yeah. It was during a revival.
SHUSTER: And it was your junior year you say at the Academy?
DRESSER: No that was at the junior academy.
SHUSTER: Oh junior academy.
DRESSER: That would be...probably eighth grade.
SHUSTER: Oh, so about 1936?
DRESSER: Something like that [clears throat].
SHUSTER: And then...so you actually started attending Wheaton in the fall of ‘41. Why...?
DRESSER: I was at the junior academy then which was...at that time was in the attic of the Academy building.
DRESSER: And all our teachers were seniors at the college who were majoring in teaching.
SHUSTER: But you yourself began attending Wheaton in the Fall of 1941, is that right?
SHUSTER: Why did you choose to go to Wheaton College?
DRESSER: Because I wanted a good education. I wanted a Christian education. At that time, I was seeking Christian influence.
DRESSER: I was not a rebel anymore.
SHUSTER: Why not another Christian college? Why Wheaton?
DRESSER: Well...I was right on the campus. It was just a foregone conclusion. The great grandson of Jonathan Blanchard [both laughing]. I didn’t even consider any other school.
SHUSTER: When did you first meet Billy Graham?
DRESSER: Well, when I was a senior in high school...in the Academy, Ralph Christiansen and I used to go the wrestling room at night and work out. And...there were other guys there from the college that would occasionally work out. So one time we were there, Billy Graham came down and wanted to work out. Someone wanted to work out with him and...so I agreed to. But he was so much taller than I. We started in the referee’s position and I was on top. I remember I could barely get my arm over his back. And so I grabbed his left arm, rammed my head in his armpit and flattened him out. [Shuster chuckles] I can’t remember much beyond that. I don’t think we wrestled very long because it was obvious I wasn’t getting...wasn’t going to give him much of a workout then.
SHUSTER: Because you were a better wrestler than he was or he was a better wrestler?
DRESSER: No, because I was so much smaller than he.
DRESSER: And I thought...when I read his autobiography, I found out that he...he went out for wrestling. So he may have been out for wrestling at that time, I don’t know. But he was a very intense person. And he liked to get tired out so that he could sleep better at night. That’s why he came down. And that’s...that’s the extent of my personal contact with him.
SHUSTER: What did he look like at the time that you knew him? How would you describe him?
DRESSER: Well, tall and skinny and blonde hair and intense, deep set eyes. And...[pauses] I don’t know. It just...it was Billy Graham [both laugh].
SHUSTER: You mentioned too that he spoke sometimes at the Academy chapel?
DRESSER: Yes. I think he spoke more than once.
DRESSER: And I don’t remember what he spoke about or anything, but I do remember his voice. That...that intense delivery that he had really gripped our hearts. I know it gripped my heart then.
SHUSTER: So you say you don’t remember what he talked about, do you remember his preaching style? Did he...did he move around a lot or...was he....?
DRESSER: As I recall he didn’t move around a lot. But he spoke fast and in his typical manner. He...I don’t...as I recall...he...he was very free. But I don’t recall him walking around.
DRESSER: I don’t...but he wasn’t riveted to the pulpit either.
DRESSER: Just very free.
SHUSTER: What kind of...was it...did they often have students from the college come over and give chapels?
DRESSER: No. I think Billy Graham.... I’m pretty sure at that time he was preaching at the Tab[ernacle].
DRESSER: So I’m not...no they didn’t have...that was unusual for a student from the College to speak at our chapel.
DRESSER: Our chapel services in the Academy were not memorable [both laugh].
SHUSTER: You mentioned the Tabernacle. Did you ever go to there to hear Graham preach?
DRESSER: No, I didn’t. I went to College Church.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. Did you have any classes with Alexander Grigolia?
DRESSER: No, I didn’t. I majored in philosophy.
SHUSTER: Oh. Who was your major professor?
DRESSER: Dr. [Cornelius] Jaarsma was the head of the department. That was because of him that I majored in philosophy. I took some summer courses in ethics and theism under him, because I was never interested in philosophy particularly. I took it...I majored because of Dr. Jaarsma’s influence. I know Betty Howard who was Jim Elliott’s...became Jim Elliott’s wife was a philosophy major with me.
SHUSTER: And how would you describe him as a teacher?
DRESSER: Jaarsma? Oh he was a master teacher. He...he made you think. And he brought philosophy down to a simple, understandable.... He made you realize that there was...there was...that philosophy was important. It wasn’t just a...mental exercise.
SHUSTER: How did he do that?
DRESSER: Well, by showing that your presuppositions determined what you would come out with. And so that in challenging the philosophers of the world, you don’t try to beat their arguments because they are very skillful. But you go right to the jugular, you go to the presuppositions, for which they have no proof. They accept their presuppositions by faith, just like you do. And that was a...a...probably a major help to me.
SHUSTER: So it was particularly helpful in apologetics.
DRESSER: Yeah, in later years when I’d be challenged by these condescending...condescending professors who...looked down because “You poor thing, you still believe in the Bible.” And I would...I wouldn’t try. I would just challenge their presuppositions. They had nothing to say.
SHUSTER: Now.... So you had enlisted in 1942 so obviously you weren’t in Wheaton in ‘43 when there was this awakening on campus.
DRESSER: The awakening was in ‘42, wasn’t it?
SHUSTER: Well, the one that occurred during the services held by Harold Warner was in ‘43. There might have been something in ‘42 as well. Did you experience that?
DRESSER: I remember when Dun...Dunk [Duncan] Stewart was the captain of the track team. And he had taken the team to a meet in Chicago and had entered them in things on Sunday. And...he became convicted of that after because he realized that was sort of contrary to the College’s position.
DRESSER: So he had gone to the administration and had told them and confessed it and asked for permission to confess it to the student body. So when he got up and explained what he had done...and...asked for forgiveness, then I forget. Somebody else stood up and it just began...students just began getting up to confess. And they just...it was just like...one after another. So they extended chapel. They closed down classes. That went on for...I think two or three days.
SHUSTER: Right. I mean that happened in February of 1943.
DRESSER: February of ‘43?
SHUSTER: Yeah. According to the Record articles.
DRESSER: Well, then which...that couldn’t have because I wasn’t there in February of ‘43.
MRS. DRESSER: You were, though. You went....
DRESSER: February of ‘43, I was at Fort Sheridan inducted in the army. February 15th. So I don’t...that mystifies me because I was...I was...I was in chapel because I heard Dunk...I experienced the whole thing.
SHUSTER: Well, I’ll have to check that out again I guess. What...how...what effect did the experience have on you?
DRESSER: Not a great deal. I knew...I just knew the Lord was moving and it was good to be a part of it. But it really didn’t impact me personally a great deal.
SHUSTER: Well...is there anything else you’d like to add about your...about your contacts with Billy Graham at Wheaton or your memories of the school?
DRESSER: [Pauses] No, I don’t think so. I was...I remember seeing Ruth Bell around campus and we were aware that they were a couple, they were an item.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. What...?
DRESSER: I think Billy had something to do with....[pauses] I can’t remember now. They had a truck and I think they did...moved stuff...moved stuff for people and stuff.
SHUSTER: Oh yeah, that was...let’s see. He had a friend who...let’s see if I have that on my sheet here that he...helped move his friend’s name....
DRESSER: It was sort of a small scale thing. But I think that Billy had something to do with that.
SHUSTER: Yeah, I’m just looking it up here. I have it on...
DRESSER: That’s just something I...
SHUSTER: Oh yeah, it was John Streator ran something called the Wheaton College Student Trucking Service.
SHUSTER: And I guess he had an old pickup truck, and they moved old luggage and stuff when students were going down to the train station or moved furniture or stuff for faculty who needed stuff moved.
DRESSER: And I was just aware of that. I didn’t have any close contact with it.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. You saw Ruth Bell you say on campus. What kind of impression did she make?
DRESSER: She’s pretty [both laugh]. I had...just I knew who she was and would see her on campus. Of course, she was an upperclassman.
DRESSER: And...being...living where I did, the Blanchard home was just off campus. Really all my life I was around the campus. My older sister graduated from Wheaton. And so I had contact with sports events and stuff with the campus, wrestling and basketball up in the gym, the old gym. And so I was just raised in that atmosphere.
SHUSTER: Well, is there anything else you’d like to add today for the interview about...about Wheaton or...?
SHUSTER: Okay. Well, I should have said at the beginning too that this is an interview of Reverend David Dresser by Bob Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives taking place on June 30th, 19...2010 over the phone, and I just wanted to thank you, Reverend Dresser, very much for being willing to be interviewed today.
DRESSER: Okay. Thanks.
END OF TAPE
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