Billy Graham Center
Collection 74 - Charlotte (Brown) Meredith Hartzell. T71 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 Charlotte Brown Meredith Hartzell (CN 74, T71) 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 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, T71. Interview of Charlotte Brown Meredith Hartzell by Robert Shuster on September 9, 2010.
SHUSTER: This is an interview of Mrs. Charlotte Brown Meredith Hartzell by Robert Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives. And it took place over the phone on September 9th, 2010 at 9:00 AM. So good morning!
HARTZELL: Good morning [laughs].
SHUSTER: Let me.... I sent you an e-mail with a few questions, I don’t know if you’d gotten that.
HARTZELL: Yes I did.
SHUSTER: Okay. Let me just ask you some of those, and if there’s anything else that you want to toss in as we’re going along, of course feel free to do so.
HARTZELL: Yeah. Well I’ve got my Tower yearbook in front of me.
SHUSTER: Oh, excellent.
HARTZELL: So there’s a picture of Billy...
SHUSTER: Yes, yes.
HARTZELL: In the advertising section which you may have seen.
SHUSTER: Is that the yearbook for 1943?
SHUSTER: The yearbook for 1943?
HARTZELL: I think it’s the yearbook for ‘40...yes I think that was ‘43.
SHUSTER: Let me start by asking you when and where were you born?
HARTZELL: I was born in 1921 in Petersburg, Michigan.
SHUSTER: And what years were you at Wheaton?
HARTZELL: I started in the Fall of ‘39 and graduated in June of ‘43.
SHUSTER: Why did you choose Wheaton out of all the other schools in...
HARTZELL: Oh there was no other school for me but Wheaton [both laugh]. I had read Silver Trumpet by J. Wesley Ingels, and he was a graduate I think back in the ‘20s. And it’s a novel. Do you know of it?
SHUSTER: Yes I do, yes.
HARTZELL: Okay. Well that was very influential. But I don’t know, I grew up just knowing I wanted to go to Wheaton. I was a Baptist minister’s daughter, and they were Moody graduates. And my life was shaped pretty much by what they learned at Moody. Including theology but it also included conduct. So I kind of stuck out like a sore thumb when I was in high school because I was not doing a lot of the things in those days that people did in high school. And so it was wonderful to get to Wheaton and discover that there were all kinds of people that had grown up just like me.
SHUSTER: You mean with a Christian background?
HARTZELL: A Christian background. And the taboos, you know there were very strong taboos in those days of not only no smoking or drinking but no attendance at movies and you know, stuff like that. Which just...blew people’s minds you know? You don’t go to movies, how come you don’t go to movies? Well, that’s one of the things that we don’t do at Wheaton.
SHUSTER: Why not...?
HARTZELL: That was true way back then.
SHUSTER: Why not go to Moody since that’s where you’re...
SHUSTER: No, Moody. Why didn’t you go to Moody Bible Institute?
HARTZELL: No. Moody? Why didn’t I go to Moody?
HARTZELL: I had no intention or desire or even thought about going to Moody. I wanted to go to Wheaton because I’d read Silver Trumpet. And my mother was a college graduate. And she wanted me to be a college graduate. So she went both to college, graduated from college in... probably in 1906 or something like that. Which was very unusual for a woman in those days. But I grew up with her...her code of conduct. And I just intended to go to college. So that was what they wanted me to do and we made it somehow. Got a scholarship and loans and all kinds of stuff.
SHUSTER: Indeed. And of course that was....
HARTZELL: And I look back on it now and think, you know, “How did they ever do that?”
SHUSTER: Now when and how did you first meet Billy Graham?
HARTZELL: Well I don’t remember meeting him. He was on campus, he was a transfer student. So he wasn’t there probably our first two years. He transferred in from Bob Jones college.
SHUSTER: From Florida Bible Institute I think. He had graduated from. . .
HARTZELL: Oh okay. Well I just copied something out of the yearbook that said that he was from Bob Jones. I don’t know.
SHUSTER: Yeah, he went to Bob Jones for, I think, a semester and then he transferred to Florida Bible.
HARTZELL: I remember the Florida Bible Institute, that name, yeah.
SHUSTER: So he of course, he as you say...he transferred...came in later and....
HARTZELL: I think he was there two years. I was there four.
SHUSTER: Yeah, he started the Fall of 1940. What did he look like at the time? What was his physical appearance?
HARTZELL: Well, I’ve got a picture right here in front of me in the Tower. In the United Gospel Tabernacle ad.
SHUSTER: What do you recall about how he looked or how he moved? How he talked?
HARTZELL: I didn’t know him that well. He was just another kid on the campus.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that...
HARTZELL: He had a steady girlfriend. You know, he wasn’t dating around. He had Ruth from as far back as I can remember. And they were well known as a couple.
SHUSTER: So you mentioned that you went to the Tabernacle sometimes where he preached?
HARTZELL: Yes, I did.
SHUSTER: What do you recall about those experiences?
HARTZELL: You know I don’t remember Billy’s preaching. I know he did . I know Dr. Edman, president of the college, was preaching at the Tab and I think he turned it over gradually to Billy. And the ad that I have in front of me says “Preaching and teaching God’s Word: Billy Graham, the pastor of the Tab and new Christian Council President. Leads the members of his congregation in the way of the Lord. Stressing the winning of souls for the kingdom of God, the Tab reaches a large part of the college family with this vital message. ”
SHUSTER: Did you hear Dr. Edman preach at the Tabernacle?
HARTZELL: Oh yes.
SHUSTER: What was that like?
HARTZELL: No I don’t...you know, I wouldn’t have gone. The Tab was...we walked everywhere in those days. And the Tab was downtown and the College Church was right across from the campus. So I had a tendency to go to the College Church more than I did to the Tab. But I went down there several times.
SHUSTER: What was it like? What was the physical layout of the Tabernacle?
HARTZELL: Well it was...if I remember, and this was almost seventy years ago, you know?
HARTZELL: And the impressions they made on a nineteen year old are not be the same as they would be on a ninety year old. I just remember, I think they were like theater seats. It was kind of like a long, narrow hall. It seems to me like there was a platform at the front. That’s about it. I have my image of it as a long, narrow room.
SHUSTER: Did a lot of people come to the services?
HARTZELL: Well, it wasn’t set up for a lot of people. I have no idea how many seats there were. But it was not a large auditorium at all. It was a small auditorium. It was in the Masonic Hall, so it was not like a church environment.
SHUSTER: Were there people from the town as well as from the college?
HARTZELL: No, I don’t think so.
SHUSTER: Just the college?
SHUSTER: Anything else you recall about the Tabernacle?
HARTZELL: No that’s about it. It was just simple. You know, it was not big. I remember...I think I remember there were theater seats in it. I’m not sure.
SHUSTER: Now some people have told us that Graham preached sometimes at chapel. Do you recall some of those occasions?
HARTZELL: No I don’t. That would have been very unusual.
SHUSTER: Did you have any classes with him?
HARTZELL: Not that I remember. We quite likely were in the Bible survey course together because that was in a large lecture hall with about 200 people in it. But I don’t remember being...I don’t remember him really as a student.
SHUSTER: In you senior year, February of 1943, Harold Warren gave the special services on campus and there was an awakening.
HARTZELL: Yes indeed. I certainly do remember that.
SHUSTER: Well what do you remember about that?
HARTZELL: Well I remember that it went on until people were standing up and confessing sins and it went on right straight through early morning. I don’t remember exactly how late it was, but it was sometime [like] one, two, three o’clock in the morning.
SHUSTER: And these were people just confessing sins or giving testimonies?
HARTZELL: Yes. Both. A lot of confession.
SHUSTER: Did this have an affect on campus?
HARTZELL: Oh, sure!
SHUSTER: What was it?
HARTZELL: Well, you know it’s nothing I can compare. Because that’s the way the campus was when I was there. People were alive and alert to the presence of the Lord. And we were just deeply moved. Personally. You know, convicted of sin. And were just...many different types of things that were confessed.
SHUSTER: What was your own personal impression of it?
HARTZELL: My own personal impression was that the Lord was moving in my heart too.
SHUSTER: Was the campus noticeably different afterwards?
HARTZELL: I’m sure it was. You know, how can I compare it? Because that’s the only time I was there. It was a lasting effect, yes.
SHUSTER: And what was that effect?
HARTZELL: A deepening of your Christian life. Your walk with Christ. The...the closeness, intimacy of the walk with the Lord.
SHUSTER: Anything else you wanted to add or any anecdotes from the awakening that come to mind?
HARTZELL: I wish I could, but they don’t come to mind now, no.
SHUSTER: In his memoirs, Billy Graham says it was at Wheaton that he for the first time had African Americans as classmates. Do you...?
HARTZELL : I could find absolutely no evidence of that. I went through my entire yearbook last night looking for evidence of any black people who were on campus. I have no memory of black people being on campus.
HARTZELL: Chinese. You know? There were two or three people from China. But not blacks. I have no evidence of that at all. I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m just...
SHUSTER: Sure, you just don’t recall.
HARTZELL: ...have no evidence in my memory of that.
SHUSTER: How was Graham regarded by other students? Was he a big man on campus or...?
HARTZELL: Well...I don’t.... The very fact that he spoke at the Tabernacle, you know, put him in sort of a different category. I think he was a little older than the rest of us too. I’m not positive. I don’t know when he was born. Do you have that date?
SHUSTER: He was born in 1918.
SHUSTER: Just around the time of the armistice.
HARTZELL: He was about three years older than I was. Well that’s a lot in those days [laughs].
SHUSTER: Sure, sure. Well it’s a lot today if someone’s three years older than the rest of the students on campus.
HARTZELL: Especially at that stage of life.
SHUSTER: Sure. You mentioned that Billy Graham and Ruth Bell were a couple?
SHUSTER: What kind of couple were they?
HARTZELL: Well they were just...there were people . . . well, we called it going steady. In those days. They were going steady. We knew they were a couple. And they were just together a lot.
SHUSTER: How would you describe them?
HARTZELL: [Pause] Well, I didn’t know them that well. They were just accepted as a pair.
SHUSTER: Anything else that you want to add about Billy Graham at Wheaton?
HARTZELL: [Pause] I discovered that he was president of the Christian Council as I look through my yearbook. He was pastor of the Tab, he was Christian Council president, and he was also in the Foreign Missions Fellowship. So he had a full slate of activities that with classes too.
SHUSTER: Do you remember anything about him in relation to being president of the Christian Council?
HARTZELL: No I don’t. I was a publications person, so I wasn’t involved in that group at all.
SHUSTER: So you were on the staff of the Record and the yearbook?
HARTZELL: Right. I was editor one year. And spent, I think from the first time I walked in as a freshman, I was there all four years. It was kind of like my home away from home. The Record office.
SHUSTER: And when you graduated, what did you do then?
HARTZELL: What did I do then? Well I got engaged that summer and got married the next spring. I’ve been writing ever since. I had an eighteen year period of widowhood. And it was up to me to have a son, a teenage son. So I had, you know, need to earn a living. And began to write professionally.
SHUSTER: As a newspaper reporter or as a feature...?
HARTZELL: No. Anything. Not as a teacher.
SHUSTER: No, I meant as a feature writer.
HARTZELL: Anything I could get my hands on to keep bread on the table and my son in clothes. And that included, I used to sit and look at the cereal box at the kitchen table and say “Somebody got paid to write that.” So nothing was too small for me to tackle. So I did everything from...oh let’s see...what were some of the things I did? Solo cups or something like that all the way up to...books. I had about six different books I worked on for Word.
SHUSTER: Word Publishing?
HARTZELL: It was one of Word’s first five books, yes. A book about heroin addicts. From the Bronx. Who had become Christians through a little Pentecostal woman’s ministry to them.
SHUSTER: Now you had mentioned that you had been engaged that summer. That was to John Meredith?
HARTZELL: John Henley Meredith.
SHUSTER: And he had a recording business? Is that...?
HARTZELL: His father was a radio minister in the earliest days of radio in Chicago. Called “The Family Bible League.” That was way back in the early ‘20s. So he grew up with some of that stuff available to him. He began to do...
SHUSTER: When you say some of that stuff, do you mean radio equipment?
HARTZELL: Yeah. Yeah. Transcribing. Transcription equipment. Big old acetate discs. That had the equipment to cut...transcriptions of his dad. His dad did a lot of radio broadcasting. And they did that right there in their little...it looked like a little garage. On the alley. But....
SHUSTER: So it was a recording studio?
HARTZELL: It was a little, tiny recording studio. Little, little...what’s the word that I want...the place where the person was that was doing the....
SHUSTER: A booth? A recording booth?
HARTZELL: A recording booth.
SHUSTER: What was his father’s name?
HARTZELL: John L. Meredith. They called him Uncle John. The name of his ministry was “The Family Bible League.” He and his wife both did radio broadcasts way back in the ‘20s. Beginning back in the ‘20s and then right straight through until they died in the early ‘70s.
SHUSTER: Now how did you and your husband become involved with Billy Graham after graduation?
HARTZELL: Same kind of thing. I think John did transcriptions of the ministry that Billy had at the time. It was in Western Springs . He used to come in from Western Springs and pick up the transcriptions.
SHUSTER: Billy Graham did?
SHUSTER: Did John go to Western Springs to record it?
HARTZELL: No, he didn’t. I think he was able to record it. I don’t know. He was able to record it from...
SHUSTER: Well of course Graham had a radio program called Songs in the Night.
HARTZELL: That’s what it was then.
SHUSTER: So he was recording those?
HARTZELL: Right. You know, those great big thirty three and a third acetate discs.
SHUSTER: Right. What did people use those for?
HARTZELL: Well, I don’t know. Billy picked them up at our house and I don’t know what he did with them.
SHUSTER: Did...do you recall.... How long was he picking these up from you?
HARTZELL: Oh I don’t know. My husband died very early. So...he died in 1961. So it probably...probably was several years. But not too long a time.
SHUSTER: Yeah Graham actually only had the radio program for a little over a year.
HARTZELL: Well, maybe that was just it then.
SHUSTER: I mean he was also speaking for Youth for Christ around Chicago.
SHUSTER: At different times.
HARTZELL: Yes. I remember.
SHUSTER: Were there any incidents or anecdotes that you recall about him coming to your house to pick up the recordings?
HARTZELL: Yes. He always said “Oh, I forgot your wedding present. It’s still on the table by the door.” [Both laugh]. We never did get the wedding present.
SHUSTER: So he was forgetful sometimes?
HARTZELL: I guess so.
SHUSTER: Did you ever go to the Western Springs Church to hear him preach?
HARTZELL: No. No. We were very involved in Park Ridge. Park Ridge Gospel Church at the time.
SHUSTER: Anything else that you wanted to add?
HARTZELL: [Pauses] Let’s see. I was going to say that there’s somebody else. As I looked at the...the yearbook, The Tower, I noticed there was several pictures of Elwyn Stafford in the same group that Billy was in. And he is still alive and active. I keep in touch with him by e-mail all the time. So I was thinking it might be a good thing to talk to him.
SHUSTER: Yes. Let’s see now. We sent out a mailing to all of the Wheaton Alumni from 1940 to 1946. So I assume that he received one . If we didn’t receive one back, it’s probably because he hadn’t been interested. But I’ll check just to make sure on that.
SHUSTER: Elwyn Stafford?
HARTZELL: Elwyn Stafford. S-T-A-F-F-O-R-D.
SHUSTER: Where does he live?
HARTZELL: He lives in Indianapolis.
SHUSTER: Well he should have got one but I’ll check to make sure that we send another to him.
HARTZELL: Yeah. I noticed that he’s in several pictures of the groups that Billy was in when I went through The Tower this morning.
SHUSTER: Well I’ll check and see and make sure that we send him one.
SHUSTER: Anything else that you’d like to add or...?
HARTZELL: I had...did he transfer from Bob Jones?
SHUSTER: He went from Bob Jones to Florida Bible Institute and after he graduated from Florida Bible Institute, he started at Wheaton in the Fall of 1940.
HARTZELL: I knew he wasn’t there all the time I was there. But I would have guessed that it was two years rather than three. It was three years he was there, huh?
HARTZELL: Okay. No, I don’t. I’ve got some notes here, but I think we’ve covered them.
SHUSTER: Okay, well I certainly appreciate your taking the time this morning and recording this for the archives. Thank you very much!
HARTZELL: I can’t emphasize too strongly that he was already a couple. So most of us girls were not that close to him. He had his girlfriend. And they were already accepted as a couple.
SHUSTER: Sure. Sure. So he wasn’t on the market anymore.
HARTZELL: Alright. Thank you for calling.
SHUSTER: Thank you very much.
END OF TAPE
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