Billy Graham Center Archives

Collection 74 - David Sunden. T79 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of of the unrestricted portion this interview (44 minutes)

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of David Sunden (CN 74, T79) 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 February 2014.

***
Collection 74, T79. Interview of David Sunden by Bob Shusteron July 1, 2013.


This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of David Sunden (CN 74, T79) 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 February 2014.

***

Collection 74, T79. Interview of David Sunden by Bob Shuster on July 1, 2013.

SHUSTER: So. This is an interview with David Sunden. Did I pronounce that correctly?

SUNDEN: You did.

SHUSTER: By Bob Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives. It took place on July 1st, 2013 at 9:40 AM in the Sunden’s home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Thank you for having me in your home.

SUNDEN: ‘Tis a pleasure to have you.

SHUSTER: And, as we discussed during these interviews with some of Billy Graham’s classmates, about their memories of him at Wheaton College. Let me start with a little bit of your own personal background. When and where were you born?

SUNDEN: I started life in the little town of Harrington Park, New Jersey way up in the Northeast corner. Four miles below the state line of New York and four miles in from the Hudson River.

SHUSTER: And when were you born?

SUNDEN: 1925.

SHUSTER: What was your family background?

SUNDEN: My parents, my father was born in Sweden. Came over at the age of three in 1896. And he settled in Harrington Park. And we were there...the entire life span of him and myself.

SHUSTER: And what years were you at Wheaton as a student?

SUNDEN: I started in ‘43. Came there in January. I was under the V-12 program of the Navy. So I had joined the Navy, and they said “Well, if you’re accepted to college in the fall, we can send you to college this semester.” So I left my high school senior class and went out to Wheaton. Had my first semester there. Came back in May in time to sit in my high school graduation.

SHUSTER: Wow. So you were going to college when you still in high school?

SUNDEN: Indeed!

SHUSTER: What is the V-12 program?

SUNDEN: It was a program by the Navy that was leading to an officer-ship. And it was a program...the V-12 was sort of line officers and V-5 was the aviation part of it.

SHUSTER: So when you went to Wheaton in January of ‘43, you knew that you were only going to be there for one semester. Is that right?

SUNDEN: Probably. Because they sent us from there up to another school. Which was Mount Pleasant. Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. And about seventy of us students from Wheaton went on the same trip up to school there. That was sort of our boot camp. We got academic courses, and we also got nautical courses.

SHUSTER: So you had officer training?

SUNDEN: It was. It wasn’t the actual midshipmen school, but it was like a boot camp. For officers and....

SHUSTER: And how long did that last? How long were you at Mount Pleasant?

SUNDEN: I was there until...hmm...well, I went from there (and now I can’t recall the year). But I went from there to Notre Dame for midshipmen school.

SHUSTER: You were going to a lot of schools.

SUNDEN: I did. [Laughs] And I got my commission at Notre Dame.

SHUSTER: And when was that?

SUNDEN: 1946.

SHUSTER: ‘46. Going back to Wheaton, that had been your choice? I mean you had selected that as the school you want to [sic] or did the Navy send you there?

SUNDEN: It was our choice. Yeah.

SHUSTER: So why Wheaton? Why did you...?

SUNDEN: Well, I had a cousin that went there before me. And that cousin lived at our home for a period of time in his life. So that...but that was somewhat of an influence. As well as a lot of the young people from our church went to Wheaton. So it was sort of the place to go.

SHUSTER: What was your church background?

SUNDEN: It was the First Baptist Church in Hackensack.

SHUSTER: And when you arrived at Wheaton, what was your first impression? Had you seen it before? Was that your first time on campus?

SUNDEN: I had never seen it before, no. So it was a matter of adjusting to a new environment and the awesomeness of being on a college campus [laughs].

SHUSTER: What do you remember about your first days at Wheaton?

SUNDEN: Meeting my wife [both laugh].

SHUSTER: Well, that’s very nice!

SUNDEN: It happened the first day practically.

SHUSTER: Oh my goodness! How did that happen?

SUNDEN: Well, I guess we got out there for freshman orientation and in that weekend, the freshmen were coming in. My wife was...well that wouldn’t have been ‘43. You came later, in 1947.

SHUSTER: Oh okay so that wasn’t in ‘43?

SUNDEN: ‘43 was just my arriving there and....

SHUSTER: Do you recall what your impression was when you arrived in ‘43?

SUNDEN: Nothing strong that comes forth and says “Oh, this is unique.” Just a new experience in toto, you know?

SHUSTER: Sure. How did you first meet Billy Graham?

SUNDEN: That happened because I was doing some song leading around places. And I was asked to lead the singing at the Gospel Tab[ernacle] on a Sunday night. And Billy was a student there and he preached....

SHUSTER: The Gospel Tabernacle in Wheaton...

SUNDEN: Yeah.

SHUSTER: Where Billy was pastor.

SUNDEN: That’s right. Well, I don’t think he was pastor, was he?

SHUSTER: Yeah. He was pastor from September ‘41 to June ‘43.

SUNDEN: Oh. Okay. Well, this for me was about April or May of ‘43.

SHUSTER: So that’s when you first met. Did you recall anything about your meeting or your impressions?

SUNDEN: Nothing more than just saying “Well here’s a tall, slender guy who has the beginning of a flame in his belly to preach.” And it later bloomed into a fire. But...it was like a student preacher, doing a nice job.

SHUSTER: How do you mean like a student preacher?

SUNDEN: Well, what you might expect from a person who’s not in the full time ministry yet...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

SUNDEN: who’s gone to seminary, been ordained, had vast experience with the Word and with people.

SHUSTER: So he was kind of awkward or...?

SUNDEN: Well, I was going to say lanky. But perhaps that has a negative connotation on it, and I don’t mean that. But being tall and gangly you might say.

SHUSTER: So that sort of physically impressed you about him, his height and thinness?

SUNDEN: I would say so . He didn’t come booming at me like “Oh, here’s a shining light and he stands out above all others at this point.” He had a history of being a student for four years, so people around him probably saw something in him that I didn’t see having just met him for the first time and not knowing much more about it than, “There he is.”

SHUSTER: Do you recall what he preached on?

SUNDEN: I do not.

SHUSTER: Do you recall anything about the service itself? I know it was at the Masonic Lodge on the first floor, is that right? [Probably on the second floor]

SUNDEN: I believe so.

SHUSTER: What did the room look like?

SUNDEN: It looked like an assembly hall in a Masonic Lodge. With chairs set up. Independent chairs.

SHUSTER: Folding chairs?

SUNDEN: I think so. Right.

SHUSTER: And you lead the music. Was there a piano or people playing guitars...?

SUNDEN: No guitars. We had a piano.

SHUSTER: [Mrs. Sunden in background “Yay!” All laugh] And did you also play the piano as well as sing?

SUNDEN: I did not, no.

SHUSTER: Do you recall who was playing?

SUNDEN: I have no idea.

SHUSTER: So what ...the service consisted pretty much of Graham preaching? Or was there more to it?

SUNDEN: A hymn sing, part of it and Scripture and preaching. Which, you know, in comparison to what you see today, it was just sort of a routine Sunday evening service.

SHUSTER: Was there an invitation?

SUNDEN: I don’t recall actually.

SHUSTER: Do you recall who made up the congregation? Was it the town and college? Or mainly college students?

SUNDEN: I would say mainly college students. And faculty.

SHUSTER: Faculty.

SUNDEN: Yeah. I recall being there at another occasion when it had nothing to do with the music when Merrill Tenney spoke.

SHUSTER : Who of course was professor of theology.

SUNDEN: Yes. I...don’t know whether he was one of the pastors at that time or not.

SHUSTER: Well after Graham left, he eventually became pastor before the church disbanded in 1950. And he did preach there from time to time before that.

SUNDEN: That’s probably when I was there when he was there. In my later comeback years.

SHUSTER: When you came back....

SUNDEN: Yeah.

SHUSTER: Anything else about the preaching or the service or the church that you recall from the Gospel Tabernacle?

SUNDEN: No, nothing outstanding that impressed me at the time.

SHUSTER: Was it just that one time that you went in ‘43 or did you go more?

SUNDEN: That was the one time I led the singing for him. And I may have been back on other occasions. But nothing that highlighted itself in my mind.

SHUSTER: Was there a place where you usually went to church in Wheaton?

SUNDEN: Wheaton Bible.

SHUSTER: Oh yeah. Did you have any classes with...

SUNDEN: I had none.

SHUSTER: Graham?

SUNDEN: No.

SHUSTER: Or any other contact on campus?

SUNDEN: No, because it was so short. I came in January and he left in May.

SHUSTER: Right, yeah. The.... There was at that time, in February I think it was, a revival on campus. Do you have memories of that?

SUNDEN: That was with Harold Warren I believe. Was it not?

SHUSTER: That’s right.

SUNDEN: I remember him. Image wise, I can see him there.

SHUSTER: What did he look like?

SUNDEN: I think he was rather...probably 5'11. Fair haired. Glasses. Not a dynamic speaker Sincere, man of the Word [the Bible]. He turned out to be the father of the daughter who played for Marion’s trio in 1947 years. [Marion is Mr. Sunden’s wife]

SHUSTER: Was he...what kind of preacher was he?

SUNDEN: It doesn’t bang me as anything outstanding.

SHUSTER: It doesn’t make any impression?

SUNDEN: No.

SHUSTER: How...what do you remember of the revival? How did it begin?

SUNDEN: As I recall, it sort of started out as a normal service. And then as the Spirit moved, some person.... [Comment to Marion Sunden] and I think Bill Cornfield was in your time?

MARION SUNDEN: Yeah.

SUNDEN: So that there was a quiet brooding of the Spirit there. And then finally some students had something to say. And as they shared their experience and their testimony and what the Lord was doing in their lives at that time, I...it began to spread to others that felt conviction of the Spirit to confess and to come forward. And the Spirit moved.

SHUSTER: What I’ve read or been told by others was that the captain of the track team had confessed that he had taken the team to a Sunday meeting. That was one of the first things that...someone had confessed and that it kind of went on from there. Were you in the...were you at Pierce [Chapel] when it began?

SUNDEN: I would have been in the service, but I don’t recall that specific incident.

SHUSTER: Did it have...did the revival have an impact on you?

SUNDEN: I would say that it made me think twice about my life. And about the role of the Spirit in the sanctification process of the Christian life.

SHUSTER: What...of course at this time you were getting ready to go into the Navy, but what were your long term goals or how did you see yourself...what did you see yourself going into at this point?

SUNDEN: Well, I loved music and I was active in my home church in song leading. And that spread to other activities to lead in community sing inspirations, etcetera. So I thought my ministry was in music. But it also was in radio. I enjoy that quite a bit. So I saw a combination of the two. And that’s ultimately how it turned out.

SHUSTER: Yeah. So this was 1943 at Wheaton. You were only there for that one semester during the war, but do you have any other impressions of what life was like at campus at that time during the war? How the war impacted students?

SUNDEN: Well, I didn’t get back to the campus until after my war experience.

SHUSTER: Yeah, I’m just talking about the 1943 time. Because the war was going on of course at that time.

SUNDEN: Yeah, right.

SHUSTER: So how was that impacting life on campus or was it?

SUNDEN: I must confess that some of my vivid memories are...muted into pastels at this point.

SHUSTER: Oh sure.

SUNDEN: [Laughing] so that specifically, I can’t say that there’s a dynamic. Because of the war, there’s changing things. It was my first experience on a college campus, so what came is probably what I would have expected.

SHUSTER: So were you there as part of Naval cadets or were you there as a regular student?

SUNDEN: No, I was there as a regular student at that point.

SHUSTER: Because I know that there were some...the Army Engineers had a school, at one time the Naval Air Cadets had taken classes. And there was also Army classes. Do you.... There was I believe a mess hall for the military in the basement of Pierce. And the dormitory. And Adams Hall for some of them. Do you recall....?

SUNDEN: See at that point I had no military connection to speak of. They were probably....

SHUSTER: I mean just seeing them on campus or any interaction.

SUNDEN: They could be seen, you know? Occasionally they had their uniforms on for some ceremony or procedure. But didn’t have any real involvement with them at all.

SHUSTER: The other thing that I read is how everyday at five o’clock the tower bell would ring to remind people to pray for their loved ones in the service, pray for peace. Do you recall that?

SUNDEN: I do, yeah.

SHUSTER: How did students react to that? Was it...something people paid attention to, or was it....?

SUNDEN: There again, I don’t recall anything specific that stood out and said “Look, look what’s going on here. Look what we should be paying attention to. Look what we should be praying for.” It was sort a routine ritual you might say, a call to remembrance. A call to action on prayer.

SHUSTER: Did you have any particular contact with any of the teachers or administrators? I mean like personal contact like President [V. Raymond] Edman or any of the other teachers at that time...have personal contact with you?

SUNDEN: I would have a personal connection via my wife whom she can tell you about being on the faculty. So I had that connection with Pierce.

SHUSTER: That was afterwards. This was....

SUNDEN: Well, yes. That’s right. I wouldn’t have known about it in ‘43, that’s right.

SHUSTER: Billy Graham wrote in his memoirs that it was at Wheaton that he for the first time had African Americans as classmates. Did you have any contact with black students at Wheaton at that time?

SUNDEN: I had one, yes.

SHUSTER: What was that...can you describe that?

SUNDEN: His name was Oliver. I’m not sure if that was his first name or last name now. He worked in the dry cleaner store down on Front Street. The one that parallels the railroad there....

SHUSTER: There’s still a dry cleaner store there, yeah.

SUNDEN: Is that right? Maybe....

SHUSTER: I don’t know if it’s the same one, but there is one there, yeah.

SUNDEN: Maybe he’s still there. He might be the owner by now. But he was a very nice fellow.

SHUSTER: It’s owned by some very nice Thai people.

SUNDEN: Okay. He was very nice. And to me, it wasn’t a black and white situation. It was, “He’s a brother.”

SHUSTER: Was he a student at the college?

SUNDEN: I think he was, yeah.

SHUSTER: And how did you...he was just a classmate of yours?

SUNDEN: No, I don’t think he was in my class at all. But...I had that interaction with him in the shop, you might say, rather than on the campus.

SHUSTER: But you knew he was a student as well?

SUNDEN: Yeah.

SHUSTER: Anything else you’d like to add about that semester in 1943?

SUNDEN: You had a comment here about Alexander Grigolia.

SHUSTER: Right.

SUNDEN: I was not in his class, and I just knew him as a person on the campus.

SHUSTER: Oh. What was his reputation on campus?

SUNDEN: Well, [laughs] he.... How to describe it? He was in the news, shall I say?

SHUSTER: For what?

SUNDEN: [Laughs] I guess....

SHUSTER: He was just the kind of person people talked about?

SUNDEN: Yeah, I think that those were in his classes perhaps had some interaction with him that was maybe...sparkles.

SHUSTER: So what did people say about him?

SUNDEN: I don’t know that I recall it really. It was just....

SHUSTER: He was just a campus character?

SUNDEN: Yeah, I would say so. Right.

MARION SUNDEN: He was imitated.

SHUSTER: He was larger than life kind of person?

SUNDEN: I would say so, yeah. He brought dimension to living.

SHUSTER: Another person I know who had a big impact on Billy Graham was Mortimer Lane and the Lane family. Did you go to the Lane house at all when you were a student?

SUNDEN: I didn’t go there, but I knew about it of course. And later in life, I knew some of his siblings. Or his children.

SHUSTER: What did...and you said you didn’t know him, but what was the Lane home and what part did it play in life on campus?

SUNDEN: As a gathering place. He used to entertain students on Sundays, have them over for dinner. Just became one of them. A source, a resource of going to, a father-like image, grandpa. Just confiding in him.

SHUSTER: But you had no personal contact with him?

SUNDEN: I had none, no.

SHUSTER: You had mentioned in your e-mail to me about (and this was afterwards of course, I’d imagine it’s also after war as well) that you had ...were with Billy Graham at a YFC meeting in Indiana?

SUNDEN: Yes.

SHUSTER: Was that at Winona Lake?

SUNDEN: That was, yes.

SHUSTER: One of their conferences, the YFC conferences at Winona Lake?

SUNDEN: They had a...yeah, annual get together. Whether it was a meeting or whatever. The...it was this week actually.

SHUSTER: Oh.

SUNDEN: Fourth of July week. And Youth for Christ had the whole series. And at the time, I worked at WMBI [radio station of Moody Bible Institute]. And WMBI used to send an announcer out to Winona Lake to cover the conferences week by week throughout the summer. And I was assigned the Youth for Christ week.

SHUSTER: What year was this, do you recall? ‘47, ‘48?

SUNDEN: It would have been ...’48. Somewhere between ‘48 and ‘50. ‘51.

SHUSTER: So what was a YFC convention in Winona Lake like?

SUNDEN: Oh, it was a youth rally. Yeah, a lot of pomp and circumstance. And singing. Just a vital camp meeting you might say. And Billy was a speaker on one occasion. Or if not, throughout the week as I recall. So that I had interaction with him and Bob Cook who was...or Torrey Johnson who at one time, they were presidents of Youth for Christ]. So....

SHUSTER: So you saw Graham again? How did he compare with the lanky young fellow you’d seen preaching in 1943?

SUNDEN: Well, that flame that we talked about in the belly grew into a little bit more of a fire. And he was a...he was a...dynamic preacher. And those days, people wore colorful clothes. White suits, bright ties. [Laughs] things like that. And he had a lot of...lot of “umph” to his preaching and just rallied troops as it were and inspired the young people.

SHUSTER: How did his preaching then compare to his preaching in ‘43?

SUNDEN: It...it blossomed. It was....

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

SUNDEN: He was more dynamic, a little more aggressive in preaching. A little more direct. A little more energy. I think a little...engendered more involvement from the audience. They were inclined to respond and become part of the vitality of the Word of God.

SHUSTER: You were saying that this was a young people’s meeting. Is that right?

SUNDEN: Well, I would guess for youth, Youth for Christ and it was primarily directed I think to teenagers and college kids and young adults.

SHUSTER: Well, I wanted to ask you about that because of course during the war, Youth for Christ had a lot of rallies and they were particularly aimed at servicemen, servicewomen in different cities. But after the war, Youth for Christ became more for teenagers. Was...you were at this rally in ‘48, was it still more young adults or was it more teenagers?

SUNDEN: I think it was starting to show a blend. It was a crossover period when there was those who were becoming involved in leadership with youth people in their churches and perhaps that sort of thing. These youth leaders would take their kids to Youth for Christ rallies. And this was sort of a gathering place of both young and young adults.

SHUSTER: And did you have continuing contact with Billy Graham after?
 
SUNDEN: Well, I became involved in the crusades in New York in 1957.  

SHUSTER: Oh! What were you doing there?

SUNDEN: Sang in the choir, counseling.

SHUSTER: Were you living in New York at that time?

SUNDEN: Well, I lived across the river in New Jersey.

SHUSTER: Oh. So you came in for the.... So your church was involved with...?

SUNDEN: Oh yeah, right. And then later we had another one in the...in...what do they call that place in New Jersey, Rutherford? The stadium?

MARION SUNDEN: The Arena?

SUNDEN: Yeah.

SHUSTER: Was that the one in ‘95 or was that...?

SUNDEN: No. Earlier than that.

SHUSTER: Okay.

MARION SUNDEN: Wasn’t it in the Garden again?

SUNDEN: No, it was there in the Continental....

SHUSTER: Of course he’s had a lot of crusades in New York.

SUNDEN: Yeah, right.

SHUSTER: In 1960 and....

SUNDEN: Well, they came back that time. I remember we circled (the day before the rallies began) we circled the entire stadium. All our workers...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

SUNDEN: ...joined hands and we prayed. Tremendous link.

SHUSTER: Wow. So you were physically all standing with your arms....

SUNDEN: Actually we were.

SHUSTER: The...now of course after the New York crusade, they ended on Labor Day with the Times Square rally in September 1, and then there were rallies around the immediate area in October. Is that one of the meetings...is that what you’re referring to in Rutherford?

SUNDEN: Well that was...

SHUSTER: ...was also in ‘57 of course.

SUNDEN: Yeah. I think it was later than that.

SHUSTER: Probably was. On our website, we have a chronology of all those things...

SUNDEN: Okay.

SHUSTER: ...so you can look at that.

SUNDEN: Right. We were at that Central Park wedding. Wedding! Central Park rally. Yeah.

SHUSTER: In 2005? Oh, oh Central Park during 1957.

SUNDEN: Yeah. Right.

SHUSTER: And the Times Square one was the very last meeting for New York in ‘57. That was on Labor Day, September 1st.

SUNDEN: Right.

SHUSTER: Yeah. What was it like being in the choir in ‘57?

SUNDEN: Thrill. A thrill. I enjoyed Cliff Barrows too, his leadership. That was inspiring, having done similar stuff like that directing choirs. So that.... He was a master at his directing of the choir and the congregation and his approach to emceing the meetings. He just...just...was great.

SHUSTER: What made him a master? How would you describe say his style of leading?

SUNDEN: He had the leadership ability to direct the people to respond in unison. He had a way of presenting it that was not abrasive. It just got to your heart. It didn’t stop at the ear. You just felt that you could respond to him because he had a kindly approach to it.

SHUSTER: He made people want to...

SUNDEN: Exactly, yeah.

SHUSTER: ...follow him.

SUNDEN: He pressed the right buttons, you might say, without feeling the pressure of a button being pushed.

SHUSTER: Did he provide spiritual leadership for the choir?

SUNDEN: Oh yes. Yeah.

SHUSTER: How did he do that?

SUNDEN: Well, he would comment about what we were singing, point out what the words are. “What’s the message that you are singing? Do you understand this?” And his phrasing of it, his interpretation of the song, it wasn’t just rote. It wasn’t just mechanically, “Sing the note and the word as you see it appear on the page.”

SHUSTER: So he would go over the song himself with the choir...

SUNDEN: Yeah. Right

SHUSTER: ...and sing it and go over the notes?

SUNDEN: Yeah. Help you interpret it, you know. “We’re not just mechanically going through the piece to take up time in a program. We got just as much to say as the p...Billy has. We’re using a little different style and form.”

SHUSTER: And of course the choir was made up of people from a lot of different churches who had never sung before.

SUNDEN: Right.

SHUSTER: How did he meld them together into a choir?

SUNDEN: Well, as I recall, we had a [clears throat], excuse me. [Takes a drink] We had submitted to us ahead of time some of the music that was going to be done. So our local choirs could....

SHUSTER: Oh you were practicing before you got together as a group?

SUNDEN: Yeah, yeah. [Takes a drink] Time out while we sip [laughs].

SHUSTER: Oh sure.

SUNDEN: [Laughs and clears throat, wife’s voice in background].

SHUSTER: Well, going back to New York, you were saying that you practiced with your own church choir before you came to the combined choir at the crusade. Did the group have any problems, difficulties joining together as a choir?

SUNDEN: I don’t think so. I think that we all knew what we were there for. And we came with prepared hearts and voices to do the job that we were set out to do. And as I say, Cliff had a way of melting us and taking a...a heterogenous mess and making a homogeneous mass.

SHUSTER: [Laughs] Did the same choir sing every night or did you do rotations?

SUNDEN: Well people would come and go as their schedules would permit, but we were on every night.

SHUSTER: I know Ethel Walters often sang for the choir. Do you have any memories of her?

SUNDEN: Oh yes. Yeah.

SHUSTER: And what are they?

SUNDEN: Well I can remember [her] just standing on the pulpit and leaning over and just pouring her heart out and her voice and her well known song was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

MARION SUNDEN: on the Sparrow.

SUNDEN: Yeah. She knew how to....

SHUSTER: She had much interaction with the choir?

SUNDEN: Well, only to...in rehearsal we would be interacting and working with her on certain numbers. But not directly personal at all.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that Cliff Barrows was a very effective as a emcee or master of ceremonies at the crusades. How did he show that mastery? What made him a good director of ceremonies?

SUNDEN: I think his spirit, his demeanor in the pulpit. His conveyance of the love of Christ. And his winsomeness. I think he just...pulled the audience right in. The world would probably say he’s a master salesman . But I don’t picture it that way. His effectiveness was probably similar. But you couldn’t help but want to respond.

SHUSTER: The...talks about it a little bit, but you had mentioned that you came back to Wheaton in ‘46 of course and graduated...did you come back in . . .?

SUNDEN: ‘48. I came back in ‘46. I was discharged in the Navy in July of ‘46 and came back in September.

SHUSTER: And graduated in ‘48?

SUNDEN: Uh-huh.

SHUSTER: And then how did your career develop after that?

SUNDEN: Upon graduation I went...became a staff announcer at WMBI. And at the same time, I was a music director at the Village Church, Western Springs Baptist Church. And my wife and I were both headed up the young people’s work at the same time.

SHUSTER: And of course Billy Graham had been pastor there previously and George Beverly Shea had been...

SUNDEN: Right.

SHUSTER: ...music director there for a time. Did you succeed him?

SUNDEN: Ah, yes. I did. I think there were others in between. But yes, I did. And...I met Bev then and of course worked with him on Songs in the Night broadcast.

SHUSTER: Why don’t we talk about that a little bit. How would you describe George Beverly Shea?

SUNDEN: A lovable man. A godly man. Best...he’d just exude Christ. We had a personal story with him. It was 1951, we had just gotten married, and we were both working at WMBI and both serving in the church. And of course he was on the broadcast with me. And at that time Billy Graham was calling Bev to sing with him on the crusades. So he traveled quite a bit. And he was going out to California. And he was going to be absent from his home for quite a while. So he asked us if we would live in his home. We would be his caretaker for the house, for his dog, for his lawn, for his organ, [laughs] so that became our honeymoon cottage. So there we lived on Garden Place in Western Springs.

SHUSTER: And you say that was ‘51?

SUNDEN: Uh-huh. Yeah.

SHUSTER: So you worked with him on programs for Songs in the Night and what...how did you work together? I mean how did you plan a typical program?

SUNDEN: I think the whole program staff was a just a team that worked together well. Lloyd Fesmire was the narrator at that time. And he was my brother-in-law. So we knew how to get along [both laugh]. Bev was very calm. Don Hustad [playing the organ] was great and the Kings Carolers were fine. They did their thing.

SHUSTER: So who actually planned each program or put together who was going to be on it?

SUNDEN: I would say Pastor Fesmire was the main part of it all. He and probably the advertising agency constructed the format, although the format was pretty much established when it came to Village Church. It started out with Torrey Johnson of course. And then came over and then Billy took on. So the format was already in place. So we just sort of went with that, and to this day it’s pretty much the same format.

SHUSTER: And would Bev Shea then say “I want to sing this,” or what?

SUNDEN: I think he would work that out with Lloyd Fesmire. “What is the message? What is he...what are the thoughts that he is giving?” And Bev would have music that would tie in with it.

SHUSTER: And what was your part then in the program?

SUNDEN: I sort of produced it. Put it together. Timed it, how many verses the Chorale...the Trio would sing. How many verses Bev would sing. And if we were running short or long, then Don Hustad at the organ would help fill it out or we may have to repeat another chorus in the trio. So it all sort of [clears throat] had to flex with Lloyd’s message part.

SHUSTER: Anything else about your time in Village Church you’d like to mention?

SUNDEN: It was a great, great experience. We loved it. I just enjoyed it because it was doing everything that I was training for and everything that I had felt that the Lord was leading us into.

SHUSTER: How would you describe the church? What kind of congregation was it?

SUNDEN: It was a basement church [laughs] had no top on it at that point. And we interacted with the young people, and that was a wonderful experience too. And we saw the church grow. We saw the beginning of planning for the top on the thing. So...Marion was the first one to be baptized in the new sanctuary. By her brother-in-law. So my impressions were favorable, and I was sorry to leave.

SHUSTER: And after you...when did you leave?

SUNDEN: I left in December of ‘51. And that was because my dad was ill, and he needed some help. And I took a year’s leave of absence from WMBI to go back and help. But four months later, he passed away. So then I thought for my mom’s sake, I better stay put for a while, which I did, thinking I’d go back to WMBI. That never happened. For forty-seven more years I stayed home.

SHUSTER: So what did you do?

SUNDEN: My dad had a printing and publishing business. So...and it served quite a number of Christian Faith organizations. So I just felt that there’s a link of ministry there . “So, maybe my place right now is to stay here.” Which I did. And the Lord made up for me my lack of now radio out of my life. And in our church back there when I was then music director of this church (Grace Church in Ridgewood) there was a member there who was on the board of the American Mission to Greeks.

SHUSTER: Oh yeah.

SUNDEN: And Spiros Zhadiates was the head of that. And they needed somebody to announce and produce their programs. And they had A Look at the Book with Austin Sorensen which was a daily program. And the New Testament Light which was the weekly program.
 
SHUSTER: And these were of course programs in English for American audiences?

SUNDEN: Yes. That’s right. Yeah. And so I ended up announcing and producing those for the next several years until they moved the headquarters to Chattanooga. And that was a little too far to commute.

MARION SUNDEN: That’s twenty-five years.

SUNDEN: That’s right. Yeah.

SHUSTER: Anything else you’d like to add or mention or comment on?

SUNDEN: Well...you mean about my further ministries after....?

SHUSTER: About that or about your memories at Wheaton or about contacts with Billy Graham or Cliff Barrows or George Beverly Shea?

SUNDEN: Well, we met up with Bev (as I said that one time when they were in the Continental Arena in New Jersey). We had lunch with him and shared experiences and he was telling me the stories about some of the hymns he sang and some that he wrote in fact. And then, just last year, we were in the Cove [The Billy Graham Training Center]. This is 2012.

SHUSTER: Which of course is outside of Asheville, North Carolina.

SUNDEN: Yeah. Right. Exactly. So I was there. And we drove over to...to...Montreat. And wanted to make contact with Bev if we could because of our relationship before that. But it so happened that he was 103 years old. So he wasn’t that active. And we called and they were having company the night that we could have been there. So he regretted the fact that we couldn’t get to see him.

MARION SUNDEN: We did get to sign his 100th birthday card.

SUNDEN: That’s right. We stopped in at the Billy Graham library there in the barn. And they had up on the wall where you could sign a card addressed to him because his 100th birthday was coming up then.

SHUSTER: Was that last year you said or his 103rd birthday?

SUNDEN: Well this happened four years ago. Yeah. But that was one of the other almost contacts we had with Bev [laughs].

MARION: SUNDEN: We did exchange Christmas cards all those many years.

SHUSTER: Well, if there’s nothing else that you’d like to add then....?

SUNDEN: Well, you asked about this last statement, “Major ministries or activities since graduating from Wheaton.” We’ve already covered the fact that I’ve served churches as music director and conference song leading and things like that nature. AMG. I served on some mission boards, Evangelical Union of South America (which became part of GEM). I’ve served for the last sixty years on the AIM board (Africa Inland Mission). I was on the board of the Florence Christian Home (which is a home for unwed mothers). I was a member of the Gideon’s. I served in some politics in my home town, town counsel. I was a fireman, a police commissioner.

SHUSTER: And this town again was...?

SUNDEN: Harrington Park, New Jersey up in Bergen County. Presently, I do some narration in our home church here in Lancaster in Cavalry Church. I travel with the Ted Cornell Chorale.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

SUNDEN: Ted is a staff musician for Billy Graham organization. And he lived up in the area up in New Jersey. And when he wasn’t traveling with any crusades, he’d be home. And he would gather together singers of choirs and local churches and form a chorale. And we would go out and concertize. And we would do tours in Florida. Do tours in California. So I was sort of the announcer Emcee for those concerts. I do narrations now for the Lancaster Chorale, also for the Lancaster-Strasburg Community band. And I’ve been privileged to be guest conductor of the Lancaster Symphony. So the Lord has kept me active, for which I am most grateful at this age to be able to function in such a way as to feel young again.

SHUSTER: Indeed. Those years on the east coast, did you ever have any contact with Percy Crawford or the Youth on the March [television program]?

SUNDEN: Yeah. Those were the early days of youthhood [sic]. I would go to his camp down here in Pinebrook and Shadowbrook and Mountainbrook. Marion went to Mountainbrook. And my brother-in-law, Lloyd Fesmire used to sing in Percy’s quartet. So we did have connection there, and I used to listen to his radio program. Then we had...well, Marion can tell you about working with Jack Wyrtzen.

SHUSTER: Well, once again, thank you very much for being willing to be interviewed. And I’m glad to have this addition to our archives.

SUNDEN: Well, thank you for the privilege.

END OF TAPE



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