Billy Graham Center

Collection 88 - Paul Kenneth Gieser. T1 Transcript.

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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Paul Kenneth Gieser (CN 88, T1) 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. 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. Periodically on the tape of this interview segments of from five to ten seconds in length are obliterated by some type of electrical distortion, which explains the frequent "[unclear]" notes. Grunts and verbal hesitations, such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers should remember that this is a transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.

... 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 Robert Shuster and Steve Gertz and was completed in November 1993.

Collection 88, #T1. Interview with Paul Kenneth Gieser by Robert Shuster, August 2, 1979.

SHUSTER: This is March...[chuckles] this is August 2, 1979, and I'm interviewing Dr. P. Kenneth Gieser for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College at his offices in the Wheaton Eye Clinic in Wheaton, Illinois. Dr. Gieser, why don't we start out with some family background? Where were your parents...where did your parents live and where were you born?

GIESER: I was born in Highland Park, Illinois, on September 28th, nineteen hundred and eight. Both of my parents came from Germany. My father came from Koblenz when he was fifteen years old and my mother came from Magdeberg when she was five years old, and my father had a grocery and market on Main...Central Avenue in Highland Park [a suburb of Chicago] from 1892 until 1926 when he died.

SHUSTER: And [pauses] when did you become a Christian?

GIESER: My...home was a very godly home. We had missionaries in frequently [unclear]. However, I never really accepted the Lord until I was seventeen at an evangelistic meeting held by a man by the name of Von Brook in Waukegan, Illinois, and that was quite a transformation in my life at that time. Previous to that time, I had no ambition whatsoever as far as school and never even thought of going to college but after my conversion, why [unclear].

SHUSTER: When did you start becoming interested in the mission field?

GIESER: During college we had a...we heard a missionary by the name of [Dr. Eugene Roland] Kellersberger of the Southern Presbyterian Mission and I think he really stimulated interest in missions and 'till I finished or was in my senior year, I was president of the Student Volunteer [Mission] (which was quite active in those days) and so I had a definite...definite goal as a medical missionary sometime during my college career.

SHUSTER: Did you have in mind missionary to China or was....

GIESER: No, we...I had always thought that Africa was my field and my w...Kay Kirk and I were at Cedar Lake Conference Ground for a few days, and we heard a man by the name of Isaac Page who was a missionary from China, and after that service we walked along the shore, and I think one of us said, "If there was any place we don't want to serve, it's China [Shuster chuckles] but probably the Lord will send us there." And so that was the first contact with China that we had.

SHUSTER: What had he said that made you think that was the last place you wanted to go?

GIESER: I have no recollection just the...just the thought that we preferred Africa.

SHUSTER: And when did you...where did you attend college?

GIESER: We both attended college at Wheaton.

SHUSTER: Entering in 1928.

GIESER: No, I was here 1926 until 1930. My wife graduated in 1931. Following that she went to Moody Bible Institute while I was at Northwestern University.

SHUSTER: Were there teachers at Wheaton who impressed you or influenced you greatly?

GIESER: Yes. I came from a very secular high school, and I knew only perhaps one or two nominal Christians, but when I got to Wheaton I was amazed to find Christian teachers who were interested in the spiritual welfare of people and a wonderful body of Christian students. Mrs...Miss Edith Torrey (daughter of R.A. Torrey) was my Bible teacher. My father died during my freshman year, and she took an interest in me and really helped me greatly growing spiritually. The other teachers that had an influence on me...Dr. Russell Mixter who was then at that time just a proctor in our dormitory and an assistant in the Biology laboratory and Dr. Howard (a former missionary from China) was in that department as well, and then I must mention Dr. [James Oliver] Buswell. Buswell was a very fine president of the college, and he had a very definite influence on my life. He even had a part finally in our marriage and with my brother. One incident that I, of course, never will forget...during my senior year, I was president of the Student Government and at that time, both the [Wheaton] Bible Church and the [Wheaton] College Church were meeting on the campus, and this aggravated the student body a great deal because we felt Christians of all people shouldn't be having difficulties and there should be no split in the Church some of us got up a petition and had it signed by all the student body...student people we could get a hold of and this petition was asking both churches to get off the campus. [Pauses] Soon after the petition started, Dr. Buswell announced chapel that he wanted the person who had started that petition and was responsible for it, to come into his office immediately after...after chapel, and so I went in and he...he made a pretty short situation of it. He just said, "Take your choice. If that petition continues, you're going to be out of school tomorrow." Now this was my senior year and I was headed for medical school and no petition was worth getting kicked out, so that petition was withdrawn very shortly.

SHUSTER: And did you have much other contact with Buswell besides the petition incident?

GIESER: I didn't have very much personal contact but of course, the school was very small then. We were probably...when I went there, there were only 400 on the campus. Probably by my senior year, there perhaps were six hundred, and Buswell spoke many times in chapel (perhaps twice a week) and it was more of a family affair so that we all knew each other much, much more than today with two thousand on the campus.

SHUSTER: Were the academic standards rigorous or....?

GIESER: As I look back on it and compare with the amount of study that I did was what I see students doing today and what my own children did as they came through Wheaton, I must say that we didn't have near the...the rigorous study that they did, because we had activities nearly every night of the week and we studied some but nothing like they do today. However, when it came time to apply to medical school, I was very fearful whether or not I would get in so I didn't tell anyone really that I was a pre-med until after I'd applied to medical schools to see what going to happen, and I was accepted at both...both Northwestern [University] and [the University of] Chicago, and this, of course, speaks high of the training that I received Wheaton even in those days. However, we had very few men going into medicine at that time. There was only one other man [from Wheaton College] Northwestern at that time...two other people who were...who were...who were at Northwestern when I entered, and, of course, today there are always quite a few. Northwestern, [University of] Illinois.

SHUSTER: Besides pre-med courses, was there any academic training you got at Wheaton that proved helpful in China?

GIESER: [Pauses] I don't...I don't really recall any. I...I must have switched to pre-med after my freshman year because I had to take mainly the requirements for medical school and this even relieved me of taking Ethics and Theism which were required by the students, and I had no literature courses at all, no Music Appreciation or things like that which I really would loved to have had.

SHUSTER: But you didn't take anything specifically designed for the missionary field or...

GIESER: No, no, no.

SHUSTER: ...mission preparation.

GIESER: I don't know that there ever was anything given. No marriage counseling and so forth. [chuckles]

SHUSTER: Different set of courses, huh?

GIESER: Yeah. [chuckles]

SHUSTER: You were in Men's Glee...

GIESER: Right, right.

SHUSTER: ...weren't you? Were you in that all four years or did you join in your junior year?

GIESER: No, I think I was in the Glee Club (the first one that they had) which was about 1927, and in 1928 (I think) we took the first trip out of the state, and what that meant was that we took whatever automobiles were in the club, and each...each man took a carload, and we had no buses. We went all the way to Lansing, Michigan, and, of course, we had several break-downs of the cars and we sang at Lansing, then we sang at Battle Creek on the way home, Grand Rapids, and then our last concert was at the Moody Church [in Chicago], and by that time, there were two cars that were out of commission, and these fellows in those cars had to hitchhike to Moody Church, and we were a pretty thin [Shuster chuckles] group by the time we got there, but we went through with the concert at least, so I have very happy memories of...of Men's Glee Club. We had one person that perhaps many will know, and that is Dr. John Walvoord, president of...of Dallas Seminary. John was a football player and a growing boy in those days and could never, never get enough to eat no matter where we went, and another one was Wilbur [Wilton] Nelson who spent his life as a teacher at the Latin American Seminary in Costa Rica. Muntz (as we called him) and I wrestled together on the wrestling team, and Muntz was a wonderful companion.

SHUSTER: What was the devotional life of the college like?

GIESER: Devotional life in the college, I think, was different than it is today, and I don't think it was as committed a life as we find on the campus today. We had one...we had two meetings which were well attended. One was a Tuesday night prayer meeting, and there would be good two hundred, two hundred fifty meeting at that time. These were held below in the auditorium or the small auditorium below Pierce Chapel. (It has now been converted into the Conservatory of Music.) The...the other meeting was a seven o'clock Christian Endeavor meeting on the campus. This...this was also a very...very fine highlight. Perhaps one of the most important social functions on the campus in those days were the literary societies. Nearly everyone belonged to one or another literary societies. There was the Aristonians, the Belts (Beltionians), and...and the Excelsiors in the men's side. Women were Phlogens [probably means Philaletheans], and I can't remember the other two, but in our literary society meeting, we all had to do something on the program as our turn came up. This meant that we perhaps would be called upon to write a short story. We would write a poem. Whether we were able or not, we'd write something, have to do that, write a poem. We perhaps would be in charge of music one night. You'd sing, you'd play, you'd do...get something in there that would...would provide music for that...for that occasion, and then, of course, the officers had responsibility which was excellent, and that proved....

SHUSTER: You mean as training for them.

GIESER: Yeah. It was good training for me. I was president of the Aristonian Literary Society, and one of the things we had each...each Friday night was what we called "parliamentary drill,' and then everyone in the society would try to stump the president by giving...confusing him with various motions and nonsensical things, but it all in all gave a person presence of mind and prepared him for life to come, and I have really look back and it was very helpful in my life. Then, too, we had what was called "impromptus" with the president of the club coming up [unclear] speak for three minutes on this topic spontaneously, and this helped people think on their feet and another one was called "extemporaneous speech", and that would be conducted in this way. The president would call a person and ask...give them a topic and give them perhaps five, ten minutes to prepare and let them speak five to eight minutes on this subject. All in all, I think the college is missing something by not having this on the campus today. Another thing which I think was very helpful in those days which we don't have today, I lived...I lived off the campus at a house with about twenty-eight other fellows, and we ate in the basement part of the time, and then for a couple years I ate at the women's dormitory (which is Williston Hall) and here we had perhaps [unclear] in the dining room at once, but we sat at long tables and a senior would say grace [distortion in tape for about fifteen seconds] Mrs. [Martha T.?] Garlough would at that time give us four or five minutes etiquette and [unclear] the meal was served by the senior at the head of the table and of the senior girls would be at the other end of the table. Frequently it was couples, one at one end and one at the other end. Had some humorous incidents, of course. One night, Walter Larson spilt a whole pitcher of water on a gal who was all dressed up and going to have a date after that. And so forth.

SHUSTER: You mentioned housing. Where were the students housed. Were most of the girls housed on Williston?

GIESER: Most of the girls...well, Williston was the only dormitory. There was no men's dormitory. Some of 'em...maybe twenty, twenty-five, thirty would live...lived on the fourth floor of old Blanchard. Other than that, there were no...there were no housing whatsoever, and as I remember it, there was no provision for housing. [unclear] "Why don't you come over and look it over," so we went over to Howard Nelson's who was at that time a field man for Moody Bible Institute, and we rented that room, but the college didn't provide. You went out and found it, and I don't think that's too bad. As far as supervision, there was no supervision on the outside. were responsible, and that's it.

SHUSTER: You also worked on Record [the college newspaper] some of your years.

GIESER: Yeah, participation in Record was very, very meager. I was circulation manager. Somehow or another, I went in for these manager jobs just for contact, and I...I wish now that I had participated in the activities rather than just be manager. I was manager of the baseball team. I was manager of the debate team. I'd have got much, much more out of it (I think) if I'd of really dug in and been on the debate team or tried out for it. But, of course, managing these things was...was helpful...very, very helpful in my preparation for China when I found myself in charge of a four hundred bed hospital, and where you're all alone, have to manage, and, of course, perhaps the Lord had those...that type of preparation in mind for me.

SHUSTER: 'Course these years were the very beginning of the Great Depression.


SHUSTER: Did that have an effect on Wheaton?

GIESER: I was a chemistry lab assistant. I went out for football my sophomore year, and enjoyed football games, and then was injured in the first week of football practice, unfortunately, and this took me out of that game, and I got the job in chemistry and there I stayed so that my tuition was paid for by my [unclear]. I worked in the chem lab for those three years. The Depression really hit after I was in medical school, and by that time my father was dead and my brothers and sisters and mother decided that they would take care of my expenses medical school. Quite different than they are today. We paid two hundred dollars a yea..a quarter at Northwestern University for...for tuition, but I remember standing at the treasurer's window when all the banks were closed and they extended credit to us and we got along, but those were difficult years.

SHUSTER: How about the campus at Wheaton in general? Did you see effects of the Depression there?

GIESER: No, see...I left at 1930 so that the stock crash came in 1929, and I had no stocks and my folks had no stocks so it didn't bother us very much.

SHUSTER: I was thinking more of the college...if it affected there...if it had to cut back.

GIESER: I...I have no recollection of that whatsoever.

SHUSTER: When you were at Northwestern...well, I should ask you if there's anything more you'd want to add about Wheaton.

GIESER: Well, not any more except that it was there that I met my wife during my senior year, and I had to study quite hard during my senior year, much to her disappointment because I'd take her home at one, and...and that was it. But Wheaton meant a great deal to me. It was a spiritual oasis in my life, and I...I appreciate it very, very much.

SHUSTER: When you were at Northwestern, weren't you one of the founders of the Christian Medical Society?

GIESER: That's an interesting story. I got to Northwestern and I found myself on the top floor of a...of a fraternity house and where all the freshmen were. Now I went through the various rooms and I really didn't find anyone to room with. I...I roomed with a couple fellows from North Central [College in Naperville, IL] but they didn't have the same idea of a separated life that I did [next portion of tape unclear and distorted] and so they partook of everything that went on in the fraternity house, and as you well...might well understand, these things just weren't a part of my life such as drinking and gambling and...and carousing around, and my freshman year was quite lonely. And I remember crawling up on...we all slept one large room [unclear] and I was at the top and (on the top bunk), and I remember so well climbing up on the top bunk and frequently just pouring my heart out God, now to hold on to me that I didn't have enough strength to hold on to Him, and I didn't want to get washed away into materialism and almost atheism which was engulfing me. This was my prayer: that the Lord would hold me. My sophomore year, I found a fellow by the name the name of George Peterson who had a Bible on his desk and Streams of the Desert [a devotional book by Lettie Cowman] and so I...I made a point to get acquainted with George, and I asked George where he went to church, and he said, "Well, I go to Fourth Presbyterian in the morning and I go to Moody Church at night," and I...I said, "You're a Christian, George?" "Yes," he says, "I'm a...a Christian." So we then covenanted together to go to the small chapel outside of the Fourth Presbyterian Church. It's called the John Timothy Stone Chapel, and we went every Saturday noon after classes, twelve o'clock, 12:30, and all we did was to read the Bible and pray (just the two of us), and then we found others who were interested in this sort of thing and 'till the junior year came along, we had men (several of them from Wheaton)...Dr. Ed Payne, who served his life Africa as a missionary. Occasionally Robert Hockman [later a missionary to Ethiopia] would come and also Schwei...Henry Schweinfurth and Frank Pickering who spent his life as a missionary in South America (also a Wheaton grad). And we then had a...had a group which we...we called the Christian Medical Society. And the...after that we stimulated the fellows at [University of?] Illinois to do the same, and Franklin Olson (who was a graduate of Wheaton and practiced in Chicago all his life and has since passed on)...Frank started a group at the University of Illinois, and about once a month we tried to meet jointly together, and that was really the beginning of the Christian Medical Society. Soon after that they started one in Philadelphia, and Jonathan Seeley of Wheaton was there, and that was...that was the beginning. It was a very thrilling time for us all. Might be interested in my senior year, we had about, oh, perhaps twelve or fifteen fellows, and Kay, my wife at that time was working at Lawson YMCA. She arranged to have a private room for us at the cafeteria, so we would meet in the cafeteria and have lunch together and then have our prayer group. But we had conception of Christian Medical [Society] as it is today. Our main function was to stay alive spiritually, and we felt that the way to do that was pray together and to read the Bible together and witness as we could, but as far as having outside speakers, we did not do that. Some talked in those days of us joining up with Inter-Varsity [Christian Fellowship], but that never materialized.

SHUSTER: useful did you find the kind of medicine that you learned at Northwest[ern] when you were in China?

GIESER: Well [pauses], let's go back a little bit further. At the end of my freshman year, this Frank Pickering came to me in the laboratories, and said, "Ken, how would you like to have a...a job as a camp doctor?" And I said, "Fine, but where in the world would I find one?" And he says, "Go and see Dr. [A. T.] Gaylord at Moody Bible Institute." [Gaylord was business manager at MBI.] So I did, and went over there and I met Gaylord, and he said that Mr. Alfred Kunz (who was later head of the Pocket Testament League) had recently established a camp at Speculator, New York called Deerfoot Lodge and he needed a camp doctor. I corresponded with Mr. Kunz, told him I had nothing but Anatomy and Physiology and Chemistry, but if he still wanted me, I'd be glad to take a First Aid course and come out. So I did and he...he wrote back and said, "My wife's a nurse, so you'll get along all right." When I got out there, I found that his camp was at...on the Kunjumuck River which was nine miles from an automobile road, and we had to hike in nine miles and hike out nine miles, and there was no way to get any car in there, so we were back there with thirty boys, and me with no training whatsoever, and I'll tell you, those were...those were days which...which were quite nerve wracking. However, the Lord kept us from any serious accident, and then the next two years, we were out at Lake Whittaker, and we were only two-and-a-half miles from the road at that time. But Mr. Kunz was a...a very spiritual man, Plymouth Brethren, lay preacher, and he was a spiritual father to me, but as far as training for that job and medical school, I had very, very little practical training. When I got to China, (again) I had delivered fourteen babies out the slums called the lying in and I had had a clerkship surgery and a clerkship medicine, but that was all the training I'd had. I'd had no internship, and the...the job that I took in China was for my internship, so when I got to China, I...I found that, one, I hadn't had an internship; two, I didn't know any language; and three, that Dr. [L. Nelson] Bell was leaving on furlough in nine months, and so (and Dr. Woods already was gone) so this meant that in spite of very little real training, I was soon headed for...for a lot of responsibility, and I...Dr. Bell said right away...he said, "Well, you don't need to know any language to deliver babies so you're in charge of obstetrics," and so with fourteen deliveries behind me, I then took charge of the obstetric department. And, of course, in those days, obstetrics meant not normal deliveries but whenever wom...the midwives got in trouble, they would bring these women in, and they'd been in labor for two, three days frequently, and perhaps an arm was presenting through the vagina or they...they had crushed the skull with some blunt ins...instrument. The baby was already dead, and we had rare...very, very difficult situations, and I guess you learn by doing 'cause this was...this was my background, but....

SHUSTER: I read in your diary there was one case in which the fetus was in the abdomen?

GIESER: Yeah, we had walk woman walk in with...she thought it was a tumor...freely movable, not in the abdomen and we palpitated it and sure enough, here was a fetus. The uterus had actually ruptured out in the country, and clamped down so that the bleeding stopped and...and she was able to walk into the hospital, [pauses] and we found many very interesting medical situations.

SHUSTER: What kind of preparation did you have as far as evangelism or Bible teaching?

GIESER: I had no, no training except my meager probably four, five courses in Bible at Wheaton, and that was...that was all, and we...we, of course, struggled first of all with the language. We had two hours of...of tutoring in the morning...

SHUSTER: This was in China?

GIESER: China, and our teacher was a man who had never taught a foreigner and who could speak no English whatsoever, so...and he was our teacher, and so we...we struggled with learning the language, and then in our later years, I endeavored to get a couple messages together that I could give in the clinics. We always had a clinic service at one o'clock, and the actual clinic opened at 1:30 or two o'clock, and there would be a...people would come and gather and we would speak to them before they went in for treatment, so I...I really had very little training for...for...Bible training. My wife went to Moody which was fortunate, but I didn't have any opportunity along that line.

SHUSTER: Now you married your wife while you were at Northwestern?

GIESER: Yes, we married at wife died during my junior year....

SHUSTER: You mean your mother?

GIESER: I'm sorry, my mother died during my junior year and Kay and I got married during the...just the fall before my senior year.

SHUSTER: Now you had mentioned earlier that China was the last place you thought you'd go. How did you arrive in China?

GIESER: Well, the...during...during my junior year I...and my senior year, I began to probe to see what mission I would go under to Africa. My own little church called the United Evangelical Church had no mission...missionaries in Africa and they were not sending missionaries out due to the Depression. I...I...I interviewed at TEAM [The Evangelical Alliance Mission] [unclear] somehow or other it just did not seem [unclear]. But then [unclear] and I went into a fraternity house, and here was a...a article by Dr. Kellersberger, missionary to Africa I had heard of [unclear] In our Phi Beta Pi Quarterly, so I read that in a magazine [unclear] and I said. "Here's a man I'd like to work with," and I wrote then to the Southern Presbyterian Board in Nashville, Tennessee and asked if I couldn't go to serve in Africa. Well, I soon got a letter back from Dr. C. Darby Fulton, the secretary, and he said that it was Depression and they were...the church was actually sending no missionaries out, but he had just had a cable from Dr. [L. Nelson] Bell, and that Dr. Bell had received...had rec...had a foundation...the Clayton Foundation of Houston, Texas would provide funds for an internship (for an intern), and so would I consider this? And so I wrote back immediately and said that I...I couldn't consider it because I had already contacted...contracted for a internship at West Suburban [Hospital, near Chicago]. I had to have approval of my internship by Northwestern Medical School and by American Medical Association and I had to take state board examinations after my internship, and so immediately Dr. Fulton wrote back and said, "Go in and see your dean and I think something can be arranged." Well, then I added on to that letter that if it was God's will that we go to China, we would be willing to go, but it didn't seem that it was appropriate. So I went in to the see the dean and I pulled out my letter and he said, "Oh, you're the man that they're writing about." He said, "Well, I've got things pretty well arranged." He said, "I...I...I've checked out your hospital and you can be assured that Northwestern would give you credit for your internship. The American Medical Association would give you credit, and as far as the state board examinations, we could arrange for you to take the written portion as soon as you graduate and the practical when you come back," which seemed feasible). And I said, "Well, I'm contracted at West Suburban, and it's very unethical to break a contract." He said, "Don't worry about that. I have ten men that I can send out there." This all took perhaps three or four minutes, and I stood up and shook hands with him and walked out, and I was trembling because I...I felt very definitely that this was God's will, and that God was opening up something very unique, so I went over to the drinking fountain and pretended to be drinking but I was just thanking the Lord for the way He was opening things up. This was in the latter...middle of May [1934]. We went down to Nashville...we drove down in one day which was quite a feat in those days 'cause it's 500 miles and...and we had our physical examinations and interviews and by August fifteenth we the latter part of June, I took my state board examinations, and August fifteenth we were on the high seas ready to go.

SHUSTER: So then Presbyterian Mission did not give you any training while you were in the U.S. All that...

GIESER: No, no.

SHUSTER: ...that you got was in China?

GIESER: Right.

SHUSTER: And how did you travel to China...

GIESER: We traveled...traveled...

SHUSTER: way of Japan?

GIESER: train [Shuster chuckles] San Francisco and then we got on the Tilemaroo (which was a 11,000 ton Japanese vessel) and it took us three weeks to get to Japan and then another couple days to get China, and it was a very, very wonderful trip. We had...we had four trips on the Pacific which... (all by ship) which today, of course, is almost a luxury.

SHUSTER: The average length was three or four weeks?

GIESER: I imagine it was a little longer because this was a small boat. I don't really remember.

SHUSTER: Where'd you land in China?

GIESER: We landed in Shanghai and we had...we docked and there was great confusion over my name. Back in those days you had to be Geezer, Giser, Geeser or what, and so I was kind of tired of correcting people, and I said, "Kay, whatever the first person calls us in China, that's what we'll be," and we stuck our heads out of the porthole, and here was Dr. Bell, and he says, "Hi, Dr. Giser!" [Shuster chuckles] So we winked at each other and we were Gisers for three or four years, but then every once in a while, someone would look at the name and say, "That's not Giser, that's Gieser," and we'd have to say, "Yes, it is," so then we switched back and when we came back to this country we again became Giesers. I told my boys they could be "X" as far as I'm concerned.

SHUSTER: What was the chronology of your service in China?

GIESER: China was, of course, very interesting. We first served at Tsing Kiang Pu [pauses] and then the war came along. From 1934 to 1937, we were in Tsing Kiang Pu, and in '37 during...during the war I became very ill and...with pneumonia and two kinds of malaria and this, of course, clouded the diagnosis 'cause I ran one hundred four, five fever and they just simply couldn't break it, and that was the day...those were the days that they were just getting antibiotics and though we had sulpha in the hospital, they were experimenting with the dosage of it and they didn't use it because they didn't know how to use it for me, and after...during this period my heart went bad and they...I almost died and so we came home. We went to...went to Japan for a summer and then returned and they asked me then take charge of a hospital at Chinkiang which is up the Yangtze River between Shanghai and Nanking.

SHUSTER: This was in 1940?

GIESER: This was in 1937, and it was during that time that the...that the evacuation.... [pauses] No, I'm mixed up...I'm mixed up.

SHUSTER: I was reading John Pollock's book...


SHUSTER: ...Foreign Devil in China, and he said that it was 1940. Of course, he could have been wrong.

GIESER: Yeah... no, no, he's...he's right. It was in 1937 that we evacuated from Kuling and that...that was before I was...I got sick in 1940, but in 1937 we...we were on Kuling and evacuated from Haichow [?] on the international train. When we...we...then I practiced medicine in...with Jack Welsh in Wheaton during 1937 and...on the condition that I be able to leave as soon as things opened up. Dr. Bell then...we were home once and Dr. Bell cabled us that we could come back and so we returned, and then we were placed in charge of a hospital at Taichow (which is interior and off the railroad): and this hospital had been closed from the beginning of the war (eight or nine months) and we started with a clinic and then finally opened the hospital and got it going. After it was established and going again, Chinese doctors took over and carried it on and then I was moved up to Tsing Kiang Pu, and at Tsing Kiang Pu...we...we were...worked until I did become ill and [unclear] take charge of the hospital at Tsing Tsing [?] [unclear] and we were there for a number of months and then were...were sent home and evacuated.

SHUSTER: What were your impressions of Dr. Bell as a doctor?

GIESER: Oh, he was very skillful. Dr. Bell is a very...a very skillful diagnostician and a very, very able surgeon. Everything he did was...was very quickly done in surgery or writing name it and he seemed to be able to do it faster than anyone else, and he had a very strong physique. I endeavored in the early days to keep up with him, and that meant perhaps starting at six o'clock in the morning with a prayer meeting the wintertime when it was dark at the chapel and this was always a very thrilling time because we would go into the chapel and maybe perhaps a few people there and everybody praying out loud and slowly this would grow into quite a crescendo and then as people left, it would dwindle down again. We'd have...we'd have morning prayers at six o'clock and in the wintertime, it was dark at that time. Then we'd come home and have breakfast and then have prayers when we lived with the...with the Bells (family prayers) and then about a quarter to eight, we would start in morning rounds and make rounds and then surgery and then clinic and then perhaps half an hour relaxation or an hour before dinner at night. Then we'd make evening rounds and be in bed by nine, 9:30, and this I often...I think back was quite an intense schedule because this was six days a week and Sunday we did not have clinic. Otherwise we...we...and we didn't operate unless emergencies came. So we were on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, month in and month out, usually trying to get away in the summer but....

SHUSTER: How large was the staff?

GIESER: [Pauses] I wouldn't know. We had...we had a very...we had a four hundred bed hospital, but then many, many times, there would be patients on the floor and patients in the hall so that there were many times more than four hundred people in the hospital, and we had a huge out-patient department (as many as a thousand people a day) and only six doctors, and as far as nursing staff, I suppose men and women in the laboratory...that'd probably be a hundred. Of course, we had our own laundry, we had our own kitchen, we had our own tinsmith, we had our own carpenter, we had an electrician and the...this was one of the things that I was...found myself in charge when Dr. Bell left nine months after I got to to the hospital.

SHUSTER: The support services?

GIESER: Pardon?

SHUSTER: The support services?

GIESER: The support services, yeah, the whole thing, the...was under the white man in those days. The Chinese always looked to him. He thought...figuring that he knew everything and had to...had to do everything, but I had some very interesting times in those days.

SHUSTER: What kind of administrator was Dr. Bell?

GIESER: Dr. Bell was an excellent administrator. He...he administrated decisively, kindly, but he knew what he wanted and he got it done and [pauses] he delegated fairly well, I think. Some things of course, as I look back on it, perhaps he could have delegated more, but I think one thing that will...will show or prove his administrative ability, most hospitals when there is an evacuation are looted clean the minute a foreigner goes out the front door so that months later after the bandits are gone or the war's over, the foreigner would come back and he'd start with an empty building practically. This...this used to happen about every seven years in our area and this never happened when Dr. Bell was in charge though there were...there were two or three evacuations. time especially in 1927 when the Communists came in, the...the staff of doctors took over the hospital, stayed there, ran the hospital, and though there was no thermometer left in the hospital when he got back, still they had twelve hundred dollars in the bank and this is...this, I think, shows the ability that [Dr.] Nelson [Bell] had to build up a staff and administrate it.

SHUSTER: What was the hospital's relationship and your relationship with the Southern Presbyterian Mission?

GIESER: Well, it was owned and operated by the Southern Presbyterian Hospital [Mission], but only this one fellowship which I enjoyed...which came from the...expenses came from the Clayton Foundation, and I might say that we were under that only three years. In the second three years, we joined the church and became members of the mission.

SHUSTER: Were you largely independent in your decision-making and if you ordered the personnel change that dictated from the mission board or were they...?

GIESER: I didn't sense any of that whatsoever. It was entirely Dr. Woods' (who was a senior when I got there, seventy years old already) and Dr. Bell's decision. There was no outside.... There was a mission...the field...the field counsel (it was called) and the annual meeting of all the missionaries. Some decisions were made as to where especially the evangelists served, but there was no interference or direction in as far as the hospital goes.

SHUSTER: What were your impressions or memories of Dr. Russell Woods?

GIESER: Russ was not a doctor. Russ was evangelist (a graduate of Union Seminary Richmond). Russ was a very fine...very, very loyal missionary. He spent...he grew up on...born in China and, of course, knew the language as a native, and he was just a very, very stable and good itinerant missionary. He would often perhaps be gone ten days or two weeks in the country and come back and be in for a few days and go out again. Several men, one that I...I spent a good deal time of and traveled with was Ray Womeldorf who was down in the next station below us ten miles away. We learned to love these people, and considered...considered them all one family, my brothers and sisters.

SHUSTER: What was the reaction at the hospital when you heard about the death of the Stams'. [John and Betty Stam were CIM missionaries killed by Communist guerrillas in 1934.]

GIESER: Well, that was, of course, very...very sobering. I think that happened in perhaps about 1935 (I'm not sure), but we heard nothing of it until Dr. Bell returned from Shanghai with the news, and I can still remember very vividly him telling us all of the tragic death of them, and it sobered us but we just felt that this was God's will for us and this was where we belonged and that was all that mattered. Didn't think about it too much, I don't think.

SHUSTER: You spent vacation in Korea, didn't you?

GIESER: Right.

SHUSTER: What do you remember of that trip?

GIESER: Well, it was a tremendously interesting trip. I often think back of it, and wonder how we could do it. We went to Korea during the summer of 1935. At that time, our salary was ninety-two dollars a month. How we could possibly save money make the trip, I don't know, but the way we went, we, of order to get to Shanghai, we had to have our bedrolls which meant that we had blankets wrapped up kind of a canvas, and then we had food baskets 'cause we would serve ourselves and provide our own meals on the canal boat. And so we went down the canal to Shanghai and then we took passage in a Japanese ship (small ship) and we had steerage...Japanese steerage, which meant that you went down in the hole and then there was just a great, big open area at the bottom of the ship and you would spread out your...your sleeping gear and that was your spot and you had as well the food basket with you. And pretty soon if you looked around, you found that the whole ship was...the hull was filled with...with people, and, of course, all Orientals except Kay and myself, and each had his space and no extra space whatsoever. We were down there until we hit a terrible storm, and it should take twenty-four hours to get to Japan. Instead of that, it took forty-eight, and we stayed down there as long as we can...could, but then so many of them got sick, and there was vomiting and there was...there was just a stuffiness which was beyond description, so finally we said, "We got to get out of here." So we rolled up our bags and we figured...we knew that in doing this, we would lose our space there, but we figured we had to go. So we rolled up the mat and took our basket and went up on the deck, and the ship was rolling and tossing, but we walked and we moved on our...on our fours (knees and hands) until we found a...a space in the center of the deck and there we spread out our blankets again, and we stayed there which was at least tolerable. By the time we got off of that ship, we were so weak and...and...and dehydrated, we were really a mess, but we went and took a train to Shimonoseki. From Shimonoseki we had to take another ferry across the waters to Pusan, and this was always supposed to be rough so we...we said, "No more steerage, we're going to...we're going to take it right and get a cabin," so we...we used what little money we had, and [unclear for about 10 seconds] Bible college and we had a good night's sleep and the passage was just as smooth as glass. We could just as well as not been on the deck or below the deck. We didn't need a cabin. Then we went up into a...the first stop was at Mokpo, and the purpose of the trip was to visit each...each of the mission hospitals, spend a few days, and...and learn how they did it and...and visit the administration.

SHUSTER: The hospitals in Korea?

GIESER: Yeah. The Southern Presbyterian hospitals and we visited the leprosarium Soonchun and the hospitals [unclear for about 10 seconds] and then we...we got into a flooded situation where we had to carry our bags and [unclear] walk through a couple feet of water to get to other buses, and we...we had quite a hard trip, but we...we saw the unspoiled Korea back in the country where, in those days, nearly every village had a beautiful white church, most beautiful building in town, and I'll never forget going on a Sunday morning and seeing all of these pretty...these people in their white clothes going to church. It was a very impressive sight. We then went to Pyeng Yang, which was the largest mission station in the world at that time (over two hundred missionaries), and from there we went up to Lucten [?], then down to Dalian, took the ship from Dalian down to Shanghai, and it was a very, very profitable trip because I could see the difference that good administration could make, 'cause some hospitals were very orderly and their...their additions were made with architectural beauty in mind and...and efficiency. Others were just a hodgepodge of buildings tacked on, and...and it impressed me that...that the Lord's money is wasted so many times by poor planning.

SHUSTER: How long were you in Korea all together?

GIESER: I suppose we were there for about a month.

SHUSTER: You also spent a summer in Japan [in 1940]?


SHUSTER: Was that a similar inspection tour or vacation?

GIESER: Well, it was right after I was...I was sick, and the trip to Japan was very interesting and very difficult. We had the two children and we left Tsing Kiang Pu and took...we were with two other missionaries (the [Orville and Ellen] Yates'), and to get out of Tsing Kiang Pu in those days, we couldn't go the usual route because of the war. We left Tsing Kiang (which was Chinese), passed over huge trenches which they dug to keep out the tanks in our...we were in rickshaws (twenty-eight rickshaws altogether), and then passed on to a place called Fu Ning [?] and Fu Ning [?]...we spent the night there with...rented the Chinese blankets which were always filthy and you'd wake up at night and feel those things on your face and wonder what was crawling. And then we...we a boat and...rented a boat and then went down to Taichow, and we rented the boat at night time, went to sleep, and around about twelve o'clock, we heard a great commotion going on and we discovered that the armies were retreating from the direction where we were going to go, and the word was that the Japanese were fighting down there. Well, we were just in a small, little Japanese junk, and Dr....Mr. Yates persuaded the man to start out anyway so we started out down the canal, and the farther down we went, the more people were coming up, and they would have their boats loaded with sewing machines and tables and all of their belongings, and we headed down until we got to spend the night at someplace along the canal, and that night a whole boat load of...of wounded soldiers landed next to to us, and they pushed off soon and then a boat load of officers (Chinese officers) came and the next morning we went on still. By the time we got to the provincial capital (which was Hsin Hua) we discovered a tremendous silence. There's always much activity (all kinds of boats, all kinds of people) but as we approached this...this city (which was a walled city with huge, high walls; it must have been twenty, twenty-five feet high), we noticed nothing, just, just...the place was empty, except occasionally there'd be a boat that was burned and down in the canal and perhaps a few, smoldering timbers still sticking up. And we went on until we got all the way around the city and to the south side. Then soldiers were on the bank, and they hollered to us, "Get out of the way! The Japanese are right there. They're going to open fire. Pretty soon you better get off of that canal." So our boatman then quickly went to the left as soon as he possibly could and got into some small, little canal. Of course, we got into that canal, and then we were in the...the whole fracas [sic] of...of refugees, and everybody was...was loading their boats and trying to get down the canal. The canal was very crowded and all kinds of disorders and disruptions. We didn't know where we were and so the...the boatman would ask questions, and finally I'll never forget his response to us. "[phrase in Chinese]", "Everyone has got his own affairs." And that's all that mattered, and they didn't want to bother us and they didn't want to tell us anything. We pulled down this canal until about twilight, and then pulled off onto another side canal which the boatman thought was headed toward Taichow, and we got up out of the...out of the boat and up onto the canal banks and then we could look over and just about three miles away, we could see the...the burning of...of a village. The Japs had come and had burned out the village.

SHUSTER: Did you have a white flag or an American flag on your boat?

GIESER: [Sighs] No, I don't think so - not on the boat. The...that night the Chinese soldiers came on, and I think our children saved us, because they were about to take our boat from us and because they wanted some means of transportation. They...they came on with their open bayonets and their flashlights and they came across Dick and Chuck, and when they saw we had two little kids, they...they went off the boat and we went on the next day and got to Taichow.

SHUSTER: And from there to Japan?

GIESER: From there we went on and stayed a day or two to get rested up at Taichow which was...was still Chinese territory and then we headed for Japan, and by that that I mean we went...took another boat down the Yangtze River. We headed then across the Yangtze River on a...on a makeshift ferry and get up a city called Chik Yang [?] and then we took a train then to Shanghai and then to Japan. I suppose that trip must have taken us a good...a good ten days to go one hundred fifty, two hundred miles, but then we went on to Japan, and Japan in those days the U.S. was not at war. See this was 19...either 1939 or the early part of 1940...some of 1940 and we were...we went up to a place called Nojiri and (Lake Nojiri) one of the most beautiful spots that I've ever been in (three thousand feet above snow level and snow-capped mountains all around, the lake covered with hot springs). I was not well at all in those days. I'd always had [sighs] an ulcer from college on and that was acting up, and that with my heart, it was a pretty miserable...miserable time, but we had some very, very good fellowship. About three or four hundred missionaries from Japan and a few from China were there at that time.

SHUSTER: From talking with these missionaries, did you get an idea of the circumstances of the Japanese church?

GIESER: [Pauses] I don't remember too much about the Japanese church in those days. I...I just don't know. My impression was that there was considerable liberalism already in the church. The...the shrine worship and such things can cause a lot of... a lot of difficulty for the Japanese missionaries. One of the things I do remember was that frequently we would be visited by the Japanese police and questioned, and we were always very, very happy when those fellows would leave.

SHUSTER: There was already an attitude toward Americans among Japanese?

GIESER: Very, very.... Back in the country, it was alright, but in the city, it was pretty...pretty critical. We would frequently see on their trains, a...a soldier holding a small square box, and this would be the ashes of some soldier that were being sent back from China. That was a frequent sight.

SHUSTER: Your children were born in China?

GIESER: Yeah, two of them. Charles, who was born in Tsing Kiang Pu, and Dick was born in Kuling, and though they were young and didn't realize it, we were...we were in very troubled times.

SHUSTER: In the areas in which you served, what was the local Chinese government's attitude toward the mission or the hospitals that you worked?

GIESER: Well, we had no problems whatsoever with the Jap...with the Chinese government. Before '37, the Chinese were very...very popular [?] and, of course, the main problem was bandits and unfortunately [unclear for about 20 seconds] captured by the bandits and taken to their headquarters back in the [unclear] and he was questioned. Finally they found out that his father was the area doctor and the head bandit reprimanded the underlings for bringing this man in. Anybody from Tsing Kiang Pu Hospital should never be molested. And so we were in good shape as far as the bandits go and the government of course was very weak...we had very little...very, very little contact with the government. When the Japanese finally came in, we were harassed considerable. Our activities, what we could do and what we couldn't do. We couldn't go from place to place. We had to go with the Japanese convoys to Shanghai and that was a long roundabout way, and I got into a very, very tight spot once. We left early in the morning for...for...on a Japanese convoy, and what that means is that there were about four or five trucks loaded with grain and loaded with supplies, being taken to Tsing Kiang Pu. And there'd be a couple trucks with soldiers in the front and a couple trucks with soldiers behind us because we'd have to leave the Japanese area and enter through Chinese area, we'd have to go through areas that were not really controlled by the Japs and there was a great deal of sniping, and guerilla warfare and that was dangerous one.... One [unclear] one of the soldiers [unclear] and we pulled up and stopped, of course, and then I went to see if anyone was hurt and sure enough, there was one man suffering terribly and you could see after you took his shirt off that he had a dislocated shoulder. And I waited and waited and waited for a Japanese doctor to come and then no Japanese doctor. So I put him down on...on the ground and this reduced the dislocation, and just about the time this was done and the man was so grateful and had such relief. Then the Japanese doctor appeared and...and he was ready to throw me off the convoy because I had touched a Japanese soldier. He then proceeded to paint the whole shoulder with...with turpentine or with mercurochrome and put a bandage on it which was really not necessary. Now the interesting thing on that....We got to the... we got to the walled city of...of...of...of Soo-chin and they wouldn't permit us to go in and stay with the missionaries. We had to stay outside of the city so that meant we had to find abandoned house and stay as best we could (two single ladies, Russ Woods and myself) and we put the women at one end and we were at the other end. Fortunately, there was no banditry that night and we got through alright. They picked us up the next morning. We headed for Sooja-Foo [?] and we got out in the middle of nowhere and here were...were two soldiers at a table and they wanted to inspect our certificates that we had been vaccinated for cholera, and I had certificates from the hospital, and they said, "Well, this is not Japanese. This is not enough. The only way we can let you go on would be to examine your stools." Well, it was the middle of the day and they proceeded to give us four little...little white cartons...


GIESER: ...containers, and said, "Go off and have a stool and then come back and we'll examine it and if it doesn't have cholera, we will let you go." So the four of us walk off and this is out in the middle of...of fields. The only thing that was around was some...some mounds, Japanese graves, and Miss Lina Bradley was then probably in her late fifties and said, "I can be here for five days and not have a stool. [Shuster chuckles] It's impossible! And Margie Sells [?] was in about the same boat. So I fortunately could have one [Shuster chuckles] about whenever one was necessary so I said, "Give me the cartons and you people go in different directions and get behind the mounds and we'll see what we can do." So I was able to produce stool which we divided up for...into the four pieces and each one of us took back our stool [Shuster laughs] which didn't have any sign of cholera so we got into Soo-chin.

SHUSTER: Where there's a will, there's a way?

GIESER: [Laughs] Where there's a will, there's a way, yeah. I don't know what the Lord thought about being deceitful, but anyway we had to get to Soo-chin that night.

SHUSTER: Did you have any contact with the Communists?

GIESER: No, very little. We didn't. Communism was not a problem at that time. It was the Japanese army.

SHUSTER: say there was a lot of harassment. Was this because you were foreigners or 'cause you were Christian or....?

GIESER: No, I don't...I don't think it was because we were Christian. It was just we were foreigners, and we were...the Japanese had definitely in mind that they were going to invade America, was their thought. I'll never forget entertaining some Japanese soldiers which we had to do...(officers) which we had to do frequently, and one of them said, "We will...we will be in Honolulu in another year and then we'll go the West Coast of the United States]," and they had it very well mapped out and planned, and, of course, they didn't have any love for the Americans whatsoever, but they announced to us...they told us just exactly their plans in '40, and, of course, in '41 Pearl Harbor came along.

SHUSTER: Did you have any good contacts with Japanese soldiers or officers?

GIESER: Yeah, I had some very interesting.... First met the...the Japs came in. They came in, oh, I don't know, maybe two, three weeks of intense bombing in our area, and....

SHUSTER: Was the hospital spared during the war?

GIESER: Yeah, the hospital was spared 'cause we had huge American flags and then they finally marched into the city and there was no battle. The Japanese...the Chinese fled and the first night that we were...we went in to see...the...the police officers and register with them. That night a Japanese came and said, "I...I'm with the Japanese military. I have a terrible tooth-ache." Well, his tooth...his jaw was all swelled up and he said, "I've been troubled and the dentist in the Japanese army said that tooth should be pulled out," so I took him up to the operating room and...and having had no training in dentistry whatsoever, I...I pulled some teeth in the clinic, and we had two forceps for the right and one for the left and a few elevators and that was entire equipment that we had so I injected him as carefully as I could and then started in and, of course, the tooth crumbled for me and I had to work to get those roots out. Fortunately, the...the good Lord helped me and I was able to get the roots out. He got relief, and he was...he couldn't of done more for me at any time, and of course, to have the head Japanese police officer on your side didn't hurt one bit. [Shuster chuckles] The other interesting thing, I had a Japanese doctor come in once, and I served him coffee and...and cookies in the office and then we chatted, and when he came in, he took his sword and put it in the corner, and when he got up to go out, he forgot his sword, and I ushered him down the hall and then I remembered that he didn't have his sword, and of course, I couldn't go and get it for him. That would embarrass him. So I asked him to come back to the office and he came back and then I handed him his sword. He held the sword and he said, "I have never used this and I never will." And he bowed and..and left. So we had some...some fun at times. One time the...the same Japanese officer that I pulled a tooth came about six o'clock at night, 6:30, and the old gate man came back to the house and he was all shook up. He said, "The Japanese army's out front of the hospital, and they want to come in and examine." So I went out and here was my friend, and he was bowing and scraping and smiling. He said, "You've got've got a wicked man in your hospital and we have to examine him." And I said, "Well, come in." So he blew a whistle and the ho...the hospital was surrounded on the outside soldiers, and then the contingent came inside and they set up machine guns around the compound. Finally everything was in readiness and he said, "Now we are ready to examine your hospital." I said, "You lead the way." And so he headed straight for the women's hospital and I followed him and I thought, "What in the world does he want in the women's hospital?" We went upstairs to the obstetrics department where we could...where we had our women and he walked down the hall very confidently, turned to the left, and went into the room of a women I had delivered just the night before, and I smiled and wondered. I knew there was no man in there. And she showed him the little baby. We didn't have separate room for him, she was...the baby was there. I said, "This is not the wicked man?" "No." "This is not the wicked woman?" "No." He said, "I don't understand." So he went, blew...went outside, blew his whistle and they took up their machine guns and started out, but he was on the right track, because I had that night...the night before delivered this woman and her husband was...was with her at that time. He was a high-up Chinese officer, and he left the hospital in the middle of the night and escaped and was gone after he had seen the...the baby born, but they had a track on him but they didn't catch him.

SHUSTER: To your knowledge, were there informers in the hospital?

GIESER: [pauses] Not that I know of.

SHUSTER: They got the word...?

GIESER: They got it from someplace. I don't know.

SHUSTER: Well, I think we're....

GIESER: Finished!

SHUSTER: ...about running out of tape.

GIESER: Twelve o'clock, yeah.

SHUSTER: Thank you very much.

GIESER: All right.


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