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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the seventh oral history interview of Miss Eleanor Ruth Elliott (CN 187, #T7) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words which were recorded have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. In a very few cases, words were too unclear to be distinguished, so the word "[unclear]" was inserted. This is a transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English. Also, if the speaker used an older version of a Chinese name, such as Peking" instead of "Beijing," then it is the older version which is in the transcript.
... Three dots indicate what the 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 parenthesis are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments made by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Robert Shuster and Kerry Cox and was completed in April 1990.
Collection 187, Tape #T7; Interview of Eleanor Ruth Elliott by Robert Shuster, November 16, 1981.
SHUSTER: This is an interview with Miss Ruth Elliott by Robert Shuster for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at the Billy Graham Center at 2:30 on November 16th, 1981. Miss Elliott, what were you just telling me about, the story you told last week about the airplane trip?
ELLIOTT: Well, the reason why we had to keep on flying for more than two hours of the up and down existence, of these air drafts and flying very, very high so that the children were having need of oxygen was that ten minutes before we were due to land in Kunming, the Japanese started bombing Kunming. And of course they turned off all the lights of the airfield there and of the air field in every...every airfield in west China. So there were no lights, no place where we could land. And that's why they just had to keep moving and hoping that we would get to some place where there would be an airfield. And so it took over two hours, and if we hadn't had those extra two hundred gallons put into the wings just before the...before we took off.... If we hadn't had a little bit of engine trouble and had to wait while they repaired that and then the en...the pilot decided to put that extra gall...those extra gallons in, we wouldn't have had enough to last. So, it was the Lord's wonderful provision for us to have that extra gasoline.
SHUSTER: When you were in India, did you have much opportunity to travel around and see the country?
ELLIOTT: No, not really. I traveled back and forth from Kalimpong down to Calcutta just because we needed to buy supplies for the children. You see, when we came out we were allowed only fifty pounds each, so we had to buy material to make clothes for the children. And at that time in Calcutta, there were...there were...we could only buy material from Madras, which was not waterproof. I mean, it had...the colors would run, and they were made with flowers and all kinds of things, but once you washed them, they were terrible looking and they just sort of went into rags right away. And people were saying, "Oh, I wish the British would send some material for us to buy." Well, the British weren't sending. But one time, as I was down (I was the one who usually came down to try to buy books, buy pencils, buy notebooks, and paper and things like that that we actually needed for the school), I saw a whole, long line of people lined up. And I said (mos...mostly Brit...a lot of them were British), and I said, "What's this line for?" And they said, "Oh, way up there is a place where a man has just been able to get some material from England. And it won't run!" And so, I thought, "Well, I'm gonna stand in line." And so, here, in Calcutta, you know, it is very, very hot and in that line there was no shade. And so for more than two hours I stood in line. And when I got finally inside, I said, "I would like to speak to the manager." And so then he took me in to his inner office and I said to him that we were refugees from China, and that we had all those children, and that we had not been able to get any good material to make any clothes for the children and....
SHUSTER: How many children were there?
ELLIOTT: Thirty four at that time. And then there were four...five adults. And so he...he asked me how many were there and he said, "Now, since you are refugees and have had...and had to leave... [fire alarm sounds, tape recorder turned off]
SHUSTER: There was a brief interruption on the tape because we had a fire alarm, but we're all back in place now. You were talking about the difficulty of getting cloth for making children's clothes in India.
SHUSTER: And how you had found a line...the man who was in charge of the cloth from Britain was going to give you some.
ELLIOTT: Yes, he, he asked how many children there were, how many girls, how many boys, and how many adult women and so he gave just, oh, I think enough for three or four dresses for each of us. And when he said...he took the cloth into the office to measure it off because he said, "And I'll let you go out the back way so that people won't know [laughs] that I gave you this much.
SHUSTER: He gave it to you as a...as a gift? Or he...
ELLIOTT: No, I had to pay for it, but, but at least that he allowed me to have that much, because so many people.... You see, he had said that there was a...a three and a half yard limit, I think it was.
SHUSTER: So you got quite a bit...
SHUSTER: ...more than the limit?
ELLIOTT: For each one of us he gave us more than the limit.
SHUSTER: What other kinds of difficulties did you have to overcome as you were taking care of the kids in India? You got money from CIM [China Inland Mission], I imagine...
ELLIOTT: Yes, we did.
SHUSTER: ...to buy materials. Where'd you get your food?
ELLIOTT: Well, up there in Kalimpong, they had a little town, and in that town the farmers would bring their food in and I was very much interested that the Tibetans would come. Long lines of Tibetans would come over. The nearest pass from Tibet was right near Kalimpong, and the nearest pass was twelve thousand feet high, and that was the lowest pass through the Himalayas. And so that when they went to climb Mount Everest, they left from Kalimpong and went through that pass to get through to Mount Everest.
SHUSTER: Were the Tibetans coming to buy or to sell?
ELLIOTT: To sell. They would bring things in and so....
SHUSTER: What kinds of things did they have for sale?
ELLIOTT: Well, they would bring grains and things [pauses]. Oh, different...different kinds of things that up there in Kalimpong they didn't grow. That was the tea area and so they didn't grow rice and wheat and soybeans and things like that so the...they were very grateful when the Tibetans brought them in, so we always bought when the Tibetans came. And also, I was interested one time when I was down there when the Tibetans put up a tent and had their worship, their idol worship because that was the some kind of a holy da...holy day, and they had some priests with them.
SHUSTER: What was Tibetan worship like?
ELLIOTT: Well they...it was sort of Buddhist and so it looked like the Chinese Buddhist worship, burning of incense and.... But they also had some kind of a sacred fire or something that I hadn't seen before, it was a little different way of worshipping. But they built a big fire in front of the tent that was supposed to be their worship tent and I hadn't seen anything like that before.
SHUSTER: And they just kept the fire burning while the service was going?
ELLIOTT: Yes. At least as long as I was there to see. I do not know how long it lasted because I didn't stay all the time.
SHUSTER: What effect did all these moves and the war and the isolation from their parents have on the kids?
ELLIOTT: Well, that was the thing that was very, very difficult for the children because.... Because of the war the postal service was practically extinct, and so if we got letters once a month from the parents for the children, it was really wonderful. And then they might get six letters, you know, and to have, you know, a feast or a famine. And it was really hard on the children, really hard. And for my niece especially, because she still didn't hear from her daddy. And her mother wrote, you know, and said, "I haven't had any word at all and I don't know where he is." And it wasn't for a whole year that she didn't get any word. And then she finally did. I think she sent a telegram to tell her that daddy was safe. But even so she could hardly wait when we were on board ship, when we were getting near Shanghai. Oh, she would just...just hop up and down and say, "Oh, I can hardly wait to see Mommy and Daddy, Mommy and Daddy! Oh." You know, she...she hadn't seen Daddy for so long and was so worried about him.
SHUSTER: What did...how did you adults, the teachers, cope with this situation? I mean, how did you make it easier for the kids?
ELLIOTT: Well, I tell you we tried to be as loving as we could. We'd...of course, if they were deliberately disobedient.... And there was one little boy, particularly, who was very trying. And he tried to be.... He was very cruel to the other children and he was a big boy, husky for his size...for his age. And so we...I remember one time the principal said...Francis Williamson said, "Well, I'm sorry but you have been very mean to this boy while he was trying to climb that tree, so now we're going to just tie you to that tree and keep you there for two hours, so you'll know that when a boy wants to climb a tree, you're going to let him, and not pull him down." He'd wait until he got his leg...he was up on the first branch and his legs were hanging down and he'd just reached up and pulled his legs and just plopped him down. Well, you know that it is very dangerous. And so that's why she said, "Well, all right, you're going to be...you're going to realize that being on a tree...on a tree may not be entirely comfortable [laughs] but you're going to stay there." Things like that. But we didn't try...we tried very much to...to help the children. There was one little girl who was very, very sad because she was the only child who did not have a picture of her parents. And...now, when...when we packed for the children to come out, that was the thing we included in every child's box. Regardless of whether they had clothes or anything else, they must have the picture of their parents. And so that I remember that when we came into the port of Shanghai and all the children were on the deck and...and as we pulled into the dock, they said, "There's my Daddy! There's my Mommy!" And they'd wave and screamed, you know. And all the children were screaming and everything. And this little girl came to me and she said, "[makes sniffling sounds] Miss Elliott, I don't know which ones are my Mommy and Daddy." And I felt so sad, but I was so glad that I knew them. And so I said, "You see that man who's very, very tall back there? And...and the lady next to him? That's your Mommy and Daddy." And so then she went, "Oh, Mommy and Daddy!" And they waved. Of course, they knew her. But after that I wrote an article for the parents and I said that for children, when they're away from home, the thing that means the most is pictures from home. "So please, take pictures and if you mention any of their friends, take pictures of their friends, their Chinese friends, and send them to them while they're away from home and keep up. And then remember: the children are required to send a letter every single m...week to their parents, from school. That's part of their school work, to be sure that they communicate with their parents." And we said, "If you have three children in school, don't send one letter for all three, because you get three letters from them. Send a letter to each, individual child and try to meet their personal, spiritual needs." And there's one teacher, Miss Broomhall, who was an mk [missionary's kid] herself, and her parents, I think, had four or five children in school at once and she said all through their school years their mother or their father sent them an individual letter to each child. And she said that meant so much to them, because you know, because of war...
ELLIOTT: ...there were always times when they couldn't go home. But this...she said, "When we did get home, we felt just right at home with our parents because they had written faithfully." So, it really is a very important thing, I think, for parents to communicate their children faithfully.
SHUSTER: What...what...how would you contrast India with China from the...? You spent some time in both, of course.
ELLIOTT: Well, in India where we were, up in Kalimpong, the view from there was so gorgeous. The children just loved that view. I...did I tell about how we went and saw...you know, go up for the sunrise on the mountains. Oh, that really was one of the most beautiful views, I think, in the world of high mountains. So they...they really lov.... And it was cool and yet not cold and so it was beautiful. And then we had plenty of playground space because the compound homes had plenty of room and they said the children could use all of the equipment that we have. Anything that they want to use they can use. And so they liked to go play ball and try to shoot baskets and things like that. And they enjoyed it. So....
SHUSTER: Was the society of India the same as China?
ELLIOTT: No...well...no. The...well, now, when...when the people carried things, all of the loads, everybody walked in the Kalimpong area. And the women always carried the big heavy loads and they would carry the baskets with a strap over their foreheads and then that would go down and be on their back and you'd see these women with this heavy, heavy load on their back and then, that strap making just a deep indentation on their forehead. It was so heavy. And the men would carry things some, but they expected the women to do most of it.
SHUSTER: And that was different than China?
ELLIOTT: Well, I never saw any people...any women carrying loads up a mountain, though men always carried things in baskets with a pole across their shoulders. And they did the carrying, women didn't. So I had never seen that before. And then they expected them to do all the tea picking, so the women had to do a lot of work. And they...I didn't realize that when they picked the tea, they picked the green leaves at the top of every little clump. I mean, the tea plants grow out with a whole lot of different.... But they always took the top tea leaves. That would be the nice...the nicest tea were the new leaves. And then they would dry those. So they would always keep going around and then they would make new leaves by the time they had gone around a whole lot of plants, then when they came back there were new leaves over here and they would pick those and go on around. So they...the women were the ones who really worked. Much harder than the men...
SHUSTER: Did you....
ELLIOTT: ...in that area.
SHUSTER: Did you see anything of the caste system?
ELLIOTT: Well, in the...yes, in the sense that as Buddhists they prayed that they would be reincarnated in the higher caste. And then when I was in Calcutta one time I saw a man who was obviously one of the lower caste who was carrying a load in a...on a very busy street with lots of cars. And all of a sudden he fell over. Now whether he was...I don't know whether he...something wrong with his heart or whether he had been hit by a...by a car as.... But anyway, I saw him lying in the road and there were a whole lot of people lining the sidewalk and looked out and saw this man and not a person went out to help him. And so I spoke to the people who were standing near me and I said, "Why doesn't someone go out and help him and pull him in?" And they said, "Why, he's not of our caste. He's one of these outcasts. Nobody will touch him." But finally, somebody did go and when I...I didn't go and ask but I found out afterward that he was a Christian. But before that, all of those people had stood there, I think for ten minutes and then all the cars were having to go around him, go around him, go around him and they wouldn't help him at all. And he was moaning and moaning, in very great pain. Well, I didn't dare go out because I didn't think I was strong enough to pull him in, because he seemed rather a heavy man. But I felt so sorry for him. And then I also saw children who would be on the side of a...of a street with a little cup, begging and they always...and I, I asked about why they were begging and they said, "Oh, they're outcasts." And so I would...they told me, Dr. and Mrs. Graham who ran the Kalimpong homes said that if I saw any children in Calcutta begging like that, to let them know because they were the children that they wanted to.... And so when I told them about these children that I had seen, they asked, "What corner were they on?" and I told them. And they sent and they got them and took them up. But another thing that I noticed was you know that the cow is the holy animal and the thing that amazed me was that when I was in a store, a cow came in and...
SHUSTER: ...bought something and walked out again.
ELLIOTT: [laughs] ...and would just knock things over and they'd sit and nobody would do anything to make that cow go out. And I looked in amazement to think that they wouldn't at least push it to get it out. No. That was making the place holy to have it in there. So I...that was the thing that I thought was very, very strange. So that was different from China.
SHUSTER: It was about this time of course that Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru were leading the independence movement. Did you come across any contact at all, hear any people talking about it or any indication...?
ELLIOTT: Well, I knew that there was trouble, but it hadn't actually hit Calcutta at that time. And...but they were...they were talking about it, yes.
SHUSTER: And what...what were people saying?
ELLIOTT: Some for, some against. So it wasn't.... But the last time that I came down into Calcutta, the...they were beginning to show antipathy to the British. And so...like I wanted a ride in a...a rickshaw and usually you just put your hand up and one of them will stop and pick you up. Well, now they did pick me up, but right near me were a group of British soldiers in uniform. They put their hand up and it went "zoom," right past them again and again and again and again. And then afterward I happened to see one of these men in a store and asked about it and he said...
SHUSTER: One of the rickshaw drivers, you mean.
ELLIOTT: No, one of the British, one of the British men, and I said, "You didn't get a ride and had to walk?" And he said, "Yes, we had to walk." He said, "They are getting very, very much pro-Indian and anti-British." So that was the only thing that I actually saw myself. And then afterward, you know, when I...when I was leaving, and that man said that the head of the British...
SHUSTER: Air Force?
ELLIOTT: ...Air Force had been very upset about that.
SHUSTER: What.... Did you have any memories, impressions of the city of Calcutta?
ELLIOTT: Well, I felt that it was...was a very busy city and there were...I noticed that there were quite a few women who went as nuns, Brit...Buddhist nuns and they depended (I don't know why it did) but it seemed to be that there were certain places where the nuns were given plenty. People gave to them. And then there were other groups of nuns that didn't. And so I sa...I tried to.... And they seemed to be almost hungry. And when I was talking with a...a woman who wasn't a nun, and I asked about it and they said, "They're a lower caste." And I didn't know...I said, "You mean the nuns have caste, too?" And they said "Yes." I was so surprised because I would have thought that their Buddhism would have obliterated the caste system but it...no. So I was amazed at that.
SHUSTER: What...what did you see of the Church in India?
ELLIOTT: Well, I really...when I was in Calcutta, I did...I wasn't there over the weekend and I always went to church up in Kalimpong.
SHUSTER: Well, I meant the Church in general in all of India...
ELLIOTT: Oh, the Church in general?
SHUSTER: ...in all of India, what did you see of the Church?
ELLIOTT: Well, I personally didn't see but I heard about...there were...well, now like that Christian man who helped that man who was in real need. And there were genuine Christians. I think a lot of the Christians learned a lot from (oh dear, I should have tried to think of her name.) You know down in the southern part of India where she started having...
SHUSTER: Mother Theresa?
SHUSTER: Mother Theresa?
ELLIOTT: No. She was a...a woman who had orphanages...orphans, she took in orphans and then started schools and she was British, Protestant. And oh, she did a wonderful work. They, they...she found that there were a whole lot of children who were being sold into the...the temples to be temple slaves and why, for just two or three dollars she could redeem them and then take them in and put them in school. They were so grateful and they became really earnest, zealous Christians and a whole lot of the graduates of her school became really church leaders. But I'm sorry I can't remember her name. She wrote books, she became a very famous woman and I read a lot of her books and I...I knew of work that was carried on by the graduates of her work. But I'm sorry I can't remember her name now. [laughs]
SHUSTER: You said that you did attend some church services?
ELLIOTT: Oh, up in Kalimpong, of course.
SHUSTER: In Kalimpong. Was that just on the mission compound or was that...
SHUSTER: ...with the Indian Christians? That was on the mission compound.
ELLIOTT: That was, you see, that was where these half caste children were and so they had over five hundred children so they had a good sized chapel. Then, as people...refugees came out from China, well then if they came up, you know, lot...some...we got more space as, as more refugees needed space so we had two more buildings that we were able to rent from them and then they would ask the men who came out to speak to the children, to the students there, and they had two high school[s], and they trained them. They gave...they had a lot of crafts and then in...they had a hospital, and they trained the girls in the hospital. All the junior and senior girls who wanted to, didn't have to, but if they wanted to, they could be in the hospital. And they were so well trained that by the time they finished, they could apply to any nursing school and they were always accepted immediately because they were so well trained already. So they...and they tried to train the boys to be good wood workers and metal workers and anything...stone masons and all kinds of crafts. They trained them so that they would have a source of income. All of them were trained so that they didn't have much difficulty after they graduated. They made them go right through and take the exams, the regular exams for graduation from high school. So they did really very well.
SHUSTER: When did you evacuate from India?
ELLIOTT: Well, we had to wait after the war was over for a whole year before we could get passage because everybody wanted to leave India. See, there were a whole lot of refugees from China who had come to India and there were a whole lot of people who had been...were due furlough from India who had been missionaries in India or had been with the British government who were due furlough. And so, of course, the British government people got first choice and so it took us a whole year. We didn't leave until I believe it was June or July of '46.
SHUSTER: Where were you...do you recall where you were when you heard that the war was over?
ELLIOTT: Well, we were up there in...in Kalimpong when we...we heard that the war was over and oh, my, was that wonderful. One of the ladies who was the...one of the housekeepers was Mrs. Carlburg and her three boy. She and her three boys had come out in the next group after my...our group had come out. And her husband [E. W. Carlburg] was helping with the American Air Force, because he could speak Chinese and so he was helping with the translation. And then...so as soon as the war, why then he was able to fly out to India and join us and then he became our business manager. By that time [laughs] we needed some help to be able to try to get out of India. But they found that they could get room for the men and boys on the military ships, but nothing for women and children.
SHUSTER: So you were going back to China, right?
ELLIOTT: Yes, we were going back to China.
SHUSTER: So they took US troop ships from India to....
ELLIOTT: No. Well, we.... Well, the men and boys did but we finally...we had to wait until a regular steamer was going from India to China. We went by way of Singapore. We stopped in Singapore for a couple...for a day or so and then.... And we were able to go around and actually see Singapore. And then we were...we went to Hong Kong and then up to Shanghai.
SHUSTER: After you were in Shanghai, I imagine you were...the kids went back to their parents.
ELLIOTT: Well, we.... They were with their parents but this was the summer...we...summer vacation. But then we said we were going to have school again and if they wanted to be in this school...go back to school, we...they turned the two floors of the administration building into the school....
SHUSTER: In Shanghai?
ELLIOTT: In Shanghai. And they...and then over in the mission home building, they gave rooms for the...for the teachers to live. Oh, well, and then some of us left...lived where the school children were, so that we could get back to them at night and that's where I was. And we had rooms...dorm rooms for the girls and for the boys.
SHUSTER: Did you get a furlough during the...?
ELLIOTT: Well, after I had been there a year...
SHUSTER: In Shanghai.
ELLIOTT: ...and we'd had been a year of school in Shanghai, then I got a furlough.
SHUSTER: So you went back to the US for a year.
ELLIOTT: Yes. And the first place we came to was Wheaton to go to grad school again.
SHUSTER: Who...who were your professors?
ELLIOTT: Well, let me see. I know that I had Dr. [Merrill] Tenney again and that was when I had the LeBar sisters and.... But I was taking all also some music and I had...I was...I...I had always taught music and.... Because, you see, I had taken my music at Biola. And...and then took courses in how to teach different subjects and things and then some psychology courses, things like that. So I enjoyed it. I always loved...I always loved being in grad school.
SHUSTER: So you weren't going for a degree, you were just picking up extra courses?
ELLIOTT: Right. Things that I felt were needed. Actually, later, when I was down in South Carolina, I took graduate work there and...but they refused to recognize Wheaton Graduate School. They were crazy. But nevertheless, the didn't. And so I never did have my credits from there transferred up here so I have many more hours then are needed for a masters [degree], but I have never gotten a masters. [laughs]
SHUSTER: Would...was there a difference between Western music and Chinese music?
ELLIOTT: Oh yes. You see the Chinese music only has the five tones and so it's all minor. And instead of seven, you know, to be an octave. And so...but they didn't mind learning songs in...with the seven tone scale, and so they...they...but we would sing both. I would....
SHUSTER: There was Christian music in the....
ELLIOTT: In the Chinese tonal....
SHUSTER: ...Chinese tonal system?
ELLIOTT: Yes. Right. So we could use both. And I...I didn't mind using.... I liked the Chinese five tone scale...seven tone scale...no, five tone scale. And so it to me is...is pretty, but it isn't...you can't make...you can't harmonize. So by using ours, we could harmony...have harmony. And so then that is when I would teach the children two parts and they would sing.... Or we'd have rounds and then.... So they would first learn that, and then I taught them two part things.
SHUSTER: Did the children have any difficulty moving from five tone to seven tone systems?
ELLIOTT: Little ones, no. And then as they grew up in the church, then that was when I came back, after...after my furlough and went to Shucheng, but some of these children had grown up to be young people and they were able to sing very nicely and so that was when I introduced two part singing and then, actually three part singing. And they were...they became the choir.
SHUSTER: Now when you returned from your furlough, you were...went back to...to Shucheng?
ELLIOTT: No, when I came back from this furlough in '4.... I came back in '48 (you see, I went home in '47) and by this time I was...I had been teaching in what was called the Chefoo School even though it was the...was not.... The big Chefoo School had been completely obliterated. But in Shanghai, during the time that I was away, a lot of the teachers who had been interned and were...were...you know, had been three and a half years interned came back from England. And the school was a British school and we...they always took the Oxford exams and...which were considered the best. If you could get a good grade in the Oxford exams, you were really prepared. But I found I had to adapt to all of the British way of teaching. Now you see they only have...they have a lower school (four years) and the upper school (six years), so they only have ten years of schools. And in the lower school they really.... You had to work like everything to get them to be able to read, write, do math and then came the difficulty of trying to teach them British money, American money and Canadian usage and the idea of exchange and how much money you get for this and this and this in Chinese money and it really was quite involved to teach math. And then to try and teach the decimal system to the British, which some...in some cases they didn't consider too important. And milage, and things like that. Well, all this, I don't know, there seemed to be so many things that we had to teach in the lower school to get them ready for the upper school and.... And...but in the upper school they really worked them, with foreign languages (well, Latin), then foreign languages. They usually taught French and then perhaps German. And...but I was really very pleased to hear that when the sixth formers (they call them...each is a form. They don't call your grade. And the sixth form is the highest grade in this. They'd be the high school seniors)...when they took the exams, of course it took quite a long time to get their grades back from Oxford but then they said of all the schools outside of England, the Chefoo school had the highest grades, so we were very pleased.
SHUSTER: I can imagine.
SHUSTER: What was...of course, in 1948 the Chinese civil war was raging again. What did you see of that?
ELLIOTT: Well, when the Communists were fighting, they were.... They didn't actually fight up there in Kuling. Oh, when I had come back, the school had moved up to Kuling and we weren't in Shanghai. It was too.... Oh, it was far too crowded, because more children kept coming...more children kept coming [sic]. And so it was making.... The headquarters [in Shanghai] couldn't really accommodate, and so....
SHUSTER: Now, Kuling was not where the school was originally, was it?
ELLIOTT: No, but that was where the school was where I went to school as a child.
SHUSTER: That's right.
ELLIOTT: And so it to me.... When I heard that they were going to be in the Kuling American School buildings, oh, I thought, "Wonderful!" I was so thrilled to be going back to teach in the school where I had gone to school myself. [Laughs] Because Kuling is so beautiful and it is much more comfortable than Shanghai. And so, oh we just loved it. I loved being up there. And with the children, they...they loved to go for walks, all around, all the lovely trees. And to go swimming in the stream or in the pools or anything and we'd go along, you know, we'd take then anywhere they wanted to go. Or if they didn't know where to go, well, then, I knew, so I...because I knew Kuling, and so I'd take them to all these different places and they'd...
SHUSTER: You said this was away from the battlefields of the civil war?
ELLIOTT: Yes. Now we could see the results of fighting down on the plain below us and actually for just a little while there were soldiers at Nangkong [?] Pass, which went under the passes where the road led up to Kuling. And then the...the big place where we came from, Ju Chun [?], Kuyang[?] and across the plain and up the mountains, well they would have at the foot of the mountain when the ro...where the road joined the path that led up the mountain, they had soldiers there.
SHUSTER: Were the soldiers Nationalists or Communists or didn't you know?
ELLIOTT: Well, at first it was the Nationalists troops and then the Communists took over and when they did, then they came up and they took over in Kuling and then they started.... That was when it was difficult. The made very...they made some quite difficult things for us.
SHUSTER: What kind of things would they do?
ELLIOTT: Well, in the first place, they...they put soldiers as the guards, quote, all around the school compound. And they had...they took over two of the homes of missionaries that lived...that used to come up and owned those homes just above the school, north of the school and up the hill. And so that they were...they also...we had a wall around...you know, every place in China has to have a wall around it, so we had a wall around the school. And so then they put soldiers at every entrance in the wall of the school and they demanded that all the teachers, the men teachers, going out had to doff their hats to them. So the men said, "Okay. No more hats. [laughs] We...we wouldn't wear them." And so then they didn't make them...of course they didn't...because they weren't in uniform, they didn't make them salute. So they didn't have to.... But they didn't...hadn't...do anything to the women or the children. They were very nice to them.
SHUSTER: What was your impression of the Communist leaders and soldiers that you met?
ELLIOTT: Well, the leaders that I saw were [pauses]...they...when I saw what they were saying, that, "We're all equal. We all have equal rights and everything." And then I would go to the office where one of these men was the top notch man and here he was in the most beautiful suit and everything immaculate and beautiful, and his hair with special hair and all kinds of things , you know, that you knew was really British probably. And then see what they demanded, that all of the merchants turn over all their merchandise in their stores to them and then they would dole out only cotton for the people for their clothes and dole only a limited amount of food and they were living in luxury.
SHUSTER: All of the Communist leaders?
ELLIOTT: All the Communist leaders that I ever heard of. And the Chinese I talked with all said that. That all the Communist leaders were living in luxury and the other people were living in poverty. And so they all...when they still say, "Now, you know, oh yes, everybody's equal," well, then I thought, "Yeah, but we're [the Communist leaders] a little bit more equal!" [laughs] I never....
SHUSTER: What did you think, from living in China all those years and as a witness to the civil war, what did you think were the reasons for the...the loss by the Nationalists and the victory by the Communists?
ELLIOTT: Well, I think that the Communists forced...that they had a whole lot of guns and ammunition from Russia and so they had more than the Nationalists. And then Chiang Kai-Shek hadn't as yet been able to unify the whole of China and although he had made plans for opening mines and things like that, where they would have more income for the nation, he hadn't been able to.... He'd done a little, but he hadn't done nearly all that he had wanted to do. Had he been able to do...given ten more years, I don't think that the Communists would have been able to take over as easily as they did because he would have had more income for the nation and he would have been able to hire...to pay for more soldiers. But he didn't have enough income to pay too many soldiers. And so, well, they have to eat and they have to have uniforms and....
SHUSTER: Where did the support for Communists come from within China or did they have support.
ELLIOTT: They'd demanded support. They would shoot anybody who would have the least kind of...of.... If they rebelled in the slightest way, even orally, bang. They shot them all.
SHUSTER: Well, did you see any evidence of any voluntary support?
ELLIOTT: I didn't. I saw no evidence of any voluntary support.
SHUSTER: What about the Nationalists? Where did their support come from?
ELLIOTT: Well, that's what I was saying. They did have...there were quite a few people who wanted to have.... And they felt that...that the Nationalist government was making improvements. The fact that they opened schools for both boys and girls, why, lots of families were thrilled with that. And then the fact that they built a whole lot of roads, so that there were buses and trucks that would carry all of their loads of food down for sale. They liked that. And they were very glad for that. They felt that was progress.
SHUSTER: When you say "they", you mean...?
ELLIOTT: The local Chinese people that I talked with.
SHUSTER: So all classes, you would say. Middle, lower, upper.
ELLIOTT: Yes. They were very much in favor of what he was doing. So they were very, very glad and they were really sorry that the Communists had so much.... You see, they started in the north and.... They had gone up into Shansi and they'd hidden in Shansi for several years, but during that time they were accumulating a whole lot of stuff from Russia, because they were right up near the border and they..they...they were...they waited until they were fully, fully armed before they started out. And if they had waited just...I'm sure, at the very most ten years, they couldn't have made it, because there were so many Chinese that were in favor of the Nationalist government. What he was doing wasn't...it was much more democratic. Now there were...don't think that there weren't people who were squeezing the people. You know, taking money and using it for themselves, things like that. There were lots of Chinese who were living in luxury while the people around....
SHUSTER: Meaning among the Nationalists?
ELLIOTT: Among the Nationalists, yes, when the people around them weren't. But the Chinese had never known a time when there wasn't that kind of thing going on. So when I was in Shucheng, it didn't matter what year I was in Shucheng, there was always...the high muckiemucks always lived in luxury and demanded from the...from the, well, the farmers and from the store keepers and everything a certain amount. Every...every year they had to give quite generously to the local leaders.
SHUSTER: Would you say, then, that the common people were supporting, then, the Nationalists or that they were indifferent or they were kind of removed from the struggle or were they....
ELLIOTT: Well, I think a whole lot of people didn't realize what Communism meant and I think that the average country Chinese person just expected a certain leadership that demanded money and so they didn't think that Communist was going to be anything but just another group of people who would come and demand money from them. But when they took over their children and...and then...and forced people to go to different localities and took over all their land that.... You see, previously farmers didn't own the land but they were allowed to will it to their sons who would also pay forty percent to the owners. The owners would will it to their sons. But the same farmers family would have it for generations and generations. So they would work hard to have the farm keep in good condition because they were going to...their sons would have the farm. So that was good system that seemed to work very well and they didn't mind that. But then after the Communists came in and when they made people move to different areas, that was when they were upset, because the Chinese like their own home.
SHUSTER: What effect did the civil war have on the...on the Church, that you witnessed?
ELLIOTT: Well, when...be...before we left, when...in the middle of the night, when they kicked the door of the pastor...pastor's house in....
SHUSTER: Who did?
ELLIOTT: The Communists. And put handcuffs on the pastor and put him into prison. And his wife...they said, "If you want your husband fed, you've got to bring him food every day."
SHUSTER: Why was he arrested?
ELLIOTT: They called him a running dog of the foreign devils. They had intercepted.... Actually, he was a retired pastor and he had worked with the Norwegians, I think with the Norwegian Lutheran Church. They had promised all of their pastors that if they were pastors of a church for so many years and then retired, they would give them a pension. And so the Communists always opened all the mail, read all the mail of everybody. And so they opened this letter from Norway to this man which said, "Because the Communists refuse to allow us to send money to you, and we promised you a pension, we have," (I've forgotten, I think it was), "five home up there in Kuling and if you can rent them out or if you can sell the furniture or if in any way you can make money from those five homes, please feel free to do so." Well, they intercepted that letter. It wasn't until later that a man that I knew that we...we...we knew who...well, I knew him because I spoke Chinese...
ELLIOTT: ...and a good many of the teachers couldn't speak Chinese. So he...he was the one that told me that...that it was because they had intercepted this letter from the Norwegian Lutheran Church that they arrested him. But they didn't give him a trial and for a long time they didn't know anything. His family didn't know any reason why they put him in prison. But later this man, you know, sort of surreptitiously told us and then we were able to tell his wife. But she was able to take baskets of food...well, a basket of food. And you know it was very hard because she didn't have any income then and it was very hard. And...but she...people tried to help out. All the Christians up there gave...gave them food. And then she prepared food and took a basket to him, but they just wouldn't let her in. They would take the basket and throw the basket, yesterday's basket, out to her and take it. And she never knew whether her husband was getting it and it wasn't until.... He was taken, I believe, either the end of September or early October and we left in March.
SHUSTER: March of 1950?
ELLIOTT: And then when I was in Hong Kong, I was their son. She had said, "You must escape. Get away as soon as possible." And to my amazement, he came to where we were in Hong Kong and I said, "Why, how did you get here?" And he said, "I put a Communist solider's uniform on, I got on the train, I didn't have to pay a cent and then, when I...at the last...from Canton to the border...." He said, "Now that was the tricky part." Because then he'd put on clothes of a beggar and then he had to go along and hide behind trees and away from the main road and try to get to the river and then try to get across into Hong Kong. And he...when he got to the river, he got onto a...a boat that had bales of cotton and he asked the man if he would be willing to help him get across, get down to Hong Kong. And he said, "Well, if they catch you, it your's, not my responsibility." And he said, "That's all right." And then he told me that the Communist soldiers came and they stabbed with...with bayonets and he said, "I felt it. My hands were out and my legs were apart." And he said, "I felt it go between my arm and my body on that side, my arm and my body on that [the other] side, and between my legs, but they did not touch me."
SHUSTER: So you were for about a year and a half, then, under the Communist rule.
SHUSTER: What was the experience first of all of the missionaries, their contacts that they had with the various Communist officials and leaders?
ELLIOTT: Well, when we got word just about Christmas time....
SHUSTER: Christmas of 1950?
ELLIOTT: Yes. That we were to disband the school and go to Hong Kong....
SHUSTER: You got this word from CIM [China Inland Mission]?
ELLIOTT: Yes. And then we also got the word from the British embassy and the American embassy. And...but we got the word by telegram and telephone. And then the principal went up to ask for...we had to have passes to get out. They didn't want us but then they wouldn't give passes.
SHUSTER: Where did you have to go to get the passes?
ELLIOTT: Well just up to what we called "the gap." When you came up the mountain, then there was this sort of a place where the two mountains came together and then you go through that (that's the gap) and then you come down into a lovely valley. And that was where the stream was and then at the south part of the main valley was where the American school was. So you'd have to walk up to the gap and that's where the office of the Communists was.
SHUSTER: So you needed a pass from the provincial authority?
ELLIOTT: Yes, the local...the local...the Communist leader. And when the principal went, no...no...nobody, it didn't matter foreign or Chinese, was allowed to pass...was allowed to travel without a pass. And so, he went up to ask for passes for us. Well, the off...the Communist official there made him stand four hours outside before he'd let him come into the office. And then he said, "No. Not going to give you a pass for the children" Well, fortunately we had been able to get...I've forgotten exactly how many...at least a hundred or maybe two hundred children home to their parents for Christmas, because we had...our long vacation was at Christmas. That was the best time to travel because the summer was so hot and humid that we had a very short (only one month) vacation and only the children who lived close by went home for the summer vacation. But usually the parents came up there to Kuling and would be in one of the homes up there with their children. But the...the ones who lived far away couldn't get home, so they had to be there. And it was only those children who were still there. I think there were about two hundred left. And so they...he went again and again and again and again to ask for passes.
SHUSTER: Who did?
ELLIOTT: The principal.
SHUSTER: What was his name?
ELLIOTT: Well, principal [Stanley] Houghton had just died...
ELLIOTT: ...and he had died of a heart attack and then [pauses] oh dear, I know perfectly well. I got a letter not too long ago from him. Begins with M. [Possibly S. W. Martin] I can't think of it. But anyway he was...he was the one who.... At first Mr. Houghton went and then this man went. But it wasn't until...toward the end of January that they finally gave the first passes.
ELLIOTT: And they wouldn't give for everybody. And there was...the wife of the doctor was very ill and we were praying that if any passes were granted, that she would be among the first to be allowed to go. And so they arbitrarily...I think they must have just gone down the list like this and just...and praise the Lord, her name was included. I think they allowed thirty-four or thirty-seven, something that, in the first group that were allowed to leave.
SHUSTER: Before you left, during the year that you were actually under Communist administration, what were your relationships with...with the Communists? Did you see them often or was it...? Did things go on as before or was it...?
ELLIOTT: They...except for the fact that we had soldiers around the compound and...and they alwa...many of the local people soldiers liked children. And so they were very nice to the children in the school, so we didn't...we didn't have any trouble actually at the school itself. It was just when they tried to get...tried to get the passes. Well, then they started questioning. And when they sent to...when they would ask for people to go for questioning, that was just terrible.
SHUSTER: Why was that?
ELLIOTT: Because they would usually question you for, at the very least, an hour and a half or two hours. And they would ask questions. And then maybe an hour later they would deliberately change what you had said just slightly, just a teeniest little bit. But basing a question on a change of what you had said, they would ask you another question. But unless you were very acute and listened for the tin...tinniest little change.... Now, they asked the wife of the acting principal, "What day...(at the very beginning) what day did you first get word that you were to leave." And she said, "We got a telegram on, I think it was the twenty-second of December or something like that and then we got a telephone call the next day." Well then later, an hour or so later when she was getting so tired of all this questioning, questioning, questioning, questioning, then he said, "Now when you got that telephone call on the twenty-second, what was your first reaction?" And she said, "Oh, I was glad that we were going to go out." And he said, "Liar! Liar! Liar! You are lying to the Communist government! You said that they had got a telegram first and then a telephone call. And now you're saying that you got the telephone call on the twenty second. Liar! Liar!" And he screamed at her for at least half an hour. And she was in tears. And she was just shaking. And when she got home, then he said, "I demand that you write an apology that will be published in the Communist paper that will go all over China." And, well, she was so upset. And she didn't know what to do about writing. You know you have to write and there is a very formal kind of writing that you have to use for writing letters and so they tried to get some Chinese to help. Nobody dared. They said, "Oh, we don't dare. If they found out that we write a letter for you, why that would be terrible." Well, it was a good thing that her husband was a.... He had really studied Chinese and he had books on the polite Chinese language to us...to use. And so he said, "Well, I guess I will have to write the letter myself, for you." And so he did. At first, "Bah, that's not abject enough." And so he had to write it again. I think he had to write it three or four times until it was abject enough in apologizing. And then they did publish it in the paper. I saw it in the paper.
SHUSTER: What effect did the Communist takeover have on the Chinese Christians?
ELLIOTT: Oh, so many, many, many Chinese Christians were killed by the Communists just because they were Christians. So it was....
SHUSTER: They weren't even accused of being Western puppets or anything like that? They were just killed specifically for being Christian?
ELLIOTT: Well, because the Christians in some places had taken a stand against Communism, because Communism refuses to believe that there is a God. And so they said, "Well, we can't follow the Communist teaching, because its against God." So they had taken a stand on their own. And because of that they were shot.
SHUSTER: Did you see anything of the beginning of the Three Self Movement?
SHUSTER: Or was that later?
ELLIOTT: Well, you see they took that from Hudson Taylor. Hudson Taylor was the one who started the Three Selfs. And that was not.... I didn't know anything about that until about three years ago. I started getting letters from Hong Kong, from a group that is China Communications Limited. A...its a group of Chinese Christians who put out letters and I started to get those letters. And that was the first that I had heard at all that the Church had grown so wonderfully in the fifty years when there were no...no...(was it fifty or thirty) years that there were...no...(thirty years) Christians in China. I mean, no missionaries. No missionaries in China. The Holy Spirit had been at work. And there were more Christians than we had ever thought there would ever be all over China. And there still are. And we...and they're still growing in numbers. The Lord has wonderfully blessed. So its a joy to know that they are...that the churches have grown all over China.
SHUSTER: So did you...when you were leaving China, the Christians did not seem demoralized then, or did they or...?
ELLIOTT: Well, before I left China, we didn't dare speak to any of the Chinese Christians after the pa...pastor had been put into prison.
SHUSTER: Why was that?
ELLIOTT: Not because we...they...you know, the Chinese are so polite that even at the risk of their lives they would come up to us and speak to us on the street. And then we began to notice that they suddenly disappeared and then by quietly inquiring they had been taken by the Communists. No trial, but they were never seen again. So, it got so that if I saw one of my Christian friends coming along, I would suddenly be very much interested in either, if it were along the road, I'd be picking flowers or hunting for a certain plant or something, you know, so she wouldn't have to speak to me, because a Chinese would always speak to you by name if they saw you and you saw them. So if I saw one coming quite a ways away, then I'd be so engrossed that they wouldn't have to speak to me. Because I was so afraid for them. And if I were up at the gap and...where there were stores, I'd look in the store windows and be engrossed there and wait until I was sure she had passed before I would turn around.
SHUSTER: So your last weeks in China were more or less just spent with other Westerners as you were waiting to...?
ELLIOTT: Yes. I didn't dare speak to them for...for fear...for their safety.
SHUSTER: You say you left in March '51, left China for the last time?
SHUSTER: Did you go to Shanghai and out?
ELLIOTT: No, to Hong Kong.
SHUSTER: To Hong Kong.
ELLIOTT: We went to...we had to.... Oh, it was a trip! We had...first, we had to put all of the stuff through the customs. Mr. [E. W.] Carlburg, who...the one who had come out to...had been helping with Air Force translation and had come out to India with us. Well, now he had stayed on as business manager and (One of the business managers. We had two.) and so he and I were the only two who really could speak Chinese fluently and so we had to put all the things through. Whenever they had guards go through the...all of our stuff, and they would take everything out of every box and just throw it on the ground. And we'd try and get the things back in the right boxes. We weren't sure. And a lot of the stuff was broken. You know, if you had china or anything, they didn't care. Broken. And if they saw something that they wanted, they helped themselves. They took a whole lot of stuff. And we had seven times when we had everything inspected before we got to the border, so that we had a whole lot of things that were taken out and so that by the time we arrived.... And also, we were...at that time we had been limited to two hundred pounds of...each. But by the time we got there, if we had a hundred and fifty pounds, we were doing well. When we got to Hon...actually got to Hong Kong....
SHUSTER: And of course that was the last time you've been to China, when you left through Hong Kong.
ELLIOTT: Yes. We were...when we got to Hong Kong...see, there were...there were so many refugees coming out from China. And then, with a whole bunch of schoolchildren.... The British government (of course British owned Hong Kong) they turned over a camp that had been for British soldiers and it had alot of tents. And so we...we had to have the children sleep in tents. And there were camp cots there. And then we had a dining area. And so that was where we had our school classes. We had to have school classes because shipping was very, very difficult. It was very hard to get shipping for the families and then we had to wait for the parents of these children to come and to claim their children to go on home on furlough and so that's why we had to wait in Hong Kong for months until all the children were accounted for.
SHUSTER: So when did you reach the US again?
ELLIOTT: Well, while I was there, I...I hadn't been well up in Kuling the last few months, because I was one who was questioned too. There weren't very many who were questioned, but I was one. And the nervous reaction for me was rather...I guess my heart didn't like it. And so after that year, then I came home on furlough and I was very.... Well, not that year. That...those months. And then I came home. And then the mission, you see...it was the China Inland Mission. Then they didn't know what they were going to do, because we were only in China. And then everybody had to leave China. So then they had a group that gathered in England....
SHUSTER: Did they...did the mission inform you then that they were...? What did they say to you when you were going on furlough? Did they say that, "We might be disbanding," or...
ELLIOTT: Well, yes.
SHUSTER: ...you'll just hear from us or...?
ELLIOTT: They...they just said. "We're disbanding," so I wasn't actually going home on furlough. I was going home.
SHUSTER: Was there some final meeting or was...?
ELLIOTT: Well, there weren't enough to make a decision before I left to come home. They were still praying about it but then they...it...because they really didn't know what the Lord's plan was and so then...then they in praying, they felt that they wanted to have a gathering of the leaders in England and so they had the leaders who came from Australia and New Zealand, and from America and Canada.
SHUSTER: Maybe we can talk about that meeting next time. I see we are almost out of tape here.
ELLIOTT: All right.
SHUSTER: Before we end, though, you mentioned that you had your question...you were questioned too. Did you have the same problem as this other lady, about trying to trip you up in contradictions or...?
ELLIOTT: Right, they did. But you know, it was very nice. At that time the parents of a couple of the children had come and he was a very good Chinese speaker. And so when he heard that any of us were going to be questioned, he volunteered to be...to translate, because some of the teachers couldn't speak English, you see...I mean, couldn't speak Chinese. Well, although I could speak Chinese, he said, "You...." And I...but I wasn't feeling well and he said, "You let me go with you and pretend you don't understand. And then, if he tries to trip you up, you'll have time when you understand what he asks, to be sure that you don't get caught. Because I'll tell you...I'll listen to him and then I'll tell you in English and you answer me in English and then I can translate back to him." And so then when he...he was asking me about our coming back from Chi...from India and he said, "Now, when you....
SHUSTER: Now, this was the Chinese interrogator?
ELLIOTT: Yes. And you see, I had told him at the beginning we had come back and we had stopped in Singapore and in Hong Kong and then had gone on to Shanghai. Well, then an hour or so later, well then he said, "Well, when you and the children got off in Hong Kong, did you take the train to Shanghai?" And, you see, he was trying to trip me up. But in the translation...the time...of course, when I heard it, inside I almost laughed. But I...then I said, "Oh no. We did not get off in Hong Kong. We went by ship all the way to Shanghai." And so...and he didn't try to trip me up in any other...other time. And so I was very thankful that...that at least, that he only tried once. So....
SHUSTER: Well, I think that that brings us to the end of this tape. Thank you once again.
END OF TAPE