Billy Graham Center
Collection 417 - Charles Oliver Springer. T2 Transcript
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the continuation of the oral history interview of Charles
Oliver “Dick” Springer (CN 417, T2) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken
words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by
the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few
cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of
having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the
speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations
such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically
replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was
expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a
different rhythm and rule than written English.
Chinese place names are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according
to how the speaker pronounced them. Thus, "Peking" is used instead of "Beijing," if that is how
the interviewee pronounced it. Chinese terms and phrases which would be understood were
spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliteration
form to which it corresponds.
... 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 transcript was made by Bob Shuster and Jeff Aernie and was completed in March 2004.
Collection 417, T2. Interview of Charles Oliver "Dick" Springer by Paul Ericksen, June
SPRINGER: So [Robert Wilder, one of the founders of the Student Volunteer Movement] he
said that he was interested in another youth movement that the Lord was now using...which is
the...what we have today the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. So that's when I first heard of
it. From Robert Wilder. And I over the years got to know that better.
ERICKSEN: As president of your SVM group at Princeton did you see any of the tendencies in
your group that were taking place on the larg...higher level?
SPRINGER: No, those that were interested enough in missions at our time there were
Evangelicals. There were other types in school that weren't sure of a lot of things, but they
weren't interested in missions. So that screened them out.
ERICKSEN: You also mentioned Mr. [Robert] Glover. What kind of fellow was he?
SPRINGER: You'll be glad to hear his voice when you get to heaven. He had a melodious deep,
rich voice. I just loved to hear it. And he had formally been in the.... He'd been in another
mission. Can you stop it? [referring to the tape recorder] The C&MA mission...he'd been in it
for years. One joke in the family was that when the mother and father wanted to say something
and they didn't want the kids to get it, they'd speak in Mandarin and the kids wouldn't get it. But
eventually the kids got that vocabulary so they had to change to Cantonese, I believe it was. And
he had become a missions teacher at Moody [Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, USA] at one
point too. He was a great help to all of us who knew him.
ERICKSEN: What kind of things did he do or say that made you feel that helpfulness?
SPRINGER: Well, he was very acquainted with the needs in Asia and he knew that Christ was
the answer. It wasn't from a theory. It was presenting Christ out there and seeing what Christ
did. It was no theory to him. And he was a good manager of business or thinking or whatever.
He was just good. And I prayerfully wanted a lot to rub off from him on to me if it could. I
don't know if that was fully answered [laughs]. But it was a good challenge to know him.
ERICKSEN: So then as soon as [Charles] Erdman suggested you apply to CIM [China Inland
Mission], you did that. What happened then?
SPRINGER: They set a time for about six weeks for us to come and be trained. I had in the
meantime gone to Moody. This is a new wrinkle. But you go from Princeton to Moody Bible
Institute. But [during] my years at Princeton there were twenty-seven from Wheaton College...
ERICKSEN: At Princeton?
SPRINGER: ...Yeah...my schoolmates. Twenty-seven of them had gone to Wheaton. I noticed
that some had not only gone to Wheaton but they had gone to Moody and those that had that
combination were outstanding, spiritually. So I...I...I wanted that combination to rub off on me.
And it was in my heart to see if I could get to Moody. And that worked. Somewhere along the
line you must ask me about how I met Marian and all that, 'cause that goes into this part of the
ERICKSEN: Well, I did.... Yeah. Maybe this is as good a time as any to do that. Why don't
you talk about that.
SPRINGER: Alright. It was during the Depression that I was in seminary. And it meant that
going to school 3,000 miles from home was...was an item. And I just had to have the Lord to
solve it. When I got through my first year at Princeton and it was time to go back to the state of
Washington because the [Presbyterian] Board of Foreign Missions had a job for me during the
summer which I should take over. So how was I going to get 3,000 miles when I had only five
dollars? And so I, of course, prayed about it a great deal. [Pauses] And the only thing I could do
was have a schoolmate of mine take me to Chincook, Iowa because his girl lived there. And he
was...he could take me that far in his jalopy [slang term for an old, dilapidated car]. From there
on I was on my own. I had to hitchhike from Iowa to the state of Washington. So I talked to the
Lord about it. And I said, "Lord, I'm going to have to hitch-hike and I want you to screen this
thing. I want you to manage it fully. But I want only those who are willing to listen to me [talk]
about Jesus Christ to pick me up. I want you to screen out all the other kind of fellows that
wouldn't want to talk on that. And I don't care if they take me a mile or a hundred miles. You
manage it. And whatever you say goes." So going through Nebraska there was kind of very
slowing, 'cause one fellow picked me up 'cause I looked like his son. And then there began to be
storm out west of us and people were not traveling. It was pretty slow going. And at one place I
got to a town called Sydney. That's way out in western Nebraska. And the storm had got so bad
that you couldn't see the sun. In fact, that day eighteen people were killed in storm-related...related accidents. But one man stopped me at the western end of town. I always went to
the west end so I wouldn't be bothering and using my thumb on people who were just going
around the block. So when I got to that place and hailed, here was man stopped with a roadster.
And he wasn't suppose to stop for people up but he needed someone to see the...that side of the
road to keep him safely traveling and he needed to get to an appointment down the road. He was
one of the managers of...of a farm implement company. And so he picked me up and we got to
talking about the Lord and he was interested and willing to talk about it and obviously needed
more of Christ than he had. He was a Sunday school superintendent and all that kind of thing but
he hadn't been born again. And when we got to a town where he would go on to his appointment
and I would have to go on to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and we...we had a little bit of food together.
And as we were in that restaurant I could see.... I had a trench coat and I was just matted with
dust and dirt and filth. And I marveled that he ever picked me up. I looked like a gangster. And
that night I couldn't go any further west. There wasn't anybody but people going out to their
ranch. And the man at the gas station said "Well, there's a lady here who takes people in and
maybe she'll take you in for the night." So I did that. I had a tea kettle bath. That night it rained.
But the stormy wind was still there. But the...all the dust was settled. So by about noon I got to
Cheyenne and I was hungry. I didn't have much money but I got a little bit. A cup of coffee and
a roll or something. I hadn't learned yet that you had to eat to keep warm and it was kind of cold.
So then I went through Cheyenne to the west end and [pauses] this man stopped and it was the
same man again. Mr. Tucker. And he said, "I was just thinking about you." And I said, "Well,
I was just thinking about you and how I would carry on where we had talked yesterday." And he
said, "Well, I have a little free time after my meeting and I wanted to see this part of my district.
It's new to me. And I was hoping I could meet you and we could go on west together." And
that's what happened. And so until about sundown we continued talking about Christ and the
faith and then he had to turn back at a place called Hannah. He had to go east and I had to go
west. So we had prayer. That next winter at Christmas time I sent him a Christmas card that
said, "I'm that redhead with a nose that drops up that you picked up last summer and I wish you
a very happy New Year," and so on. He wrote back and said, "You didn't have to describe
yourself. I hadn't forgotten you. In fact I had my family go along this whole route that we took
together and said, 'We stopped there [laughs].'" So he said, "Let's get together this summer.
We can meet in Omaha and I'll take you out to Salt Lake City." That's where I was going to go
to meet people. So that was our plan. Then three of four weeks before school was out in the
Spring of that year I got a letter from the state of Washington from the church with a pass in it on
the Northern Pacific Railroad for me, in my name, not transferable, that I could use to go out
west. For here I was going to go that route and this took me the northern route. And I was very
puzzled about that. Here it was non-transferable. I had to go that route and I was supposed to
go this other one. And I got to Chicago on the way home and there was a letter there for me from
Mr. Tucker. It says, "I'm sorry I can't meet you in Omaha. I won't be there. But I will be in the
Twin Cities [Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota]. Could you meet me up in the Twin Cities
SPRINGER: Yeah. And yeah. "So incidently my wife and my son will be in Evanston. And
there's going to be a family jamboree get-together of both sides of the family and it would be
nice if you went to meet those people." And this worked out. I met this Mrs. Tucker and her son
and met all the whole tribe. And then as I left to go to the Twin Cities they saw me off on the
train and Mrs. Tucker said, "Tomorrow you'll meet my daughter and I hope you like her."
[laughs]. The train was chugging away. Next day Mr. Tucker met me at the train and I had sat
up all night, 'cause I didn't have money for a Pullman [a sleeping berth on a train] And I was
looking kind of seedy and he suggested that at the Curtis Hotel there was a room that the two of
us were to have. I might go up there and freshen up while he went out to the University to get
Marion his daughter and we'd have a meal together, which we did. And, of course, as I came
down on the (I was going to say lift) elevator she was right at the doorway there and very
attractive. Very impressive. I had been leaning over backwards not to meet women 'cause I
didn't want to get tangled up. I wanted to get out to China. And I thought getting tangled up, I
would foul up things. So I hadn't looked at girls at all. But she seemed very attractive. Then he
had to go and meet with men and...before our lunch and I thought to myself, "What in the world
will I talk to this guy's daughter about?" And as clear as a bell the Lord said, "Just talk to her
like you did to her dad" [laughs]. Her dad said that she was to be speak at a...be kind of a
preacher during the summer. So I wanted to test her out on what she was going to speak. Well
I...after I had had supper with Mr. Tucker who had to leave to Canada, I rendezvoused with his
daughter and I didn't know what to do. The Lord said, "Well, you know how to paddle a canoe.
Get a canoe off the lake here and just spend the evening talking to her." And to this day Marion
has kidded me about that because I would sit in that canoe as far away from her as I could
without falling in the lake [Laughs] and talk. And I tal...talked about, "What would you preach?
What would your message be if you were going to be this preacher?" I felt that if...if she would
vocalize her message, I could tell where she was with the Lord. And that's the way it worked
out. And we had to turn in the...the canoe after a downpour of rain [unclear]. And so we sat in
the company car and I gave her as best I could in Princetonian language the way of salvation.
And she said, "Well, I'd like to believe that." And I said, "Well, do you believe in prayer?" And
she said, "Oh yeah, the Lord has answered my prayer many times." So that night she asked the
Lord into her heart when she was by herself by her bed and it was the next day that as we
rende...met to go to church, she observed that everything...the blue was bluer and the green was
greener and that life...she'd had peace in her heart she'd never had before. She was amazed. So
she was now born again. So she...she could be one that I would be serious about marrying
[chuckles]. We were in conference all summer and I saw her in the fall when I went back to
Princeton. And it became clear to both of us that if the Lord so led her to China, well, we'd get
married out in China. Our parents preferred that we get married before we go. The CIM didn't
do things that way. They always had the kids go out and have about two years, learn the
language, learn the customs, see if they could get along with the life out there and then get
married. Well, this was the other way around. But because we both were university graduates
and a little older than the average runt in those days, they made special arrangements. And Dr.
[Robert Hall] Glover [CIM Home Director in the United States from 1929-1943] okayed that we
might get married. So we were married about three hours after school was out that summer by
one of the profs in the school, Don C. Page, and we had a month of honeymoon and then we
were in school together at Moody. And we went out married. And she being a linguist was a
great thing for me because I'm more or less tone deaf. We teamed up well.
ERICKSEN: So, was she a linguist by training?
SPRINGER: By gift.
ERICKSEN: Had she had training in that?
SPRINGER: No. But she...she could hear something and reproduce it right away and remember
it. She had memory as well as a very sensitive hearing. It was perfect.
ERICKSEN: Now how long were you at Moody?
SPRINGER: Just the one year.
ERICKSEN: So that would have been '35 to...
SPRINGER: It was...
SPRINGER: Yeah, '36.
ERICKSEN: And which course did you take?
SPRINGER: Missions. Anything I could get that had to do with missions.
ERICKSEN: Any of the faculty that you had stand out?
SPRINGER: Yeah. Yeah. Dr. [William Halleck] Hockman [chairman of the mission
department at Moody] was a CIM missionary for many years. So that whole year all his
illustrations were CIM and that's what I was interested in going out in. So that was very
beneficial, very helpful. And, of course, whenever missionaries came, then I'd get them in a
corner and say, "Now when you went to the mission field what kind of clothes did you wear?" or
"What kind of baggage did you have?" and all that kind of stuff. So that was helping me
accumulate information all year.
ERICKSEN: Did you happen to meet a fellow named Isaac Page?
ERICKSEN: What was he like?
SPRINGER: Marion knew him real well and went every week to his Bible classes. I only met
him about two times. But he was a great fellow. He was a Yorkshireman. He had been a
blacksmith, I think, got converted and he said to the Lord, "I'm not much on speech but if...if you
want me to serve you in China, then please enable me here with this language to win people to
the Lord." And he began to winning people to the Lord and that was his signal to go out. And
Marion had him for, I don't know, well over a year every week. And he was a great influence.
He was a great influence on this church...church [the Calvary Church in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania]. Before it got started here he would have Bible classes with Mennonites and they
got converted. And out of it came this church. I've never seen that published but it was out
of...it was this nucleus of people in Isaac Page's classes that got things going.
ERICKSEN: What would you say was the most beneficial thing that came from your time at
SPRINGER: Well, people say about Moody that the great thing about Moody is Chicago. In the
morning, you get theory and the teaching from the men and then, in the afternoon, you go out
into the town and try it out. And that's how you learn and then you discuss it. And then you go
back and get more direction on...on the whole thing. But it was a great benefit that way. The
people that came in. The messages that you heard, being alerted to the world's needs and that
emphasized China to me. In those days we heard it probably the Japanese there would be one
Christian out of two hundred fifty, but the...the figures they gave us about China was a thousand
would only have one...there was a believer. So if you only live once and you want to meet the
greatest needs, China was obviously the direction to go. So that's one of the directions for me.
ERICKSEN: Did...was there any requirement that CIM had for you as far as getting some sort of
ministry experience before you went to the field?
SPRINGER: Not as much as they should of. Or, at least, it wasn't the practice then. Nowadays
we want people to get some internship. And I found that after being on the field for a term (in
those days it was a eight year term...seven or eight) I took a church. Because of the folderol
[commotion] around the world, it was best to take a church. I was kicked out of China and that
experience of about four years of being a senior pastor of a church was a tremendous help to me
later. You don't always in these days go to a church in a foreign field and say, "You'll do it this
way." You'll say, "Have you ever thought of using it this way or this way? My experience was
that the Lord blessed this certain type." And that's about all you'd say and it was quite an
encouragement for them to try things out. So I found it real helpful to have had a church.
Whereas before we took out eighty-one [new missionaries] the year that I went out. I would say
the majority of them hadn't had that experience. But we now realize that it's very valuable to
have that. Nowadays most of the people are college graduates and the whole thing has changed.
Not only that, but when you go to most fields now the people you deal with are college graduates.
That wasn't so fifty years ago. So things have changed and you want more experience before you
go out now.
ERICKSEN: Once you had all of your...all of that squared away when did you actually leave for
SPRINGER: I left for China in 1936 which was just weeks after I was thru at Moody.
ERICKSEN: And did you leave from Vancouver?
SPRINGER: I did. That was the pattern in those days, yeah.
ERICKSEN: Anything eventful about the trip over?
SPRINGER: Well, we had a lollapalooza of a hurricane or typhoon. And I loved it. The
rougher the water, the more I liked it. But for Marion it was a miserable experience. I was
helping escort the eight women in my party and Dick Hillis' wife Margaret was the first to get
sea sick and go to bed and Marion was number two. I got to Tokyo and went up to be with my
grandad Charles Bishop and said, "I hadn't missed a meal during that time." And he said, "Of
course you didn't miss a meal. You had Norwegian pirate ancestors." [laughs] But Marion came
from a nobler race and she put her foot on the gang plank and began to feel giddy. It was
embarrassing. I enjoyed it, I really did. The rougher the better. But the poor girl she had a mess
of a time. She was more delicate to these things. And that means she was more highly
developed than I.
ERICKSEN: What were your first impressions of Shanghai?
SPRINGER: Well, crowds of people. Driving on the left side. I had a lot...mentally I had a lot
of accidents before I ever got [laughs] to the headquarters.
ERICKSEN: Did you have to drive everyone to the headquarters?
SPRINGER: I didn't have to drive. It was other people. Later on under American military
occupation, we got it squared away. Everything was on the right and I used to drive a jeep to
help the people at the headquarters when I was in town.
ERICKSEN: What about your impression of headquarters?
SPRINGER: Headquarters...I was amazed. They had two very big buildings. One was five story
and one was four story. The five story had an infirmary on the top side and then places for the
men and the women in rooms below. The first deck would be for eating facilities and cooking
and all that. The other side was all business, business offices. And I thought it was well done
but we didn't get to see much of it. They had what they called a "go down." That's a...where
you stored everything. And we had to spend our time taking our clothes (the duds that we
brought out) and packing them away getting fitted out for Chinese garb to leave. We weren't to
diddle around in town long. In about a week we were gone.
ERICKSEN: And then you went to Anking?
SPRINGER: That's correct.
ERICKSEN: To language school. Now was it...?
SPRINGER: There were twenty-one of us. Marion was the twenty-first and she came to the
boys school because she was married.
ERICKSEN: Now was the customary for married...
ERICKSEN: ...for families to stay together?
SPRINGER: ...it was...even families. We were kind of pioneering it. The year ahead of us there
were the Kanes, Burt Kane and his wife [Winnifred], whom in your records you have a
tremendous...wonderful [interview, Collection 182 in the Billy Graham Center Archives]...they
were a wonderful couple. And we were next and then after that, when war came we found that
men were older when they mustered out and made themselves available for missions and by that
time were married and they had children. Everything was different. If you wanted to just hold to
the old plan, you'd miss a lot of personnel. And they had to change it. It was due to the war
[World War II]. So that set a precedent. So now we...well, in those days they wouldn't look at
you if you were older than twenty-eight...now they take people in their thirties who are
specialists, who have mastered some subject and we need that. [Clears throat frequently] Now
we have another type of ministry now that we don't talk much about. In fact, you may not want
to record it. It's a...we have technicians in certain fields of the...that are going out with us as
technicians, but they really love the Lord, they know the Gospel, they know that. And whenever
possible in their helping technically they'll get the Word in to, or invite people over and talk to
ERICKSEN: So a "tent-making" kind of thing?
SPRINGER: Yeah. So that's going on. We don't...you don't hear about it. You don't read it in
the newspaper. It has been going on. As of last week I think every one of them is out of China at
the moment on account of this what's going on [the killing of the protestors in Tiananmen Square
in Peking [Bejing], China, on June 4, 1989].
ERICKSEN: At language school you said that your wife was a linguist and...and you aren't.
Based on that, was the way it went predictable?
SPRINGER: She has the ability to hear something for the first time and remember it and
reproduce it and that's tremendous in language. And I...I'm, you might say, tone deaf or
something and she could help me enough so that I could get by. And that was a great boon. I
recognized that she was equipped with that and that I needed it, so we teamed up on it.
ERICKSEN: How long were you at Anking?
SPRINGER: We went there in the Fall, September. And left in the...about April or May.
ERICKSEN: And you had passed all the tests required by that point?
SPRINGER: Well, enough so that...yeah. And Marion was on the way to having a baby so we
dropped downriver to a place called Wuhu...Wuhu, Anhwei, where there was a hospital and our
first born in August was born there. It was the place where John and Betty Stam were murdered
by the Communists [in 1934]. Their grave is right in front of our house. And I'd been in
Princeton with Betty's brother, Francis, and he learned about this murder out of the newspaper
and not...not any other way. And he asked me to get all the clippings. So for a week or so, I got
all the clippings about the John and Betty Stam murder. Later on I got to know the Chinese [Lo
Ke-chou] who carried Priscilla out. And....
ERICKSEN: That would be their daughter?
SPRINGER: Right. And my doctor examined the bodies of the parents. So we had that tie-in.
ERICKSEN: Do you remember him talking at all about...about that or...?
SPRINGER: The doctor? Not as much as I should of. For instance, when they were decapitated
one...one neck was only cut deeply not...the head was still.... I don't know which one it was. I
didn't go into those things.
ERICKSEN: So you had gone...you had com...had you completed your language training by the
time you went down to Wuhu?
SPRINGER: No. Just what was required for those early months. The theory in those days was
wherever you went you would be studying Chinese. And...so wherever I was I would look up a
teacher. But the screwball thing about this is, in Chinese you have a language for every town.
That is, the tones are different. And for me that was chaos. To learn it one way hard and then
say, "That's wrong, you got to do it this way." And then the next town had another. My first
term, we were in about fifteen places on account of wars and rumors of wars, so it was chaos.
For Marion, no big problem. She could make those adjustments without any problem. She was
kind of a miracle. And I needed a miracle [chuckles]. So wherever we went we had teachers and
no two of them were alike and they hadn't been trained. Nowadays, of course, we
scientifically...in every country we're in we have a specialist on language for that country. And
you go to that place and get the best language lingo they have for that country and they strictly
see to it that you get the proper standard. So that's tremendous. In our time, that didn't exist. It
was some ideal in the far-off sky.
ERICKSEN: Now what else was going on at...at language school besides your actual language
SPRINGER: One of the important things was that we as a mission of interna...international
mission, that we had fellows there from various fields and we were learning to get along together
without too much clashing. We did our clashing on the football...on the basketball field. We
really clashed there. I mean, we clashed in physical contact. The...for instance one group, the
German group, had their celebration of Christmas the day before and on Christmas Day they
were in a their...well, it looked like they were going to a funeral. And all the rest of us, it wasn't
that way and in fact in the afternoon we played some basketball (we had some time). To them
that was verboten [German word meaning "forbidden']. And you had to learn to get along with
this and make adjustments, which is valuable in training...getting into get into this other culture
of Chinese later, of being adaptable. We as a fam...as a mission, you know, emphasized
identification with the people. Hudson Taylor was the one who in Shanghai during the war that
was going on when he went there. He lived outside of town...outside the walls and got Chinese
clothes and [unclear] pigtail. And he was blonde. He had to dye his hair and weave this in. And
in England they [unclear] and they even had talk in Parliament, I'm told, about whether they
should let this fellow come back who was dressed like a "chink" [racial slur for a Chinese
person]. He'd be a bad influence. There was quite a ruckus. So we were learning to live with these people and dress like the Chinese. Marian had her hair just like the Chinese women and wore a long gown. And one time on Poyang Lake [in Kiansi Province]I heard a fellow on the deck say, "I've seen
this in Peking a number of times, a foreigner marrying a Chinese lady" [Both chuckle]. They
took Marian for that.
ERICKSEN: Did...in the international mix of all the different people at language school were
there certain national groups that tended to get along with each other more or less?
SPRINGER: We got along with the colonials of the British Empire, the far flung Empire, very
easily. To get along with the people from the United Kingdom of the British Isles was...took a
little more effort because...they were strictly...they had their way and that was the way. They
weren't too adaptable. And I think one of the main things we as missionaries must learn to do is
be adaptable. And they were a little slower at it. But we colonials we really piled up [got along]
real well, no problem.
ERICKSEN: Do you remember the process of being assigned to your first post?
SPRINGER: Well, they...they [the administrators of the CIM] would...they sent up one of their
directors in the Spring and they had facts about our language and health and all these things
already. They also had the requests for help from the various fields and they would take you and
marry you to a need. And so then we had an interview with the top man in the Spring...
ERICKSEN: And who would that have been?
SPRINGER: That was a man named Mr. [George] Gibb. And I being a Presbyterian minister,
they thought it well that I be near the Presbyterian show. So I was sent to Fowyang, F-O-W-Y-A-N-G, and that was where Kane was already. And Kane had been at Moody just ahead...when
Marian was first there. So they already knew each other.
END OF TAPE
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