Collection 417, T1. Interview of Charles Oliver "Dick" Springer by Paul Ericksen, June 19,
ERICKSEN: Do you remember what your first impression of Fowyang was?
SPRINGER: Well, it was a walled city and really China at its best. And we had two different compounds. The one that we were designated to had been firebombed and a lot of destruction there. But [James Herbert] Kane had built a very acceptable house there for young couple in which we lived and he lived over next to the big Fowyang church but he wasn't far away. And it was real inland China. They'd have about seven to eight hundred people at church. They had over seventy out-stations and Burt Kane was frequently going out to them but I was supposed to be learning language and didn't get out very often.
ERICKSEN: So initially your job description was to keep working on Chinese?
ERICKSEN: And that was the normal Mandarin?
ERICKSEN: How long a period was there before you began on your own work?
SPRINGER: There came a time when the Japa...Japanese invaded just north of us in a town called Taiho. It'd be about forty...fifty miles north and there were only ladies there. And Japanese had a bad reputation with women. So the women were inexperienced and a drunk fellow was coming around looking for women and they felt that they should have a man up there. So I was dispensable and I went...Marion and I went up.
ERICKSEN: How did you feel about moving up there?
SPRINGER: Well, I felt it was the thing to do. The teaching and the studying I wasn't doing too well. Marion was doing fine. So it just meant doing it more up there. But there was no real teacher that we had up there.
ERICKSEN: Now who were the women missionaries that were in Taiho?
SPRINGER: It was a Mable and Francis Williamson, two sisters. And occasionally other gals would come, like Helen McRae from Canada and Ruth Melack [sp?]. She's right over here now [at the OMF retirement home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania]. And occasionally other women would be coming through.
ERICKSEN: And how did your accommodations in Taiho compare with the places you had been living in Fowyang?
SPRINGER: In Fowyang, Kane did a good job of building that place up. It was very acceptable, very. So it was kind of hard pulling away from it. In Taiho we were in an older house. It was a big house. Probably too big for missionaries, really. But it was built by a man named Ohewing [sp?]. He had built a lot of buildings for the mission. He was wealthy and thought this was one thing he could do. So we had an upstairs, lots of rooms and walled in. So it was alright.
ERICKSEN: How much of a presence were the Japanese...
ERICKSEN: ...while you were there?
SPRINGER: Not particularly. They were there over a weekend.
ERICKSEN: And then they were gone?
SPRINGER: They...the Japanese in those days, one way they paid their puppet soldiers was by having them on what you might call organized raids. Let 'em get to a town and just help themselves to whatever they could grab. And it wasn't too good in any wise.
ERICKSEN: How much banditry was there?
SPRINGER: Out in the country there was a certain amount of that, yeah.
ERICKSEN: Were there communists in the area at that point?
SPRINGER: At that point there weren't.
ERICKSEN: Now what...what would you say was your typical activity for a day or a week?
SPRINGER: When I was in Taiho? In Taiho, the main business for me was, of course, study. But the fellow that was my teacher was not particularly trained for it. So it was a struggle on my part to try to get things out of him. And to help the right way. And increasingly, however, I would go out on weekends to some of the outstations that we had. And those people would tolerate my message, increasingly get some help out of it. And [pauses] that was about as far as I could go. I wasn't ready to deliver messages in a conference, that type of thing. So that was very primitive beginnings. I spoke however in the local church occasionally, try myself out.
ERICKSEN: Now by this point you had already had your first son. Is that...?
SPRINGER: That's right.
ERICKSEN: Is that right?
SPRINGER: No it was a daughter. Molly. Mary Olive.
ERICKSEN: And when was Charles born?
SPRINGER: He goes by Tom. Charles Henry Thomas. [Ericksen laughs]. That's alright. He was born in Fowyang [pauses] and had a good local doctor.
SPRINGER: That worked out alright.
ERICKSEN: And I gleaned from one of the Kane's letters [in the BGC Archive's Collection 182] that he was quite ill at one point. Maybe that was in Fowyang?
SPRINGER: Oh, my boy. You did some good homework. He one time had dysentery violently. Very dehydrated. And, of course, no hospital near by. It would take a day to get to a hospital. He gradually came around, praise the Lord. And he was the one that later that went to Annapolis and worked in the Polaris submarine program. In August he will go to London and be a navy official to help navies in a lot of countries in Europe that will work with him. He was born there.
ERICKSEN: Now there was also another son. The name I came up with was John. I don't know if....
SPRINGER: That's right. John McKendree III.
ERICKSEN: And he...let's see...when was he born?
SPRINGER: [Pauses] You got me. But he...
ERICKSEN: About '41, '42?
ERICKSEN: And then I understand he died quite young.
SPRINGER: Yeah. He did. Nine months, nine months. He was muscularly superior to his older brother and sister but constantly in discomfort and crying. I couldn't understand why such a solidly well-built person was crying. At that time the Japanese had all the hospitals and it was open season on Americans and we just didn't get medical help. And suddenly one morning we found him already passed away in the bed. We call that [pauses] - what is it?
ERICKSEN: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [SIDS].
SPRINGER: Yeah. That. Thank you. That's what they call it.
ERICKSEN: [Pauses] What was it like raising a family in China?
SPRINGER: Raising a family is catch as catch can. We would have them home when we could. We relied on the fact that our God can do a lot with a little. And we looked to God to help them however they could get help. And we'd...they would have to be going off to school and we wouldn't have them. But in our case Molly went...Tom...for a very short time. And then it was time to go home to the States and they stayed home.
ERICKSEN: They didn't come back?
SPRINGER: No. And then the middle one, Harriet, she was kind of caught in between and never went to a CIM school. In the CIM school they got well grounded in the Word [the Bible]. So much so that Tom in the submarine service in two oceans was a [pauses] kind of a chaplain. That is lay preacher. There was no chaplain, so he helped that way in his particular boats, the Calhoun and the Ulysses S. Grant.
ERICKSEN: Now when you went home or you came home in '45, were you due for your furlough at that point or was that war-related [World War II]?
SPRINGER: It was war-related. We would have probably stayed out longer...
SPRINGER: ...normally. It was obvious that we couldn't go back where we had been. So I fitted in to a need for...for a Presbyterian minister in Seattle, which worked out well. [The Springers settled in Seattle after further service in China from 1947 to 1951.] So that was a time we really as a family for four years, were a family. And it was fun for all of us. And it was at that time when Tom was [clears throat] in football. He was one of the fastest runners in this school of twelve hundred [clears throat]. And the other kids were in school and we saw them all the time, ate together. It was a real family experience, which you seldom get on the field for such a period of time.
ERICKSEN: Is that something that you and Marion missed?
SPRINGER: Oh yeah. You do. But you realize that you do it for the Lord. And the Lord sees to it that....he makes up for it. We...one of our...one of our core verses was "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." [Matthew 6:33] And we figured going to the field was number one and number two was the family. And God would take care of the family. And it worked out beautifully with Tom. We were definitely led after my tour as...as senior pastor of Mount View...in Seattle to go back to the field, this time to Taiwan. But it would mean leaving Tom in the middle of his senior year. And that just didn't seem like cricket, seemed tough. It was. But we could see that we should go. Well, then there was there question, well, [what about] Tom? What about his education? What about a place to live when we leave in January? Well, we just relied that the Lord would take care. We didn't know how. And I went to all his football practices that I could, being pastor. We'd juggle it in, went to his games. And one night at a game I said "Lord, let something happen tonight." I was up in the bleachers saying this to the Lord, "Let something happen to Tom that he can ever after look back at with pride and something that can make him happy." And I just got that out to the Lord when he made a spectacular...he...he got the ball...he intercepted and ran for a spectacular touchdown. And afterwards while I waited at the country...at the club house, a Christian baseball couch from the University came by. He knew me, knew I was a missionary. And he talked to me about Tom and this wonderful run. And then he said, "Well, what are you going to do about him for education? I understand you're leaving for the field." And I could feel a blush coming up. I said "Well, really, I...I don't know the answer. I know that I'm putting God first and I know God will put Tom first, but I don't know how it's going to work out." "Well," he said "did you ever think of academies? This is the time of year when congressman and senators are looking for young men to send...to sponsor to go to an academy [The military service academies at West Point and Annapolis]. What about that?" I said, "Well, I never thought of that." And he said "Well, time to think about it." And I went home with Tom and the local blurb was on the...the local paper was there on the table and Magnuson [probably Warren Grant Magnuson, who served as United States Senator from 1944-1980 from Washington state] had an announcement in there that anyone that had a...a son that was eligible, send him information to Washington D.C. Well, I knew that Magnuson wasn't in Washington D.C. He and I were in the same Rotary Club and I phoned him. He said, "Well, I didn't know you were old enough to have a son that...." That made me feel real good. He said, "I don't out of the blue appoint men to the academy. I have 'em take an exam. So November 16th I'd like to have your son be my boy...one of my boys to take the exams." And so I took Tom down there and we had prayer. There were seventy-five fellows there for all the congressmen and senators. About ten days later Magnuson called me and said that "Tom did so well that he can decide what one of the academies he would like to go to and he will be my number one choice for that academy." [Springer laughs] What God can do. "Commit thy way unto the Lord. Trust also. And he will bring it to pass." [Psalms 37:5] It was beautiful to see. So there was his education, but where was he going to live. I...I went through the roll call of my church and approached those people and person after person, they were interested but they couldn't do anything they couldn't help him. They had legitimate reasons for not helping Tom. And our time was running out. Then one day out of the blue a United Airlines pilot named Tom whom we knew (we went up to Firs [The Firs, a Christian camp near Bellingham, Washington] every summer and had time together) came to me and pled with us that Tom might stay at their house. Their house was so plush it was in the newspaper. A beautiful many-roomed house overlooking Puget Sound. And he had a boy Steven in grammar school. He said "Steven is too big for his britches. He needs a big brother to whittle him down to size and your son Tom would be just the fellow. And besides in this big house we're interested in Young Life campaigners. And we would like to have a place to have the Young Lifers come and meet in our home but we couldn't do that with Stephen but if Tom came, then we could do it." And so they pled and they won and Tom became a part of their family. And to this day there is a very close relationship there. And the Lord did it. [Chuckles] It was beautiful.
ERICKSEN: Going...I'd like to go back to China a little bit more. Can you talk about how the situation deteriorated in Taiho up until the time you had to leave? How were things changing?
SPRINGER: Well communication was not too good. Getting in supplies from Shanghai over the roads was not good. And there were occasions where people would want to borrow your stuff on a long term basis [Springer laughs].
SPRINGER: Yeah. And so it was difficult that way. And we were right on the edge between the...the Japanese area and the Chinese area. In a no man's land of about a hundred miles in between. We were on the edge. And getting in supplies or anything was increasingly difficult. And so we...we needed help that way. The time came of course when we had to leave ourselves and went west and I had to escort woman out of that area. That was a story in itself.
ERICKSEN: Can you talk about that?
SPRINGER: Alright. Well, I was asked by the mission to get people out of the country and three different governments told me that we better get the whole caboodle [as in "whole kit and caboodle," meaning everyone] out because they had evidence that the Japanese were preparing to take over a pocket in which we lived. What had been happening was all up and down the coast the Jap...the American submarines were sinking so much Japanese ships that they now need a railroad to supplement what they had, to get material south for their world conquering program. That meant reviving a railroad bed to the west of us. They had one already to the east of us and were in there. So three different governments told us to get out. "Get out of this before it happens." And I traveled once with the [American] Embassy...Embassy secretary, Drumwright, Everett Drumwright, and I... on bicycles. And he...he said, "You really should seriously contemplate getting out." So I sent that advice on and made arrangements....
ERICKSEN: You sent that advice on to [CIM] headquarters?
SPRINGER: Yes. To Kane primarily. And I even engaged two what we call charcoal burning trucks. They didn't have gas, they had to use charcoal. Two trucks that would stand by and be available to us to get the women and children out. And then the signal was given to us to get out. There was an English family named [C.] Hunt...Hunt family. They were so far in the boonies [at Hwoshan] that they couldn't get out when the others were ready to go. So they took one truck just loaded up with them and the [Vincent and Margaret] Crossetts were here, Mrs. Crossett and her children. Marion and Tom were on that. It was just jammed full of personal. They got out. We still had the Hunts to deal with so I stayed behind. And the time was set that the next truck would show was soon as the Hunts showed. So we were lined up for that truck and they didn't come to us. They bypassed us and went up to [unclear] which is a market town on the border. So then we got that word that they were already up there ahead of us. So we got our bikes and a few belongings, toothbrush and Bible and got on our bikes and rushed up to [unclear] and, sure enough, there they were. And [pauses] it was no...the generals had commandeered all rolling stock. There was nothing for Hunt or any of the rest of us. All in seven days this was to come on. And [pauses and sighs] so the next morning the Hunts used a kind of imperial...imperial push angle of getting their children and themselves on a truck that was already loaded with military gear. Well, we weren't prepared to have any more of the other missionaries get on that way but they had these little children.
SPRINGER: ...the Hunts...
ERICKSEN: How exactly did they...?
SPRINGER: Well, they just said, "We have [clears throat] treaty between Britain and China that says in a time of emergency you will take care of our families in an emergency and we're in an emergency." So they pushed their way on the truck and off it went. Well, we could see that we shouldn't add to that. We had the bikes. So we immediately started west on the bicycles. And met another missionary that had been with us earlier and we suggested that she get moving. So Sunday we were at a certain place and I preached there (I was able to preach by that time). I was going to spend Sunday resting. I'd read in the Bible, you know, that Sunday was your time to rest. But one of our two ladies had insisted that I go back [clears throat] to Taiho and send a signal to Kane that he wasn't to sell all her stuff, that it was too precious for her. She didn't want it sold. And I had to get that word back, which I did. But that kept us at that town for another day. We got that dealt with and immediately started back and the whole situation had changed in that time. The roads were packed with refugees. Everybody and anything that would carry, two wheeled rigs and so on was rolling west in that hour or two [clears throat]. So all afternoon I went back the way I had come in the morning. And I was to preach there the next morning, Sunday. And it was obvious that panic was on and I shouldn't think of staying indefinitely in that hou...in that town. So as soon as we'd had lunch, we...we left. We got out of town and there was a bridge...a wooden bridge. And men were busy scraping the dirt off the bridge. I said, "What are you doing that for?" "So it will burn better." "Burn!" I said. What do you want to burn it for?" "Well the Japanese are just up the road and they're coming this way and we want to delay." They didn't know, you know, how to...mechanize things would mean nothing. But they had to burn the bridge so to delay the Japanese imperial army. Well I had memorized the roads and places around there and had intended to make a triangle across here because from where we were over to Bowgi [sp?] the road hadn't been in there for eight years or so. So I had intended to go that way. But now I had to give up going that way 'cause the imperial army was right ahead of me, coming as fast as they could. So we...we went west right out of that town across country. The road that had been there had long gone, been plowed over for fields. So all afternoon carrying what gear we had on our bikes we...we pushed through plowed fields. And these two girls never murmured...never complained. And we kept going.
ERICKSEN: Who were the two?
SPRINGER: Mabel Williamson and ...
SPRINGER: ...Helen McRae. Yep. They were real good scouts. Then there began to be military personnel passing us [clears throat]. Red Cross units would go by and we'd smell ether and stuff. We kept pushing towards Bowgi [sp?]. And night came on and we were thirsty but nowhere to get a drink. We just kept going. And off in the distance we could see the lights of Bowgi [sp?] Also the north-south road with American trucks zooming by all the time taking out stuff. They would be American trucks used by the Chinese army. They were taking out stuff under pressure of this advance. In the middle of all this in the dark I suddenly heard "[Springer shouts in Chinese]." And that's a whole sentence. And God had taught me what that meant the month before. [Springer states Chinese phrase]. It means "What outfit are you in?" Those few words are very important in a time of war. And I was able to tell them "We are missionaries and we are refugees from Taiho-shen and we are going west to Bowgi [sp?] and Nanyung [sp?] and out to Taoching...Chungking. "Ha ha ha ha"and they let us go on because God had prepared me the month before when I...another story of learning that sentence. And so we got late to Bowgi [sp?] and the town was crowded with people. And I'd never been there before but by asking within an hour we found the [clears throat] church. We were really famished and thirsty. So, the local two or three that were there, they got us a lot of boiled water and we drank and drank and drank. And I don't recall that they were able to get us some food but they did...they did. And then I slept with old grandpa in the granary in that part of the chapel and the girls were in the chapel. And my part, a granary, they had long things with tails called rats that would be on duty all night eating grain. And they would jump from up above and hit my chest and go on you know [Springer laughs]. That went on in the night. We were so tired it didn't fuss us much. At about 4:30 in the morning, a lady comes into where I was and wakes me. The afternoon before there had been a lollapalooza of a bombing [a very heavy bombing] just over the ridge as we were cycling along and she said, "You remember yesterday that bombing at that market. Well, we have markets. Every other day we change places and today its due here. And I want to get my bedding and stuff and get out of here now." So that sort of alerted us to get going. And we went and got a Chinese breakfast and started rolling south to Nanyung [sp?] and we soon came to a wooden bridge and out of the sun came a Japanese fighter bomber, ringing right by us. I could see the guy, he was that low but he didn't shoot or bomb. He did that and circled around once and came again. And then we got going. The girls were ahead of me. My pattern was always to be behind them so if they dropped anything, I'd see it. And they were ahead of me and they got to the bridge. We could hear the planes and they ran and got out in a wheat field and I said that they ought to scatter. You know, bombs dropping. You didn't want to kill both of 'em. But they hollered "If we're going to die we want to die together" [Springer laughs]. And then I got a place in the ditch. When we got back on the road there were a lot of fellas coming with picks and shovels. I said "What's this?" "Oh, well they're going to delay the advance of the Japanese Imperial Army by digging ditches." [Springer laughs] Little ditches. So they were all the time busy on that all morning. So ea...each hour in the morning we were getting closer to one big ditch and we were on bicycles so that meant finally we were having to carry our bikes down and around and up and on again. And we stopped where I had memorized that we had a mission station. And the missionaries had left that morning but we could have goat's milk and bread, things that were left there. So we...that helped us. And then further down there were no...any more ditches. And there was one truck passed us and picked us up, but I saw him two or three times. They would have a breakdown and they'd have to stop. One trouble was they had not been boy scouts and didn't know how to tie a square knot and they were losing their stuff out and they'd have to stop and retie. So I said...I said "How about giving us ride. We gotta get out of here." "Oh," they said "Oh, very dangerous. We have ammunition here, too dangerous." "Well," I said "How about working it this way?". They were always interested in gambling, you know. "How would it be that you go on ahead now but if anything happens another time, if it does and we catch up with you then we'll...we'll go together?" "Well," they said, "alright." [Springer laughs]. So that was our program and sure enough we caught 'em up again and I tied a good square knot on their trailer and we went all the way to Nanyung [sp?] with them that night. We go there after dark and from there we started west and one of the girls sold her...sold her bicycle. 'Cause she didn't need it any more, 'cause they were on furlough. I kept mine 'cause I wasn't going on furlough. And we finally got to Nanyung [sp?] and they went on west and I was designated to stay there. So they got out.
ERICKSEN: And what about Burt Kane?
ERICKSEN: He was behind?
SPRINGER: Oh yeah, he was standing by, but when we got to Nanyung [sp?] Winnie his wife was there and we were all together there, waiting for the next move [clears throat]. And...a director had come up to help with designating this collection of Anhwei missionaries. And we were to go to Chichung [sp?] in the country nearby where I continued to study.
ERICKSEN: And how long were you stationed there?
SPRINGER: About three or four months.
ERICKSEN: And then you moved again?
SPRINGER: About that time I took some exams...in...in Hanchow. During that bustle, a fellow named [Paul] Contento had had an attack. He had a bursted appendix. And when I got through my exam and came downstairs he was curled up on the bed...on the table in the dining room. And they were trying to get a spinal block and open him up. There was an American Air Force surgeon there. He said, "Springer you wash your hands real good, 'cause you got long hair. You wash your hand real good, 'cause you're going to have to help me. 'Cause with Contento as soon as we started to cut open the perineum, it is too painful. The spinal block is not sufficient for him. So my Chinese helper is going to have to be an anaesthetist and you're going to have to be my number two man." So when we opened him up and I had to be sure that the sponges and things got out. He had a fifty-fifty chance of recovery. And Hitchcough [sp?] the doctor said to not let people bother him, to have a good rest. But Contento's wife had Chinese wanting to come and see her husband so she let 'em in. Hitchcough said, "He has a fifty-fifty chance of recovery." But actually he recovered quicker than a normal good case 'cause he was a toughie. He didn't have one globular of fat. He was always on the bike and always running [clears throat]. He was tough.
ERICKSEN: Now was his first name Paul?
SPRINGER: Yeah. Paul Contento.
ERICKSEN: And he survived the attack?
SPRINGER: Uh-huh. Afterwards there was some repair work done but he got along okay. He had a wonderful ministry teaching .
ERICKSEN: Now you said you had your test. What happened? I'm trying to find out where you are in terms of moving on out of the country completely?
SPRINGER: Well, there was the question of how to get out of the country. And the American Air Force got us to Chungking or near there. And I could by airplane go on then south in a Chinese set up to Kunming and then over the Hump [nickname for the military air route over the Himalayas to India].
ERICKSEN: And was your whole family together at that point?
SPRINGER: No. We had Molly and Tom. When we got to Kunming, we were all together [clears throat]. Yeah.
ERICKSEN: So you were united at that point...
ERICKSEN: ...and then...and then went on. Anything eventful about the trip over the Hump?
SPRINGER: Well, we left Kunming and about twenty minutes out of Kunming suddenly the side door opened. [Springer makes noise of airplane engine] You could hear the prop wash. Apparently someone had opened it to check...see if it was working, but hadn't got it closed [Ericksen laughs]. And we had a Catholic sister sitting right there where this door had open with her habit going out into the prop wash [Ericksen laughs] and a Frenchman and I leaped across and grabbed her and slammed the thing shut. So that was rather exciting. In the night we landed in Burma at a wartime airfield. It was so marshy there that they had these steel plates with a lot of holes in 'em. You get on top of that and you'd sponge along. So we ate there and we had Spam [processed meat used in American military rations] for the first time. Spam was a new thing. We'd never seen it. So we had Spam. That was wonderful. And this Sister coming out of the toilet, she said, "They have Palmolive soap in there" [Ericksen and Springer laugh]. And our boy Tom, he had never seen a drinking fountain and he slobbered "glub-glub" water down to his waist in two minutes. He was sopping wet. Those were glorious things. And we soon had to get going again. And came down to Calcutta in...at DumDum field. The next morning I could see there had obviously been a riot. There was a blood all over the town. It wasn't blood, it was beetle juice that they spit [Springer laughs]. I had never seen this before. So this was a first introduction to India.
ERICKSEN: I think we better stop at this point on the tape...
ERICKSEN: ...and go have some lunch.
END OF TAPE