Billy Graham Center
Collection 417 - Charles Oliver Springer. T5 Transcript
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the last part of the oral history interview
of Charles Oliver "Dick" Springer (CN 417, T5) 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 November 2004.
Collection 417, T5. Interview of Charles Oliver "Dick" Springer by Paul Ericksen, June 19,
SPRINGER: So we arrived in Shanghai. And it was...they were glad to get these personnel and
equipment. And they sent it diagonally across the country to Hunan and used it in a hospital way
over there. So the personnel were able to carry on. And equipment was used.
ERICKSEN: And where did they send you?
SPRINGER: About that time they figured it would be good for us to take this advantage and get
a furlough. So we got on a typical passenger ship. In fact there were two that left about the same
time. Our particular one was to take a run not only to southern Japan, but it was going to take the
unusual run of going up to Hokkaido, the northernmost island of the archipelago of islands. So a
Mr. [Herbert M.] Griffin who was North American general director at the time knowing that we
were going up there he asked me to...when we got to Otaru the port for Sapporo (Sapporo is the
capital and further inland) and...our ship was going to Otaru, and he said, "While the ship is
doing all its grocery business, I want you to get up to Sapporo and look up a Dr. Chapman. He's
the V.I.P. of the Presbyterians up there and he knows the whole situation and he's very
Evangelical and my question to him would be, would he welcome China Inland missionaries that
are kicked out of China now, would he welcome them to work with him in Hokkaido?
ERICKSEN: Now this would be in '51?
SPRINGER: Yeah. And I couldn't speak any Japanese. It was like a letter to Garcia. [A famous
poem.] I don't know if you know that term. But there was a time in...in the Spanish-America
War when a fellow had to find Garcia and give him a message. He didn't know where he was.
Well, with me I didn't even know the language. Japanese. But I got on a train and went up to
Sapporo and got off at the depot. Did a lot of praying and talking here and there. Found a fellow
that could understand enough English to get me to Dr. Chapman and within an hour or two I got
to Chapman's place. And he was out on the town...out of town. But they called him back in.
And he was tickled pink to have China Inland missionaries come. He knew that they were of like
precious faith. There was another group in there that were [pauses] kind of a Pentecostal type
that were...with Christ coming so soon they didn't have time to learn the language and they used
interpreters. Interpreters some of them weren't really born-again and really loused things up. So,
"We're glad to get CIM people," because he knew they would be careful about the language and
really do a job. And that was to be my report. And I got seven letters out along this line on this
back to my superior. So we now have probably about a hundred missionaries up there. And
that's gung-ho, a real good job.
ERICKSEN: So you were in on the ground level?
SPRINGER: [Springer laughs] Just happened I was passing by.
ERICKSEN: You mentioned the hospital at Kaifeng. Was Jessie McDonald [Another CIM
missionary. Her papers form BGC Archives Collection 246] there when you were there?
SPRINGER: Not in my time. But she had been there. Had a wonderful reputation.
ERICKSEN: Any stories that floated around that you heard told about her?
SPRINGER: No, not from me. My wife would have been full of it probably 'cause she taught
some of the nurses things. Had a good reputation. In my time there was a fellow named [Dr. D.
V.] Rees there and he was the head honcho. He did a good job.
ERICKSEN: What kind of experiences did you have with the communists [pauses] in general?
SPRINGER: I, of course, couldn't depend on what they said, so I never tried to. For instance,
they...one time when I was going to leave they said "Now in leaving we want you to leave your
family passports with us. And when you get down to the coast near Hong Kong, the guards will
give them to you. But in this transit we want to take care of them and we'll give 'em back then."
And, well, there wasn't much you could do but what they suggested. So when we get down to
the Hong Kong area, I asked for my passports and, "We don't know anything about them." Well,
that was that way. But they said, "We'll let you go over to the British Consulate and see if they
can do something for you." So late in the night we got the counsel out and this was an old story
with him and the communists. So he had it fixed up that he wrote a special letter of introduction
for the Springers to be received in...in Hong Kong. We were just outside. And actually we got
through quicker than the others, 'cause it was special little thing. The Lord has a sense of humor.
And our government was kind of used to this as well so he gave us a temporary passport to get
home. It would be good for ninety days or something. So that's an illustration of....
ERICKSEN: Did you sail home east?
ERICKSEN: Through the Pacific? Did you have any interrogation by the communists?
SPRINGER: I had to stand trial in communist court one time.
ERICKSEN: Can...I'd like to hear about that.
SPRINGER: Well, they said that I had to stand trial. So I said, "I don't think that's a good idea.
It might cause an international incident, you see. I'm American, you're Chinese, and having a
trial." I said "Why don't we bypass that." Nope, they had to have it. And [sighs] the scuttle-butt
was that we're going to have to stand this trial and be under their guard for four days and then
we'd be released. In fact the vegetable vender's daughter wrote all this out and showed it to
Marion. And Marion was up high in sec...second story of our house and the girls in the church
compound just over the fence. And Honanese for "ten" and Shansi for "four" sound alike. And
so sure enough we got out in ten days. It was all prearranged, you see. But they were hard put to
it. They wanted to find some reason to have us lose face and [unclear] and get kicked out
because what we'd done wrongly. So they had spent weeks trying to find things against us. And
found that everybody loved us. And that Marion had done a lot helping them medically.
And...they didn't know how to get us in trouble. It was a problem. So we had two helpers that
were quite old and they were scared stiff of the communists. So they wanted to leave and we
could understand that. And we give them a farewell gift of extra money so that they, with no
relatives that could help them, might start a business of selling stuff on the street. And they were
very grateful for that. The communists, when they heard of this, they blew up to mean that
our...our conscience hurt us because we had mistreated them and to cover up the thing, we were
giving them extra money to shut up. That was the only thing they could find. And one fellow
hollers out in the trial, "You ought to kill em." And we figured that could well be it. Because
this outfit came from Hunan [?]. In [name of city] we had a Swedish lady, Grace [E. E.] Lenell,
a wonderful life of over twenty years up there in Hunan [?]. And the communists came to town
and they didn't bother her at all for four weeks. And then they called her in for a trial and
indicted her that she took the people's money. She wasted the people's time. Once a week they
had to come together and sit around for a day and that was against the communist way of doing
things. And then involved in the money. She shouldn't take money from poor people. And that
type of charge came. And they'd already talked to these people and had it arranged what they
would respond and their question was "What shall we do with this woman?" and the answer they
were told to say, "Kill her." So then they took a bamboo pole that people would carry things on
and just beat the life out of her, smashed her body till it was an inch or two thick. Eyewitnesses
told us later. So that was the outfit that came down our way. And I knew that story. And in
dealing with communists it depends who the C.O. [commanding officer] is and how he feels and
how recently he had his cup of tea or whatever. So you never knew where you were standing on
these things. But fortunately for us we had pretty good treatment. There was a judge and as I
look back on it, in so far as he could help me and not be identified, he was doing kind things.
For instance, he called me in one night in the night. So the guards came and got me out my cell.
I was in solitary confinement and Marion was two three cells down that was the men's section
but he apparently had arranged that my wife was just three or four cells from me. So she could
hear that I was late in the evening and she didn't know if I was going to be beaten to death. It
was pretty tough for her. And one of the things that this man wanted to know was who were my
friends. He would like to know who my friends were, 'cause then of course he could have people
wait on them and give them the works. And I explained to him, "Well, I don't have any friends."
I said "Your honorable government has said that anyone who is a friend of an American is an
enemy of a state. So there isn't any around here who wants to be my friend." And he had to
pretty well agree [laughs] it was quite well possible. And he of course had to have a witness with
him. Nobody trusted anybody. So the judge had to have an amanuensis, a fellow taking notes,
and he could report on what the judge did. And he wanted to know who my friends were. He
didn't learn anything that way. And he noticed while he was talking to me I was shaking from
head to foot and he also noticed that I wasn't afraid of him. Well, what was all this shaking
about? I was shaking thoroughly and there was nothing I could do about it. It was because I was
in kind of a wind tunnel in the prison. It was February and it was like a wind tunnel. And I was
permitted to move much. I had to have permission to move to even go to the toilet. I had to say
[phrase in Chinese] that means "make an announcement." Like the change of the Windsor Guard
[at Windsor Palace in England]. [Springer laughs]. It's good to laugh at but it was nuts. Silly to
them. So he wondered why I was shaking and investigated and found that the kids that set up the
cells had taken mattress covers and he didn't know a mattress cover from a bull's foot. He had
brought them in as our covers and on my body they would sit like this and there was nothing
protecting my body, so I was thoroughly chilled and couldn't...couldn't cover up. So he
immediately got his lackeys to go over to our house and got us some of our navy blankets that we
had inherited and he did that. And also when it came time for us to leave, he...the ruling at the
People's Court was that everything was there except what I wanted in two foot lockers and one
foot locker was used for changeable seat covers for our little child, diapers. And the other one
we could put gear in somewhat. And that was it. But he came over and took Marion and me
from the prison to our house. He walked with us right through town. That's quite a thing for a
gener...a judge to do. And he stood there all the time. They had all our stuff in trunks locked.
And he stood there and made them unlock them all and we passed judgement on what we wanted
to take. And I remember he saw one of my suits and he said, "You got to take that," you know.
And he went around. He wanted us to get what we could. So the Lord was good to us and
protected us with someone who we think probably grew up in a mission school and hadn't
forgotten it. But you can't ask him, but....
ERICKSEN: What was the verdict in the case?
SPRINGER: Well, in my case, if they didn't want to kill me then they had to kick me out. So I
was an undesirable citizen.
ERICKSEN: Were you found guilty or is that assumed?
SPRINGER: Well they had to believe that we mistreated these old people but down in their own
hearts [chuckles] they knew that was a bunch of malarkey.
ERICKSEN: What was the sentiment among the CIMers in your area about the ability to
stay...to keep working in...in China?
SPRINGER: Well it was risky and some went home and the [J. Herbet] Kanes did. It was a very
poor history of productivity under the communists. Others felt, "Well, let's do what we can. The
Lord only expects our best." And we went on that way. We would commit ourselves to the Lord
and trust in Him and He would have to take over from there.
ERICKSEN: Was there tension among missionaries who didn't agree on that? On the direction?
SPRINGER: I think with Kanes, there was a bit of warmth between them and...and the head of
the mission, with him. [Frank] Houghton, who was a bishop. And he...he had a trouble of a
working so long and so hard that he had insomnia.
ERICKSEN: Houghton did?
SPRINGER: Yeah, to a point where he could hardly think straight. And finally the mission had
to have him sit...stand aside, let someone else, 'cause he physically wasn't up to it. But with
Kane, he wasn't at the point of feeling that we should leave the country, that our mission had
always been the last to relieve...to leave in any crisis. And we all expected that. We had none of
this concept of short-term missionary. We were in it for life, for better or for worse. We really
were. And that's the way we looked at it. But there was some that, actually having to make a
decision, weren't quite ready to do that. So there were frictions there you might say.
ERICKSEN: What was...we talked a little bit earlier about relations between the British and
other nationalities. What was it like working in a British organization?
SPRINGER: Well, to us, the colonials, a lot of times the British were kind of a stuffed shirt
people. Spit and polish. And we didn't like that. I think by nature we didn't. But the Lord in a
seeing ahead had put me...when my father died and my mother remarried, she had...she married a
Britisher. Yorkshireman. And I learned a lot about living with the British through him. It was
purposeful. Actually I got along better with this man than his own kids did. But I did a lot
learning during that time. They say a lot of things in fellowship, in public relations that isn't
really important. And you shouldn't make a fuss about it. You say, "So what?" And that was
important. And so for me, with the British I got along real well. But it was to God be the glory
that He prepared me. But the British through the years had had tradition and they had their way
of doing a thing and they weren't too adaptable to changing. The colonials were different. And
the colonials and the Americans were very much alike.
ERICKSEN: What...what was the British perception of the Americans?
SPRINGER: I think quite often if we were analyzed they would think that we were colonials,
breakaways from the British and what can you expect? But being Christian...that would be in
business. But as Christians there's a love and a give and a take that you wouldn't have in the
business circle. There was that...the're human beings. That's our big problem, we're human
ERICKSEN: How did the mission's decision making process change once the mission was no
longer working in just one country?
SPRINGER: Well, it required a...a lot of thinking to make all of these adjustments. And that's
only by the grace of God that it was accomplished. And it was marvelous. And we're getting
more and more complicated. We're taking in races of people where they're not of our race. We
have people...we're on the verge of people in India and Pakistan and these places that are gonna
be in with us and one day will be policy makers. And they don't have the history background
and all that but we are a family. As I see it, we're getting ready for the end time and we must
have ways of reaching people. And every opportunity is a responsibility and we must give and
take. Again, it's the question of what are we gonna emphasize? We're gonna emphasize
working together for Christ. And so it has been that. Some people aren't born team workers.
Some have to work and learn it.
ERICKSEN: You had...you've mentioned...maybe it was while we were at lunch...how
important the attitudes of missionaries were. Maybe this would be a good time to talk about that.
What...what difference did the attitude of missionaries make?
SPRINGER: Well, as I told you earlier about being with the Kanes and the Lord said "Springer,
My work is more important than your feelings." That was an important thing that I had to learn
early that the work must go on. No matter how I felt. And so that was an attitude that helped
me...realizing that serving the Lord, that had to go. And then we learned as I mentioned that
Christ was my quarterback. And he called the shots. So I didn't give a hoot where it was. And I
might deal with a family of people that were difficult. But my quarterback had signaled me to be
here. So although it was difficult I'd look to Him I'd commit myself to him and I'd have Him
bring it to pass. Another attitude that I had was a model of Joseph, my youngest boy. He would
say "Daddy I don't like this porridge." And I'd say "Well you don't have to like it. All you have
to do is eat it." And he's quoted it back to me in his college days. Such and such, he didn't like
it. "But I don't have to like it, do I Dad?" And we realized at times your assignments won't be
easy and get on with the business. He saw that that is successful, not how we feel and how
things go. And that is an attitude that I feel it...it'd be well that every mission had. The work is
important, not my feelings.
ERICKSEN: Can you think of an example where you saw a bad attitude cause problems?
SPRINGER: We had a girl that came out, avery capable girl. Very attractive, physically. And
there are times in a mission when we have to regroup and we have to meet an emergency. And
you do things that you weren't particularly trained for. But you just get the job done. And this
gal was asked to supervise the laundry one day. And she wouldn't do it 'cause she was trained to
teach Bible. And she wasn't going do it and didn't. And she didn't stay in the mission long but
she just saw this wasn't her cup of tea. And went into another mission. And she's doing a pretty
good work, I guess, in another mission. But that type of thing would crop up. But the work is
more important than our feelings. We're out there to get a job done, not to satisfy our feeling.
And I feel that everyone can't...in their training young people in any mission today should have
that pretty well un...understood early.
ERICKSEN: Speaking about feelings, I'm curious of all the different places you were
assigned...or the time periods which did you feel the most satisfied by? Or that you enjoyed the
SPRINGER: Well, for me I guess it would be Taipei, the capital, where I was the pastor of an
English speaking Church. And the big thriller for me was that I knew that this city swarmed with
students who wanted to learn English. All of them felt that America was a vestibule to heaven.
And they would want one time or another to qualify to have a job in America. English was
important. So we exploited that for Christ. So every Sunday afternoon at the church, we
arranged to have an English-speaking time. But it wasn't just English. We had an excellent
interpreter so they got it in either Mandarin or English. And we'd have sometimes have a
hundred and fifty come on a Sunday afternoon rather consistently. And I would get the best
missionaries I could find who happened to be in town or lived in town to have their turn at it.
Maybe one of em would be outstanding and he would have a series and that was good to. They'd
get use to how he said things, it didn't bother them. And it went real well. And then other
missions later on began to copy it, so it wasn't quite like it was when we started it. But that was
a thing that I really felt was worthwhile. We would have them together and get that message.
But we felt that wasn't enough. So the...the...an elder, one of the national leaders (we had quite a
few of there) he suggested, "You ought to have some tea or something after class where we can
discuss a while and have some tea." They did that downstairs for a whole hour every Sunday
afternoon. They'd have this break with tea and cookies or something and the various missionary
ladies would send in stuff. And the kids really liked that. And I felt that I was being used to get
this running smoothly. And it accomplished a lot. And kids came to the Lord. Some even went
into church business or the type or doing something for the church. That was a high point for
ERICKSEN: How do you think Marion would answer that question?
SPRINGER: She should answer it that her best times were working in the university teaching
SPRINGER: In...she was in several places....
SPRINGER: That was one. And in that one there was two different schools going at once for
her and she handled real well. Christ College with Jim Graham and the University itself. And
she was only ten...fifteen minutes from our house, so it was easy to do. And they loved her for it.
She did a good job. But she was able and did a lot of things like helping people. One day a lady
was walking from one room to the other and stumbled on a cross board on her doorway, had a
board there to hold the frame together...and she was carrying hot porridge and stumbled with her
face right in this stuff and agonized all night. And Marion took her to a hospital the next day.
Before she took her to the hospital she got tea, very strong tea, so that a tannic acid type of thing
developed. And turned all the covering of this burn like a pelt of black leather or something.
And the husband was quite nervous about what kind of a face would she come up with. But it
was...it was just like in her childhood the skin that came in was tender but perfect. Well, things
like that help. And Marion and I would go to the mountains where some poor child may have
meningitis and bring food and medicine or whatever. She was always doing that type of thing.
Christ's hands. Other hands.
ERICKSEN: Can you tell me what it's like being a retired missionary?
SPRINGER: Well I hate to think of being retired. I feel that my mission is to find out why the
Lord wants me here. He's my quarterback, you remember? He's called the shots. Now what is
the play? Or you might say what is the flight pattern? What are we going to do here? And for
me it will be increasingly being a prayer partner to people that I know. Now when Marion
passed away, much to my surprise I learned from the letters that we had around that there were
six hundred people that were interested enough to send me cards or things...various things. So
that mission...young people...new believers...young people in the Lord that I should use my
waterproof shoulders to answer letters. I hate writing letters [Springer laughs]. But I feel that the
time has come when I must. No matter what the feelings are you see, the work is more important
than the feelings. Get on with it and write to people. Doesn't have to be a lot of wordy things.
Just show forth a love. Let the Lord love em through me. And I believe He will use that. That's
one thing I can share that He'll want me to do. I don't...do...do you know what I'm doing in the
nursery at the...
SPRINGER: ...the Presbyterian Church? In...in that set up Marion and I used go to the nursery
take our turn. We had more time...we were retired...we weren't in business. So we would go to
the nursery...we noticed that in the nursery they had different people each Sunday. And when a
parent would leave the poor kid would see nothing but strangers and would go into a panic. And
it was really kind of severe. So Marion and I agreed what time we had available at that time of
the day, we'd stick with those kids, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday until they...we were just
like a grandad to them. So we started that and then she got promoted to heaven. But I saw no
reason me sitting around and moping and feeling sorry for myself. It was a plan that we were
going do together. I just carried on, which has gone on and so I'm a grandpa over there and the
kids love me. And when I leave they begin to cry. [Springer laughs]. So we have a good rapport
ERICKSEN: Tell me what it is like living in a...I guess, a complex with a whole bunch of retired
CIMers who all have had experience in China.
SPRINGER: Well, it's not heaven. [chuckles] It's a group of strong individuals. But my
business there is to listen to them and my policy in life has been to complement everybody I can
in so far as I can do it speaking truthfully. That's my policy. And it's accentuated here. And
people like to be appreciated, but I won't lie about it. If they deserve it, they'll get. [laughs]. So
that has been a policy.
ERICKSEN: Do you ever all sit around and tell stories about China days?
SPRINGER: Not in some one meeting but just chitchatting with someone, that might come up.
It would be interesting..
ERICKSEN: What times do people tend to talk about more than others.
SPRINGER: I would guess they talk most about times of stress and strain and crisis. You see
that the law of learning is that you remember longest that with to which you react greatest. And a
lot of things that happened to us out in Asia were the greatest. [chckles] So that's what comes up.
ERICKSEN: Well, Reverend Springer, we certainly appreciate your sharing of some of your
experiences. And we really appreciate it.
SPRINGER: Praise the Lord.
END OF TAPE
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