Billy Graham Center

Collection 446 - Jack Wyrtzen. T1 Transcript

This is an accurate transcript of the tape of the first part of the oral history interview of John Von Casper "Jack" Wyrtzen (CN 446, T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. 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.

Some portions of the interview that refer to living persons have been removed from this transcript and from any copies made of the tape of this interview. The removals have been indicated in the text. This restriction will expire on December 31, 2030.

... 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 Robert Shuster and Wendy Valentine and was completed in July 2001.

Collection 446, T1. Interview of John Von Casper "Jack" Wyrtzen by Robert Shuster, October 5, 1991.

SHUSTER: This is an interview with Dr. Jack Wyrtzen by Bob Shuster for the Billy Graham Center Archives. This interview took place on October 5, 1991, at 9:15 AM at Dr. Wyrtzen's home in Schroon Lake, New York. Why don't we start with some of your family background. How would you describe you parents?

WYRTZEN: folks were Unitarians. For the first nineteen years of my life I look back on mother and dad...nice people. However my mother always had a cigarette in one hand, a cocktail or a bottle of beer on the other hand, a deck of cards and I think their religion was going to the Republican Club on Thursday night. They went to church on every so often on Sunday mornings: Unitarian Congregational Universalist. And my father, he was kind of quiet except on Sunday noon when.... We were very poor people, but we used to have a pretty good-sized meal Sunday noon when in Brooklyn and a very poor section in Brooklyn. And my two older brothers, one five years older and one ten years older than I, and my mother and they always had a big discussion about how to run the nation and how to run the White House, and I used to wonder why my mother and dad didn't take over the White House. [Shuster chuckles] They seemed to have all the answers. And yet, I remember even one time in the Unitarian Church when I was like three or four years of age (strange how certain things come up, your memories) and they had me stand on a chair and sing, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong." Now, they wouldn't have believed that actually in the Unitarian church, and yet, for some unknown reason they had me do it. And then, when I was eleven, I wanted to go to the Brooklyn YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] and my father....

SHUSTER: Why did you want to go there?

WYRTZEN: Well, they were going to have courses in shop and in swimming and.... They had different courses that were free of charge, trying to get get you to join the Y[MCA]. And my father wouldn't let me go. He said, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no. That's Billy Sunday stuff and they'll try to convert you and all this nonsense." And he wouldn't let me go. Finally I persuaded him. I said.... He didn't know that the YMCA had gone quite liberal and weren't trying to convert anyone, but in his day they did. And so finally I persuaded him to let me go and, looking for the shop club, I remember I was going into a club where they...were elderly men. And one of them had a very nice white beard and sat there with a big Bible in his lap and he was talking about Lot being...Lot's wife being turned into salt. And I thought, "What in the world is this?" and I got up and walked out and finally found the shop club I was looking for. But again, it's strange that you remember things like "Jesus loves me" and that dear man, who was probably a godly man, reading the Bible, even though I walked out. And then I can remember a time when I was about sixteen and just starting in the dance band business and occasionally going to a Baptist church. They had a very liberal preacher who didn't believe in hell or anything else. And then he died, and they brought in a young man out of Bible school, and he started to evangelize the whole...the whole church. And he came in the house one day and I just about kicked him out of the house, because he told me in no uncertain terms that if I didn't believe, I'd be lost and go to hell. And so, you know, I look back on those fact I went to that preacher who became a chaplain of the Army years later and I apologized for [sic] him. [Shuster chuckles] You know, I said to him, "What will happen if I don't believe?" He said, "Well, you'll be lost . You'll go to hell." And I said, "Look. Well, my family doesn't believe any of that." And I just about threw him out.

SHUSTER: What happened when you looked him up later and apologized to him? What did he say?

WYRTZEN: He remembered that day. He said, "When I walked out and said, 'Man, what a stinker!" [Both laugh.] And also my family...most poor families were not bigoted, but I think my family must have been very bigoted, even though they were poor. In fact, as I recall, we probably had two meals a day. Often at supper we had bread with some gravy on it. To this day I hate gravy, because I remember when I was a kid. Like my wife says her mother rubbed strawberries [?] on her teeth one day when she lied, so she ever after hated them. Well, in my family if a man was a black man he was called a "nigger," if he was an Italian he was a "wop" or a "dago," a Jew was a "kike" or a "shiney."

SHUSTER: And your own background was Dutch, is that correct?

WYRTZEN: No, my father was Danish and my mother was English. And then when I got converted, the first gospel team, it had Dan [unclear], a Hebrew Christian, and Charlie, he was a black fellow, and Tony, he was an Italian Catholic who had been converted, and me- they put up with me. And we went...they got me to go to a street meeting down on Coney Island and we decided to have prayer, so we rolled up the windows, and pulled aside, and had a prayer meeting. And we didn't realize a big crowd had gathered outside, wondering what these four guys were all doing with their heads all bowed. They didn't...they even called a policeman. The policeman knocked on the window and wondered what we were doing, and we said, "We're praying." And he said, "You're what?!" And we looked up and there was this big crowd and then, Dan [unclear], the Hebrew Christian, said, "Hey, we've got our crowd here, we don't need to go to Broadwood [?]" So we got out and we said, "You know, we're just talking to the living God," and then went on to give our testimony. So it's interesting how the old time religion makes you love everybody, but it wasn' wasn't always that way.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that your father, when you wanted to go to the YMCA, said, "That's Billy Sunday stuff." What did he mean by that?

WYRTZEN: Well, he knew that Billy Sunday was an evangelist, and he had had a big crusade during the Second...World War in New York City [actually in 1917 during the First World War] and it was in all the papers, and he was trying to make quite a scandal of the fact that Billy Sunday walked out of New York City with two hundred thousand dollars in his pocket. I guess that was a lot of money in the Second World War. And so I believed that and when I was first saved Billy Sunday was at Calvary Baptist in New York, just before he died [in 1935]. And I...I could have heard him. I never heard him. And I wouldn't go because I still believed what my father had told me. So, years later when I got to know Ma Sunday really well, I told her about this. And she said, "You should have known Billy. You know why? 'Cause he was quite an individualist." She said, "Actually, he didn't take one dime out of the deal. He gave the two hundred...two hundred thousand dollars away: one hundred thousand to the Red Cross and one hundred thousand to the Salvation Army and with the understanding that they would never tell as long as he lived." And she said, "That's the way Billy was. He thought it was nobody's business. He didn't let his right hand know what his left did, and he didn't care what the people said." That's pretty good. So, imagine, here they were blasting him and he wouldn't...he just enjoyed that.

SHUSTER: But, in your family then, evangelists and preaching was looked down on? Or....

WYRTZEN: Yes, and yet after I got fact my father said, "If you want to read the Bible, read it upstairs and close the door." And I noticed that my mother didn't seem to like this.

SHUSTER: Didn't seem to like him making you read...


SHUSTER: ...upstairs?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, and a few months later when I was speaking out for the Lord, my mother said, "You know, your grandmother talked this way too." And my grandmother worked with Queen Victoria in Buckingham Palace in England. And she was a great Christian, Queen Victoria. I won't know until I get to heaven because I didn't know my grandmother. Maybe Queen Victoria was a great witness, witness to my mother at her age over grandmother. And the feelings lie buried that grace can restore. And my mother, she said, "You know, I was taken to a Reformed Episcopal Church where Bishop [William] Culbertson, the President of Moody, was the bishop." And I think that maybe my mother believed as a little girl but wasn't taught very much. So when I got saved, she got interested. She had a terrible singing voice and when I'd lead the staff [in singing?], she'd say, "Come on, sing louder," you know, "you young people"all off key, higher than anybody else. [laughs] But I baptized her right here in Schroon Lake.

SHUSTER: When was that?

WYRTZEN: Oh, that was after I got saved. I don't even remember when that was. But she came all out for the Lord. And my father didn't come to the Lord until he was maybe seventy. And yet he might have believed as a secret believer before then. And one day in the car, I said, "Dad, when will you believe?" And he said, "When you promise me you won't call on me to come to the platform and give a testimony." [laughs and Shuster laughs] And I said, "Well, do you believe that Jesus died and ro..." "Yes, but don't you ever call on me!" [laughs]

SHUSTER: [laughs]

WYRTZEN: [laughs heartily] And that's something...[laughs]

SHUSTER: He knew you.

WYRTZEN: [laughs] Yeah.

SHUSTER: Now your father, Henry Martin Von Wyrtzen, was a foreman in a glass factory- is that right?

WYRTZEN: Yeah. In fact, those paper weights over on the...with all the colors in it and...they were made in his place, and he brought them home, and they're worth a lot now, but at the time I didn't think much of them, when he gave them to us. Then he became a foreman on the Long Island Railroad and then he decided he was going into farming, and he took out all the money he had in the bank and went over and bought a farm in New Jersey near Flemington, [unclear], Stockton, Lambertville. Seargentville, I think, was the name of the town where the farm was. It was out in the country, and my mother hated it because my mother loved New York City, but Dad thought that was the greatest. And I can still remember some very, very happy days. I remember how my brother helped me get up on a train [?] and got a lemonade and [several words unclear]. And started me horseback riding when I was just about, oh, maybe six or seven years of age. And I remember when I was eighteen I joined the United States Calvary and played in the last mounted band in America. In fact that's where I got converted, in the band. But, I still ride in the rodeo every Thursday [unclear].

SHUSTER: What kind of farm was it?

WYRTZEN: I guess it was a truck farm. I remember they raised a lot of melons that we couldn't sell, and my brother and I went through town with a horse and wagon and tried sell them.

SHUSTER: But the farm was successful or was...?

WYRTZEN: No, No. In fact...well, it might have been, except my mother, she...she might have had a breakdown if we'd stayed another year. So my father sold it. But my oldest brother, he was beginning to make his way up in the business. He was ten years older than I. And he...he came out and was one of these know-it-alls. But my other brother and I crossed the reins of a horse and he got in the wagon and we whipped the horse, and whatever way he pulled, it went the opposite direction. We sent him over a plowed field, and we showed him that we knew a little more than he did. [laughs] He became a vice president of one of the New York bank later on.

SHUSTER: What's his name?



WYRTZEN: My other brother was James and he an engineer with the Brooklyn Union Gas Company.

SHUSTER: When you think about your dad, what kind of words do you think of to describe him?

WYRTZEN: Rather quiet...[pauses] And he would listen and kind of wonder what I was doing. When we had our first rallies in Madison Square Garden I think he became quite proud of the fact that I had twenty thousand in and ten thousand out [sic] . So he went along with it, but sort of reluctantly.

SHUSTER: And what about your mother, Margaret Isabel, is that correct?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, you even know her middle name, huh? I had forgotten.

SHUSTER: How would you describe her?

WYRTZEN: Well, Dad would be an introvert and mother would be an extrovert. And Mother.... After a few months when I got saved, she got rid of the cigarettes and the beer and the cocktails and the cards and saw that the improvement in public was in no way as important as the church. She'd go to meetings and really enjoy and Dad would go along, but he wouldn't say anything. But Mother just went into everything. And then the last several years of their lives they came and lived with my wife wife and me, rather. And she enjoyed going to Macy's [a department store in New York City], and if she read an ad in the New York Daily News that you could save twenty-five cents on something at Macy's she'd have to go in and buy that. The fact that it cost me two and a half dollars to send her back again on the train-that didn't make any difference to her. And Mother.... The first my dad was up here at camp, and one morning (he got to read his Bible quite often, but wouldn't say much about it)... but this particular morning he was having his quiet time and all of a sudden his head fell over on his chest, and he was gone. And they're both buried out in the cemetery. I'm sure my father was a real believer and I'll see him in heaven. My mother was waiting for some friends to take her to church with my kids, because Marge and I (my first wife and I) had gone down to Philadelphia for a meeting in the Church of the Open Door with Jack Murray, and by the time we got there there was word that when they went to call her to go to church, she had gone to heaven. That's the way to go to heaven - to go to church, huh?

SHUSTER: mentioned that before you had become converted, your mother's religion was the Republican Club. What do you mean by that?

WYRTZEN: Well, every Wednesday night they went to Republican Club. That had seemed boring to me. I didn't go much. In fact, when Mr. Reagan called some of us in to talk about politics, I didn't know much. I never followed politics very much. When I was on it, I told them they ought to have some very strict laws abortion and against homosexuality and this kind of thing [unclear].

SHUSTER: Was your mother active in Republican politics?

WYRTZEN: Just as a member of the Republican Club. She never ran for any office or anything. Yeah, but...but very interested [coughs] in that sort of thing. I think they thought, if there was a heaven, they were all Republicans that go there [Shuster laughs] and that all Democrats would go to hell. [laughs]

SHUSTER: Was she the kind of person who would be a volunteer worker for the Republican party...


SHUSTER: ...or an organizer, or...?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, that's the sort of thing she would do. She'd certainly be able to advise and help.

SHUSTER: I guess as a child that didn't affect you very much.


SHUSTER: What are the earliest things that you remember from your childhood? Who [sic] were you first memories?

WYRTZEN: Well, as I mentioned, singing "Jesus Loves Me" from a personal standpoint. I remember we were on Coney Island, the family one day, and my mother was drinking some beer and she gave me a taste of it. And I coughed it up. It burned my throat, and I don't know that I've ever had a glass of beer since then. [Shuster laughs] It had nothing to do with religion. Before I was saved I used to smoke a pipe and cigarettes. Since I ran a dance band at a time, at the time it was the popular thing to do. But when I found out that Christians for the most part didn't smoke or drink, I didn't have to say, "Oh Lord, I repent." Thank the Lord, I didn't like drinking, I just did it to be popular. I don't really like smoking. But I had a very big temper and that was one little thing the Lord really had to give me victory over in doing the shows on Broadway and all that. I was a little while in the dance band business growing up. Then I can remember.... I was just recently at Point Vivian on the Thousand Islands and I remember my...what would be my uncle or my aunt.... I thought because we were so poor it was very likely he was adopted. He had a...he wound up being mayor of Watertown, New York, and as a kid I thought, "Boy, that must be like next to being the president." And they had a summer home up on the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River, and as a kid I remember these huge, big lamppost in front of the house. And next there was a big grocery store, and upstairs was a big dance hall and we'd go out on the dock and look at the boats. Well, just recently my wife and I (my second wife, Joan. My first wife [words unclear] died of a heart attack, and her [Joan, Wyrtzen's wife] husband died of cancer). And we went up there and went looking for the place. What a disappointment! As a kid there were these great posts and [Shuster laughs] I found to be little round two by fours [laughs]. And a little grocery store. A little dance hall [laughs]. But as a kid I thought.... And then I can remember.... My wife, when she was adopted by a very wealthy doctor, they took her to a place called Krebs up in Seattle [?], which was a very big restaurant and they gave you as much food as you could possibly eat. We've been there a couple of times. But my first wife (she was very well to do), she went up to see the restaurant. She thought as a little girl it was a big restaurant. Actually, it's a little house. Strange how things turn out.

SHUSTER: Yeah, memories of childhood.

WYRTZEN: And then, of course, I joined the Boy Scouts. I think I would have become an Eagle Scout except I had to take a merit badge in snakes. And I think they had something that I had to make a note that I loved snakes, and I said, "No, I'd be lying." That settled that. So, I never did pass that badge, and I think that kept me from being an Eagle Scout. And so, another look on scouting. I've just had some words with scouting because they've playing around with homosexuality, as you've seen in all the press. And they've even had a patrol down in Atlanta called the Play Boy Club. I beat them for that, too. Didn't do any good, but at least I got it off my shoulders. But I can remember going to the Boy Scouts in a Baptist church and the assistant scout master looked to me like a very clean-cut, sharp-looking guy. And I admired him, and he was one of my heroes as a kid.

SHUSTER: About how old were you then?

WYRTZEN: Oh, maybe twelve, thirteen. And then, I remember one night, sitting on the steps of the Baptist church, and I heard him [words unclear] and telling a dirty story. Now, I wasn't a Christian, so I didn't have any basis for this, but I remember how my heart sunk. I thought, "Oh dear. I thought he would be a real sharp, clean guy." And then we went off to Boy Scout camp, and I must say that I learned as much or more about sin in the Boy Scouts as I did in the Army when I was eighteen in the National Guard.

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

WYRTZEN: I can remember the dirty stories that went around and the filthy jokes that were told, and the remarks about women and so on. And Playboy [magazine] wasn't around then, but they were passing around nude pictures, was pretty bad.

SHUSTER: And how did you react to that?

WYRTZEN: I didn't like it, and I wasn't a Christian. I don't know why I didn't like it. In fact, when I was first in the army, we were up at the camp in New York, now known as Fort Drum. I remember we gave a concert, the band, in Carthage New York, right near Watertown. And afterwards, all the guys went to a house of prostitution. I went with them, actually, innocently, and when I found out what it was, I walked out of the place. And again, I don't know why. I didn't really...I'm glad I didn't participate and I'm glad that.... Maybe that's a pre-grace [laughs], I don't know.

SHUSTER: Protection.

WYRTZEN: But I'm glad that God gave me a hatred for certain things, even as a kid, even before I knew anything about the Lord. I don't know why, because I think the rest of my family would have gone along with the whole thing. In fact, my brother, when I first told him the claims of Christ to him when he was the president of a big bank in New York City, he said, "Well, if I became a believer I'd have to change my job." So he was telling me he did a lot of things at the bank under the table, so I think he had gone along with those things. But again, they had (my two brothers had) great respect for me, what I was doing, but I felt they wasted their lives because all they lived for was the money and [pauses] the Broadway life. They're both dead now. I hope they became secret believers. I have an idea that.... One time when my brother Harry (ten years younger than I) was here at camp, I had a long talk with him. And I said...and his wife said to him, "Well, Harry, why don't you receive the Lord?" He said, "Well, my whole life would be changed if I did." And he recognized that.

SHUSTER: [unclear]

WYRTZEN: Yeah. So she said, "Why don't you go on and believe and not tell anyone about it?" He said, "That wouldn't be fair. If I became a believer I'd be just like my brother Jack. I'd tell everybody about it." So, my other brother James came to one of the banquets we had in the Hotel Astor in New York City, and he raised his hand one night [to indicate he had accepted Christ as savior] , but I never saw much fruit. And then, one time, right after I got saved I remember sitting in the backyard in my home in Woodhaven, Long Island, and told him how I had got saved and he said, "Well now, how would I go about getting saved?" Well, I didn't know. I mean I was just a new Christian. But he was getting married in a Methodist Church. And I said (well, I didn't know anything about liberals or anything like that)...I said, "Well, why don't you go out and talk to the Methodist preacher? I'm sure he could help you." And he told me a couple years later about his conversation. The Methodist preacher had a cigarette in his mouth, and he said, "Aw, that's all 'Moody, Billy Sunday' stuff. Forget it, don't pay any attention to that." And my brother became in the choir... [Portion of interview omitted] he joined the Ku Klux Klan.


WYRTZEN: I remember....

SHUSTER: In New York.

WYRTZEN: In New...on Long Island. I remember he took me to one of their meetings, and I had to... they pricked my finger and I had to sign in blood. I thought that was great as a little kid [laughs]. And....

SHUSTER: You were about ten or twelve then, or...?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, maybe a little younger. I don't recall. But, my brother renounced all that later on and he got out. [Portion of interview omitted]

SHUSTER: Were you close to your brother growing up, as a boy?

WYRTZEN: Well, yeah. In fact, often my older brother and I.... He...he was quite a football player, and he was also specialized in English. He loved to take me on a walk in the park and correct my English. That was helpful; I think I learned more from him than I did the English teachers.

SHUSTER: What was your attitude towards school, growing up? What part did school play in your life?

WYRTZEN: I think it was rather boring. The only teacher that I remember that ever did anything for me was the music teacher, Miss List, and she taught me music appreciation. And she put words to some of the great classics, and I can still remember those words. And she said, "You know, if you'd get your mind off just becoming a jazz...." (That was my ambition. I could be like [coughs] excuse me...Guy Lombardo or some one of those musicians. That was the ambition of my life. Wayne King, he was the top man.) And, she said, "If you'd really study," (and all I thought of was music and the dance bands and track) "you'd make something of yourself." But, it's kind of.... Math. I was very good at math, I don't know why, but it don't matter. But I thought that track and dance band was what I was looking for in high school. In fact, I got so bored with it that I was beginning to get invitations like the Garden City Country Club and Huntington Yacht Club and the Carson-Hamilton Athletic Club and some of the hotels in New York, sorority and fraternity dances- and I guess they thought we were pretty good, so we did a lot of that. So I just dropped out of high school.

SHUSTER: About when was that? Senior year, or...?

WYRTZEN: I was about seventeen.

SHUSTER: How did your family react to that?

WYRTZEN: They didn't care. It didn't make any difference to them. 'Course, I was...I was bringing in money from my dance band jobs, Friday and Saturday. And then I got a job in the insurance business, downtown New York City, and I thought I'd become an insurance executive one day. Then in the middle of all of this I got converted. I can remember as a kid thinking, "You know, I want to do the right things but I don't have the power. Maybe one day I'll meet a girl who will be so pure and clean that I'll clean up my life and I'll...I'll live right." Then, when I started dating girls, I found out they had the same problems I did, so that didn't help any. And then, when I met the Lord, I said to George Shilling who led me to the Lord, "George, this is what I've looked for all my life, that someone would give me the power to live the kind of life I kind of dreamed about as a kid. You know, people could have a clean mouth and they wouldn't have to be swearing and telling dirty jokes and looking at filthy pictures. There must be something more to it than that." And George didn't know much, because, I think that when George and I got and two other guys, as I look back, I think perhaps we thought unconsciously that we felt we were the first real Christians in New York City. Because, when we found that there were twenty-five million people within twenty-five miles of Times Square.... "Oh," we said, "We've got a job to do. We've got to tell everybody about this." And so, we started out in the streets of New York City. We started a rescue mission. Seventeen was a miracle how we got into some of these places. This was a bunch of young businessmen in New York. Eighteen, nineteen... I guess I was nineteen when I got saved.

SHUSTER: Going back a second, you were talking about how, as a boy you had this dream of a clean life. Did you think about God at all as a child, or did you have any...?

WYRTZEN: If I did, I think I had the fear of God. Like in Jamaica High, where I went to school for three years.... And when I was in junior high, I was treasurer of the high school organization. And I used to think back there, "Why do people have to...?" We saw a lot of phoniness and crookedness and stealing." In fact, I was in the Boy Scout band when I was twelve, and our band was elected to go to the Boy Scout Jamboree in England. And, boy, I lived for that. And then about two months...and we rehearsed and rehearsed to get ready for it...about two months before we were ready to leave, Mr. Seymore, (he was a dear old man), he stood up and he said, "I hate to tell you this, Scouts, but the man who had all the money has run off with it, and we won't be able to go." Oh, I'll tell you that just broke my heart to think that we weren't going to England and here I'm in the Boy Scouts, and they were going to.... You know, I'd memorized the Scout laws and all that sort of thing and the Scout Oath. And I tried to live up to it, but I never did. It was like the Jew trying to live up to the commandments.

SHUSTER: And the Scouts were your Old Testament.

WYRTZEN: That was it. And so, I look back. I don't think I had a very happy childhood. I don't think I.... I tried this, that, and the other thing. I ran in the city-wide track...we won the city-wide championship in track; I didn't, I was just one of the participants. Jamaica High. I kind of bluffed my way through high school. The only thing I remember flunking, actually, was French. And John Ducot [?], who became one of the original One Lifers [?], he was a small catcher in ball team, and they won the city-wide championship (this is a school of about six thousand students, if I remember.) And he...he was such a good bluffer in French that I thought he knew what he was talking about. So when it came time for exams I looked over his shoulder, and everything he wrote down I wrote down. And the prof called us in, and he caught the two of us, and he said, "I can't believe that two men can be exactly so dumb [Shuster laughs] you both wrote the same answers." He gave us both forties. And I remember, I said, "Well, hey, couldn't you add the two of them together so one of us would be eligible for athletics?" [laughs] Well, then....

SHUSTER: You mentioned that you had a bad temper as a boy, too. How did that show itself?

WYRTZEN: I don't know, it always seemed to me that I was losing my temper and kicking things or hauling off with somebody. Then, after I got saved, working in the Merchant's Fire Insurance Corporation...and I worked there for nine years and I preached every noon hour, almost every night, weekend, vacation. I even preached nine times on my honeymoon. And we were...I guess we even actually paid people to let us come preach in those days, because we never took offerings or expenses or anything. And after I was saved, one night working late in the insurance boss was a fellow by the name of Jenkins and he was an atheist and mocked everything I'd say about the Lord. And one night he went just too far. We were both working anyway, just the two of us and I guess that made us both tired. Have to blame it on something, I guess. And I swore at him and used the Lord's name in vain, and it was like putting a dagger into me. I was saved a few months, by now. I went out to the men's room and I cried like a baby. I said, "God, I guess I'm a Judas Iscariot, I'm a phoney, I...I've denied you." But Bill Wiley [?], who was the first fellow I ever led to the Lord, challenged me with First John 1:9, and he got me to memorize it. Second Corinthians 5:17 was the first verse I ever memorized. First John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And the Holy Spirit used that verse to speak to me. And I cried all alone there, in the men's room. And I said, "God, You said if I confess it. And God, I'm a...I'm a stinker, I've used Your name in vain, I've cursed, and yet, You've said You'll not only forgive me, but cleanse me." I walked back and I said, "Mr. Jenkins, I just want to apologize. You must think that I'm a big phoney, using the name of my Lord that I've been talking about in vain and doing this and that." And that man looked at me and said, "You know, now I'm beginning to think that you're for real." And for nine years, he never became a believer, but anybody who said anything against me or my religion or what I was doing on the side, I mean, he was my biggest defender. And then also....

SHUSTER: Did he ever become a Christian or...?

WYRTZEN: No, not that I know of. But he liked me and respected me and he...I guess, I don't remember, but I was his equal in the company before I left there. It was very interesting, the reaction of the different employees. Some of the employees did come and believe. This fellow Bill Wiley.... I heard Dr. [H. A.] Ironside say that a Christian ought to read through his Bible every year. And I think Dr. Ironside gave me the first Scofield Bible that I ever had. And I was going to be real spiritual and I was going to read it through once a year. And so, I was always a slow reader, so I got up at three o'clock in the morning, set the alarm, got down on my knees, and started reading the Bible. By three fifteen, I was asleep. Tried four, that didn't work. Five didn't work, six didn't work, seven was better. But even then, I didn't have time to read the Bible at seven in the morning, and have breakfast, and get to work. But I had an hour on the train every morning to Wall Street, where I worked in the insurance business, and an hour back home every night. Have you ever ridden in the New York City subway?

SHUSTER: No, I've ridden in Philadelphia and in Chicago.

WYRTZEN: Well, in rush hours it's really packed in, so you stand erect, six-foot away from the door and get your arm caught in the opening charge and hope they'll close the door behind you. And in New York City, everybody put the Daily News on your back, so I put the Good New, the Bible, on their back and started to read it. And New Yorkers (I'm one of them, so I can say this) they're the nosiest people in the world. They're looking over your shoulders to see what you're reading. And....

SHUSTER: It had to be hard to avoid it when you're practically....

WYRTZEN: Yeah. And then I'd have some verses [that had] to do a salvation underlined so they'd see them. And some of our original gang accepted the Lord, including a fellow by the name of Bill Wiley. And he wanted to know more about it. And he was playing the trumpet around in beer gardens on Saturday nights, wanted to know if I was preparing a Sunday school lesson. So, we both got off at the same station at Wall Street, and I talked to him, and we got to be friends and would see one another. And then I invited him to come to hear Percy Crawford one night at the YMCA. And he wanted to buy an insurance policy from me.

SHUSTER: Crawford or Wiley did?

WYRTZEN: No, Bill Wiley. And I found out that the policy cost more than his old car, so I don't think he ever did buy the policy. And I was really zealous in this. In fact, I tried to sell a policy to Bev Shea, who's....

SHUSTER: Also in insurance.

WYRTZEN: George Beverly Shea, yeah. And, in fact, he sold me my first life insurance policy. Twenty-five hundred dollars. [laughs] I thought I was a millionaire with all that insurance. And Bill Wiley got converted that night and he became one of our original gang. Billy became a missionary in the jungles of South America, in Brazil. He had a heart attack. He's in a wheelchair down in Orlando, and every time I go see him, he's very satisfied. He's in the will of God and has a great prayer ministry to this day. A few years older than I.

SHUSTER: Going back a second, before you were converted, you were talking about your desire for a clean life. Another important theme in your life seems to have been music. Is that true? Was music important to you as a boy, when you were growing up?

WYRTZEN: Yes, in fact, I remember going, sitting on the steps outside of the Roosevelt Hotel, Roosevelt Grill, where Guy Lombardo would play on Saturday afternoons. And I'd sit outside on the steps and listen and get ideas for my dance band. And then I...we...met a tremendous piano player, and he could write arrangements. And then I met Daniel Poling [author and editor of Christian Herald magazine]. Did you ever hear of him?

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

WYRTZEN: And I didn't know that he had anything to do with Christian Endeavor or anything like that. I worked one summer for J. C. Penney [department store]. I think I was a runner or an office boy or something. And I used go into this office of Daniel Poling and I found out he had some connections with radio (I think he was on the radio). I remember he had a beautiful blond for a secretary and he had quite a big office there. So, she introduced me to him and he gave me a letter to Vincent Lopez, who was a big dance band man at the time, who got me in to get all my orchestrations from all the music houses on Broadway free of charge. And that's how my dance band really got started. Then, after I became a Christian I picked up a hymn book one day and I saw Daniel Poling, Christian Endeavor. I thought, that couldn't be the same Daniel Polling that I knew who got me into the dance band business. So, it was.

SHUSTER: What was it that you loved about music? What did it do for you?

WYRTZEN: I don't really remember, except that it was a way to make some fast bucks quick. And even after I was saved I led the dance band for a while, and we'd try out for the Crescent Hamilton Athletic Club out at Northport, Long Island. And my brother was a member there, and we almost got the job except that they got into a big fuss because they had some blue laws out at the country club that the dancing and music had to stop at midnight. And they got into a big fight. I think they actually changed the laws, and my brother was in the middle of the fight. And so they got a new president, and he hired a new band. But we figure if we...I took that job and I made enough money in the summer to get married in the fall, we thought that would have been it. So the Lord closed that door, and the last place I played in was the Hotel Ambassador on Park Avenue in New York City. That afternoon, my girl and I were going to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. And I was a Christian a few months, and I can still remember getting in my tux, taking the subway to New York City, trombone under my arm, and walking...just to ease my conscience, walking through the train, giving our tracts. And I got there to lead the dance band. And there was a black shoe-boy at a little shoe-shining parlor there and I got my shoes shined, and I remember giving him a Gospel of John, going in to lead the dance band, and at about one o'clock in the morning (it was a sorority dance), the girl who hired me, she said, "You don't feel well, do you?" "Oh yeah, yeah," I said, "What's the matter?" She said, "You don't play or sing like you usually do. You're not playing up." Well, I was really then beginning to get convicted of this, what I was doing. And I saw that it was dirty and it was wrong, a wrong association, but not willing to give it up. And I think the job ended at about three o'clock in the morning. And I met a fellow I who I'd met at the Baptist church, which was a very liberal church, and his father, we used to call him "moneybags" because he played all the bills in the church. And he wanted to know how I was getting home, and I said, "I'm taking the subway." He said, "Well, look. I've got a car." He was one of the few guys that had a car. And he said, "My girl and I will take you home." So on the way home, I said, "So how's your brother?" "Oh," he said, "didn't you hear? Two weeks ago tonight he was killed in an automobile accident on the way home from a fraternity dance at Amherst College, up in New England. Hit a tree and was gone. A few drinks too many." So I blurted out, I said, "Was your brother saved?" He said, "What do you mean?" and I explained the whole plan of salvation to him. He said, "How long have you known this?" I said, "Several months." And I'll never forget, he turned towards me and said, "Then, if my brother is in hell, it's your fault. Why didn't..." he said, "why didn't you come and tell me? Why didn't you tell him?" Well, I got out of the car. I don't even remember saying goodnight to him. And I went upstairs and got down on my knees. And I could still feel the beat of the bass drum and I cried out to God. I said, "God, I'm through. No more of this stuff. No more one foot in the world and one foot on God's side. I'm finished." And I had met a fellow at a Pinebrook reunion of Percy Crawford's camp by the name of Stanley Kline. And he very much impressed me. I went to a reunion at Pinebrook just the Sunday before we dedicated our lives to the Lord. And I was rooming with him. And he said, "I'm going to the bathroom. When I get back, let's have a study in Philippians [a book of the New Testament]." I thought, "Philippians?" And I thought that was the Philippine Islands. I said, "I'm not sure where the Philippine Islands are. I'm not going to discuss that with him." So, I got jumped into bed and played asleep when he came back. So the next morning, he was getting dressed and he got out his Gospels of John, put them in his pocket. He said, "These are my bullets." He got out his New Testament, put it in his other pocket, and said, "This is my gun." And then he took his Bible, put it under his arm, and said, "This is my cannon." And I remembered that. And then we went to hear Percy Crawford preach at the reunion. So, he says, "If you're ever in Philadelphia, call me." So I called him and I said, "Hey, we have a brass trio." This fellow Bill Wiley used to play around the beer gardens. And George Shillings, who got me on the band was a terrific baritone player, and I was a trombone player." He said, "Come on down. I'll keep you busy." So we went down the next week. We had a street meeting, and the only verse I gave I blurted out that night was Second Corinthians 5:17. (The only one I knew at the time.) And then we went to another rescue mission (I'd never been in one), and then we went to the all-night rescue mission. Then we got a few hours of sleep (I think we slept in the YMCA). The next morning he took me to teach twelve black teenage girls' Sunday school class. I said, [speaks softly] "George, I don't know what in the world to teach them." I didn't know.... Yeah, I'd just quit the dance band the week before. So, I had to bluff it, and I said to these girls, "What are you studying?" And they said, "Well, we're up to the third chapter in John in the Quarterly." So, I said to one of them, "You show me where it is in the Bible." I didn't even know where it was [Shuster laughs] and just bluffed it, and she showed it to me. So I said, "Well, why don't we all read it around, and each of you tell, after each verse, what it means to you." I think I learned more from the third chapter of John from those twelve black girls than I ever did in Bible school or anywhere else in the future. Then, we went to hear Dr. [Donald] Barnhouse that morning. Then, that afternoon we played on Percy Crawford's radio broadcast. That evening we went to hear Merrill T. McPherson. We got in the car, we went home, we'd played all morning, but we were singing the choruses all the way home. We were happy...happy and broke, and I thought, "What a contrast." And so from there on out.... [gap in tape]

SHUSTER: You were saying your wife's uncle was very wealthy?

WYRTZEN: Yeah. Uncle Chester. And he said, "Why, you know, you've got a wife, and you've got a little girl baby. You're going to quit this company which is owned by a lot of millionaires." He said, "Your going to make a fool of yourself. You're going to starve to death." And he said, "Don't look to me; I'll never give you a dime." He was quite the agnostic. Later on he committed suicide. Well, I quit on Friday. I remember they gave me a big farewell party and they gave me a pen with a diamond in it. I thought that was pretty nice. But when I walked out I had peace in my heart. I'd done the right thing. I was invited to hold a campaign up in Putnam, Connecticut, in a Baptist church. And I used to always listen to Lowell Thomas [radio news commentator and author] at 6:45 on the news, and then Amos and Andy would come on at 7:15. I never started my news at six thirty, that was my ritual. And this Tuesday night, here I'm in the middle of my first campaign, I'd quit my job, didn't have any promise of a dime (although, the guys in my group promised they'd give me thirty dollars a week, if it didn't come in), and here my wife had come from a very wealthy family. We were very independent. We wouldn't take a nickel from them. I was going to go out in faith and support my wife and baby. Somehow God was going to do it. Tuesday night, I tuned in on Lowell Thomas and he said, "Merchant Fire and Washington Indemnity will probably go bankrupt, and here's the reason why." That's the company I worked for. [Shuster laughs] I said, "Good night, I only worked there Friday. It couldn't go that quick so soon." [Shuster laughs]. They had insured a bridge out in Portland, Oregon, over a river, and a cadence of wind came along and it blew that bridge down. And our agent for years had that insured and he kept the premium. Never turned the policy in, never turned the premiums in. But they had to make good for it, I tell you, the company. And I think he went to jail, but they had to unite with another company then. Well, I got down on my knees and said, "Thank You, Lord. You'll never go broke."

SHUSTER: [Laughs] He's knows how to lead you.


SHUSTER: Going back for a moment. You had met your wife Margaret before you were converted, is that correct?


SHUSTER: How did you meet?

WYRTZEN: Well, a fellow I met down on Wall was a summer day and he asked me to take a walk. And we walked up in the Park and we went up on Eighty-Seventh Street, and he said, "Hey let's stop in and see Marge Smith." He said, "She's engaged to a fellow that's probably going to go on the Met [Metropolitan Opera House] one day and he's on Broadway and so on and an old friend of mine from school." So I thought that this was a pretty nice chick. And I wasn't a Christian at the time, and I kind of liked her. And just about that time she had a scrap with the guy she was engaged to, who was going into opera. Howard something-or-other, his name was. So I asked her one night if she'd go on a walk with me, and I think I talked her into breaking her engagement [Shuster laughs] and starting to go with me. And then there was a doctor whose son was after her too, and her father was a wealthy doctor. And then her mother tuned in on Percy Crawford. And she was an adopted daughter, by the way. Her father died of tuberculosis and her mother was burned to death. And she was adopted by this very wealthy doctor and his wife.

SHUSTER: Her original name was Dunn, is that right?

WYRTZEN: Yeah. Yeah Margaret [pauses] Dunn [?]. [pauses] No, let's see. [pauses] Her name was Grace...Grace Dunn [?]...Dunn [?]. And then they had a Grace themselves, so they named her Margaret. "Peggy," they used to call her. I always called her Marge. And her mother tuned in on Percy Crawford from five to six [PM] on WMCA [radio station] in New York City. And I remember how Marge and I would come home often and we'd mock and make fun of Percy Crawford and the testimonies and just laugh at him. But her mother talked her into going to Pinebrook the first time it was open [Pinebrook opened in 1933], but didn't exactly tell her where she was going, said, "We're was going up to the Poconos Mountains," so she packed all her dance dresses and she thought it would be great. She'd have a good time.

SHUSTER: And Pinebrook you said was Percy Crawford's camp.

WYRTZEN: Yeah, and he had just opened it and he talked about it on the radio. So anyway maybe five, ten miles away, her mother broke the news to her (she was driving her mother) that they were going to Pinebrook. Well, she was ready to turn the car around and go home. She was really upset about it. So she said, "Well, let's just stay overnight, then we'll go to the Hotel Poconos," one of the swankier hotels up there. And she got there, they quickly just walked out. Percy Crawford was cooking supper, and it was burned spaghetti. [Shuster laughs] And she thought it was terrible. And then one of the quartet threw a dishrag and said, "Wipe the tables, woman, wipe the tables." And her she was from a wealthy home, but she did. Then they went to the meeting that night. The quartet...there had been a lot of cutting up and they were having a lot of fun. And she thought, "Well, these are Christians? I can't believe it. They are having so much fun." So, the next morning, before they left, Percy Crawford preached. And Percy was a great evangelist. They gave an invitation, and she walked forward and got saved. And then they stayed all that week. Then she sent me a telegram saying she'd been converted. Now, I had already been converted [laughs] and I didn't want to tell her about it, for fear I'd lose her. I was just looking for an easy way, but she just blurted it right out. [Shuster laughs] So I sent her a telegram back that I had also been converted. I still have that letter that.... It was a letter she sent me, I still have it, and I sent her the telegram. And Percy Crawford made me stand up on a chair before all the kids and read the telegram.

SHUSTER: Did sports play a part in your life, as a teenager?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, I was quite interested, primarily in track. I don't know why, but my grandson, Steve, who is now twenty-eight and married to a Brazilian girl. He's a marathon runner, so I guess it comes out some place in the family. But my wife and I, we were interested in music, but nothing like my son Don Wyrtzen. He works with the London Philharmonic and Indianapolis Symphony and all these great musicians in all these places. And he records and works with Steve Green and Sandi Patti and all these people. But Stevie, when he was grandson, Mary Ann [Cox]'s son in Brazil where he was born, the doctor...he got encephalitis and the doctor said he wouldn't live. And we got word way up here and we all prayed much about it. When he was four, he came out of the coma, and the doctor said that he might live but he'll never walk. And then a couple years later to teach him how to walk they put braces on his feet and a helmet [pauses] on his arms [sic]. And finally he learned how to walk with all these contraptions. And now he's a marathon runner. He ran all over Europe and South America, North America. He just won some race down in Brazil he wrote me about. And he runs ten miles before breakfast every morning. So one time, when I was at his wedding last year, he said, "You know, I wonder up in heaven, when all the doctors were saying I wouldn't walk, if the Lord was looking down and said, 'Well, we'll see.'" [laughs and Shuster laughs] Good way to put it.

SHUSTER: Man proposes, God disposes.

WYRTZEN: So, the athletics came out in him and the music came out in my son, John.

SHUSTER: With your parents or their parents, had they been musically inclined or...?

WYRTZEN: You mean my mother and father, her mother and father?

SHUSTER: Or your father's mother....

WYRTZEN: Yeah, her aunt was a very good piano player and they taught Marge the piano. So, I guess it comes to both of us. And in Christine Wyrtzen there is quite a musician- great musician and great singer (she's made fourteen albums, I think). But she...she's my younger son Ron's (who is a pilot) wife.

SHUSTER: In working young people, teenagers today and throughout your ministry, how helpful has your own experience been for you? How much have you been able to grow on your own memories of your childhood and teen years in communicating with...?

WYRTZEN: Okay, before we go into that, you asked me about my childhood, and I just thought of something. I used to sell the Saturday Evening Post, and I remember standing at the subway, the entrance of the subway, selling it. It was then five cents, Saturday Evening Post. And I even composed a song and I used to yell it out at the top of my lungs: [says lyrics, does not sing] "Saturday Evening Post, five cents, half a dime, keeps you reading all the time." [Shuster laughs] I said it so many times I can still remember it.

SHUSTER: Does that boost sales?

WYRTZEN: I guess so, I sold a lot of them. Saturday Evening Post felt much about me, but they gave me a little organization; I think I had ten kids that I recruited, and I got a penny of every one that they sold. [laughs] I had a real business going.

SHUSTER: How old were you about then?

WYRTZEN: Oh, maybe fifteen, fourteen...fifteen. And the religious background...even though mother and dad being in retirement didn't want to be moved, they insisted that I go to church. So I went to the Methodist Sunday school.

SHUSTER: Now why did they insist that you go to church?

WYRTZEN: I don't know. I don't know. They didn't go very much, but they insisted that I should go...

SHUSTER: Your brothers too, they insisted?

WYRTZEN: I guess so, although they were five, ten years older. But I went to the Methodist church and I got in an argument with one of the kids in my class and said, "I'll beat your brains out." And we got into a fist fight after Sunday school, and he beat me up instead of me beating him up. I remember that. I went over to the other side of town and became a Presbyterian.

SHUSTER: Did you leave because of the fist fight there or was it...?

WYRTZEN: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. And hung around the Presbyterian church until they were organizing a Boy Scout troop at the Baptist church. And I became a Baptist for no other reason than to become a Boy Scout. And then, as I began going to the Baptist Sunday school (and I didn't go too regularly), I found out they had much better looking girls at the Reformed church. [Shuster laughs] So, I went to the Reformed Church and there was Doctor Smith's daughter whom I finally married. But I look back and all those churches were very, very boring. And that Reformed church: After Marge and I got saved, and her father was moneybags of that church (he was a wealthy doctor. In fact, when he was asleep one night they elected him to the board of elders in the church and we had to tell him about them on the way home. [laughs] But they didn't care, as long as they got his money). But I must say, even though that preacher was a follower of Harry Anderson Fosdick and a lot of liberals, at least he was honest and he didn't try to kid us. And after we got saved.... I mean, we were a bunch of fanatics. I can remember getting to church a half hour ahead of time, and.... R. G. LeTourneau had tracts: "Where Are You Bound, Heaven or Hell?" And we put a tract in every hymn book in that church. We walked up to the front row (and nobody ever sat in the front row of our church). And the pastor announced his text, and we looked it up in the index and opened it up in our Bibles and he turned red in the face. And afterward he stopped and he said, "What did you do that for? You checking up on me? Never before had anybody ever pulled a Bible out in this church on me. I don't like that." So, a couple of months, he let me preach one Sunday night. And that was something else. And two months later he said, "You know, I think you and Margaret (he used to call my wife Marge Margaret) I think you'd be more comfortable somewhere else." You know, at least he...he could have gone along with us for the money angle from her father, but he didn't. And we were more comfortable somewhere else.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that time that you preached at the church. How did that go? How did people react to your understanding?

WYRTZEN: Well, when we first got saved we...I don't know why, but we formed a...what we called a fraternity. We wrote up by laws, a fact the constitution is exactly now as it is in Word of Life [Wyrtzen's Christian camp organization]. And I guess as a lot of young guys we put a lot of thought into it. And we had this team, and the first meetings we had was in the big Lutheran church in our town, St. Luke's Lutheran. And we started off with two hundred. We got there.... Mind you, actually, we didn't know anything about evangelism, how to run meetings or anything. We got there and we said, "Well, who's going to preach?" And somebody said, "Well, there's only four of you guys that have one sermon," So we were going to be there for the month of October. So we had enough sermons for the whole month. So we actually flipped a coin and I lost, and the loser had to preach. And I preached and I remember asking for hands to be raised, like Percy Crawford did. And I can still remember the twenty-two hands.

SHUSTER: This was in your Reformed church?

WYRTZEN: No, in the Lutheran church. Then in the.... I said, "Well, goodnight everybody." We didn't even have a prayer at the end. "Come back next week." And the crowd grew and the church decided to let us go for three months. And the pastor's son, two daughters got converted, the preacher got all stirred up. I mean, we were so dumb, I can remember one night preached on [baptism by] immersion- in a Lutheran church! [Shuster laughs] How bold could you be. But the last night we had 625 people there and Dr. Charles Day Woodbridge was the speaker, and we had fifty-five decisions that night. While the other churches were all closed Sunday nights, and here were a bunch of kids preaching. 625 people. And then, Pastor Cornish invited us to come to the Reformed church and Brandt Reed, of HI-BA spoke that night. And I remember, I was sitting on one side and I was leading the singing, and Pastor Cornish on the other side. And Brandt, without thinking, said, "And on this side we have the devil," and he was beckoning to the preacher, "and on this side we have the Lord." And he didn't realize. "On this side we have the flesh, on this side we have the spirit. On this side we have the world, on this side we have the Lord." And our kids we all kind of giggling. [Shuster laughs] But then after that he thought we ought to go somewhere else. And then we got into a big Congregational church in our town and our newspaper wanted to put it on the front page. We were ninety thousand people in that little town. But I used to sell those newspapers, so the editor was quite proud of me. And I think he accepted the Lord; in fact I know he did- Mr. Ball- in one of the meetings. The leading florist in town got converted and all kinds of people got converted. And out of that, well, my secretary, who was a Lutheran, Ann Lubkerman [?], she got saved.

SHUSTER: Your secretary at the insurance company.


SHUSTER: I mean now. Your secretary now.

WYRTZEN: Well, she went home to be with the Lord a few years ago, but she was my secretary for many, many years. She came out of that revival.

SHUSTER: Maybe we should talk a little bit about your conversion. We've kind of jumped over that. [pauses] I know from the books you've sent me and from other things that you had joined the Calvary Band...


SHUSTER: ...and you met there George...[pauses]

WYRTZEN: Shilling.

SHUSTER: ...Shilling. How did he influence you?

WYRTZEN: Okay, George and I played in the Boy Scout band together, when we were twelve or thirteen, and I hadn't seen him for years. And one day I ran into him somewhere and he said, "How would you like to join the United States Army Band, the National Guard?" He said, "It's only Monday nights, and they'll give you a horse, it's a lot of fun, and they'll pay you for doing it." So I went down and joined.

SHUSTER: Was the main attraction the chance to play or to...?

WYRTZEN: I think I liked the idea of sort of sensational playing, not realizing that this would be the last mounted band of the United States Army. And polo and a lot of things like that and you get paid, too, to do it, so.... And then you go up to Army camp for two weeks, the National Guard, in the summer. We went up to Pine Camp, which is near Fort Lee...Fort Drum, rather. And we went up there. And George probably was the wildest guy in the band. He was drunk, wine, women, everything. And one night he came back so drunk that he told the twelve of us in the tent that he was going to spit in the colonel's eye. He was mad at the colonel. Drunk. So we appeased him by taking him over in the officer's quarters and he spit on the colonel's tent. That was about four, five...maybe three or four in the morning. And he ran and climbed up on top the flag pole; he was quite and athlete. Cock-eyed drunk. So we left him up there and went to bed. But the next morning at reveille he was out playing with us. And...[pauses] and then he...he got converted. He had played in New York Military Academy, which was a training school for West Point. He played in their band, a great musician. And then he had met at the Military Academy a chaplain who loved the Lord and followed him about and kept witnessing to him and got George to go hear Harry Rimmer, who was a great Christian, a great scientist. And he went to see him at Calvary Baptist Church one night and George got converted. And then George immediately told all thirty-five of us in the band how to get converted. And I remember the next summer going off to Army camp and I thought, "Oh, he'll forget about his religion in this man's army." But I can still remember taps and lights out, and George reached in and got a flashlight and sat there reading his New Testament. And we....


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Last Revised: 7/16/01
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© 2016 Wheaton College. All rights reserved. This transcript may be reused with the following publication credit: Used by permission of the Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.2005