Billy Graham Center

Collection 534 – Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen. T1 Transcript


This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen (CN 534, 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.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.

Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.

... 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, made by Noel Collins, was completed in January 2008.


Collection 534, T1 Interview of Marguerite Owen by Bob Shuster, June 6, 1997.

SHUSTER: ...Lammemier Retirement Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Mrs Owen, why don't we start with the chronology of your life. We have so many of your documents and scrapbooks in the Archives so I think that might be helpful for researchers. When were you born?

OWEN: I was born in 1909 in Gainesville, Texas where all of my three sisters were also born.

SHUSTER: How long did you live there?

OWEN: I lived there until 1910, 19...excuse me, 1920 when I was ten years old. We moved to Wichita Falls, Texas and we lived there until 1925. And then my father's business took him to California and I lived in California from 1925 until 1933, during that period I went off a year to Moody but otherwise there. And then in 1933, I sailed for China.

SHUSTER: So, you went to UCLA? [University of California, Los Angeles]

OWEN: UCLA and....

SHUSTER: And then to Moody [Bible Institute of Chicago, Illinois] in '31?

OWEN: Moody in '31, '32. Came back. Because of the Depression [a severe economic downturn that lasted from 1929 throughout the 1930s.] I couldn't stay at Moody. It just was too expensive, but I could live at home at BIOLA. And there was no tuition at either one of those schools at that time, it was just your board and room.

SHUSTER: And BIOLA is, of course, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.

OWEN: They had the same programs. Just one interesting thing there, they have...had the same two year program at both schools. And one year, they taught the doctrine of God and one year they taught the doctrine of man because there were not enough students to do both at the same time. So, when I was at Moody, I had the doctrine of God, or no, the doctrine of man. When I came back, BIOLA was teaching the doctrine of man. So, they asked me, In order to graduate, I would have to be willing to take the Doctrine of God [unclear]

SHUSTER: So, let me see. You were at Biola from 1932 to '33.

OWEN: Yes, and that next summer...I graduated June 5th and went immediately over to CIM [China Inland Mission] candidate school. I was accepted in August and sailed in October. That's what we did in those days.

SHUSTER: And then you went to language school?

OWEN: Yes, we...well, not here.

SHUSTER: I know, but in China?

OWEN: Oh yes, in China. We went to Yangzhou language school for about eight months. And then I was centered at Anhwei [Chinese province].

SHUSTER: So, that was in '34?

OWEN: Mhmm. And I was there until 1937 although I moved twice in that time.

SHUSTER: In Anhwei?

OWEN: In Anhwei. They moved me somewhere else in 1936. I moved to...from Fowyang [city in Anhwei] to Taiho and three months later I was moved to Kwoyang [city in Anwhei] because they needed me there.

SHUSTER: Teaching in each place?

OWEN: No, in both of those places, I did church work. The people there needed a co-worker so I was sent to be their coworker. And then in 1937, we had only been there a...a short time and the Japanese were advancing and the missionaries all had to evacuate. And so, I went to...back to Fowyang temporarily and then to [Chinese city] and I was in [Chinese city] in nineteen...December, 1937 until Spring of 1939. I had a whole year in [Chinese city].

SHUSTER: Until you, of course, married Mr. Owen?

OWEN: Yes, when I went back to Anwhei, I knew I was only going to be there a few months. And then in Chefoo... And we were married in Chefoo...

[Sound quality deteriorated until 29 minutes into the interview when the transcript was picked up again.]

SHUSTER: What are the earliest things you remember?

OWEN: Oh, I remember being given two big peaches because I had sung at a children's [unclear]. That is my earliest memory. I asked Mother afterwards, did she tell me or did I really remember. Because we had this old fashioned icebox.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

OWEN: And these peaches were put right down in it so they'd be cold. Mother had said to me, "If you sing well," (I sang "Jesus loves me" at the women's missionary society), "and if you sing well, you can have these peaches." I have a picture of me with those peaches. That I remember. But I remember seeing them and I asked Mother, "Mother did you show me...?" I said, And she said, Yes, but I didn't tell you." But I remembered it, that's it. Then when I was four years old, I may have miscellaneous memories of that. But, we'll...the next most consecutive memory I have was when I was four. Mother had just given birth to our third...her third daughter and daddy was, had heard that his mother, who was now in California, was ill. And he wanted to see his first born, you know, so he got permission...well, he didn't have to get permission; he was his own boss at that time. But, he decided to take me out to California on the train. I was a very self-sufficient child. I marvel that he had the grace to do it. But, anyway, I'm...he...and so, and I remember several things on that train trip. Because I remember there was a little girl in the next place and we played tea party on the.... They had furnaces with little...we had all these little things and we'd put our little cups on that and we had.... I can still see that train and also....

SHUSTER: How long did the train trip take from Texas to California?

OWEN: About three and a half days, maybe four, I don't remember that part of it. I just remember...I remember also seeing all the Indians selling blankets at know, at the station.

SHUSTER: The stops?

OWEN: At the...Navajo things. And going through...going through that part of the [United] States. I don't' remember the getting on or getting off. Then, I remember going into a house in California and years later when we moved out there, I saw that house, but I remembered I'd seen it before. And I said to Daddy, "Did we see...did we go to that house when we were here?" He said, "Yes, how did you remember?" I said, I just remembered seeing it. It was a stone house and we didn't have stone house and I remembered that. Then, beginning about five I began to have almost a consecutive memory of everything. But, the Lord has give me above anything else, He's given me a memory so I can just go back and just live in all the memories that I have.

SHUSTER: Well, that's good for oral history interviews, too.

OWEN: [laughs]

SHUSTER: You mention how even before you can remember, I mean, you told the minister's wife that you "want to be a missionary in China". Is that something you had wanted to be, as far back as you can recall? What did being a missionary in China mean to you as a young girl?

OWEN: At that point, it didn't mean a thing. I don't know why I...I mean I...I....I don't except I probably had heard it. We had...Mother was very missionary minded and we had missionaries in our home a lot. And I heard lots of missionary speakers. And it was probably just a...I don't think...I don't think I knew what I was saying. I really don't. But I think the Lord put it in my mind because I never changed. Because when I did become r.... Oh, oh yes, and my sister used to kid me, "She just wants to go to China because she likes rice". [laughs]

SHUSTER: Well, when you got a little older, twelve or thirteen or fourteen, what did being a missionary in China mean to you?

OWEN: It...It meant a vision of what it would be, going over know. I didn't begin to realize what it...the implications of it all. But I'd met and I had that time, I had talked to missionaries. When I was nine years old, I was allowed to join the church. And that was...I could make a public profession. Up to that time if anybody asked me I said, "Sure, I'm a Christian, I believe in Christ." And I could tell you why. Because my mother drilled it into me. I mean, in fact, I had memorized the entire Westminster shorter catechism before I was nine years old. I had to say it all at one time. And the...and it was, I've got a certificate. I did have, I don't know if I kept it or not, proving that I had. And, of course, that's no credit to me. Every Sunday afternoon, before I did anything else, I had to learn one catechism question. Also, we had at our Sunday noon, we always had to give our memory verse. Later on, we just had to give a Bible verse but when we were little, we had to give memory verse for that day. And we were never allowed to criticize the preacher or the church or anything in public or anything together. Mother said, "No, you don't know, you just you don't know, you mustn't judge." So, I mean I grew up in this atmosphere. And I know I was saved, I'm sure I was, I don't doubt it at all. But I can't tell you the moment or day. And then when I was twelve, I went to a Christian Endeavor convention. And they asked for lifework recruits and I said, "Well, I'm one" and I signed a pledge then.

SHUSTER: They asked for what kind of...?

OWEN: A pledge to be a lifework recruit.

SHUSTER: Lifework recruit.

OWEN: That's what was used.

SHUSTER: And what did that mean?

OWEN: That meant that you said you would give your life to the service of the Lord wherever He wanted you. That was the thing, Christian Endeavor was a big thing in California. And it was also, oh, I wasn't in California, I was in Texas, it was also in Texas. And you signed these different statements of what you would be or do. And when I signed, I said, "Oh yes, I'm going to be a missionary in China." And I knew then that it would mean crossing the ocean, and I knew it meant preaching the Gospel to people who didn't know it. I imagined they were all waiting to hear. I got very much disillusioned many years later. But I do marvel at the God's grace in sustaining that purpose through all that went through. I mean, when I graduated and from Hollywood High School, you put down your what you ambition was or what you were willing to do, something like that. And I put down missionary to China. And nobody who graduated from Hollywood High School had ever been a missionary to any place. [Shuster laughs] And the people came to me and said, "What are you going to do that for?" And I said, "Well, because they don't know about Jesus and I wanna go tell them about the Lord." Well, they thought it was nonsense.

SHUSTER: Who is "they"?

OWEN: My fellow students, peers, you know, they just...not the few that I had in Sunday School that went to the same church. But I mean all the bulk of it, I mean, they...they had to be movie stars after all, that was the thing. And so was there. Then I went to college and it was even stronger. By that time, I had met the Canfields who were the district regional secretaries in...Los Angeles....

SHUSTER [simultaneously]: Los Angeles. For the...China Inland Mission.

OWEN: C-I-M. China Inland Mission. And I had met them and begun to know a little bit more about China and so forth and what being a missionary meant also. And anyway, I was talking to...I took, I majored in Latin and Greek of all things. I don't think I ever used either of them but I think they really helped me to learn Chinese, not because they're like Chinese but because they disciplined me to language study. Anyway, I was at a Latin club meeting one day and the people hadn't come and there were three of us talking. And, they said was I going to be a Latin teacher. I said I didn't think so because I was going to be a missionary in China. And this person asked my why. Well, this time I had a chance to tell her the Gospel, you know to tell her. She said, "You know I've never heard anybody tell that like you do. Would you come to our little group meeting and give your...tell them", they didn't use testimony, she didn't know that word. I said I would be glad to.

SHUSTER: What group was this?

OWEN: It was a little group called "Thought Group". They had a...they were...that's what they called it, I don't remember the exact name. It was a bunch of radicals really. I mean they had all kinds of odd things. And nobody had ever told them about...I took my Bible fortunately. And I gave my testimony. And then they said, "The Bible's full of lies." I said, "Well, find one." Well, of course, they couldn't find one. And then the said, "There are two accounts of creation." And I said, "Find one". They couldn't find one, I knew what they meant but I didn't tell them, I wasn't going to help them. [Shuster laughs] Most of them were quite polite and very amazed at what I told them. But there was one boy who was exceedingly rude. I mean he just made all kinds of.... He said, "I'm an agnostic." And I said, "Do you know what agnostic means?" He said, "Yes". And I said, "It means exactly the same as Latin for 'ignoramus'." He was furious at me. I don't usually do that sort of thing but he had been so.... And it does mean, "ignoramus" means "we do not know", "agnostic" means "I do not know"...agnosco. And I knew both Latin and Greek so I.... But all through that time, and what I thought that I...I graduated from UCLA at twenty. So, I was too young to go into the field. I wasn't really, but I thought I was, I mean my folks thought I was, certainly. So, I thought I would teach for a couple years.

SHUSTER: Before you get into that, going back, just again, to your childhood in Texas. You mentioned there were many missionaries...your mother had many missionaries over to dinner.

OWEN: In our house.

SHUSTER: Yeah, you heard many missionary speakers. Do any of them stand out in your memory?

OWEN: The Rice family, very much so. Mr. and Mrs. Rice had been in China for...ah, it must have been three terms because they had four children.

SHUSTER: And they were all CIM missionaries?

OWEN: No, no. These were Southern Presbyterian. I never saw a CIM missionary until I came to California. I was going out with the Southern Presbyterian church way back there.

SHUSTER: That was your intention?

OWEN: That's...that was my intention. That was Southern Presbyterian missionaries. And those four from China, well it wasn't four, it was a couple with their four children, my age. And I mean I was just, I just pestered them with questions about things.

SHUSTER: What kind of things did you ask them about?

OWEN: I wanted to ask them...they had...their clothes, and I wanted to ask what they ate. And I asked them, you know, just what kids would ask. I mean not anything of any spiritual significance because I didn't know about that as much. I hadn't gone into that stage yet. But I mean.... Then also, I remember others but don't remember them so specifically as the Rice family although I do remember different ones. They weren't all from China that's the amazing thing. We...I'd hear a missionary speaker in summer and say "oh isn't she good?, wouldn't you love to go to...?" I'd say, "Oh, well, I have to go to China." I mean, it was just as clear in my mind and it never changed, not ever. I mean I thought, "Well, I'll teach, I'll teach for a couple years, get a little money before I go." I think the Lord deliberately didn't let me start teaching because I love to teach and I might've gotten side-tracked.

SHUSTER: Did you have it in your mind or were you gathering much information about China itself? Did you know much about China?

OWEN: I read a lot of books about China.

SHUSTER: What were some of the things you read?

OWEN: Well, one of the books I read as I got older was Pearl Buck's, The Good Earth. The amazing thing is she wrote about the same area I went to first in Anhwei. The...actually her book The Good Earth is based in that area, not that particular city or anything. And it was, she was so accurate and so vivid that when I saw some of these things, I thought, "I've seen this before, I've done this before". And I hadn't, you know, it was just her books. I also read several children's books, China Chass was one. And vivid...I've forgotten them now because they didn't make that much of a...except that I knew that I was reading about them. And whole childhood was happy, my whole life has been, actually.

SHUSTER: When you were growing up as a girl in Texas and later in California, what was your relationship with God? How close was your walk?

OWEN: I don't think it was close, it could've been. Although I didn't know at the time it wasn't. I mean I hadn't begun to realize how you could be much closer. I mean I never thought of going to bed without praying or with.... And I read my Bible and I was in a Bible club when I was in teens you know. And read my "Today's" everyday. And I talked about the Lord to a lot of people but I don't remember feeling the closeness as I do now. I mean I didn't appreciate all of was there, but it was just something that was there. It was not really until I was on the.... I think I was a little bit of a pious prig. I mean I just...I mean, I knew all the answers, I knew what I was gonna do, I knew what I was gonna be, I knew what you were supposed to do. And I did know that I loved the Lord. There were times...I had moments where I felt very, very closely that the Lord was with me, you know, at special places, at times. This is an instance of how our whole family reacted: we drove when I was eleven years old, we drove from Texas to California in an open touring car with Eisenglass windows we had to put up every time it rained and it was one of those rainy years. And we stopped at night the hotels. There were no motels then, there were no paved roads then, there were no.... I marvel how we got through, but we did. But there was one time when we came to a place where we couldn't see the road at all, just water. We could see the people on the other side so we knew about where it was. And so we stopped and Daddy said, "I will keep my eye on the road but Mother, you pray." And we in the backseat, "Not this way, it's a matter of time...." [singing a hymn]

SHUSTER: [chuckles] You were singing.

OWEN: We sang, we sang through the whole, that whole.... And I mean we were conscious and when we got on the other side, the man looked at us, he had a horse right in there. He said, "You're the first person I haven't had to pull out." And my father said, "My wife was praying and my children were singing." That was the kind of family we had. And, I mean, there were lots of instances, some of them I sort of remember, some I don't, where it was very conscious that the Lord had kept me, that the Lord was with me. But, to walk with him in the fellowship that I learned as I grew older was something that was still unknown to me. I mean, He was there and I loved Him and I trusted Him. Actually, in some ways, I felt in 1935, that maybe I had my first real experience of being saved.

SHUSTER: That was when you were in China?

OWEN: I was in China already. We had been at a conference and the Lord had spoken to me a lot that day. And this...before, but this particular night was Elizabeth [unclear last name] gave a message on Haggai [book in the Old Testament], he looked for much and it came to little. And I don't know, I can't explain it now, except I just felt a tremendous rush of feeling. And as soon as I stood up and prayed and afterwards I said, what did I say? I said, "You're amazing, Marguerite, you just poured out your heart." I didn't remember that but I remember rushing out onto the pass, on the hillside, it was a hills conference, and sitting down and just thinking, "Isn't that wonderful?" So, I started skipping down the trail, singing [sings], "Alleluia! 'Tis done, I believe on the Son!" Just skipping, I never.... Oh, twenty four, twenty five maybe by that time. And I met a tall proper English missionary whom I know well, round the corner. And I stopped, "Oh, that's alright, go on singing, I wish I had skipped like that too." And I...I'm sure I'd been saved before but I met, I realized in that time as I never had before that I really was cleansed of all sin and He was mine. I mean, I guess He just gives us our revelation when we're ready to accept it. And from then on it's been a conscious walk from God. And not that I haven't sinned and not that I haven't done wrong and not that I haven't failed, failed to believe at times. But, He's there and He forgives me and He's wonderful.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that your family moved a couple of times when you were a girl. From Gainesville to Wichita Falls and then from Wichita Falls to California. What was that like moving to new places?

OWEN: I didn't notice it at all except that I missed my friends. I...I must have been a very selfish child, I don't remember helping Mother move at all. I've moved so many times since and I wondered, "What was I doing when Mother was moving?" I can see her packing and do...but I don't remember helping. Maybe I did and I just took it for granted. When we moved from Gainesville to Wichita Falls, we had. I had lived of course, my first ten years in Gainesville, although we lived in two different houses there.

[tape turns off or an audible break]

SHUSTER: You were saying you had a dear friend named Margaret?

OWEN: Yes, and when we moved to Wichita Falls, we moved in January. And it was a rainy season and it was cold and wet. We had a backyard that was full of mud and I was standing one day crying at the window and Mother said, "Honey, what's the matter?" And I said, "Mother, I haven't thought about Margaret all day and I bet she hasn't thought about me." [laughs] I mean I was horrified to think.... And Mother really gently said, "That's the way God has made us, if we kept the memory of everything, we couldn't stand it, all the pain. And He's made us so that we can, we can.... You'll still love Margaret but you don't have to remember her all the time." And I was so eased because I thought, "I haven't thought about her at all." [coughs] You know, oh, and to think she hadn't thought about me. But, then we moved. Daddy.... We moved from Gainesville to Wichita Falls because Daddy's business, his...he had a goods and wholesale grocery company. And he started two more branches, and one of...the big one was Wichita Falls and another one was Graham [?]. They were succeeding to a part...a point when Piggly Wiggly and other....

SHUSTER: Piggly Wiggly, the grocery chain...?

OWEN: The grocery chain.

SHUSTER: ...the food mart?

OWEN: Yeah. And then it was from...some people in Wichita Falls asked him to go to California. So, we moved to California.

SHUSTER: Going to California to sell this mop....
OWEN: To sell the mop. And we moved to Hollywood because although his business was in Pasadena, because the First Hollywood Presbyterian was where we wanted to go where my uncle, Dr. Stewart P. MacLennan was a pastor. And we...Mother was more...they were more concerned that we be in a good church. But, having to drive all the time.... Daddy thought we ought to move to Pasadena, in the summer of 1926, after I graduated from Hollywood High School. I graduated that year, stayed three months and Daddy said, "It's far better for me to drive to work everyday than for you kids to drive to everything that went on at the church at night." We were driving and he said, "We'll move back to Hollywood." So, we...we lived just one month on Virginia and three months on Morango [?] and then back to Kenmore...Hollywood.

SHUSTER: What was it like growing up in Hollywood as a young girl in those days?

OWEN: It was just like anywhere other town, I mean, Hollywood was not as famous as it is now. And....

SHUSTER: You didn't see a lot of movie stars walking around?

OWEN: No, hardly ever. Once in a while you'd see somebody walking and the back of their head, that's all, you know. And we weren't...not only that, we didn't go to movies so I didn't know a lot of the movie stars. We didn't have...we had our first radio in Los Angeles in.... A little crystal set with earphones, only one could listen at a time. It was in my room and I got to put my earphones on at night and I could still sing the close out songs of KFWB and those way back, you know, I listened to....

SHUSTER: KFWB was a radio station?

OWEN: Yes, that was a radio station. Mother would come in and take the earphones off when I was asleep. But, that's when I was fifteen and sixteen. And then I was completely kept from the world, partly because I wasn't allowed to go to movie and I didn't particularly want to or dance or anything. Toward the very last of my senior year, Mother allowed me to go to the movies with one of the Christian boys that was there. But I didn't seem to care a great deal about it and it didn't seem to effect me particularly.

SHUSTER: Also in the '10s and '20s, there was the Asuza Street Revival which started in 1909, there was a continuing Pentecostal revival going on in the city....

OWEN: Oh yes.

SHUSTER: Did you have any contact with that or any awareness of that?

OWEN: No, I didn't. I didn't have any. We...our church was so sound and so lively. It was the lighthouse of Southern California. It was a church of 1500. In those days, that was a lot. We had an excellent young people's program, just excellent. There was something...we had a young people's Bible Study, we had the choir, we had a doctrinal study which studied the systematic theology on Monday, I mean all of these things we had. And the...we were...we had...another...and then.... In our own family, we had so much joy, we didn't have to reach out for other things. I mean, I mean, I always had other girl friends but they always came to our house. We were the focus of things. We were, also, we had four boy cousins. And I started driving at thirteen, not because I particularly wanted to but because Mother and Daddy wanted somebody to take the car from here to there when they...and so they taught me to drive. Daddy did, at thirteen.

SHUSTER: Were there licenses in those days or did you just learn to drive?

OWEN: No, you didn't have a license. We came out to California and we didn't have a license. So we went up to the Department of Motor Vehicles and they said, I said, "We want to get a license." "Can you drive?" "Yes" "How long have you driven?" "3 years." They gave me a license, good for life. Now, of course, they recalled all those licenses later but I mean, and we had a Texas license still. I made a wide turn on one road and somebody yelled, "Hey Texas, we don't have that much room here." But, I mean, we just, we had so much joy in ourselves and in our cousins. Now Mother, the fir...the year we lived on Virginia [Avenue], my grandmother, my Mother's mother, was sick...was dying. She wouldn't see a doctor, she wouldn't have a nurse, Mother had to take care of all of her. We're all sure she died of cancer, but we never knew, the doctor just said she was dead and that's it. In those days, he came in when she died and she...and she, she never sat slumping. She sat up, in bed, like this, with her pillows way behind her.

SHUSTER: [interrupts] Sat up very straight and formal.

OWEN: ...very straight and very formal. And, she didn't want anybody else to take care of her except Mother. Poor Mother was kept from everything for a year but she did it so beautifully I didn't realize at the time what a terribly hardship it must've been. But they did...we were go, all at school...

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

OWEN: ...which meant the house was very quiet.


OWEN: But, on Saturdays, and Sundays we were at church all day, Sunday School, church, Christian Endeavor and so forth. But on Saturdays, Daddy would give us the car and I would take my thr...two younger sisters, the youngest was still too young. And, the three boy cousins. Two of them were the son of the minister.

SHUSTER: Uh-huh.

OWEN: And another cousin from another.... The six of us would go all over southern California, just have a riotous time, you know. We'd go...they trusted us completely, they'd give us a packed lunch and you know, gas was not so expensive in those days. We went to San Bernardino, we went to Santa Barbara, no, we didn't go that far. We went to Santa Monica, we went to the ocean, we went up to the mountains, and....

SHUSTER: Did you ever go to Angelus Temple?

OWEN: Oh yes. When I was in college, quite a group of us decided we would go over and see it. And I must say it was spectacular, and I must say also that the message was wonderful.

SHUSTER: You heard Aimee Semple McPherson preach...?

OWEN: I heard her, I heard Aimee speak.

SHUSTER: What kind of preacher was she?

OWEN: Oh, she was dynamic. She was....I wouldn't say she was an expositor, she was an exhorter. But she was really just...most.... You sat in this big auditorium, huge auditorium. And they had a...before the service, they had a big orchestra playing and a whole lot of things. And then suddenly way up on the third balcony and the door would open and here stood Aimee, gold-haired, you know white dress with a blue coat that was red lined that came back and a great big sheath of red roses. Talk about spectacular, [Shuster laughs] to this day I can remember it. And she came sailing down the aisle, down to the platform and welcomed people so graciously and then she started preaching and she preached the Gospel. In fact, one of our missionaries, whom I knew well who was in that crowd, now he wasn't in that crowd, he came to our church after that. He was saved under her, well, I knew several. David Cowie, you may have, probably heard the name, he was saved under her ministry. Leroy King and Earl King and a whole bunch. As they grew older, they saw it was too much theatrical and they left it and went to more solid, sound churches. But, she preached the Gospel and she had dozens of converts. I think that's the only regular service I went to, I went to some special [unclear] but I don't remember them. But that was my first and I can still see her.

SHUSTER: You mentioned that she was an exhorter rather than an expositor. How do you mean that?

OWEN: Well, an expositor takes the word of God and starts actually here, an exhorter actually takes the text and goes from that to a point at a point, they've got a topic I mean but they're talking about some, being saved or being born again or saved from or being relieved from burdens or something like that but they don't follow the.... Now, I teach, when I teach I go verse by verse by verse by verse, which is ex...which I call exposition. And a lot of preachers do preach that way, most preachers don't as a matter of fact. Most preachers just, as my husband says, some just take a text and go far from it. [laughs]

SHUSTER: Do you recall what text she preached from or what her subject...sermon was about?

OWEN: Her subject, no. I just remember that...I thought at the time, "What she's saying is true." But it didn't...I probably knew it so well it didn't make any, it wasn't any special spectacular to me. Cause I must have been at least seventeen.

SHUSTER: Another preacher who came to Los Angeles, sometimes in those days, was Paul Rader. Did you ever hear...?

OWEN: I heard him, he was very good. But I don't remember particularly. We'd go to a special meeting and it was just another.... I mean, I think it was very fine and exciting but you know, when you've been a Christian already ten or twelve years and you're rejoicing in it, but....

SHUSTER: Didn't make a special impression....

OWEN: No, didn't make a special impression.

SHUSTER: After you graduated from high school, then you went to UCLA?

OWEN: Yes, immediately. I graduated in June and in September I started in UCLA. At that time, UCLA was not UCLA, it was UC-Southern Branch.

SHUSTER: University of California-Southern Branch.

OWEN: And we didn't like being called "twigs". [laughs]

SHUSTER: Why were you called "twigs"?

OWEN: Because branch, little twigs. [laughs] This, they decided...they had a big, big debate over what it was to be called. And it wasn't called UCLA until my junior year, I don't think...[unclear]. And it that time, it was also right down in Hollywood or the border of Hollywood. I could walk to school. All my first three years, I walked to university.

SHUSTER: So, you lived at home and walked to school?

OWEN: I lived at home and walked to school. My whole university career didn't cost me five hundred dollars. I mean the point was, there was no tuition at that time, it was a state school. You paid twenty dollars incidental fee and you paid your books and occasionally you'd have a fee for this thing or that. But I meant...I lived at home and no board. Then, when it moved in my senior year it moved out to the big beautiful campus it has now. And it was way out but my father bought a cheap car, I think he paid a hundred dollars, for me to take to school. And I got some people to ride with me to help me pay for gas and we drove out everyday. And that's, that was my senior year.

SHUSTER: So, you still lived at home but you drove?

OWEN: I still lived at home but I drove. Of course, at that time, practically everybody lived at home that. I don't really think they had UCLA dormitories. There were fraternity and sorority houses where you could stay...the YWCA, I think. But they hadn't built the big dormitories that they later built. You could live at.... They only had four buildings when I went, it was just starting. When I showed someone a book that I have that I didn't bring, a picture of the campus, everybody said, "Way out there? There will never be anything out there, that's empty fields everywhere. And these four building standing out there in the middle, I mean now you can't find those four buildings, I mean, it's so built up.

SHUSTER: Did you join a fraternity while you were at the university?

OWEN: No, I joined a sorority later.

SHUSTER: Sorry, a sorority, of course.

OWEN: No, the point was I wouldn't have joined any of the regular fraternities because they were so social, I mean they were so many of them wild in some sense. So, there were two girls, fine Christians, one of them the daughter of a minister, and they both of them were fine preachers, who felt that there was need for a Christian sorority, Christian sorority. So, they went with this plan to the dean of women and she said, "But all our sororities are Christian except one Jewish one, of course". She wouldn't allow them to call themselves a Christian sorority so they formed a club and they called it arete [Greek]...virtue. And I joined that in its second year and it's still going today and it has five chapters. Although about fifteen years later when a new dean of women came in and a is now recognized on the campus as Alpha Delta Chi.

SHUSTER: It's a sorority?

OWEN: A sorority. And I'm a ch...not a charter member but one of the early...I'm one of the alumni. And I...a group of the original, well, not all the original, not the early alumni, still meet every fourth Saturday to this day.

SHUSTER: In California?

OWEN: In California. And I get their letters. I was the president for awhile, of the alumni and they were wonderful to me when I went to China, when I came back they gave me...every time, they supported me tremendously. Out of the sorority have gone sixteen missionaries to all different countries all over. NO other one has gone to CIM, to China. But....

SHUSTER: That's quite a record.

OWEN: It was too...for my mind, it was my salvation because I would've been lost in the huge campus that UCLA was. I mean even though there were only four buildings, there were over seventeen thousand students. And, I...I would've had a very difficult time without a nucleus. At that time, there wasn't InterVarsity, at least out there, they hadn't started out there. Nor was there the Bible Club there, those had become quite big there and there were...What did Bill Bright start? Campus Crusades hadn't started, none of those things had started. This is...that's why I feel like I'm so ancient. [laughs] But I had a nucleus of Christians and we met every Monday night, like the sorority did, only we met in a home, we didn't have a house and we didn't have all of the.... But we had our initiation and we followed the sorority rules but we were just Arete. And it's been a real blessing to a great many people.

SHUSTER: You said you joined that in your junior year?

OWEN: No, my sophomore year.

SHUSTER: Sophomore year. What influence did your years at UCLA have on you? How...or did they have a lasting influence on you?

OWEN: You mean....

SHUSTER: Well, your education there but also just the years you spent there.

OWEN: Well, [pauses] it was an opportunity to stand fast for my faith.

SHUSTER: How do you mean that?

OWEN: Well, I mean...we were taught evolution, of course, always. We were taught things that were not scriptural and I don't think I ever stood up in...I think once I did question a.... Was that in high school? I was in high school. But I did...people always said, "Do you believe that?" I said, "No, I don't. I believe the Bible and the Bible says this and this and this that and I don't agree." And was after that I had that invitation to go to that talk group. And I mean I had...actually, in addition to my Christian sorority, I had several friends who weren't in the Christian sorority but who were really Christian. And I...and I...they were my Latin friends, we were Latin department of.... I think...the sen...the last two years there were only about thirteen of us that were taking majors. I mean there were still people entering...but they were.... And...and a group of seven of us became very close together. We called ourselves the "Abiliz club". I had that time, Daddy gave me the old T model that...?

SHUSTER: Model T Ford.

OWEN: Model T Ford. When he had...he said he couldn't take his guests around...his customers. He got a Sedan and he gave me the Model T. Mother couldn't drive the Model T. And anyway, I'd take these girls and we'd go out on Saturdays on these various and sundry things. And we decided we'd christen the car and the word in Latin was abigo ["to drive" in Latin] and so we called it "Abiliz" [Model T cars were also nicknamed "Tin Lizzies"]. We kept up for a long time and then all through college and later. So, I had...I mean I just had so much, I had my church, I had my sorority, I had my little Abiliz club, I had my family. I never felt, I don't think I ever felt lonely in my life or I've never felt depressed definitely. There may have been moments I felt lonely in a crowd because I didn't have somebody and I was some place.... But I just think the Lord has been unusually good to me.

SHUSTER: Did any of your teachers at UCLA make a particular impression upon you of have an influence on you?

OWEN: From an academic point, yes.

SHUSTER: Who were some of them?

OWEN: He was the professor of English. I can't remember his name now except that it begins with L-o-e. Loeder, Loecher, I can't remember exactly. But he was a marvelous teacher of Shakespeare. He made Shakespeare just live so much so that I would've taken two or three other courses with him. Now he was not one of the ones that was at all destructive. Of course, teaching Shakespeare you wouldn't be. No, it was my Geology teacher, my paleontology teacher, I don't even remember their names. But it was there statements that I disagreed with. I don't think I ever publicly disagreed with them. Maybe I did. I don't remember that at all. But academically, I found very challenging my English literature, my Latin, my Greek, oh my Greek. My Latin and Greek professors were.... See, we were such a small department that we knew the whole department and we just had four professors in the whole department and we knew them all personally. And they were all very very interesting. And I think one of them was a real Christian, the oldest one, he's long since been with the Lord but the others were not, I don't think. But nevertheless, they were interesting.

SHUSTER: Have you kept up your Latin over the years? No?

OWEN: I thought I would and I kept my Latin books [unclear] And when I came home this last time, when we retired to Glendale, the Christian school there, the Calvary Christian school, asked me if I would teach Latin to just a few that were willing to take it. I said I'd be thrilled to because I knew I would teach beginning Latin. I would have it.... But when I find that when I try to read a Latin quotation in a you know, that's in some theology book, it's gone, I'm sorry to say because.... And then the funny thing I noticed when they, the children were asking me, "What is the name of this?" I'd give them the Chinese instead of the Latin, twenty years of Chinese had been integrated. But languages don't stay if you don't use them.

SHUSTER: You graduated from UCLA...?

OWEN: 1930.

SHUSTER: 1930. And how did you decide at that point to go to Moody?

OWEN: Well, I...I had always admired Moody. I didn't...didn't...didn't decide at once. I was going to teach for a year but I couldn't get a job. There were six hundred unemployed experienced school teachers in Los Angeles and I was just a graduate, you know. They wouldn't even take my re...wouldn't even take my registration. That summer, summer of 1931, the next summer, all that year I went back to UCLA and worked in a tearoom where I had worked through the school, I mean not just as a waitress but as a sort of one of these....

SHUSTER: Cashier?

OWEN: Cashier and also running the place. And made, and then I also tutored Latin at a dollar an hour. I thought it was fabulous because I'd already gotten fifty cents an hour before. But, I made enough money so that when this crash came in the middle of that year I was talking about, I had about forty dollars in hand that I was going to splurge on Christmas. I gave it all to my Father to bale us out until it started again. And he remembered, (I guess it was forty-five dollars) because the next summer somebody paid my way to go to Mount Hermon conference up in...youth conference.

SHUSTER: Is that in California or up in Massachusetts?

OWEN: No, it's in California, it's in the Bay area, it's a beautiful place. And at know, the candlelight service when they did everything, I sat there and I just wanted to weep. I said, "Lord, I want to go but I don't know how to go". You know, at that point, I didn't have any....

SHUSTER: To go to China?

OWEN: To go to, yes. To go as a mission...well, there were full-time. And I said, "I want to go but I don't know how to go." And when I came back, there was an opportunity to drive free to Chicago, to go in a car, free. And Moody had no tuition at that time. And my father said to me, "Marguerite, I've started making money again, here's the forty five dollars you handed me last Christmas. So, here you have it now and if the Lord is leading you to go...". I've always thought Moody would be a good p.... See, I'd wanted to go away to college, I wanted to go away to Occidental, I wanted to go a board.... I wanted to be in a boarding school and I hadn't had any chance at all so I thought this would be wonderful. And it was.

SHUSTER: You mean didn't have a chance because it would've been too expensive?

OWEN: Well, yes, that too expensive. I mean, my folks couldn't afford it. I mean, Daddy was making...he had a real hard time financially getting out, after the crash of all these various things. So, anyway, there were five of us, one of them was Dave Cowie[?], who you may have heard about and Dudley Jerome [?] and Regina Jerome [?] and myself and Virginia Boreland. And the five of us had a chance to go in this car, the man was going to pay for somebody to drive it back and give him the gas. He wanted to the car. And so we drove across country, took lunches and stayed with friends all along. And when I got to Moody, I thought I could work. Well, because I was already a college graduate, they did let me....

SHUSTER: Did you apply to Moody before you went?

OWEN: Oh yes, of course, we'd all...yes.

SHUSTER: You'd been accepted?

OWEN: Yes, we'd been accepted already. And, not all of them were going to Moody, Dave was going to Wheaton and so was Dudley. Virginia...Virginia Boreland was going to Wheaton Academy, Regina [?] and I were going to Moody. But we had all applied and got the.... As soon as we heard about this opportunity, we all applied and got the permission. So, I had this forty-five dollars to pay my first board or so. And then I got a job as a waitress, I worked all through college as a waitress making money, my spending money. I wrote back to Daddy and said, "Oh, this is fine. I got this nice tearoom up on Clark Street." And I got my evening meal every night. And $1.50 an hour which I thought was terrific, you know, and then tips. Because I'm outgoing, I suppose, I always got good tips. And I thought, I said to Daddy, "You won't need to worry at all." But, in a month or a month and a half, the lady said to me, "Marguerite, I'm sorry, you're very good but you're the last one on and we've got to close down." I knew that, customers weren't coming to pay for dollar and a half or two dollar dinner, I mean they were too poor. The Depression was just hitting, terribly. In fact, between the time I went to Moody, when there were one thousand students until December, the break, it dropped to five hundred. They just couldn't come back, they couldn't come back for the term. So, then I got a lot of different waitress jobs that were very poor and didn't pay much. For instance, the last one I had was at the "Five and Ten" on Madison street. And I worked two and a half hours a day, five days a week for two dollars and seventy five cents a week. But, I was allowed, of course, fifteen cents was to eat and fifteen minutes to eat it.

SHUSTER: And tips I guess, too?

OWEN: What?

SHUSTER: And tips?

OWEN: No tips at all. You know, they didn't put tips on the counter. That was it. You got the.... And I was getting thinner and thinner and tireder and tireder. I...I.... And Daddy would've had to borrow to send me home, he was still having a struggle time. So, at the end of the year, he borrowed the money to send me home, to take me home.

SHUSTER: So, you were just at Moody that one year?

OWEN: Just one year. But I really appreciated it very much.

SHUSTER: Why is that?

OWEN: Well, I appreciated it because it was...I learned a lot about praying there that I hadn't done before.

SHUSTER: How did that happen?

OWEN: We.... One of the classes on prayer was very good and also, some practical things. They said, "You say, 'I can't pray very long.'" Said, "Do...How long do you know how you pray?" I didn't know. "Put a clock in front of you and if you haven't prayed long enough, keep on praying, think of something else." And I did that very thing, that was my first experience of praying a half an hour, you know? And I can still remember the room, you know. Also, although I knew music, I had never learned "Ta-Ni-So-Fa".

SHUSTER: You never learned what?

OWEN: To-Ni...Ta-Ni-So-Fa...Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do [sings]. I'd never learned that and didn't come across it in any of my things. And I had a marvelous music teacher who not only taught us how to read music, but how to direct and how to play and I was in two of his classes.

SHUSTER: What was...what was his name?

OWEN: [Talmadge J.] Bittikofer. He is...was...he.... The thing is someone said you could always tell the people Bittikofer directed; they directed just like he did. [laughs]

SHUSTER: What made him such a good teacher?

OWEN: One thing is he was so exacted...he was insisting on perfection, insisting on rightness. Any teacher who will the best out of you and not let you get away with stuff. In other words, when I was accompanying some of his singers and I made a mistake, he said, "Did you notice, Deiter, that Ms. Goodner missed that?" Boy, you don't miss it again. I think, also, he was...he was alive, very much alive and he made you feel the music you were singing. I sang in the choral group there too at the same time. And then also because I had had Greek in college, they let me take New Testament Greek but I must confess, that the only reason I took New Testament Greek was because (I was the only woman in the class)...because in that class was a young man named Harry Owen. [Shuster laughs] That's where I met Harry.

SHUSTER: That's the first time you...? Well, then you didn't take the class for him if you met him in the class.

OWEN: Well, no, I had....


Send us a message.
Return to BGC Archives Home Page

Last Revised: 2/28/07
Expiration: indefinite

© 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.2007