Billy Graham Center

Collection 57- Susan Schultz Bartel. T3 Transcript

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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the first oral history interview of Susan Bartel (CN 57, T3) 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 transcriber was not sure of the spelling, particularly of proper names, “[sp?]” was used. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Place names in non-Western alphabets 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, because that is how the interviewee pronounced it. Chinese terms and phrases which could be understood were spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliterated form which corresponds to it. 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.  

... 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 Kirk Haywood and was completed in April 2007

Collection 57, T3. Interview of Susan Bartel by Larry Clark, December 9, 1978.

CLARK: Okay, Mrs. ...[taps microphone] Mrs. Bartel, [feedback] the last ti...last session, we were talking about your imprisonment times, and we talked about two of the times, and you said that there was one more imprisonment. And, what are the events that led up to that, and could you tell us about that time?

BARTEL: Well, it still was the same problem, that we, as Americans, were not wanted, in that area, and other missionaries in our area had all left. They either went on to west China, to parts where...that...where there was no unrest yet, or they went to the [United] States. And then, this particular time, the officers of our city decided that we should leave the country for good, this time. And so, they asked us to get our trunks ready, didn’t have enough suitcases, you know, for bedding, and for clothing, and to pack up, and they locked up the house, and we were to leave. And of course, it was a day’s journey to get to the railroad station by cart. And if I remember correctly, mules....

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: You know what a mule is?

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: Well, they...the he is a donkey, and the she is a horse, and they are not as large as the horses are. Our animals there were mostly donkeys or mules.

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: And then when we arrived at the railroad station at QueFu, [sp?].... There is no mission station...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...close by, the closest by is a Lutheran mission, but it’s not connected with the railroad station. And so, a Mohammedan family took us in for the night. They were friends of my husband, I had never learned to know the family, but he knew them from before, and they were very kind to us, and took us in for the night, and gave us a meal, and had the mules, and the driver, and all that’s connected with traveling like that.

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: Then, the next day, we were supposed to take the train. And before that, of course, we were supposed to get our tickets, and the officers at the ticket office decided that these foreigners could not travel on the train, because they had no permits. Well, we were supposed to have our visas and everything in order, which...we had not planned on leaving the country.

CLARK: These officers, were they Chinese officers?

BARTEL: Japanese.

CLARK: Japanese officers, okay.

BARTEL: And then, we sat there in the sun (it was in the hot summertime) the sun, waiting for whatever would happen to us, and finally, it was decided that we should go back to Tsaohsien, to our home.

CLARK: Oh, really?

BARTEL: And all the packing, and all the arrangements we had made as a family, while we were coming back home. And of course, we were in a way, glad that we were permitted...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: go back home to Tsaohsien. And of course, there always was the suspense, not knowing what was coming next. Because no broadcast, no papers, no daily papers, and only what we would hear, you know, little rumors. Somebody would come and tell us if we already knew this or that...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...and so the storms sort of went over, and after that, then of course, things became more normal. And then there was just a little lull before the Communists came. There was a time, we called it peaceful, where things went more orderly as far as the work was concerned, and the Chinese were less fearful, and things went on. But then, of course, that was not a long period either, when the Communists came in...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...because they had occupied a very large part of China before...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...but my husband was a very strong optimist, and he said, “We’ve had so much more in China that always went over men.” So he was very strongly hoping that the Communists would not come and occupy for good, that they would be driven back and...and we would be free to go about as we had been before. But then, when they came...those of course were the Chinese, and unsaved people, well, they called us “Foreign Devils.” We, of course, always had been foreigners, but to be “Foreign Devils” was another thing. [laughs] And then, we tried our best not to resent any of their commands, as long as they would...would not be against our conscience.

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: They would be demanding certain things, and one particular time, they brought in a pig that had been butchered, and I was supposed to prepare a foreign meal. And, of course, that was something I hadn’t done before, you know. Just...just a big animal there in front of you, and it all needed to be cut up, and so, with the Lord’s help, we managed to cut it up into little cubes. I didn’t know how to prepare a foreign meal, because we didn’t have everything that was needed, for a large group. But like I said, the Lord wonderfully helped, and I fixed it almost like chop suey.

CLARK: Really?

BARTEL: Yeah. And after they had eaten the meal, they were so grateful, and, “My, the foreign meal tasted so good,” and my girls were behind the scene, they were laughing, and said, “Mother, you really couldn’t make a good meal for these hungry people.” But, it was to my advantage that they were pleased, because if I had made something they didn’t like, that would have been, of course, against our whole family.

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: Then, another thing I so clearly remember, when...another time when they came in and we were talking, and I had said something, but I don’t recall what I said, when talking to them. They said, “You foreign women...woman, you wear foreign clothes, and you shouldn’t be here.” And I said “Wear foreign clothes?” I happened to have a vest, well, very much like you, except it was buttoned front, and the reason why it was a vest because there was not enough yarn to make sleeves.


BARTEL: And so I said, [phrase in Chinese] I said “Please pardon me.” But I said, “I didn’t have enough yarn to make even sleeves for it.” And they said, “My, she even is saving, these American people,” yeah, and then, of course, praised me for it, instead of...of swearing at me. Little things like that. But the...the children were on very good terms, very fast, because they could play some games with them, like, you know, I don’t know what you’d call it in English, it’s very much like...oh, I don’t know what you would call it. It was very much like dominos, you know. Games they would team up, and of course, they spoke their language very clearly, and that made them proud. They liked that.

CLARK: Right.

BARTEL: That these foreigners would even teach their children to speak their language.

CLARK: I have a question right there, speaking of the children, during this time, your girls, where did they get their schooling? Had you mentioned that before?

BARTEL: Well, they were at [unclear] before the war, then, after the war, at Shanghai.

CLARK: At Shanghai.


CLARK: So they would go away for a couple months at a time, or...

BARTEL: They...they’d be gone a whole school year.

CLARK: I see, uh-huh.

BARTEL: Uh huh. And....

CLARK: Okay. I was just...that just arose in my mind.

BARTEL: I still remember, my third one at that time, it was her first time away from home, and how she cried over there, and I didn’t remember that they’d written it, but the oldest daughter still remembers how she cried because she was so homesick. They lived in a...with a German couple. They had a boarding house, but the school was an American school.

CLARK: And, so during the war, they came back home, though, and weren’t away?

BARTEL: Well, yeah. Then, when it was the worst, they were with us.

CLARK: Okay. And so, after this time where he...he came and you had that conversation about the yarn, then go on from there.

BARTEL: Well, they left us quite alone many ways, because my husband was really very “Chinese.” I mean...

CLARK: Oh, yeah.

BARTEL: ...he had always tried to please them, and so they...they did leave us unmolested. They didn’t treat us as hard as the Japanese did. But then, of course, since the work could not continue regularly, it was advised...advisable, I should say, that we would go and leave, and then of course, that took very much thought to leave everything behind, and especially my husband. At that particular time, he was still hoping that the war would completely go over, and it would be peaceful once more. And he comforted us with that, that he would come later on. And then of course, we had our permits to go that time we had our permits to travel to Shanghai, and it would be of interest to some people that the American law, regulations, concerning citizenship...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...changed after my daughter Esther...before my daughter Esther was born. So Esther and David were on my passport, because it was my choice for them to be American citizens. We could choose.

CLARK: Right.

BARTEL: And so, the two were on my passport, and the other three had to be...had to go through the process of becoming citizens, but that of course, was done here, at this end.

CLARK: Right.

BARTEL: And we received permission from the American consul come across.

CLARK: So your third internment was this time where you went away, and they sent you away, and then sent you back.


CLARK: I mean, do you think that you had to tra...go out of the country, almost, even?


CLARK: But then you couldn’t get permits, and so they sent you back home, and I would say that would be another, maybe, two years, is that right, that you were back in your home?

BARTEL: Well, yes, we were...we were back a few years, when it seemed quite rest...restful.

CLARK: Comparatively.

BARTEL: Peaceful.

CLARK: And, a question came to my mind, were there any people, Chinese people that you had had contact with before, who during this period, when the Communists came to power, you realized that they had...they were now Communist? In other words, you had known them before as non-Communists, and now they were Communist. Were there any people like that, that you knew?

BARTEL: Well, no, at that time they didn’t turn over to Communism, but several years later, my husband wrote that quite a few of them did, which, of course, was possibly unavoidable, because they were controlling everything.

CLARK: The economy and everything.

BARTEL: Yeah. Then, there were a few that secretly met. Through the letters we received that impression....

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: And I remember one time, my husband wrote, and he mentioned one of the little neighbor girls, who had been, I guess, very close, and he would read stories, Bible stories to her. And so the books were burned, and then my husband said...well, he said, “Now, what are we going to do, we cannot read any...the Bible anymore, what are we going to do now?” Because the...the Bible was burned, the Bibles were burned, too. And she said, “Well,” she said, “Then the Holy Spirit will speak to us and lead us.” And we thought it was so precious...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: know, just a young believer...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...a very young girl,....

CLARK: Right.

BARTEL: A child really, yet.

CLARK: Well then, the left your husband when you went to the...left for the train station, or did he go to Shanghai with you?

BARTEL: Well, he went...he’d gone to Shanghai with us.

CLARK: And that’s where you got on the boat, or an airplane, or....

BARTEL: On the boat.

CLARK: On the boat. And that was in 19...Dec...December...

BARTEL: 1948.

CLARK: ...of 1948.

BARTEL: Yes. In September ‘48.

CLARK: September. Of ‘48.

BARTEL: Yeah. The girls I think, were a few days late for school, when they came home.

CLARK: And at that time, you really really did assume that either you...the family would be returning to China, or he would be coming home?

BARTEL: Very definitely, oh yes.

CLARK: Was it more that you all would be going to China than he would be coming here, or other words, did you think that your re...reunion would be in China, rather than him coming home here?

BARTEL: I thought it would be here, because he needed a change very badly, and had not had a furlough for twelve years, at that time.

CLARK: Right, that’s true. I see. So, how long did it take you to come home on the...on the boat, and was there any things that happened in coming home?

BARTEL: Oh, well, of course it’s always exciting to meet other passengers...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...and we traveled third class, which is the lowest, you know...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: ...but you can always go on deck, and see, and enjoy the outside, unless it’s very, very windy, stormy.

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: Once in a while, we wondered if Jonah was in the boat, you know, sort of start...lose your appetite for the meal, and that happens.

CLARK: Well, I guess before talking about your...your life back here in the United States, I’d like maybe some more things about China. What would you say was the people...the people you knew and knew very well in your hometown, the Chinese people, what do you think their reaction, their really...initial reaction were to this new political wave of the Communism coming in? Were they...did they feel pressurized underneath the Communists?

BARTEL: Oh, yes, very much so. They were very, very fearful.

CLARK: Of the Communists?


CLARK: In what ways was this?

BARTEL: Well, of course, they felt insecure, unsafe, and that of course, happened all the time. We have had the north against the south when there was war, and they of course, were afraid their young men would be taken, you know. The boys would then have to go to the army, and then, I don’t know if they at that time thought so much of their spiritual life. I’m sure many of them counted on...on the Lord definitely for protection, and for the future.

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: But the people on the whole were poor people, you see, and if the new government could do something to improve that situation, then of course, they’d all be happy for it. Which would be quite natural, I think.

CLARK: Another thing about the effect of Communism. Of course, I would assume that the Communists mainly were negative about what they would call “Western Imperialism.”

BARTEL: Oh, yes, of course.

CLARK: What was their reaction to the other historic religions of China, such as Confucianism, or Buddhism, or even there was some Islam in there, I would suppose, but mainly Confucianism or Buddhism. How did Communists deal with that?

BARTEL: I really would not able to say, because the Muhammadans were close to us....

CLARK: Oh, I see.

BARTEL: And not when we had a church...with church activities, but when it came to family, you know, then, they liked to have a relationship, fellowship...

CLARK: Uh-huh.

BARTEL: show interest, but not as far as the Gospel was concerned.

CLARK: Well, were there...let’s see, the main religion of the area you were in, out...outside of Christianity, an...the people that became Christians, they came from Islam and....

BARTEL: Well, they were just heathen. They just didn’t know God, and they didn’t know of God, and many of them had no Bibles, and very many could not read.

CLARK: Their religious backg.... Were they Buddhists, or Confu...or Confucianism, or...or what, before they became Christians?

BARTEL: Well, I...I would not be able to say so, because many of our Christians from Tsaohsien, they came from the orphanage, see....

CLARK: Oh yes, like you told me.

BARTEL: And they were brought there from homeless people, or from very poor people, and they had no one.

CLARK: Right. Well, I was just trying to also understand, like, if there was any Buddhist temples in the area, did the Communists demand that they be taken down, or what? Do you know about that?

BARTEL: Well, we...we had no temples close by.

CLARK: Close by, okay. Uh-huh.

BARTEL: The temples of course are beautiful ones, in Shanghai, and in larger cities.

CLARK: But the...I would assume that the Communists not only again...were against Christianity, but they were against all religions, weren’t they?

BARTEL: I imagine they would be, because there’s no God, you see, to them.

CLARK: Right, according to them, right. Well, should we talk a few minutes about your early years in the United States, and what happened when you arrived in the United States?

BARTEL: Well, that’s very clear to me yet, because my parents had grown old. My mother wasn’t well. And my three sisters were all married, and had their own homes, away from home. And my two brothers also had married when I wasn’t around. And so, here I came with five children, and I had no home, and had never tended to bank accounts [chuckles], because husband did the banking. And fact, we had no bank at Tsaohsien, it was all just, you know, through mail. And here, I...I couldn’t depend on my parents, although my parents had worked hard, and we children had all learned to work hard, when we were young. So, father had divided some land [among their children], and of course, that brought some income, and they rented a home for us, right in town, and the children were put to school. And it was an adjustment, very hard to explain, to come without your partner, without the head of the family. And people would ask questions upon questions. And they meant well, but it just seemed like they were always opening more of that wound, that sore, that was there. And, though they were very, very helpful, the church people, the neighbors, and brothers and sisters, and everybody was...was very, very kind and...and helpful to us. Then of course, what hurt very much to us, that the correspondence was so distant. And....

CLARK: Took a long time to get news?

BARTEL: Oh yes, yes. And then, of course, toward the last years, we didn’t hear anything anymore. So we...we just didn’t know if my husband was still living, or if he was possibly on the way, or if know, just what had happened.

CLARK: These...was he able to...did you feel like he as able the letters that you received, was...was he able to adequately, or...I guess the word I’m looking for is “honestly” describe the situation that he was living in, or do you feel like he was under pressure not to tell a lot of things that he wanted to tell?

BARTEL: I think he was very careful, because he knew the mail would be censored.

CLARK: Censored, yeah.

BARTEL: Because the mail was censored already when...when we were there. Frequently, the letters were...if you’d ride from one station to the other, you know, there were the times where the other coworkers returned to their station, and there was correspondence by person, and no mail carrier, and of course, the letters would be on onion skin paper, you know, very thin paper. And it’d be folded and folded and folded into just a wee little bit something. And somebody would be sent a day’s journey with that, and sometimes wear in their shoe, and sometimes it would be sewed in the pocket, or...

CLARK: The letters that you received?

BARTEL: Yes, the letters that we received, oh yes.

CLARK: So it was almost as if he was not allowed to write, and...

BARTEL: During restless times. That happened over and over again.

CLARK: What was your contact with the mission board when you came back, the mission board that you....

BARTEL: Oh, they were very understanding. Yeah, they...they were very helpful, and the first years, they even sent support to Shanghai through the Red Cross. They helped, of course, we did too, my family did too. And then afterwards, Mr. Bartel wrote that it was safer not to send anything anymore.

CLARK: Uh-huh. How did you find the attitudes of American people towards China? Were....and especially in the first years, were...what...what was the...what did people think about China? And then they found out you had lived in China all these years, and what kind of at...reactions did you...?

BARTEL: Oh, they had prayer meetings for China, and their hearts went out to the Chinese Christians.

CLARK: So, very helpful as far as congregations?

BARTEL: Oh, yes, yes. They were...were very helpful.

CLARK: You mentioned before about hearing from your husband about some of the Chinese Christians. Is that in his letters, that he would talk about some of the Christians?

BARTEL: Oh, yes, yes.

CLARK: Was it obvious that the Chinese Christians were...well, first of all, they were having a difficult time, I’m sure.

BARTEL: Oh yes, they had a very difficult time. And one or two of the ones that we knew very well, and we were very close to, they gave their lives for....

CLARK: After this time, after you all came home, they...


CLARK: They finally realized the truth. That’s...that’s interesting....


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