Billy Graham Center

Collection 288 - Vincent Crossett. T1 Transcript

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Vincent Leroy Crossett (CN 288, 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 Jeffrey Dennison and Paul Ericksen, was completed in March 2002.

Collection 288, T1. Interview of Vincent Leroy Crossett by Paul Ericksen on November 16, 1984.

ERICKSEN: This is an interview with Vincent Leroy Crossett by Paul Ericksen for the Missionary Sources Collection of Wheaton College. This interview took place at the office of the Archives of the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois, on Friday, November 16, 1984, at 2:45 pm.

Well, Mr. Crossett, I'd like to begin the interview by just talking a little bit about your family background. I see from the information that the college has that you were born in Grand Island, Nebraska. Did you stay in Grand Island long or...?

CROSSETT: Till I was ten. Then we moved to Florida.

ERICKSEN: Oh. Where in Florida?

CROSSETT: Lake Worth for a few months and then we went to Boynton. It's called Boynton Beach now. But I spent four years in school...graduated eighth grade in Boynton.

ERICKSEN: Anything that you remember particularly from Grand Island when you were growing up?

CROSSETT: Not particularly. We were on a twelve acre place out in the...out about a mile east of town. Dad worked on the railroad. And we lived a quarter mile from the railroad.. He used to be [unclear]. In those days they'd put up...they had great big ice houses. And they had refrigerator cars, not electric. But they'd fill the ends of the cars with ice. And they had great big ice houses there and they had a pond next to it. In the winter they'd cut ice off the pond and fill the ice house. Then in the summer, of course, they'd...they'd ice...these cars. They'd pull up along the track, and Dad was in charge of that operation. And then the last [clears throat]...last few years there we lived...we moved to town. And Dad did truck farming then. He...he got off the railroad because the...they instituted the principle of the practice of giving physical examinations. (They didn't before that). And so, since he had diphtheria when he was a kid, he had one bad eye and one bad ear and that cut him out. So he [laughs]...he went into truck farming. Did a little carpentry on the side.

ERICKSEN: Now, having a...having a twelve acre place, was...was he doing some small farming...?

CROSSETT: Yes, truck farming. We raised vegetables and we'd...we'd grow radishes, lettuce and various things and take them to markets to sell. They weren't organized like they are now so that you can't get in except on a farm, farm work it seems.

ERICKSEN: So you helped with that, too?

CROSSETT: Yes, yes, I helped with that.

ERICKSEN: How many children were there in your family?


ERICKSEN: And how did that...where did you fit into that whole...?

CROSSETT: I was number two. I have a brother two-and-a-half years older, and then four sisters and a younger brother. Yeah, there were seven of us altogether.

ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. And...

CROSSETT: We had a lot of fun.

ERICKSEN: ...did you all get along together?

CROSSETT: Generally speaking, I think as well as any family does [laughs]. Yes, quite well I remember it now.

ERICKSEN: Were there some that you got on a little better with than others?

CROSSETT: Well, we'd [unclear] I followed my big brother quite a bit, and..... Oh, we got along pretty well. At least we [pauses] were friendly with each other.

ERICKSEN: What about...what about your parents? Who was the...the head of the family? Not just in name, but who sort of ran the house?

CROSSETT: Well, it was a typical family. Dad was the one who was the bread winner. And...and he always [?] had the say, but not dominantly. Mother was...Mother was very capable too. She had been a school teacher beforehand and so she knew...knew kids. But she was very, very faithful in [unclear]. I don't know the question of authority came up. It was just natural.

ERICKSEN: Was there a strong sense of discipline in the house?

CROSSETT: Well, we were not held tight discipline. We...we respected our parents. We'd go away sometimes, but a lot of things that we did.... I know in my life there were things I did...I never...I never smoked. And one reason was because that I knew it would grieve mother. And...and I've had cigarettes put in my mouth, I've had temptations, but her...her principles sort of held over me, and...and, of course, it was a...we had a Christian family so that we had Christian principles. And sometimes you had family prayer, sometimes we didn't. It wasn't a very strictly disciplined that way, but we knew they had faith in God. And they...we...I don't know, I don't remember going to church even. But when we were on the...on this twelve acre plot, we would drive into town, about a mile to a mile-and-a-half to church occasionally, but normally not. A little bit too much to get everybody in and get off, all on our little horse and buggy. (No cars in those days, see). We were [clears throat] just pretty much a family. And some of us went to school. About a quarter of a mile away from the house was a country school. So my brother and I and a couple of my sisters went there, I think. I'm not sure how old they were, but they told us at least [unclear] country school. Then we moved to town in Tarama [sp?] a year, and we went to school in town, which was a short experience and I don't remember too much about that. But after we moved to Florida, of course, we were...there we were six miles out in the country. We drove to school in a horse and buggy, five of us in that horse and buggy, and it was one of the one-seated buggy. We would leave before dawn, get home after dark, every day five days a week [laughs]. It was quite interesting. But...but there..there, of course, we...four years in school there, so we really got into the things there more.

ERICKSEN: What precipitated the move to Florida?

CROSSETT: Well, my uncle had lived down there, and he had glowing accounts and that, and Dad was doing some truck farming and my uncle thought down there would be ideal for truck farming. And so we went down and got a...quite a...quite a good size...well, quite a good size farm. It was twenty acres, I guess, something like that. And we raised beans and peas and peppers and tomatoes, so forth, shipped them right into Chicago. But you only got a good crop once every three years about down there. It either freezes out or it drowns out. So it wasn't a moneymaking proposition, but it was really fun. [laughs] I remember how we'd collect alligators, and we did [laughs] trapping, racoons and skunks and possums. Of course, we went hunting for rabbits, too, for some food, out in what they called flatlands. It was between the coast and the Everglades. was real rural a life [laughs]. We were six miles from town and our nearest neighbor was about an hour or so away, and then from there into town. So we were isolated quite a bit.

ERICKSEN: So your family had to get along.

CROSSETT: Yes. Well, we couldn't go to church. And, of course, we helped on the farm...the farm, too. I remember Dad tried to raise some peanuts, and crows would come along after he planted and pick them up. [laughs]. But then the last several months we were there we moved into town. We couldn't make it on the farm because we had two bad years out of every three. So Dad went into carpentry, and we moved into town and lived right outside the back door of the Methodist church. [laughs] Stepped out of our back door and just crossed the lot and we were in the Methodist church. So there we were faithful in attending church, till we came north. And then, we came north 19.... [pauses] Ooo. We went down in 1917 and came back in 1921. And the reason we came back was that my mother's family, they owned a farm, a 180-acre farm, up here in Illinois. And they asked Dad if he would come up and run the farm. So he made a [coughs]...a five-year lease. Agreed to a five-year lease, and we worked on the farm up here for a number of years.

ERICKSEN: When was it?

CROSSETT: When I was in high school. I was at Wyanet when we lived in the...out in the country. We farmed along to my mother's side of the family, in the Stoutenbrugs.

ERICKSEN: Now how did that work out with the arrangement being with...with your mum's side of the family? Was there any problem with your dad running the farm? Any...?

CROSSETT: No. They...they let him run it. And he...of course, they were farmers, too, and they knew. And some of the methods he used was not like they would use. But he was just starting the transition when people were beginning to get tractors. (We had horses to most of the work.) But we got a tractor, and we had no combines in those days either, just binders, you know. They'd put a...we'd have to shock the stuff, and then had a run. There were twenty farmers, and we'd get together and hire a thrashing machine to come in and go from farm to farm. Then all the farmers helped each other. That was fun. [laughs] Those were the good old days.


CROSSETT: Yeah, that worked out fine. We had fun. We were a mile and a half from town, so while I was in high school we had to drive or walk that mile-and-a-half to get to town. Often we walked. In cold weather, of course, we''d catch a ride or often we drove in, too.

ERICKSEN: By buggy or by car?

CROSSETT: Buggy. Eventually we got a car, but I don't think we used it to go to school in. Sometimes we did. Often we had...we walked in. That's where...graduated eighth grade in Florida and from high school in Wyanet [Illinois], four years. We went up just to eighth grade and high school for me.

ERICKSEN: Going back to Grand Island and sort of running all the way through, were there...were there any classes in school that you particularly liked?

CROSSETT: Not in school. I liked recess [laughs] and the lunch hour and so forth [laughs]. That was fun. I don't remember too much about that. We...we did have good times playing. I used to like to go over to the neighbor's. This wasn't in school, this was the neighbor's. The whole community was German. And all of the other classmates there in District 74, east of Grand Island, they all spoke German in the homes, and so they had to learn German in school. We, of course, had English. We didn't know German at all, but they taught German in the first grade right straight up (no kindergarten in those days)...first grade and we...I.... I'm sorry that we moved away because I was [laughs]...I was interested in German and I'd like to know it that way, get it...the basics. But then the war [World War I] broke out in 1914. Not...we didn't get into it, but it broke out. And...and all [claps hands] the German was taken out of the schools, so that I didn't get any after that.

ERICKSEN: You talked about knowing know, the faith of your...your folks, and also the difficulty of getting to church. When in that whole process did your conversion take place? Or was it...maybe it was a process kind of...?

CROSSETT: Well, it was a process, but I remember when I was eight years old that I made a definite decision. Right beside my bed, [unclear]. I didn't seem to do it...I mean nobody was there. And of course, Mother, we saw her faith and Dad, too. He's...he wasn't quite the dominant person in that area that Mother was. But it was quiet. She never forced anything on us, but she did let us know that...she...she gave us the foundation [laughs] of her...her faith. And I date my salvation from the time I was eight years old. But about the time...shortly after that I [pauses]...(I'm not sure before or after. Before I think.)...I...I took the rheumatic fever and I was in bed for...five or six weeks. And that...and it wasn't pleasant at all. I was out of school all that time, and somehow, I don't remember how I made it out, but somehow I made it through school [unclear]. But that affected it, too, that made me think. It made me think. But I date my salvation from when I was eight years old. Gradually it grew from then on, my faith grew.

ERICKSEN: Were there any particular influences that tended to be stronger in your spiritual growth as you look back over your...those first years of your being a Christian?

CROSSETT: No, not much at all. Of course, in the church...we got closer to the church, to the Methodist church down there in Florida.


CROSSETT: [unclear] But it', I don't remember any particular influence at all until I got into...until we came north from Florida, when I got into...into high school, and while in high school we were very faithful in attending a [unclear] church in Wyanet. And...and there the influence, I felt strongly. We had a good pastor and one who was interested all of us young people. And that's where...that's where I came to know more of the Word and the Lord's reality. And that's where I felt the call into the ministry, first as a pastor here in this country, but later on [unclear]. Through that church in Wyanet is where the biggest influence came. The [unclear] pastor, the one that I remember most was the...his name was Moses, A.C. Moses. He was there for a while, then he left and then he came back again. And he...he was really interested in the fellows, interested in getting us to consider the...the...the ministry, either here or abroad. He recommended that to me. I wrote to him for counsel to go to seminary, and I chose one, but two that he recommended. [laughs]

ERICKSEN: And did he have anything to do with your thinking about coming to Wheaton? Or how did...

CROSSETT: Well, coming to Wheaton...

ERICKSEN: ...that come about?

CROSSETT: ...coming to Wheaton.... Wheaton, of course, was known in the family. My [pauses]...(Who was it?) I had an uncle that came here for a couple years. Of course, I knew [him]. And we had....I don't know all the influences, but we...we did have young people sometimes come down. And in the church, I don't remember just what the influence was, but I know that...that I [pauses]...before I graduated from high school, I had been looking around at other colleges: Knox College and...because they came to the school and presented. But I had no influence here. My uncle came here and....

ERICKSEN: What was his name?

CROSSETT: Perrin, Perrin, Charles Perrin. He lived in Aurora when I knew him. I think he only went a couple of years, and he was in a commercial course that they had in those days. And...and he...I knew it from there, and, of course, it wasn't popular far and away. Between high school and college I spent a year in Florida - not a year, seven months - but I went down there to help the family out down there. And...and then when I came back I stopped here and looked at the college and made inquiries about coming. I don't remember any strong influence that brought me here apart from that contact with my uncle. He married my father's sister, so that it was in-law here..

ERICKSEN: Did you find it easy or difficult to get into Wheaton?

CROSSETT: Not too difficult. Now I don't remember all the intricacies of financing. I don't remember all of that, but it worked out anyway. I had to work my way through and it worked out and it wasn't difficult, it wasn't too difficult. I went through all the [pauses] matriculation and so forth, and apparently they [laughs] wanted young fellows. And I...I satisfied their questions so wasn't difficult to get in. Of course, that was way back over fifty years ago [laughs]. They had four hundred students in those days.

ERICKSEN: Four hundred?

CROSSETT: Four hundred. Yeah. We came (now this is beside the point maybe) but the whole grounds, just leaf and straw and grass and everything, you know, because they'd just let it grow all summer. So they rented a big mowing machine from the farm, mowed it, and finally got it in trim for the...for the opening. I came several days early and then [unclear]. It's not what it is today. [Laughs]

ERICKSEN: Now you mentioned that worked your way all through...through college. What sort of jobs did you have?

CROSSETT: Well, in the beginning I got jobs in the restaurants, waiting....

ERICKSEN: Here in town?

CROSSETT: Here in town and Glen Elyn. And that...that paid an ho...hour from you. [laughs] If I did two...two hours a day, I got the meals, a couple of meals. And then, of course, I got on the janitor force when I was here, so I was working under Mr. Hale. Clarence Hale's father was the janitor in those days. He was preaching, too, but he was the janitor. And I got there, and then the last two years I was here I was a house...I was the houseboy in the girls' dormitory, the "Red Castle" [Williston Hall]. (Used to be "Red Castle." What is it now? I guess it's still....) Anyway, it's that big one over by the dining hall area. And I was there, and...and that just about paid my way. From my aunt I borrowed $125 a semester for the first two years. So I had $500 there, and interest-free so then I would take my time to pay it back. So that...that helped out. Dad and Mother were not able to help out much. But...and of course, every week I sent my clothes home. Mother washed [laughs] those, sent them back again. And she'd send...when she sent them back she'd send a basket of cookies along with it [laughs] and so forth. It was...the first two years was mostly janitorial work and sometimes I'd get jobs out here the community mowing lawns and...and helping out like that. But it was mostly on campus until the last two years. And of course, that took up all...all my spare time in the dormitory. I had to carry the...carry the trunks and suitcases up for all the girls. I think there were about sixty or seventy girls in the dormitory and there was the two houseboys. And we...we had to see that the fires were going all right. Sometime, not...the furnace was [tape stopped and restarted] taken care of by others. And of course, if they wanted anything...if the girls wanted anything, they'd just call [laughs]....

ERICKSEN: So you were like room service.

CROSSETT: Room service, that's right! But I worked...I worked in the cafeteria. There was a cafeteria then and I was in the cafeteria. I was the highest paid person...student on campus, I think. Everybody else got thirty cents an hour, I got fifty. [Laughs]


CROSSETT: But I was certainly one that they called on in the dormitory. I mean, even...even...well, Mrs. [pauses, snaps figures]...he was the treasurer in those days. Very...his wife was the...his wife was the one in charge, sort of overseer, over all the dormitory and the cafeteria, and...and [clears throat] she...she sort of oversaw...saw my work, too, and asked me what I did. But much of the time was is the cafeteria. It was either back of the counter or...or [clears throat] in the kitchen helping out.

ERICKSEN: Any...somehow the...the job of being houseboy sounds like it could have some amusing tales connected with it.

CROSSETT: We had it, we had it [laughs].

ERICKSEN: Anything that you remember?

CROSSETT: My roommate was in a [pauses], well, boy-girl relationship. roommate had a girlfriend there and he was...she was in the next room. See, there were two of them...there was two...we had bunks in those days, and I was in the upper bunk and the lower bunk.... His girlfriend was in the next room. They used to tap the walls with their [laughs].... And...oh, they were the...they were the...not the joke but the interest of the whole campus because everybody knew that they were interested in each other. And he was running away and she was running after him [laughs], and.... They liked each other very much. They finally married and lived happily all their lives [laughs]. But it was sort of the interest of the whole campus. But that was...but there were a lot of...lot of interesting stories. The girls would be ironing and the fuse would go out. Well, they'd call on us. We had to go and fix the fuse. And anytime they were moving in or moving out we had work to do. We were the only ones that were supposed to be allowed on the floors. We had to yell up every time we were coming up [laughs]. That was sort of interesting.

ERICKSEN: Where did you live while you here at Wheaton?

CROSSETT: When I came I was in...I think it was 215 Scott Street right down here. An old man, quite an old man (I don't know if he was eighty yet), lives along there and he had a housekeeper, and I rented a room on the second floor. That's where the first [pauses].... I think that's the place I stayed up until I got in the dormitory. I lived there the first two years I was at...on Scott Street. And then I moved into the dormitory.

ERICKSEN: Which dorm?

CROSSETT: That's the "Red Castle." It's where...

ERICKSEN: Oh, I see.

CROSSETT: ...where I was houseboy. [pauses] Yeah, just...just those two places, I think so, I lived. And I was there until I came to graduate school later on. We married and had a family and so [unclear]....

ERICKSEN: How did did you find the academic atmosphere at Wheaton?

CROSSETT: Well, from what I knew about it [laughs], I was comfortable and sort of quite happy to be here. I found it was very good. It was very...very...very good. And, well as far as I remember, most of the people were pretty serious in their studies. We had some fellas.... Well, there's a big difference between those who have to work their way through and those who...who don't have to worry about finances at all. So those were pretty independent and...and, well, just normal...normal people. And we had to fit in our times so there far as outside activities were concerned, they were limited. As far as I was concerned, they were limited. I did go to the literary society, generally, and I did some of the activities. But, generally speaking, out. Athletics, out. As far as musical education and [unclear], which was required, I didn't do any of that. I was working and that met the qualifications. But academically, I felt it was high. And the students were quite serious. So that...and the faculty, in general, were pretty good, too. [laughs] We had Dr. [Darian] Straw! Boy, there's a top, top teacher. I didn't have much of Dr...of...(what's her name?) Mrs...Miss.... Well, anyway, the literature teacher there. Dr. Straw though was...the kids were always playing tricks on him. Tied up a cow in his room for all night one night. [laughs] The next morning they came [laughs] and what a mess it was in. A lot of was really...they...they...they could joke with him. He was quite serious, but he was a top-notch teacher. You didn't get by with much in his class. He knew what you were doing. He...although he looked sometimes dumb as anything, he knew what you were thinking [laughs] and what you were doing.

ERICKSEN: Now what did he teach?

CROSSETT: He taught [pauses]...uhh! [pauses] Well, beginning with all the preparation coming up to literature. Well, writing had to write theses in his class. Studying...studying of the.... (Hah! The terms they use now are different from the terms...


CROSSETT: ...they used then).

ERICKSEN: Well, we can check the...some of the College information.

CROSSETT: [unclear] But he...he gave you the foundation of literature. He taught Logic, for one thing. And what I understood in those days, if you had his course [clears throat] in Logic.... We'd ask him a question whether [?] he went into law school Chicago. They knew that you had a foundation in logic and [pauses]...anyway, it had to do with language and the use of language and so forth. But [clears throat] he was a top-notch teacher.

ERICKSEN: Any other teachers that come to mind as being outstanding [pauses] that you had?

CROSSETT: Well, Dr. [Wendell] Brooks was in Education. He was good. He later went to [coughs]...became president of a college out West. He was very good, and...and [pauses]...and I forget the names of the men we had science. Dr. [Louis] Higley was in Chemistry, but I had someone else. [Laughs] And I just don't remember, but..... A lot of outstanding teachers.

ERICKSEN: Now you....

CROSSETT: Of course, Dr. [J. Oliver, Wheaton College's third president] Buswell Ethics and Theism. He...he was good. A lecture type.

ERICKSEN: What kind of a teacher was he?

CROSSETT: He was a good teacher. He was [clears throat, pauses]...he was good. I wouldn't say he was the most...most challenging unless met the challenge, unless you sort of helped make the challenge. But he...he was a lecturer. Dr. Straw was the kind that would...he would draw it out of you any...anyway. Give you assignments, and he would..... Oh, he was just fun being in his class. Boy, if you didn't know your lesson, he was going to call you. [laughs, unclear] you knew! He knew well you were prepared. Everyone! We had forty in the class. Boy, he...he was the tops. Let me see. Dr. [George H.] Smith was in Greek. He was...he was...he was a good teacher. And I think, maybe, a little bit easy. Not like...Dr. [Harriet] Blaine was the beginning Greek teacher, and...and she put you through the paces.

ERICKSEN: But not Dr. Smith?


ERICKSEN: Not Dr. Smith?

CROSSETT: Not Dr. Smith. He...he took for granted you were going to be conscientious and study and that you knew your work and so forth. He...he took a little bit too much for granted for some of us laughs]. Not Dr. Blaine. Boy, she was...she was...Miss Blaine. (I don't know whether she's Dr. or not.) But she taught beginning Greek. It was good. She...she required.... One of the know, the roughest teachers are the best ones as far as your learning is concerned. She was one of that kind.

ERICKSEN: Any...looking back, any classes that you.... You've mentioned professors that you enjoyed. Were there any classes that sort of stand out as favorites other than those you've mentioned? [passing train in the background]

CROSSETT: Haven't thought about it.

ERICKSEN: Or any classes you hated? You just ha...took them because you had to take them and...?

CROSSETT: Well, there was.... I can't think of the name of the teacher now, and it's better that I don't because you could go to sleep in his class very, very well. He just went on and on and on, and he kept...I guess, he kept attendance records and things like that, but you could go to sleep right away when you got into his class. Some of the students did. And [laughs] that was a...I think was a class in psychology which is not too thrilling to anybody who isn't particularly interested [laughs] in that. And it was the deadest class. You could go to sleep easily. [coughs]

ERICKSEN: What about faculty who maybe had an influence on you, on your Christian growth, your interest in missions, work as a pastor...?

CROSSETT: Well, go back to Dr. Straw. I think his.... Not that he tried to...tried to at all, but just the fact that he was so thorough, complete, and...and he was really interested, but he didn't force himself on you. You'd come to him with questions, he...he...he was willing answer you, and so forth. Of course, Dr. Buswell, I knew him a little...a little better, I think as the president of the school. I knew him personally. He...he had [clears throat] a bit of an influence [unclear].

ERICKSEN: What kind of influence?

CROSSETT: Well, moral influence and he influenced.... Well, in organization and getting things...getting my life organized, in [pauses] systematizing and so forth. See, he...he was organized and just to see him. He didn't...he didn't try to influence me in that way, but I knew him in his home and I knew him in his work here and I knew him as a...not as a preacher, but when...when he preached and he took a chapel service and you could see that everything was well...well prepared. I looked up to him quite...quite a bit.

ERICKSEN: Under what circumstances would you be over at his home?

CROSSETT: Well, my sister worked in his home. She...she was...she worked [unclear], and my sister-in-law did, too. And so that there was that contact. And, of course, [clears throat] they knew our family (not...not before all this), but they got to know our family and so we got to know Mrs. Buswell and her sister and Dr. Buswell and we became quite close friends. So often they'd invite us over. Not close, very close....


CROSSETT: ...intimate, chummy friends, but [laughs] people that we knew...that they knew and we knew them. We just...just sort of...sort of relaxed and free.

ERICKSEN: What kind of a fellow was Dr. Buswell? Although you mentioned that he was organized, any other particular characteristics?

CROSSETT: He was organized. He was...he was quite thorough, I think, in all that he did: in his teaching and in his running of the school. Of course, I didn't...I wasn't in there myself, but from observation, he did...he did a good job. What hurt him was when the big controversy came up in the Presbyterian church, and he had a say in that. And Wheaton is not a denominational school and (although the Buswells at my church were...were denominational in a way)...but isn't a denominational school, and that sort of...sort of hurt him here. I mean, with the...with the board and so forth, but.... [pauses] I...I...he...he was just...just somebody I looked up to. He was [unclear] in the way he handled the situation when he dealt with problem students and so forth. Of course....

ERICKSEN: Anything...when you say that, is there any instance that sticks in your mind of handling a problem?

CROSSETT: Not particularly. I just know of other students...some of the students he had..... Of course, they had the dean and they had others to handle it, but when it came to him he was.... No, I don't remember anything else.

ERICKSEN: Now when you first came in 1925. Is that right?


ERICKSEN: '26. So...

CROSSETT: 1926. That's when he came.

ERICKSEN: ...Blanchard was gone?

CROSSETT: Blanchard? Yes. He...he took...he came here in the Spring of '26, and I came in the Fall of '26. Youngest president, college president, in the country at that time.

ERICKSEN: How old was he?

CROSSETT: I think he was thirty-six. [passing train in the background] Then later on, Chicago University president [laughs] two-and-a-half, three, four years later...I can't even think of his name [Robert Hutchins became president in 1929 at the age of thirty], but he was younger...he was younger, he was younger. Yes, we came together, so we were here....

ERICKSEN: Do you remember anything on campus, either a sense of loss with Charles Blanchard gone or excitement about a new president? Any...?

CROSSETT: The feeling I got was Charles Blanchard was...he was the institution just about. And so...and...and his family was here. And so Dr. Buswell had to walk on his toes in order not to do anything that would offend the family or...or cause disruption in any way. It was quite difficult for him in the beginning. And...that is from what I...what I hear. Of course, I wasn't right in on it, except that you can see sometimes. He...he...and he...I think he handled the situation very well, but it was sort of a sensitive thing. When the...the Blanchards started the school and the Blanchards [laughs] more or less controlled it right up until Charles died. And then...and then the first man to come in would have quite a...quite a job on his hands just psychologically. And he...I think he got through that just fine. Of course, there were some that sort of [laughs] always had...they were carrying the torch for Dr. Blanchard and....

ERICKSEN: Some on the faculty or...?

CROSSETT: No, I think it was mostly the people in town or people in.... It may have been a little bit on the faculty. I don't think so much. I think...I think Dr. Buswell, after the first two years, he proved himself. So that was largely done away with. But you had the...the Weavers, which were members of the family...of the Buswell family. You had...we had several...a lot of...several of them here. And it' would be true of anybody who came...anybody who came. I think he handled it as good as anybody could. But it sort of felt.... Of course, maybe I got, [pauses] being close to the family, I got a little closer to it than some other people and I could see a little bit more than the ordinary student could maybe. I thought it was...he did a good job handling the situation.

ERICKSEN: Was he a man that showed his emotions easily or was he rather restrained?

CROSSETT: Mostly I think he was restrained. I don't remember his showing his emotions particularly. Except for [unclear] too in case of something that didn't have to do particularly with the school, but a family death, or something like that. But...but no, he...he didn't show his emotions particularly.

ERICKSEN: Did he ever kid around with students? Sort of...?

CROSSETT: Not in a frivolous way, but he did, he did, yes. Always in a dignified way. [laughs] He did. He was...he was well-liked by many of the students. And he could...he could take a joke and he could give it...[laughs] tell a joke. That's my impression.

ERICKSEN: What was the spiritual environment of the college like when you were here?

CROSSETT: [Pauses] As far as I was concerned, coming in from the country, it was high. It was good. There was a little.... Some of the students felt quite restrained because of the...of the.... They wanted to go the way that they'd been going before: they wanted to go to movies, they wanted to go...I mean just occasionally. They'd even have people across the street from the...from the theater downtown watching to see who went in and so forth. But it...the faculty, or whoever was in charge, did, and it was.... They'd sort of gripe, some...some of the students, it was.... Well, the control was rather tight. Of course, that was in those days when...when separation of the sexes was very strict, and the...the regulations were...dress regulations and so forth were quite strict. Not quite as strict as Moody was in those days, but [laughs] in comparison sometimes, but.... But the regulations were much more strict then. And of course, nobody had cars. Cars were...didn't have many cars, I guess, in [laughs] those days, but didn't have a car unless you were...had to have one. For instance, you lived in Glen Elyn and you had to commute and so forth. And there were occasions when you had to have a car, but very very few students did, at least here. When we were home it was different. And a lot of regulations that were...we consider them quite strict now, strict compared to what they are now.

ERICKSEN: Was there...was there a thing called "the Pledge" like there is now back the...back then?

CROSSETT: You mean for the faculty? Or for the students?

ERICKSEN: Both. Probably for the students since that you were here as.

CROSSETT: I don't remember the pledge for the students.

ERICKSEN: But for the faculty?

CROSSETT: I understand that they did. Yes, they had to sign a pledge. But for the students, I don't remember. At least it didn't impress itself obviously. There may have been [laughs]. Quite probably there was, but I don't...I took it as part of the enrollment procedure. [train passing in background] It fit right in with what I thought anyway, so....

ERICKSEN: What about activities like Bible studies, or prayer meetings, that sort of thing? Was there much of that?

CROSSETT: Yes. Yes. I know Ken Gieser started a Bible s...I mean a prayer meeting particularly praying for missions. He was my class. And there were prayer meetings, students would get together for prayer meetings, and that, of course, was completely free. And...and...(I don't mean free money, I mean you were free [airplane passing overhead in the background] to do as wanted to) and there were Bible studies. Some of the faculty wives and others had Bible classes in their homes. The school was very strongly dispensational in those days, and that was a regulation that [laughs].... But it's less a dispensationalist now, I think. Not that it's left the millennial emphasis...


CROSSETT: ...but that the strong dispensational emphasis, but it was strong then. Dr. [Louis A.] Higley who was a Chemistry teacher taught a class year it was Revelation, the next year it was Daniel, just back and forth right through. So that [laughs]...and I...I took that for...went to that class, Sunday school class. Yes, Bible classes were very common.

ERICKSEN: And you got involved in those?

CROSSETT: Not too much. I did, yes, but not too much because I was working...


CROSSETT: ...much of the time. Bible class and prayer meeting. There were a lot of spontaneous prayer meetings. I mean called for the time, for instance, over the holidays. There was one in the dormitory, one Christmas time, with the students, and they all got together. And there were [clears throat]...there were, oh, fifteen, twenty or more students that were...that were...that were here and that were interested, and so we just called a prayer meeting. There was a little Bible study, and then mostly prayer meeting, that we held daily over there in the dormitory lobby. And it was...that kind of thing was encouraged, and it was, as far as I knew it was well attended. Of course, you had some rebels, some people that didn't like it, some students that didn't like it. We had a Catholic fellow in our class that...he couldn't...he couldn't stomach some of these things. And he...he'd come...came and was faithful in classes, but some of the other things he [laughs]...he couldn't take very well. Just too much of doc.... Talk about [unclear] well, I don't know. But things were much stricter then then they are now: dress code and...and [clears throat] privileges off campus and so forth. Things were much much more strict then.

ERICKSEN: What about Christian service assignments? Did you have anything like that that you were required to do or volunteered to do?

CROSSETT: A lot of that activity was going on, but whether it was required and whether it was...whether it was planned by the College or not, or just among the students, or maybe a faculty member helped them out. I know Harry Miller (he was a class or two before me) [clears throat] spent his life in Africa. He was going out on evangelistic tours constantly, and he'd get students to go out with him down in our church in Wyanet, a time or two. Very, very enthusiastic and very, very effective. He was...he was a [unclear] evangelistic preacher. Some of those things I got in touch with later on, of course. Marjorie Glover was in charge of that work organized by the College, and so that was ten or fifteen years later. It was 1947-48 when we came back and studied in school. She was in charge of that department. But I don't remember...I didn't get into it too much. I was too busy. But I don't remember organized effort way back in 1930, no, 1926 to '30. Probably was. Probably was [laughs]. Of course, I went out with teams...different teams occasionally.

ERICKSEN: Evangelistic teams?

CROSSETT: Evangelistic teams. I'd go out with them occasionally, so that there.... The work was being done, but I thought it was...I shouldn't worry about it [unclear].

ERICKSEN: Now where would a team that you were on go to?

CROSSETT: Well, we went to Elgin, St. Charles [communities within an hour drive from Wheaton]. And, of course, this team we got together ourselves went down to Wyanet, took the...we had about eight in the team, I think, that went down there for a couple days meetings. There were towns around.

ERICKSEN: Meet in a church or where would you go?

CROSSETT: We did. When I went to St. Charles and...and Elgin we met in the church, yes.

ERICKSEN: Doesn't sound like you had much spare time, but when you had spare time was there anything that you enjoyed doing [Crossett laughs], maybe as a hobby or...?

CROSSETT: I didn't have much spare time [laughs, clears throat]. Well, I didn't.... I...I went pro basketball one year. And about the first two times, that was enough for me. I was just told by all the other fellas that all of these were profes...are...are...they were really top-notch and the best that they had in high school. So if you're not the best, you don't need to go on. And I was busy anyway so I dropped out right away [laughs]. But...but I didn't get into much apart from my work and studies.

ERICKSEN: What was the...what was the city of Wheaton like when you were here?

CROSSETT: Seven thousand population, something like that. The townspeople didn't appreciate the College too much. A little bit of tension there.

ERICKSEN: Anything in particular that happened while you were here that....

CROSSETT: No, nothing.

ERICKSEN: ...didn't help any?

CROSSETT: No, I don't think so. I think maybe the enthusiasm of the students.... The gospel teams go out and, of course, "We're [laughs]...we're the heathen and you're...." [laughs] There was a little tension there. I didn't...I didn't...I know that most by hearsay rather than by contact.

ERICKSEN: Where...where was most of the...was the community packed out to the borders the way it is now here?

CROSSETT: No, it was...they were pretty well mixed up. You see a lot of the...a lot of the students stayed in homes. They didn't have the big dormitories like they do now. They had the Red Castle [Williston] over here and they had the fourth floor of the...of the tower building [Blanchard]. That was a men's dormitory. But the most....other dormitories, I don't remember. Except that homes...the owner of the home would...would open his home up a small dormitory, just have students and sometimes they'd...sometimes they'd even feed the students there. I know two or three of the houses here were that kind. But the...they're spread out so that there was the...most of the students were in the homes, I think, in those days rather than in dormitories. Now they've got dormitories and so they can require freshmen to be in the dormitories. Then I...I got this room when I came as a freshman, and I got into this [unclear] on Scott Street and stayed there for two years.

ERICKSEN: Did you ever get into the...into Chicago while you were here?

CROSSETT: Occasionally. Occasionally we all went into Chicago for [clears throat]... sometimes for events we went in on our own. We...we'd go into the Art Museum...the Field Museum, I mean, and the...the...the [Adler] Planetarium. We'd go occasionally, not...not too often. Sometimes we'd just go shopping.

ERICKSEN: Take the train in?

CROSSETT: Yeah. The inter-urban. Not like these...these...what do you call it? Not the three-wheeler, but the third track. They got their electricity from the third track down here. That's all closed up. That...


CROSSETT: ...that's all closed up. went from....

ERICKSEN: Like the streetcars?

CROSSETT: Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin they called it. Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin. And they'd come out here, go to...go to Aurora, go to...go to Elgin and [unclear]. That was...just get on that train. You could get the other one, too, if you wanted to go straight through, but...but we usually went [unclear]. I think it was cheaper, [recorded singing in background] and we liked the place where they stopped in Chicago.

ERICKSEN: What church did you go to while you were here?

CROSSETT: The day I arrived, I went to the Baptist church which was down there somewhere where the...where the Bible Church is now [in Wheaton at the corner of Main and Franklin Streets], somewhere down there. And I don't know...that's where I met Margaret at the prayer meeting [unclear] on Wednesday and they did, too. That's where I first met her, but, of course, I didn't know...know's a little bit new. I usually (hmm, it didn't make too much of an impression on me)...I went to different churches. [whistling in background] But I often worked on Sunday in the restaurant around...around here. Where did I go generally? Oh, College...the [pauses], it was the Wheaton Bible Church. They...they were meeting on campus at that time. And College Church, too. The College...the College Church was meeting (I think it was the College Church) that it met in the...what was Fischer Hall. It''s the main center of the...of the taller building there. I think if you look...the last time it was the library, but it isn't that anymore. The center above the second floor, above what were the offices then [laughs].

ERICKSEN: In Blanchard?

CROSSETT: In Blanchard. That's where they met. There was a big auditorium there. And then...then they built the...the [pauses] music building. You know that one right....right straight across....


CROSSETT: Pierce Chapel. They built that and then they met in there. And then they [clears throat] were asked to go off the campus. And...and so it developed, I don't know. But they...I went there most of the time. [pauses] I went to Bible Church sometimes, too, but I generally went to College [Church]

ERICKSEN: Were you involved at all in any...with any responsibilities in the church?

CROSSETT: No, no, I didn't think I should take that on because of...because of...I was working. My time was...I didn't have time to put into it.

ERICKSEN: Was the church coordinating any sort of outreach in the community?

CROSSETT: I'm not familiar enough to know. I'm sure it was, but I'm...I don't...I'm not familiar enough to know.

ERICKSEN: [pauses] Well, we talked a little bit about the missionary spirit on campus, there were some prayer groups. Was there...what was the feeling toward missions on campus?

CROSSETT: It was quite good, and I know they had different groups for different countries. A group for China, a group for Africa, and different groups, trying to draw the people that were interested...the students who were interested so that they could learn more, and so that they could [unclear] the raise the interest. And, of course, they'd have people from that...that area here to speak sometimes. But they had the prayer groups [unclear] for different areas.

ERICKSEN: [pauses] I think you said it before. You came to Wheaton knowing that you wanted to go into the ministry. Isn't that right?

CROSSETT: Yes. When I was in high school, senior year in high school, I wanted to...I felt that the Lord was calling me into the ministry. And that's when it [unclear]'s one of the reasons I came here.

ERICKSEN: Did Mr. Rev. Moses...? Was he a model that you had seen that influenced that decision?

CROSSETT: Well, he influenced me more after I was in college. I mean, he influenced me more.... I got counsel from him more on going to seminary, which seminary to go to to train. I wasn't...I couldn't think ahead that far when I [laughs] was in...when I was first started...started college. He...he is not the one.... I think he okayed my coming to Wheaton, but he didn't...he didn't...he wasn't one of the ones that...that persuaded me to come. Of course, I had to see how I I could swing it financially, too.

ERICKSEN: Yeah. What kind of influence was the Fundamentalist-Modernist debate that was going on across the nation having on Wheaton?

CROSSETT: Well, I couldn't give the details of it, but it certainly had an affect, it had a strong effect on Wheaton. Of course, Wheaton was...was very strong on the Fundamentalist side...the Fundamentalist-Modernist. You have to realize that definition of terms changes in time. Fundamentalist then meant Bible believing and really you were sound, and not this definition it has today. It's sort of a technical definition for one particular part of...of the Bible believers.


CROSSETT: And so, but...Wheaton, of course, was very strong on.... How if affected here, I don't know. Dr. Buswell got into that argument a bit, but how much I just don't know. I was not that involved [laughs]. Of course, I knew...and in our church at home, Moses was very, very strong on that, too. He was very strong his expression on the [pauses]...the stand we should take with regard to this Modern-Fundamental question. Whether the church was going...going off or whether the...the church was staying true. He was...I got a lot of influence from Dr...from Mr. Moses...Rev. Moses.


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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