Billy Graham Center

Collection 357 - Ruth (Duvall) Crawford Porter. T15 Transcript

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (31.5 minutes).

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Ruth (Duvall) Crawford Porter (CN 357, T15) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing.

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


  ...        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 Wayne D. Weber and was completed in April 2008.

Collection 357, T15. Interview of Ruth (Duvall) Crawford Porter by William A. Drury, August 18, 1981.

DRURY: This is an interview with Mrs. Ruth Crawford Porter. The date August 18, 1981. We will just refer to Ruth as Ruth. And it was my blessed privilege to work with the Crawfords and to work with Percy for about five years, before he went home to be with the Lord in October 1960. Was that the last day of October, Ruth do you remember? Somebody said it was Halloween.  

PORTER: 31st, I think.

DRURY: The 31st. The 31st, last day. When, when did you hear Percy Crawford Ruth?

PORTER: Well, my sister, Esther Duvall Eden, was dating Bill Hawks, who went to Westminster Theological Seminary. And, I had met Bill, and Bill told Percy (he knew Percy from being in seminary there) that Esther had a little sister, but she was pretty young. [laughs] But she played the piano. So, Percy wanted to meet me and at guest night (Westminster Seminary had a guest night).... So, we went over there, Esther and I, I do not know how we got over there but we went over there and I met Percy. And then they came back to our house in Collingswood, that night, after this guest night affair. So I, we play, I played the piano, and I sang some old songs and so forth. And...and then when he left he said to my mother...he said, “Well, Ruth is very nice, it is a shame she is so young.” And I didn’t know whether he would ask me to play on his broadcast or not. His broadcast had just started in October 1931, the Young Peoples Church of the Air, [YPCA] over WIP in Philadelphia. And I said “Well,” I has said that week, I said “I would never like him anyway because I do not like the name of Percy.”

DRURY: [laughs] I do not know that he did.

PORTER:, I just thought that was the worst name I had ever heard. And...but then that week I got kind of excited and I thought, “Oh, I wish I could play on the broadcast.” And I thought, “He will never call me anyway.” So he did, he called that week and asked me if I would play for the broadcast and I was so excited I said, “Yes.” And then it seems to me that very first Sunday that I was to play I got sick, and I never [laugh] got sick. So I don’t think I showed up the first week. But it was probably October or November, it was that fall I do not remember the exact date, but [pauses] I went the next Sunday and I guess I played for the next forty years [laughs].

DRURY: [laughs] At least.

PORTER: After that. But then he wanted a male quartet. And I said, “Well, we have one in our church.” And so I, soon after that I took those boys over. I think that it was brother Fenton and Chick Hawk and Vince Joy and probably Bob Martinson, although I think the very first base was Stewart Snedigger. [?] And then, but then Vince Joy came in shortly after that. And then that was the beginning of the Young Peoples Church of the Air Quartet because after that we always had a quartet, in all of our meetings.

DRURY: Vince Joy of that quartet went on to become the head of the Central Alaska Missions.


DRURY: And has since...since gone home to be with the Lord...I was up in Alaska just about a year ago. When were you married, Ruth?

PORTER: Well, that was, when I first started to play was the fall of ‘31. And we had meetings for two years. ‘31. We started meetings right away, the quartet and I, all six of us would go to the meetings. And then he...he wanted to start a Bible conference. So it would be the spring, I guess, of ‘33, when he founded Pinebrook [Bible campgrounds in Northeast Pennsylvania] we came up and saw that place and he thought it would be great and I think it was bought for $21,500, or something like that.  And that was our first summer at Pinebrook and then....

DRURY: Excuse me Ruth, what...


DRURY: ...what all was on the grounds at that time?

PORTER: Well, it was the...what is the present dinning room now, was...was like a great big garage, it was a cinder floor. And that was our tabernacle the first summer. I remember, you know, we just left the cinders on the floor. And the inn, the old Pinebrook Inn, that had some nice rooms up on the second and third floor, that is where we housed everybody, and we ate right in the dinning room there of the inn. And then there was a lobby. And then the old...there was one other building over by the trout pools, a lodge I think we called it, the lodge. And then there was the trout pools. [pauses] I believe that was all that was there.

DRURY: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. What....

PORTER: And then....

DRURY: What was it when Percy found...had it been used?

PORTER: Well, it was...

DRURY: When you say Pinebrook Inn?

PORTER: ...they called it a road house, it was just like a road house. And there was a wine cellar in there and they changed, they named that the Glory Room.

DRURY: [laughs]

PORTER: They changed it, changed the Glory Room.  And we even stuck about twelve girls in that room I think.  That is when they were really, you know, a lot of people were put in those rooms because we did not have any accommodations.  But then, after Pinebrook that first year, we announced our engagement, down there in Philadelphia. I think it was the old Green Hotel, it isn’t there now, and I think that would be about the 9th of September, maybe. And then we were married....

DRURY: In ‘33.

PORTER: Yes. We were married September 18, 1933. We married back at Pinebrook. We came back to Pinebrook and were married right there in the lobby. And [pauses] old Uncle Tom and Aunt Grace, he was the original chef at Pinebrook and his wife. They put on a nice reception for us. But I did not eat anything, I remember that, I was not hungry. [laughs]

DRURY: [laughs]

PORTER: Everybody said, “It’s just delicious, you should just eat,” but I remember I could not eat very much.

DRURY: Your butterflies had butterflies.


DRURY: When and....

PORTER: The quartet sang at the wedding. And Betty Restrick [?], an old friend of mine, sang and played too. And my sister stood for me, Esther Eden, and Percy’s brother, Alphonse Crawford, he was a doctor in Michigan, and he stood for Percy. And Harold Layered [?] married us. Do you remember Harold Layered.

DRURY: Really? Yes.

PORTER: Harold Layered married us and I think Merrill T. MacPherson was at the wedding too, as I remember. Only about fifty people there, something like that.

DRURY: Where...where was Percy saved? When...when was he saved? Do you know any particulars before he was saved, what...what was he like, his personality? And then where was he saved?

PORTER: Well, he was saved at Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, it would be September 23, 1923. And oh, the name of the preacher will come to me [pauses] Nicholson [Bill Nicholson] or [pauses] it was an Irish fellow, do you remember that name?

DRURY: I heard Percy...

PORTER: Oh, I have heard it so many times.

DRURY: the man, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t tell you....

PORTER: Yeah, he was....

DRURY: Seems as though he was in the balcony...he was in the balcony of the Church of the Open Door and if I remember correctly.

PORTER: I think it was a Sunday morning, I am not sure. And he...that is where he was saved. And then he went to BIOLA, he went to Bible Institute of Los Angeles, I know after that. And then he went to Wheaton College.

DRURY: He attended Wheaton?

PORTER: Yes. And then he went three years to Westminster Theological Seminary. And that’s...that’s when I met him, when he was in seminary. And then he took his master’s, got his master’s degree from University of Pennsylvania, after that.

DRURY: Master’ what?  What would that master’s have been in?

PORTER: [sighs] I really don’t know, it is just....

DRURY: He...he graduated from Westminster...

PORTER: Seminary.

DRURY: ...Seminary.

PORTER: Theological....

DRURY: And while he was there he evidently...he began some of his ministries...

PORTER: Yes, because it was...

DRURY: a student at Westminster.

PORTER: ...‘31. Because I met him there at Westminster, I don’t know where it was his last year or what, I forget that part, but....

DRURY: And what year, did you say, that he began YPCA in 1931?

PORTER: ‘31.

DRURY: Church of the Air....

PORTER: Fall of 1931.


PORTER: Of Philadelphia. And then later, maybe, I do not know whether it was the next year or just when, we had our first little hook up. We [laughs] hooked in with WMCA of New York. And that is...was the beginning of all the...little...of the network so to speak. He.... We had big...when we were on WMCA then we had a great big rally up at the Calvary Baptist Church in New York. And that was packed I remember, because, you know, listening in on WMCA we really.... I can not remember who the preacher was then. [pauses] It was way back there [laughs].

DRURY: When...when did he begin some of the other ministries? The camp, Pinebrook, 19....

PORTER: That was ‘33.

DRURY: The first conference of sorts.


DRURY: How many people would he have had at the conference do you suppose, in 1933?

PORTER: I think the first summer we, it was, I know it was twelve dollars a week....

DRURY: Wow, things are different now.

PORTER: [laughs] And...I do not know where we put them, we just must have squeezed an awful lot in each room, but I believe we had twelve hundred people there that first summer. That is my...and that would be a hundred and twenty a week for ten, unless it ran for twelve weeks, I am not sure. But we would have over a hundred each...each week that first summer. But then, you know how he kept adding and building...


PORTER: ...and so forth after that.

DRURY: And then, then in years to come there would be Mountainbrook [camp for girls] and Shadowbrook [camp for boys].

PORTER: Yes, I think Shadowbrook was first, but I do not know the exact year. And then Mountainbrook followed probably a year or two after that. And when those camps were full there were about three hundred a week in each camp, and we [pauses] we could get four hundred, I suppose, at Pinebrook, eventually. Which would be about a thousand a week at the three camps. When we had those good seasons, you know. [laughs]

DRURY: Yes. How well I remember...I remember on more than one occasion going down to the, the other camps, down in Mountainbrook. And Percy would go down on either Monday or Tuesday morning, whatever it was, and talk to the children.

PORTER: I know he talked to the Pinebrookers on Tuesday morning. Maybe it was Monday at the children’s camps. But....

DRURY: I do not know when they registered really.  I do not know whether, whether they registered on Sunday....

PORTER: They might have registered Saturday or something, and then....

DRURY: The King’s College. When, when did Percy get a burden to start a...a college?

PORTER: Well, that opened in 1938 in Belmar, New Jersey. And I think we were only there a couple of years, the old Marconi property. And then we moved [pauses] to Newcastle, Delaware, I think the name of that property was Lexington, it was a big old estate. [coughs] [the school moved to Delaware in 1941] And, well I guess we would have been there, down in Delaware, for almost fifteen years I guess. Because we moved to Briarcliff Manor, New York in ‘55. That is when....[pauses, coughs] Excuse me.

DRURY: 1955. And, he started some bookstores.  Had one in Philadelphia, had one in Washington D.C. I believe, had one at Ocean City.

PORTER: Well, yes, I...they are the branches of it. I...Pinebrook Bookstores Seventh and Chestnut, 730 Chestnut Street. I guess...oh, would Walter Smyth, [Smyth was later director of the Philadelphia Youth for Christ Club and then vice president of crusade organization for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association] would be the first one?

DRURY: I know he was involved somewhere back....

PORTER: Yes, I think, he would be the first one to manage the books store, but I wouldn’t..., wouldn’t know the year, it would be way back there though.  And then I think Stan Cook, I think there was a Stan Cook who...then Luo Lockhardt managed it, and then of course Norm Chello [?] he started the Pinebrookbook Clubs, and I think eventually he [pauses] was like manager of the bookstore too, I am not sure.

DRURY: Bookstores, yeah, seemed...

PORTER: Yeah. [clears throat]

DRURY: ...seemed like he was the overseer, Dr. Norman Chello [?]. And then Percy put a TV station on the air, which is now the Philadelphia Phillies’ station, Channel 17.

PORTER: Do you remember the year that was? Maybe you remember, it was just a couple a years before he died, or just one year.

DRURY: Just a few years...

PORTER: Would be either ‘58 or...

DRURY: ...‘58, ‘59 something like that.

PORTER: ...yeah, cause he was....

DRURY: It was a UHF station before, before FCC said that they had to go to all channel...


DRURY: ...on the TV sets. And I remember trying to get that on the air, and the little adaptors that had to be sold, one thing another. But, today that is the Philadelphia Phillies station in Philadelphia, the station of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Did Percy do the work of a crusade evangelist, as far as crusades and if so was it strictly churches or area wide crusades?

PORTER: Well, in the very beginning, like in ‘31 or ‘2, when we had our first meetings, they would be...they were in churches. And we would go for a weeks meetings. I remember going to Merrill T. McPherson’s church there at Broad Street, you know....

DRURY: That was the Church of the Open Door.

PORTER: Well, this was the, before he had the Church of the Open Door, at Broad and Albany. This was farther down, near Spring Garden, he had a big Presbyterian Church [North Broad Street Presbyterian Church] there.


PORTER: I remember we had a weeks meetings there.  Probably in, maybe in Bill Dean’s church too. Alden, Pennsylvania. And I don’t remember, they were just some of the churches, but they were weekly meetings. I don’t remember any big area crusades. But, like I say, I imagine he got a lot invitations from being on the radio.  And he just decided to go one night, to a different church every night.

DRURY: Now he had large, one night rallies, not only here but in Canada. Was he up in Canada for some one night stands?

PORTER: Yes, Toronto, we were there one time. Maple Leaf Gardens, is it? That big auditorium or something.

DRURY: I remember...

PORTER: Yeah, Maple Leaf....

DRURY: know, talking about some of these one night stands. Was he at a convention hall in Philadelphia, for one of those?

PORTER: Yes, we had a big rally there, I think that was full that night. And had a great big meeting in Soldier Field in Chicago with about sixty thousand people. And then, not too long before he died he had that big rally at the Hollywood Bowl [Hollywood, Calilfornia]. And I did not go, he just flew out there himself. And I remember he said that they had so many personal workers lined up, but so many were coming forward or something that they just threw up their hands and could not take care of the people coming forward. I just remember him mentioning that when he got home. So that [pauses] that was a big success I am sure, there must have been a lot.

DRURY: One of the things I remember, and do you ever recall, that Percy gave any other type of invitation other than a salvation invitation? I don’t ever recall, at least at Youtharama and some of the meetings that I was with him, that he ever gave any other...


DRURY: ...type of extended invitation other than salvation.

PORTER: Well, yes he did, especially when we had those weekly meetings. I think he would, maybe the first part of the week, it seems like he had those two special sermons. One was “Launch out into the Deep” and that was more...that was more for consecration invitation. And another sermon was about Mary, you know, that wiped the feet of Jesus, you know, with her hair [John 12:1-8]. And...and he had a good sermon on that. I know that there were five S’s, I do not know whether I can remember all the five S’s. Be singular in her affection, and sacrificial and all like that. And that was...

DRURY: Wow [laughs].

PORTER: ...that was for Christians too. And he would often do that in Sunday morning services, I think. He wouldn’t always give a salvation, unless sometime he would combine them, I do not know, in the same meeting but he...he did.

DRURY: Now at Pinebrook he...he...he gave...gave a dedication or message or invitation at the campfire.

PORTER: Yes, right. That...

DRURY: He would call people.

PORTER: right.

DRURY: Do you you know or do you recall of any names today.... I...I...I can think of a few, I’ve heard of a few people who were in service, Christian service and ministries, that were touched by the life of Percy B. Crawford.

PORTER: Oh boy, it is hard to give names, and yet people still come up to me today and so many will say ‘I was saved at Pinebrook’ or at the campfire or.... Isn’t that funny I can’t...

DRURY: What...

PORTER: ...think of any.

DRURY: ...what was the relationship with Jack Wyrtzen? I...I’ve...I’ve heard it said, I do not know whether it was Jack himself or not, that he had been touched by the life of Percy. And of course, you know, you said, Vince Joy traveling with Percy in the quartet.

PORTER: Well, I know that Marge Wyrtzen, his wife...Jack’s wife was saved at Pinebrook. She came up there, probably against her will, I mean I do not think she wanted to come, but.... And I’m sure she was saved up there, and I think Jack, I don’t know that he was saved there, but I am sure he was blessed there, and maybe was inspired to go on with his work up there. [Word of Life Camp, Schroon Lake, New York]


DRURY: I understood that she was saved under Percy’s preaching, and that Jack had gone forward as far as service, dedication, commitment.


PORTER: That is probably what is was, yes.


DRURY: Possibly so, but...but that’s...that’s what I have heard said. It was also true, and I known the times that I was with Percy, that Percy was not a long winded preacher.  He did not....


PORTER: No, he was pretty...specially, well, naturally on radio and television, he could not be. But [pauses] I don’t think...I am sure he never spoke more than a half an hour. And I think it would be less than that lots of times.


DRURY: Sometimes, many times less than that.


PORTER: Yes. Sometimes maybe twenty minutes or...well, he talked fast and so forth, he got a lot in... [laughs] in the time that he spoke. And he was...he really was very gifted, and I don’t think anyone could give an invitation like Percy.


DRURY: Well, that’s what has been said.


PORTER: That was his real gift, I think, giving an invitation. And....


DRURY: Do you remember what year, you know, that Billy Graham might have preached at Pinebrook?


PORTER: Well,, I could not give you the year, I do not know how we would find out. I remember Billy being there. [July 8, 1948]


DRURY: In the ‘40's, it would have probably been in....


PORTER: Might have been. I do not know how many summers he came. This is before he became famous. [laughs]




PORTER: But then I...I am sure we had...he came back to Pinebrook one time after he was more well known. Because I know we filled the tabernacle and they were sitting all out in the lawn and everything. So I think [pauses] he had come back. And of course you know he preached his [Percy Crawford’s] memorial service.


DRURY: Yes, I don’t whether you knew, but I tried to reach, you know, Billy for that particular service. And chased him all over the country, and even talked to his dad, which was quite an experience. He said, “I don’t know where Billy Frank is, I can’t keep up with that boy.” And his daddy was still alive at that time.


PORTER: Well, didn’t he cancel a meeting to come?


DRURY: Possibly so, possibly so.


PORTER: I always had that impression, that he had to cancel a meeting to come that Sunday.


DRURY: And there was an overflow crowd outside of town hall...




DRURY: ...there was some five hundred people, so they tell me, I was inside, but they tell me there were five hundred people outside. And he...he told, I remember, you know, very vividly, how he was at Wheaton College when the Rev. Dr. Percy B. Crawford spoke at Wheaton. And he said all of a sudden the students, you know, put down their pads and pencils, as students sometimes will and do they, you know, they study for the next class chapel. But he said there was a charisma or magic when...when Percy Crawford stepped on the platform, and the students sat up and.... So Billy, at that particular meeting, was...was blessed and...and encouraged....


PORTER: Well I know, I just...I do remember one thing that Billy said to me, I don’t know exactly when it was. But he said, “I can’t hear Percy preach, but what I go out and imitate him to a tee.”


DRURY: Is that right. [laughs]


PORTER: And that really...I was quite thrilled about that. [laughs]


DRURY: Now Bev Shea...Bev Shea...we had lined up George Beverly Shea to sing before Percy went home to be with the Lord. And Bev Shea came to sing at the particular meeting or banquet, and I remember going out to the airport.  And seems to me that he said that Percy stayed in his home at one time, or that Bev.... Do you have any recollection of that?




DRURY: Percy being in Bev Shea’s home?


PORTER: Well, Bev...I just saw Beverly Shea this last spring...


DRURY: He....


PORTER: a King’s [College] dinner. And we were kind of talking about it then. And he said... I think we, I think we did go there, to his home. And we had a meeting in Jersey City I believe. And...and his mother had left these words on the piano, “I would rather have Jesus,” that poem. And Beverly wrote these...wrote the music to it. And he said that I corrected it, I went over the music...


DRURY: [laughs]


PORTER: red ink, and made some corrections. And he said, he said, “Oh, I wish I had that copy now.” He does not have that original copy that I corrected.  It was funny, he said, “If I had it now,” he said, “I’d get you to autograph it for me.” [laughs] But he said...I think he said that Percy really got him started on the radio, he sang on our program first. That’s what I understood.


DRURY: That could very well be, but I...either he or someone else told me that he sang for Percy in Bev Shea’s home. And it might have been that...that song that you corrected.


PORTER: Well, it could have been. And then I guess Percy, you know, liked his voice and naturally would ask anybody he heard and liked. He wanted to...


DRURY: I know there was an article...


PORTER: ...on the radio.


DRURY: ...years ago in Decision magazine on the life of Bev Shea. And Percy’s name was in that article. And I forget exactly what it said, but I remember Percy’s name being in that article. You know, was Percy a...a...a sound man down through the years, you know, physically? Was he...was he....


PORTER: Well, I think he was in...he was in pretty good health. He had rheumatic fever when he was a boy.


DRURY: That’s what it was, I knew that there was some problem.


PORTER: And that probably...whether that affected his heart or what. But he had like a leaky valve, or whatever they call that. And...and that was probably very weakening, I do not know. But I think outside of that he probably would have lived a long time. But that.... Then they weren’t doing those heart operations then, to speak of. I’m sure he would have been afraid to have one anyway [laughs]


DRURY: [laughs] Percy...[unclear]....


PORTER: You know, right in the.... Maybe...I do not know whether an operation then would have....


DRURY: Bypass surgery, or whatever.


PORTER: Or something like that. But like I say, they weren’t doing that then.


DRURY: No. No, that was....


PORTER: And he had had, I think, about six of those little, they called them spasms. And he had had some at Pinebrook.  They always seemed to happen after a meal. I suppose he would do something too strenuous after a meal. I remember one Saturday night, stunt night, he was riding a bicycle backwards, you know how he always did that backwards down in the bowl. And I think he had one then. Then he had one...another, probably, another night after a meal, he went out and hit a few tennis balls...


DRURY: He played tennis, yes.


PORTER: ...with the boys. And that would bring them on. And...and I think it...this was the seventh one that he had that took him home.


DRURY: What happened the night when he had the heart attack that would take him into Saint Francis Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. On the New Jersey turnpike. You are on your way...




DRURY: ...he was....


PORTER: ...we left Saturday, probably around noon. We left...we lived up at the King’s College then in Briarcliff and we were riding down the turnpike.... And he had...he used to go to Philadelphia on Mondays and work in the office then, he was at King’s more then in later years. And he had left an old top coat at this Howard Johnson’s on the way home from Philadelphia up to King’s. And he had...he parked and had to cross over like two big highways see.


DRURY: You were on the southbound lane...




PORTER: ...and he had to run across the turnpike.


DRURY: All the way across. And Donna Lee [daughter] and I were in the car. And he was, oh, he was gone ten or fifteen minutes, and I though well I can’t imagine why he would not be back. And then I looked over and finally I saw a man, over in the doorway, kind of waving his arms just like he wanted attention, you know, and I thought oh maybe, you know, something has happened to Percy. And I think, I don’t know, I think Donna Lee stayed in the car, but I ran across and there he was. There was like a little sofa there in the lobby and he was laying there, you know, breathing real hard. they...I think they had maybe called an ambulance by that time. And...I knew he had one of these [laughs] attacks again and then...then that was the nearest hospital. In Trenton. And that’s when he was taken there, Saturday late...well Saturday afternoon I guess it was or.... We were headed for a big rally in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that night.


DRURY: Lancaster Youth For Christ, yes.


PORTER: Yes. So...I remember poor little Donna, she was only ten, and she was just crying her eyes out and...But I didn’t know that it was so bad. I just thought it was another one of these spells. I thought it was a little worse than the others because they were beating on his chest, they were just hitting it so hard. I think his heart really had stopped beating and they were trying to...I said, “Oh, do not hit him like that.” And they said, “Well, we are trying get some life in him.”


DRURY: Circulation


PORTER: And sure enough, I guess his heart started again because he said, “Now see there is some color coming back in his cheeks.” But...anyway he...I didn’t even realize when they said I could sleep in the room next to him and everything. I didn’t...course I guess they knew there was not any hope. I just figured well maybe he’ll be in a wheel chair after this or something like that, but I never thought he was going to die. And sure enough he....


DRURY: He went home to be with the Lord...


PORTER: He did on Monday, two days later.


DRURY: ...on Monday....


PORTER: Yes [unclear]


DRURY: Because I went up to the hospital, I was up in the hospital on Sunday and....




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