The radio station kmtr (now klac) had the very desirable wavelength of 570 kilocycles on the radio dial. This, combined with exceptional and unusual mechanical and transmitter advantages, gave it a daytime signal almost equal to the average 50,000-watt station.
The mail response from listeners was at least double that of any of the three stations already used in the Pacific Northwest.
And Now—DAILY Broadcasting!
Within about two weeks a new opportunity came. When Mr. Tinkham called me to his office and offered it, I didn’t know whether to regard it as an opportunity or a temptation to disaster.
One of the leading Los Angeles radio ministers, Dr. Clem Davies, had been using two half-hour periods on kmtr daily, at 5:30 in the evening and a morning half-hour. He was now changing to one program daily at the more expensive time of around 7:30 in the evening.
Mr. Tinkham offered me the 5:30 p.m. time Mondays through Saturdays, in addition to the 9:30 Sunday morning half-hour. The cost would be nearly six times the amount per week I was already paying kmtr. It had been a big leap ahead, in expenditures, as well as in numbers reached, to take on the Sunday broadcasting in the Los Angeles area.
The thought of meeting this tremendous additional increase in expenses was staggering. Where would the money come from? There was no time to send letters to co-workers to see whether they would—or even could—pledge enough to guarantee this mountainous increase in expenses. I had to grab that open time within 24 hours or lose it.
Our readers will remember that I had learned the costly lesson back in the period from November 1934 to late in 1936. The door of kxl, Portland, had opened. We then were on only one station, our original kore, Eugene. But instead of recognizing that the living Christ, who heads God’s Work, had opened this door and expected me to walk through in faith, I wanted to rely on pledges from people. When our brethren and co-workers pledged only half enough, I was afraid to incur the obligation. Christ did not open that door before me again for two whole years!
Now He had opened another door. To me, at that time, this was a stupendous door. It probably meant at least doubling the entire expenses of the whole Work—in one sudden jump! And I had to pay each week in advance, too!
I telephoned Mrs. Armstrong at the office in Eugene. The total balance we had in the bank at the moment was exactly the amount of one week’s daily broadcasting.
Well, even if it was our last dollar, God had supplied today’s need for this colossal opportunity He had opened to us! Jesus’s sample prayer teaches us to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God does not often give us today our need for next year—though He tells us elsewhere it is right for us to lay up in the summer for the winter’s need, and even to lay up ahead for our children and grandchildren.
But I had learned the lesson at great price. This decision took courage. It took faith. God had opened now the biggest door so far. He had supplied the immediate need of that particular day.
I walked promptly through that door in faith! Blind faith! I could not see where the money for a second week’s daily broadcasting could come from. How could our income for the whole Work suddenly double?
I decided that was God’s problem and responsibility. I committed it to Him, and wrote out a check for every dollar we had in the bank. Now we were on the air, in Southern California, seven days a week! That was by far the most tremendous leap ahead!
But, miracle of miracles!—for once in our experience, the impact of this early evening daily broadcasting was as tremendous as the test of faith had been! Not once did I ask for contributions on the air, just as I had refused to do from the first broadcast in 1934. And the mailing address for free literature and the Plain Truth, offered on each program, was then Box 111, Eugene, Oregon.
Not only was there an immediate tremendous increase in mail from listeners—there was a corresponding increase in tithes and offerings arriving in Eugene.
The first week rolled by quickly. On the day the second week’s advance payment for radio time was due, I telephoned our office in Eugene. The money for the second week’s broadcasting was in the bank! And, a week later, there was enough for the third—and then the fourth, and on and on! God continued, week by week, to supply the need!
This daily broadcasting was a new experience. At that time I had always spoken on the air from a written script. During those war years it was required. To write the script for a half-hour broadcast, including the study and research for material, occupied my entire time.
It now became daily routine. Early in the morning, each day, I started getting the broadcast material assembled and outlined—then putting it on the typewriter. Around 4:30 in the afternoon I pulled the last sheet of paper from the typewriter. Then the walk of a mile or so to the radio station, and on the air at 5:30.
Once a week—it was Thursday evenings—after the daily program, I went to a restaurant for dinner, checking the evening newspapers and the weekly newsmagazines for war news I could use—then, whipping together an outline of the material, I went on to the recording studio to record the Sunday program for the three Pacific Northwest stations. Then a drive to the Burbank airport to put the large transcription discs into the air-express office.
It was a grind. But it was doubling the size, scope and power of God’s Work, and that was a rewarding thrill.
Week after week this routine continued. As the weeks passed, no word came from Vern Mattson. We learned later that the 1st Division Marines had sailed through the Panama Canal and straight through the Pacific to Guadalcanal, where they made their spectacular landing in the very first offensive, driving the Japanese back from the vast Pacific empire they had captured.
Training a Son
As soon as school was out in early June, Mrs. Armstrong called me on the telephone from Eugene.
“I’m sending Dick down to you on the next train,” she said. “He’s grown too big for me to punish, and I simply can’t manage him anymore.”
Dick was then 13, and only about four months from reaching 14. He was sprouting up.
Two problems had presented themselves with our two sons. Ted (Garner Ted, but we always called him Ted) had always been a “little fellow”—short for his age. Dick had been of normal height for his age. But our readers will remember that Mrs. Armstrong, over my protest, had insisted on starting the two boys in the first grade in school together. I had finally acquiesced to this. Ted had always been, as a small boy, a favorite with his women teachers.
Because Ted, 16 months younger, had always basked in the limelight—“stolen the show” so to speak—Dick had developed an oversized inferiority complex. Here he was, sprouting up to a full man’s height, almost 14, but seriously lacking in confidence.
From the moment Mrs. Armstrong said she was shipping Dick down to me, I knew I had to find a way to help him overcome his inferiority complex.
I decided on a definite plan. About the second day he was with us in Hollywood—after showing him around Hollywood to some extent—I asked him if he would not like to go over and see a boyhood friend, John Haeber, who lived in Hawthorne, south of Los Angeles. The Haebers had spent a lot of time in Oregon, and our boys had become acquainted with John, about their age.
Next morning early I gave Dick enough money for carfare to Hawthorne and back.
“Well, Dad, I don’t know the way. How shall I go?” Dick asked.
“Dick,” I said, “you have to begin right now learning to be self-reliant and finding your own way around. You already have the Haebers’ street address. Learn to ‘carry a message to Garcia’ on your own. I’m too busy getting the broadcast ready to tell you. Here’s carfare. You’re on your own. Find your own way. And be back here in time for dinner. Goodbye, son.”
What went on in Dick’s mind at that moment I never knew. But I opened the door, he went out, and he was on his own. Somehow, he worked out his problem. He arrived at the Haebers’, and was back in time for dinner. That was the beginning of my program for him.
A few days later I asked him if he would like to spend the day out at the beach—at Santa Monica and Oceanside. I gave him carfare. Again, I gave him no directions whatever, but told him to find his own way.
He was a little late returning. Somehow, he had lost his return carfare in the sand. I do not remember now how he managed getting back to Hollywood—but he worked his own way out of his predicament without telephoning me for help. He lacked even the price of a telephone call, anyway.
A little later he mentioned going to the zoo. I didn’t know where the zoo was, but gave him permission to go—again on his own.
Dick was learning self-reliance. He was developing initiative. He was finding his own way around. I planned to have Mrs. Armstrong and Ted come down before we ended our summer and returned to Oregon. One last thing remained in my plan before they came. I took Dick two or three times boating on the lagoons in MacArthur and Echo Parks, taught him how to use the motorboats rented out there.
Now I was ready for Dick’s final exam in his course in self-reliance, and overcoming a feeling of inferiority to Ted.
Filling the Biltmore
Dr. Clem Davies, whose time I had taken over on kmtr, had been holding regular Sunday services at the Biltmore Theater, largest in downtown Los Angeles. About the time he relinquished the 5:30 evening time for the better 7:30 time, a dramatic or comedy show starring George Jessel was opening at the Biltmore.
This had forced Mr. Davies out of the Biltmore, and he had moved his Sunday services to an auditorium at the Ambassador Hotel.
Along in early July, probably close to the 10th, I heard that the Jessel show was ending its engagement and moving on to San Francisco. Immediately I went to the office of the manager of the theater.
The last Jessel performance was to be Saturday night. Would the theater be available on next Sunday?
“Why, yes, the theater will be available,” he said, “but you couldn’t afford to rent it.”
“How do you know I couldn’t?” I demanded. “How much will it cost?”
“Now look, Mr. Armstrong,” he persisted. “Dr. Davies had been holding services here a long time. It took him years to build up a good-sized audience. He took up three collections at every service—and he just barely took in enough to pay the rent. You’ve only been on the air down here about three months. You haven’t had time to build up a fraction of Dr. Davies’ following yet. Even if you took up five collections in your service, you’d never get enough to pay for it—and besides, I’d have to have the entire rent in advance. You haven’t been on the air down here long enough yet to fill a big auditorium like the Biltmore.”
“Well, that’s what I’d like to find out,” I replied. “And I will not take up any collections at all! But how can I tell whether I can afford it, unless you tell me the amount of the rental?”
I think it was $175. And it was already Wednesday, late afternoon.
I told him I would be back with the decision in a few moments. The Biltmore Theater occupies one corner of the large block occupied otherwise by the large Biltmore Hotel. I went to the hotel lobby and called Mrs. Armstrong at our office in Eugene by long distance telephone. Once again, we had just enough money in the bank to pay this rental in advance, and the price of postal cards for the Los Angeles mailing list.
I dictated over the telephone an announcement to our secretary, instructing them at the Eugene office to have the announcement mimeographed on the cards, all addressed to those on the Southern California mailing list, and get them in one big package into the air-express office addressed to me, yet that same evening. It was then only about 15 minutes before closing time at the post office.
I dashed back into the theater lobby and up to the manager’s office and wrote him out a check for the following Sunday’s rental.
In those days, because of the war and fear of Japanese bombing, we were having blackouts every night. I had been advised that people in Los Angeles would not come out to a religious service at night. Theatergoers would attend the theater for night performances—but for some reason people were afraid to attend a religious service at night. It merely demonstrated where people’s hearts and interests were.
So the meeting had to be held on Sunday afternoon—I believe the time was 3 p.m.
Next day, Thursday, the large package of printed and addressed postcards arrived. I took them to the Hollywood post office. There was a vigorous protest about letting me mail them there. I had not bought the cards there. That post office lost the credit for the sale of the postcards, and objected to having the expense of handling charged to them. But I explained our emergency, and there was no other way I could have done it. They finally took them.
Then on my program, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, I announced the Sunday afternoon meeting at the Biltmore—and finally, again, on Sunday morning. People received the postcard announcements Friday and Saturday.
After the Sunday morning broadcast, Dick, Dorothy and I went back to our apartment very tense. Would enough people come to look like a fair-sized audience, or would the small crowd simply look lost in that big theater seating about 1,900 people?
“Oh boy!” Dick had exclaimed excitedly, as soon as he had heard I had rented the Biltmore Theater. “I’m going to sit in a box! I’ve always wanted to sit in a box in a theater. Now my dad has rented the whole theater. Oh boy! I’m going to sit in a box at last!”
We took a streetcar to the theater, arriving about 2:15. A few blocks away I noticed the streets were unusually crowded with people—especially for Sunday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles. I wondered what was going on!
We soon found out. It seemed all those people were going in one direction—toward the Biltmore Theater!
I thought it best that I not get involved in a handshaking experience until after the service, because I still had to prepare the sermon. So I went in through the rear stage door, while Dick and Dorothy entered by the lobby entrance.
I learned later what happened. All of Dr. Davies’s former ushers were on hand, and it seemed they had gotten divided somehow into two divisions. There was no one in charge, and there was a dispute over which group of ushers was taking over. Confusion reigned.
Dick’s experience in self-reliance and initiative now paid off. Immediately he—not yet 14—took charge. He called all the ushers to one side.
“I’m Dick Armstrong,” he told them, “and I’m taking charge here.”
Then he snapped out orders. He said he would use all the ushers, since the crowds were literally streaming in—and each would do whatever he assigned. He then, without any previous experience, organized the two groups, assigned stations to each man, directed everything, and from that moment there was order.
It had never occurred to me we would have a crowd large enough to need ushers—and I would certainly not have known where to turn to obtain ushers, anyway. But God worked that out, supplied the needed ushers, and used Dick to restore quick order and system.
Although I had never taken up any collections in any public evangelistic service—and have not to this day, and never shall—I did have two things done hurriedly on Thursday and Friday of that week. I had a sign painter turn out large lobby signs for the theater, and I had two wooden boxes made, about the size of a shoe box, with a slot in the top of each. These were placed at each end of the inner lobby of the theater by Dick—to one side, and not in the direct path of the exits from the inner aisles.
Actually, Dick did get to sit in his box—but by the time service was to begin, all the boxes were crowded full. Nevertheless, he went into a box, told them who he was, and the people managed to squeeze a little closer and make room for one more.
The first floor and the balcony were packed solid, and the second balcony half or more than half filled. The attendance was 1,750!
I had decided to conduct the service just like a broadcast—precisely on time! At precisely 5 seconds before 3 p.m., I walked briskly to the pulpit in the center of the stage, arriving at the pulpit at 3 o’clock to the second. Before I could say a word, I was surprised by an uproarious burst of applause. I had never seen or heard anything like that at a religious meeting. But I learned later that this was common practice in Los Angeles, and ministers are commonly called “doctor” whether they possess any such degree or not. Up in the second balcony there was the blowing of a foghorn. A well-known Los Angeles character, who went along barefoot and with long, flowing white hair and, I believe, in a white robe, whom I heard called “Father Time,” had come in. But there were no others of that type.
As soon as the applause died down, I started with the usual, “Greetings, friends!”—then another burst of laughing applause. I said, rapidly, that although I loved to sing hymns as much as any of them, that right now we were in a war, prophecy was being rapidly fulfilled, and I had things of too great importance to say to take up time with either singing, or taking up collections. I said that I knew some would be disappointed if they could not leave an offering, and for those who wanted to, there were the two offering boxes in the rear lobby—but that they would not see them unless they went out of the usual path to find them—that we never took up collections, never asked for contributions either in such services, nor over the air.
Then I got immediately into my message, and closed the service right on the exact second—I think it had been announced to close at 4:15—just as the broadcasts have to end precisely on the second.
Later, when we opened the two offering boxes, what do you suppose we found? Yes, I think you guessed it! Exactly, to the penny, the precise amount of the expense of hiring the theater, extra cost of janitor and electrician, the lobby signs, and the postcard announcements. That is, to the penny. There was exactly one cent more than this exact amount!
Dick’s ‘Final Exam’
We engaged the Biltmore for the following two Sundays. We decided, for those two Sundays, to hold two services each Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure, now, of the exact time, but I think the first service started at 1:30, ending at 2:45, and the second service started at 3:30, ending at 4:45.
It was planned to have Mrs. Armstrong and young Garner Ted, then 12½ years of age, come down in time for the final Biltmore service, and our whole family would drive back together.
At each of these two services at the Biltmore, total attendance was estimated at 2,000. There were 1,300 or 1,400 at each service, with several who attended the first service coming back for the second. For this reason I preached different sermons at each service.
But I had another motive in getting Ted down to Hollywood before returning to Eugene. I needed his presence for Dick’s “final exam” in snapping him out of feeling inferior to Ted.
Our office secretary and her husband drove them down in our car, which I had left at home when we left in April. They were there three or four days, and it seems we started back to Oregon on July 31, after the final Biltmore service.
When they arrived, I explained to Dick that he would have to take Ted in tow.
“Now remember, Dick,” I briefed him, “Ted is not as old as you, and he’s never been to Hollywood before. He’ll be pretty green. I want you to look after him—take him places—show him Hollywood and Los Angeles. Take him boating on the lake in Echo Park, but don’t let him handle the boat—he wouldn’t know how.” During those few days, Dick was the complete leader. For the first time in his life he was made to realize that he was not inferior, but leader over Ted.
Dick passed this “final exam” with flying colors and a grade of “A.” The feeling of being inferior to Ted was gone. And it did no harm to Ted, for he did not realize, then, what was being done. However, it was sometime after this that Ted went into his intensive “muscle-building” program.
But Dick was still human. And it is human to go from one extreme to the other. Once back in Eugene, far from feeling whipped and inferior, Dick now was suddenly a “big shot.”
It was a glamorous thing to have been in Hollywood. Dick had spent most of the summer there. The other boys had not been there.
So now I had to go to work on him again, and get him back in the “middle of the road.” And with God’s help this was achieved, and later he came to have the supreme confidence that is faith in God rather than confidence in self, and to have full assurance, yet in humility. That is a difficult state for any human to attain—but one of the supreme right goals of life!