Copyright © Philadelphia Church of God
It had been a decade of hardship, persecution, opposition and struggle. It was still a very small Work—compared to the world-girdling power of that same Work today. And even then—after 10 years—at the beginning of 1944, we faced the most severe financial crisis up to that time.
Yet, viewed comparatively, remarkable growth had been made. One must remember the almost incredible, infinitesimal beginning. Jesus Christ compared the beginning and growth of the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed—which starts as the smallest of all, but grows to become the largest of all herbs—just as, eventually, the Kingdom of God will fill the whole Earth. The Kingdom of God will actually appear very soon—with the end of this present evil world, and the beginning of the happy World Tomorrow. This very Work of God is the end-time proclamation of it, going just before, preparing the way, leading up to it.
This Work—God’s Work—of necessity had to start infinitesimally small—smaller, in fact, than any sizable worldly work of a religious nature had for its beginning. But now, January, we were on nine stations! Two of these were giant exclusive-channel, maximum-powered 50,000-watt major stations heard in every state in the Union. In Portland, Oregon, we had now gone from 250 watts to a 10,000-watt station, and in Seattle we had added a 5,000-watt station which, like the Hollywood kmtr, on the identical dial spot of 570, actually put out the equivalent of about 40,000 watts!
The Plain Truth had developed from a hand-mimeographed little “magazine” of about 150 copies to a printed magazine of 35,000 copies circulated nationwide—though limited to eight pages, and published every other month—when funds allowed!
Actually, January 1944 was a month when funds did not allow! The days of hardship and struggle were far from over. Instead, we now had come to the most serious financial crisis faced so far.
There was no January-February issue of the Plain Truth that year. It looked, at the moment, as if there never would be another.
A few months before, our supply of copies of the booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy had been exhausted. Ten thousand requests had piled up, unfilled! Ten thousand envelopes lay there in our office, addressed, ready to enclose copies of the booklet and rush to the post office—but there were no booklets. There was not money for postage.
We were running behind in paying radio bills for station time. We were threatened with being forced off the air—having this whole Work stop. Co-workers had failed to rise to meet this financial emergency. We had reached the point of desperation. If co-workers could not, or would not, make sufficient sacrifice to save the Work, Mrs. Armstrong and I had to—even if it took our all! This Work always has been a Work of faith—relying on God. But God supplies needs through human instruments whose hearts are willing.
For eight years we had been making monthly payments on a small and very modest house, while we struggled along with financial burdens in general. It had been purchased as Church property, while still in the Depression years when property values were at lowest levels. The purchase price had been $1,900, with $190 down.
One of the Church members had put up the $190 as a loan, to be paid back by Mrs. Armstrong and me. Although the property was deeded to four of the trustees of the Church—my name among them—as officers of and trustees for the Church, the understanding was that I should repay the down payment, and meet the monthly payments of $17.10 per month. This was approximately the amount we had paid as rental before making it a purchase—and far less, by the year 1944, than paying rent. However, the Church board had agreed that, if I was able to keep up the payments, the property was to be deeded over to Mrs. Armstrong and me when paid out.
We had repainted and decorated the house not long before, and improved the property. Meanwhile, property values had risen. So the property was worth considerably more than we had paid, back in 1936.
In the dire predicament of the Work, there seemed no other solution. We decided we had to give up our home, sell it, and put the money in the Work. The three other trustees agreed to the sale, to save the Work. We listed it with a real-estate broker.
In February it was sold—at a real sacrifice according to current real estate values, though for quite a little more than the original purchase price.
There was a March-April number of the Plain Truth. Twenty-five thousand copies of the booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy were printed. We stayed on the air! The Work was, for the time, saved!
We were able to stay on in the house a few more months. But during the summer of 1944 we had to vacate. From that time, we had no home to live in until July 1947, when we moved to Pasadena, California.
Our two daughters were married before we left our Eugene home—our younger daughter, Dorothy, very shortly before, on July 22, 1944; our elder daughter, Beverly, earlier, as recorded previously.
After we vacated our home in Eugene, we were not able to find a house to rent. The housing shortage was still acute in Eugene—had been since 1936.
At that time—1936—we had been renting for about a year the house we bought. We had been forced to buy it! The company that owned it gave us notice to vacate, at that time, saying the property was to be sold. They owned many houses and were putting them all on the market for sale. The salesman, in 1936, had grinned and said, “You’d better find a way to turn this into a purchase—or you’ll have no place to live. You won’t be able to find a place for rent, anywhere!”
We had first searched the city with the proverbial fine-tooth comb—and found the salesman did, literally, have us “over a barrel.” But we found a way to make the purchase, as described above.
But now, eight years later, we had sold in order to save the Work. We were out on the street, so to speak, and we found the rental situation was still the same.
So we put the small amount of furniture we possessed into storage, and moved into a motor court. Because of the housing shortage, motels and auto cabins were limiting guests to transients, and a three-day stay as a maximum.
Now began the troublesome, irksome, frustrating experience of having to move from one auto court to another every three days. In a very few instances we were able to stay for a week or two, but not many.
After we had, with our two boys, made the rounds of all the motels several times, the owners got to know us. Then they began to inform us that they had to keep their rooms open for transient guests, and since we were not transients, they began to refuse to take us again.
It was while we were living in one of these motels that I noticed our two sons, then about ages 15 and 16, each for the first time smoking a cigarette. How was I going to handle this situation? If I tried authoritatively to command them never to smoke again, I was afraid they would then smoke anyway, and the more—but in secret.
I thought I had a better way. At the time, it really seemed to me to be a foolproof way that couldn’t fail.
I called the two boys into our one-room motel, and sitting on a bed, had a man-to-man talk with them.
“Boys,” I said, “I could order you to stop smoking. I could try to stop you by force, but that would not build character in you. So I prefer to let you make your own decisions.
“But I want you to think about this problem, and get all the facts, before you make your decisions—for the result may affect your entire lives, and I don’t want you to make a mistake. Now, if cigarette smoking is beneficial—really good for you, and will help you to do good to others—then I’m sure God would want you to take up smoking, and so would I. But if it is bad for you, harmful, then I feel you won’t want to do it, and will stop right now, before you smoke a second one and develop a habit that’s mighty hard to break.”
You see, I myself still had a lesson to learn. These boys were still carnal—unconverted. In effect, I was actually saying the same thing to them, in principle, that God had said to Adam and Eve. God allowed them to make their own decisions about taking the forbidden fruit.
“Now, boys,” I continued, “here is what I want you to do. I want you first to check up—get the facts—get the truth—and get it from the voice of experience! I want you to make a survey, just as I have made many fact-finding surveys in business in the past. I want you to approach 100 experienced smokers—men of middle age or older who have smoked for many years, and have the habit. Tell each of these men you are a couple of young men who have thought of taking up smoking, but you want to know whether you ought to, or not. Ask each of these experienced smokers, who have had the habit for years, whether, as a result of his years of actual experience, he advises you to take up the habit, or leave it alone.”
“Oh, Dad,” chimed in young Garner Ted, age 15, “we don’t need to make any such survey. I know right now, every one of them would tell us not to do it.”
I felt secure. I felt sure, after that, that my boys would not start smoking.
Now God, in putting the proposition of the forbidden fruit up to Adam and Eve, knew better! He knew humans will choose the wrong—even when some know it is wrong!
Yes, God knew well, in advance, which choice Adam and Eve probably would make. He knew, too, that YOU—every one of you reading this autobiography—would probably do what you realized was wrong—all would sin! Nevertheless, God left every human mortal free to make his own choice. Not one of us ever had to sin! We just did—of our own volition—and we often knew we were doing wrong!
Well, other boys smoked. People, like sheep, follow others—seem to lack the courage to go against the crowd. Yes, my boys did start smoking—and I was terribly disappointed, wondering where my clever “psychology” had failed to work. Psychologists need to know a little more than most of them know about human nature!
Both boys, later on, came to themselves, and realized how cigarette smoking, among many other “minor vices,” is, after all, not good! Both had to undergo a terrific struggle with self to break the habit later on. But they both conquered the habit, instead of letting it conquer them.
Finally, after many months moving from one motor court to another—still unable to rent a house—we did find two upstairs bedrooms in a rooming house for rent. The one and only upstairs bathroom was shared with other roomers. These rooms were about six or seven blocks from our office.
We found it necessary to eat our meals out, at restaurants. This was neither good for our health nor our pocketbooks. With growing boys, reaching, now, from 15 on up to 18, this was no right kind of family life! In fact it was not family life at all! But for the time, we had to put up with it. One thing may be said in our favor. We did not complain, through all these years. We knew we were being given trials for our development.
But we had tremendous blessings spiritually. We rejoiced and were happy. We knew well that we deserved nothing! Yet we were privileged to be used in God’s Work! That blessing outweighed all material acquisitions and enjoyments possessed by all the rich people of the Earth combined! We thanked God for trials and tests—and for always carrying us through, and seeing every problem solved. Scores of times we thanked God that our trials and hardships had been physical and financial. My heart was no longer set on material acquisition. I had come to know its worthlessness. Instead, God had literally lavished upon us the true riches—the spiritual blessings!
March 24, 1944, I sent out a co-worker Bulletin from Hollywood. I was en route to San Antonio, Texas, for one or two live broadcasts over woai, and then to Des Moines, Iowa, for a special three weeks daily broadcasting over station kso, 5,000 watts. In those days most of the programs had to be aired by means of electrical transcription. The programs were recorded on large-size semi-soft acetate phonograph discs—15 inches in diameter. Each disc recorded 15 minutes—or half of our 30-minute program. The quality was not equal to the present tape recording.
Nevertheless, we made every effort to provide stations with the best quality we could. Most of the recording was being done in Portland, where there was one professional recording studio. We felt that the recording obtained there was a shade inferior to that of the best recording studios in Hollywood—the nation’s broadcasting capital. Frequently I made trips, through those years, to Hollywood in order to get as many programs as possible recorded where the very top quality of transcriptions was available.
Often, however, in traveling, the program was recorded in other cities—San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Des Moines.
But in those days the Federal Communications Commission, the government supervising agency, enforced the rule that announcers must always tell the listeners that the program came via “electrical transcriptions,” or was “transcribed.” And when this was announced, listeners universally felt they were listening to a “canned” program—a mere record—not an actual live person. For this reason, especially on our large 50,000-watt stations, we felt—and so did the stations—that it was necessary that I visit these stations in person and do the programs “live” as frequently as possible. This necessitated a great deal of traveling.
At Hollywood on this particular visit in March 1944, I learned of a new coast-to-coast network in the process of being formed—to be known as Associated Broadcasting Corporation—or, for short, the abc network. I received information that this new network was going to be willing to accept religious programming. At that time, only Mutual was selling any time for religious programming, and the word was that even Mutual was soon going to throw off all religious programs. I was hoping that we might be able to go on the new abc network. We were beginning to envision constantly bigger and bigger things as the living Christ expanded His Work.
Meanwhile, we had virtually outgrown the facilities of the local printing company in Eugene for publishing the Plain Truth. I was beginning to check with the largest printing and publishing establishments in Los Angeles. This, and the need for top-quality recording to be obtained only in Hollywood, brought to my mind, about this time, the first thoughts of the approaching necessity of moving our headquarters to Southern California.
In early August of that year, Mrs. Armstrong and I spent two weeks in fasting, as we did nearly every summer, at a cabin on the Oregon coast beach, near Waldport. Returning, refreshed, I heard of the possibility of securing a good night time on a superpower 100,000-watt station, xelo, at Juarez, Mexico—just across the river from El Paso, Texas.
This station had twice the power of any station in the United States, had an exclusive clear channel—no other station on the North American continent at that time on its wavelength—800 on the radio dial.
We returned from the beach about August 20. The following Sunday night, after the Sunday morning broadcast, live, over kxl, I was once again on the train for San Francisco, Hollywood and El Paso.
At El Paso, I learned that this station had good coverage in every state, and even into Canada, after dark. It was managed by two men, partners. One, Mr. Don Howard, I contacted in El Paso. He was interested in opening a time for The World Tomorrow, but I found it necessary to travel on to Del Rio, Texas, to consult his partner, Mr. Walter Wilson, before anything final was arranged.
Walter Wilson knew all the “ropes” in the matter of operating border radio stations, just beyond the American border, with a superpower that could reach a national audience over the United States.
I was not very happy about the company I was going to have to keep on this Mexican station—programming that never would have been acceptable on most United States stations—and religious programs of a nature I most certainly did not want to be identified with.
Nevertheless, knowing The World Tomorrow was a program of highest quality, and yet of power and tremendous listener-appeal, these partners offered me the prime, most desirable time of 8 p.m., every Sunday night.
We had been forced to take the very poor listening time of 11 p.m. over any large United States station—and we were able to be, then, on only the one—woai. This best time on xelo was going to cost quite a little more, but I knew we would have many times the audience at 8 p.m., and 800 on the dial, than we had at 11 p.m. after most people had gone to bed. So I took the plunge.
Immediately the mail response was fantastic. Never did it equal the more than 2,000 letters from a single broadcast we had once received from a program on who, but it was sensationally heavy, and continued steady and increasing. Plain Truth circulation rose steadily.
More and more I was having to contemplate moving our headquarters to the Los Angeles area.
By winter 1944, and perhaps about January 1945, I was trying out an early-evening nightly broadcast on xelo, using discs recorded at kmtr, Hollywood, while doing live series of 15-minute programs on that station. I had frequently, since July 1942, gone to Hollywood for about three weeks of continuous daily broadcasting of 15-minute programs.
However, these 15-minute programs never seemed to bring a large response. It was becoming evident that our type program was a full half-hour program. It was much easier to hold a listening radio audience to the World Tomorrow-type program for a full half hour than a short 15 minutes.
These try-out 15-minute programs on xelo were aired, I believe, at 6 p.m. But after available recordings were exhausted, this series was discontinued—until we could afford to go on every night with a full half hour.Continue Reading: Chapter 48: Historic San Francisco Conference—the United Nations Is Born