As the years sped along, each seemed to usher in more important developments than any preceding year in God’s Work. 1945 was a momentous year!—but, for the Work, 1946 was even more important.
Actually, 1946 was the year of BEGINNINGS, as an organized major national and worldwide Work.
This was the year in which our own printing department was started.
This was the first year in which the full impact was felt of three superpower radio stations, blanketing the entire United States and reaching even Canada and Alaska.
This was the first year in which we had the impact of six-nights-a-week broadcasting, at an early prime listening hour, coast to coast.
This was the year in which the first baptizing tour was taken. It covered the four corners of the United States, and much of the middle sections of the country besides.
And this was the year in which the founding of Ambassador College was conceived, planned and the first block of property for the new campus acquired in Pasadena. This college was to be the means of training the growing personnel for the fast-expanding organized Work.
Now notice the startling significance of the fact this all happened in this particular year!
The ‘Magic’ Number 12
Looking back in retrospect, it is truly amazing to recall how many things, lifting this almost obscure minor effort to the dynamic worldwide force God’s Work is becoming today, had their beginnings in 1946.
I have remarked before how certain numbers have significant meaning in God’s plan. Six is the number of man and materialism. Seven is God’s number of perfection and completion. God made the material creation in six days. Man was created the sixth day. But God completed the first week, and perfected it by creation of His Sabbath, on the seventh day. That seventh day typified the completed and perfect spiritual creation.
Thus God set apart six millennia for man to be allowed rejection of God’s government, and to write the lesson of human rebellion, to be followed by the seventh millennium in which God will perfect and complete His spiritual creation.
But 12 is God’s number of spiritual organizationalbeginnings. God’s promises pertain to Abraham’s children. His children began with the 12 sons of Jacob. God began His organized nation on Earth with 12 tribes. Christ began His Church with 12 apostles.
But 12 is the number of organizational beginnings, not first beginnings. God started off the human race with one man, Adam. The first human “father of the multitude” that shall be converted and inherit salvation was the one man, Abraham (Genesis 17:5); and this same one man is the human “father of the faithful” (Romans 4:16). The actual first beginning of the Church of God was the one man, Jesus Christ. But the organizational beginning was through the collective Body of Christ, empowered by the same Spirit, starting with the 12.
This present last-warning Work of God, officially, was started by the little Church of God in Eugene, Oregon. Yet I was the pastor and leader of that little Church, and most original members of that time showed little interest, and took no real part, in the Work. To all practical effects, it started with one man, with the help of my wife—and, of course, a handful of co-workers.
The first conception of the Plain Truth had come in 1927. I had made actual dummies of the magazine that year. But it was only after seven years that the dream came to reality and completion as a fact. Even then it was a crude, home-produced, mimeographed “magazine.” For the first seven years, from then, this whole Work remained a crude, unprofessional, struggling little Work. After seven years, the magazine became a printed publication, the Work moved into a daylight, efficient office, we began to acquire some office equipment, and the Work took on a more perfected and professional appearance.
But the year 1946 was 12 years after God’s Work began. And it was in 1946 that the vision of Ambassador College, the beginning of the organizational activity of this great Work first was placed in my mind. But it was by no planning of mine that this first beginning of an enlarged, world-girdling, organized Work first entered my mind—and that the property for its beginning was purchased that year. The truth is, I never so much as realized that this all happened 12 years after the first starting of the Work, until researching material for this autobiography! But see now what happened in 1946!
Start of Business and Printing Departments
During these first 12 years, there was no such thing as a business office to handle the finances. Through those years I, myself, was business manager of the Work, as well as editor, printer, office boy and everything but window washer (there were no windows the first seven years).
But an organizational operation could not operate worldwide, as God’s Work does today, without a department of business administration.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the first manager of the business office, in charge of handling all monies, paying all bills, keeping all financial records, and making all but the very top-level financial decisions (which I still must make), in regard to budgets, requisitions for purchases, etc., joined the “organization” (if it could then have been called that) in mid-February 1946.
This was my son-in-law, Vern R. Mattson, husband of our younger daughter, Dorothy. They had been married in our little church in Eugene in July 1944. He was on brief furlough from the Marines after returning from the Marines’ engagement at Guadalcanal, and having been in an Australian hospital. After their marriage, due to his record in action, he had been sent back to Quantico, to Officers’ Training Camp. He graduated from officers’ school with highest grades and honors, at the head of his class, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. He had been discharged finally from service in November 1945.
In February, he joined our small but growing staff to become office manager. For some two to four weeks he did ordinary office work, working in every department, to learn our system—and making suggestions for improvements, preparatory to taking over the office management.
At that time we had a forelady, a secretary to me, one woman reading and channeling incoming mail, one girl cutting stencils for new names on the mailing list, three girls filing at the mailing-list cabinets, and two girls in the “co-worker department,” keeping card records of all people contributing to the support of the Work, with amounts and dates.
Later, after moving the headquarters to Pasadena in 1947, Mr. Mattson became business manager of the Work and controller of the college. His department developed into a sizable operation with a competent staff.
The first start of our own printing department came about under unusual circumstances by late May.
In early March 1946, our other son-in-law, Jimmy (James A. Gott), husband of our elder daughter, Beverly, met with a serious accident. He had been working in the Oregon woods east of Eugene for a lumber company. This was dangerous work. Employment was somewhat spasmodic. The pay was good—when they worked. We were glad, therefore, when he was transferred to a more steady and “safe” job, in the mill.
But it was on this “safe” inside mill job that the accident happened. Jimmy was working on the edger. At the time he was wearing a glove, which caught on the teeth of the feed-roll. The spinning feed-roll gouged out the whole back of his left hand, even shearing thin the tendons and severing one or two.
He was in the hospital some six weeks or more. During the war, the doctors had learned to do some remarkable feats of plastic surgery on injured soldiers. A plastic surgeon, by binding the back of Jimmy’s hand to his abdomen, grafted new flesh and skin from the abdomen onto the back of his hand. The operation restored most, but not complete, use of the hand.
We didn’t want to see Jimmy go back either to the woods or the sawmill. At this time the Davidson offset printing machine was brought to my attention. I sought further details, obtained circulars and catalogs. The company offered special training to teach men to use the equipment. I found we could purchase this equipment on terms.
I took the printed matter and illustrations about it to Jimmy in the hospital.
“How would you like to get into the printing business?” I asked. “I think the time has come to start out our own printing department. I don’t have in mind printing the Plain Truth ourselves, but we need many more booklets than we can afford to have printed at commercial printing establishments. I think this offset method of printing, in a department of our own, will pay for itself in a year’s time or less. I was thinking you could learn this type of printing in a short time, and it would be a steady job, and a safe one. I can’t pay you as much as you make in the woods—when you have work there, but this would be steady, and you’d make more per year than you have been making.”
Jim liked the idea immediately. He read up on the Davidson literature, and by the time he was released from the hospital he was enthusiastic over it.
The equipment was installed in a room in the basement of the ioof building in Eugene, and with a factory instructor teaching Jim the first few days, our printing department got under way late in May.
My Mother’s 80th Birthday
My mother reached her 80th birthday, April 21, 1946. Although the biblical instruction of God shows that only pagans celebrated birthdays, and Mrs. Armstrong and I have not done so since learning this truth, my sister, who lived in Portland, was of a religious denomination that does follow this custom. She had planned a celebration for Mother at her home, and it was up to me to get Mother there.
My mother had never flown on a plane. I can remember very well, as a boy, hearing her use the expression often: “I could no more do thus and so than I could fly.” I decided it was time she began to fly—and she was quite willing.
So, at Eugene airport, we boarded a United Airlines plane for Portland. I took “movies” of her walking out to the plane, ascending the steps, and standing on the platform in the door of the plane, waving. At Portland, I left the plane first, to take pictures of her getting off. In the doorway she waved, with a sort of triumphant smile that reminded me of the supposed expression of a cat that had just swallowed a canary. She flew frequently after that. My sister and her husband were there to meet us.
It seemed that 80 was a very ripe old age—one that deserved honoring. But God granted my mother an additional 15½ years after that—15½ years of enjoying life abundantly. In September 1961, recovering from a deep-seated cold and semi-pneumonia condition, sometimes called “the old people’s friend,” she simply seemed to lack the physical strength to continue recovery. In mid-afternoon, she smiled, said she felt a little tired, and thought she would lie back in her easy reclining chair and take a nap. She went to sleep, and, a half hour or so later, simply stopped breathing.
Only the preceding afternoon she had smiled at one of our favorite little jokes. I said, as I had done many times before, teasing her a little, “Mother, you’re the best mother I ever had.” As usual, though a little weaker and more tired than usual, she smiled and replied, “Herbert, you’re one of the best sons I ever had.”
No one grieved, though she was greatly missed. She had lived to the fine old age of 95½, enjoying life to the last day. She simply went to sleep happily—no pain, no suffering, just peaceful, restful sleep. She will awaken, in the next second of her consciousness, in the resurrection of life. Instead of grieving, we gratefully thanked God for giving her long life, in the happiness of the knowledge of His way, always loving her Savior.
She often talked of her joy the day I was born—for I was her firstborn. She bore me, and for Jesus Christ I baptized her.
But I have gotten 15½ years ahead of the story. Back, now, to the spring of 1946. Back, now, to that year of organizationalbeginnings, when God’s Work began emerging from virtually a minor one-man work into a highly organized major worldwide power and influence.
The ‘Shirttail Shoot’
The first meeting of the Security Council of the new United Nations was scheduled to begin on March 25, 1946, at Hunter College in New York. And that marked the beginning of the end of man’s efforts to rule the world.
The General Assembly of the United Nations was merely a debating body—a sounding board for rival propaganda. Only the Security Council was supposed to have the real power. If ever men were to be able to bring about peace on Earth, this Security Council was their sole and last hope.
I decided to cover this first session of the Security Council in person for the Plain Truth and the World Tomorrow radio program. It was my first coast-to-coast flight.
This flight was made in a series of hops in the best air service of the time—DC-3s, or the equivalent. My first hop started from Portland.
I do not now remember whether I have ever told on myself about a certain proclivity. I think I have pretty well overcome it now, but I had not in 1946. I had developed a habit of always catching a train, bus or plane at the very last minute. I suppose this tendency had been influenced as a boy, when parents, uncles and aunts always felt they had to arrive at the depot at least an hour or more before departure time for a train. This seemed to me a foolish waste of time.
Through the years I had caught many a train on the run, after it had started. My wife had a name for this habitual last-second dash. She called it a “shirttail shoot.” She never approved of it. She preferred to waste the hour of waiting, rather than waste the following hour calming jangled nerves. I’m afraid I pampered and petted the habit somewhat, before I finally determined to overcome it.
Often, through my life, I had not been able to accomplish things I set out to do on the original planned schedule. Sometimes goals or objectives were reached a whole year later than original schedules. But I took comfort and courage in being able to say, “But I always arrived”—and, even if late, I could always say, “Mission accomplished!”
It was a fault—and it has been overcome—but I always insisted it was better to have set the goal and to have achieved it, even a day or a month or a year late, than never to have tried in the first place; or having set the goal, to have started out with a flourish and then to have given up and quit.
I do now strive, with every pressure, to complete projects and to accomplish various objectives on time.
God does things on time! God is never a single second late. It took me years to learn that lesson, and I pass the experience on to you for what it is worth.
First Security Council Session
But on March 23, 1946, I had not yet overcome the last-second-dash tendency. Even when I started out on time, something always happened along the way, it seemed, to necessitate that final leap for the departing train—or, in this instance, plane.
I decided to drive the car to Portland airport. On this occasion, I believe we started on time. But we encountered tire trouble—or car trouble of some nature—along the way. After an enforced stop at a garage, it became doubtful whether I could reach Portland in time. Mrs. Armstrong went along to see me off on the plane, and both of our sons, one of whom drove the car back to Eugene.
It was a wild, nerve-shattering ride in the rain the remaining 70-some miles. I don’t think Mrs. Armstrong ever forgot it. But, as usual, I arrived at the airport at the last split second.
Sometimes we need to reflect back on events such as this. We need to remind ourselves of the swift pace at which this world is traveling. This transcontinental flight was not flown nonstop in four hours in a big jet plane—as thousands fly the distance every day now. The best available then was this little two-prop DC-3. We made stops at Pendleton, Oregon; Pocatello, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Denver, Colorado; Omaha, Nebraska; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; and New York La Guardia Airport. This flight lasted all night and next day, arriving in the evening.
However, during that very week I was in New York, air transportation took a big leap ahead. The larger DC-4s were inaugurated. On my return night, to Los Angeles, I enjoyed the thrill of what seemed then like a huge DC-4, with stops only at Washington, D.C., Nashville, Dallas, El Paso and Los Angeles. It was an overnight hop!
As we flew over Manhattan after takeoff, it was 9 p.m. We arrived at Burbank Airport around 6:30 a.m. I shall never forget the exhilarating sensation I felt, walking up Hollywood Boulevard before 7 a.m.—before many people were out on the street, and thinking, “And only 9 o’clock last night I was looking down on the lights of New York!”
I thought of my first trip to the West Coast in 1924, in a Model T Ford—18 arduous days from Des Moines, Iowa—just a little over halfway across the United States. And now, only 22 years later, I had come all the way from New York just overnight! It seemed to me we were living in a tremendous age!
But think what has happened since then. Next came the DC-6s, and the three-tailed Constellations; then the still larger dc-6bs; then the dc-7s, when we felt planes had reached the ultimate. But soon even that model was improved and enlarged into the dc-7bs, and rivaling it was the Super Constellation. But then a little later we were gasping for breath when the 707 jets occurred.
I was a passenger on the first overnight jet flight from Los Angeles to New York—leaving Los Angeles International Airport about 1:30 a.m., after midnight, arriving in New York early morning.
And now there is the giant 747, besides the dc-10, and, in Europe, the manufacture of the sst! I suppose we soon shall be leaving New York in rocket planes, arriving in Los Angeles before we start, due to the three-hour difference in time. Already, with this time differential, jet planes arrive in Los Angeles only about three hours after leaving London, England, on polar flights!
Yes, time flashes past—and it is later than we think!
But back, now, to New York, where I arrived the evening of March 24, 1946. Next morning I took the subway out to Hunter College. I had full access to the pressroom set up for the opening sessions of the Security Council because of my press card from the state department.
But in these first deliberations of the big powers who were members of the Security Council, I found no moves toward peace, but only a continuation of the bickering, accusing and struggle for selfish advantage I had witnessed at the San Francisco Conference.
Special Dispatch From the Security Council
The very start of the United Nations is summarized in the special dispatch I filed in the pressroom, sent by wire to Eugene, Oregon, and published on page 7 of the March-April Plain Truth of that year. It was short, so I reproduced it here: “uno Security Council, New York. Special: As Secretary of State Byrnes said in opening the first meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations Organization today: ‘This is a moment of great importance in the history of the world. With this meeting the Security Council of the uno begins to function permanently and continuously.’
“I write this from the pressroom of this temporary headquarters of the Security Council. The session begins today as all such conferences do, with speeches by important personages. Press men and women are milling around in the pressroom here, writing and filing, for their papers, thousands of words, reporting names and happenings.
“But what is being said in these opening speeches; and what is being sent out from here to be read in newspapers throughout the world is not of itself important.
“What is important is what is going on in the mind of Joseph Stalin, over in Moscow, Russia!
“What is important is what is still in the minds of multiple millions of Germans poisoned by Goebbels’ propaganda, and for which poison our occupation forces have no cure!
“The world’s last hope of preventing atomic annihilation lies in harmony in this vital Security Council of the uno. But there is no real harmony!
“An open break on the Iranian dispute this week would bomb uno out of useful existence, make immediately imperative the British-American alliance advocated by Mr. Churchill and possibly lead to imminent war.
“Russia is not ready for another war now. Consequently the Iranian dispute will have been worked out in some way before you read these lines.
“The Security Council will continue to function for the present. But that does not mean the kind of harmonious unity between the Big Three imperative for prevention of atomic war!
“In the minds and hearts of the principals here, and in Moscow, London and Washington, there is not that kind of unity. There can never be permanent world peace until nations and their leaders learn the way to peace. That way they do not know and will not consider!
“There is a beehive of activity here though this conference is on a much smaller scale than the San Francisco Conference a year ago. Frankly, it all reminds me of the adages ‘much ado about nothing’ and ‘tempest in a teapot.’
“The way to permanent peace I do not find here!
“But what I do find here is the way men and nations will insist upon following until the entire Babylonish world order finally topples to a self-imposed oblivion.
“And that day is not far off! It is later than we think!”
Work Outgrows Eugene
Even before this flight to New York to cover the Security Council opening, it had become painfully apparent that the Work had outgrown Eugene, Oregon. We had started daily broadcasting, six nights a week, nationwide, on the two most powerful radio stations covering the United States. The program, beginning October 1, 1945, had gone daily on 100,000-watt xelo, Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas, at 8 p.m. on the clock (Mountain Time) and 800 on the radio dial six nights a week. At the same time we had gone on 150,000-watt xeg, Monterrey, Mexico, six nights a week at 8 p.m. Central Standard Time. Also the program started simultaneously on our first 50,000-watt West Coast station, xerb, just south of San Diego, at 9 p.m., Sunday nights only. This station was heard from Mexico to Alaska up and down the coast, and reaching as far as Montana and Alberta.
I should mention here that none of these stations have more than a fraction of the effective coverage today that they had then, even though the power remains the same. The number of radio stations in the United States has increased rapidly, until there are several times as many now as then. For example, in Eugene, Oregon, there was one station then. These hundreds of additional stations, on all frequencies up and down the radio dial, cut in tremendously on the superpower stations so that they do not reach out as far or as effectively as they did in 1945 and 1946.
After October 1, 1945, when this superpower national-coverage nightly broadcasting began, our office staff at Eugene increased rapidly. The one office we had first occupied in the ioof building expanded to four, with six times our original space, including one large general workroom. By this time I had an office manager in charge of the general workroom, and about nine girls. We had acquired equipment for mailing. Through the years, this type of equipment has been stepped up gradually, a step at a time.
Originally, the mailing list was handwritten on two sheets of paper. The first few years Mrs. Armstrong kept this list. All copies of the Plain Truth were addressed by hand. Then, about the time we moved into the ioof building, we picked up an antiquated, secondhand, foot-powered addressing machine, with which we could use the Elliott stencils.
These stencils were cut on a typewriter.
But by the end of 1945, we had our first Elliott addressing machine. Later, as the Work continued to grow, we stepped up to the Addressograph system, with metal plates. Today, of course, we keep our mailing list on ibm computer.
However, I was confronted not only with the problem of getting 75,000 copies of the magazine printed each issue, having outgrown local commercial printing facilities, but also with the problem of recording six half-hour programs each week.
By this time I was going to Portland for recording. I was having to spend an average of three days each week in Portland, away from my office. Even this meant recording two half-hour programs each day that I was in Portland. This was too strenuous an assignment, as a regular grind. When more than one half-hour of full speech is recorded in a day, the quality and effectiveness of the second one suffers. There is bound to be a physical letdown in the second program.
For a while, I avoided spending half the week in Portland by installing a regular telephone broadcast line, connecting my office with the recording studio in Portland. But this was not satisfactory.
Radio headquarters for the United States was Hollywood, with New York a sort of secondary headquarters. The best-equipped major recording studios were all in Hollywood and New York. It was becoming more and more necessary to have the recording done in Hollywood. So, by December 1945, I was making trips as often as possible to Hollywood to do the recording, and to look for a location to move our headquarters.
Searching for a Location in Pasadena
At first, I thought only of moving our office to the Los Angeles area, accessible to Hollywood, and to the larger printing establishments in Los Angeles for adequate facilities for printing the Plain Truth. The idea of a college didn’t strike my mind until 1946.
Of all places, however, that Mrs. Armstrong and I did not want to live in, Hollywood headed the list. Neither did we want to live in Los Angeles. It was too large a city, and we regarded it as the spawning ground of crackpot religions. We did not want to be identified with it.
So, needing to be accessible to both Hollywood and Los Angeles, yet desiring to live in neither, we turned to Pasadena.
We had first visited Pasadena in 1941. We knew it was totally different from either Hollywood or Los Angeles—or Beverly Hills. Pasadena was a cultural city, conservative, and a city of homeowners.
It must have been in December 1945, while in Hollywood for recording, that I began making a series of arduous, patience-trying trips to Pasadena in search of office space and a place to live. At this time we had no home, as explained previously. We had lived in various motels in Eugene, and later in a rooming house.
Day after day I “tramped” afoot all over Pasadena, looking for a suitable location. Nothing suitable seemed to open. I would return to my hotel room in Hollywood at night dog-tired.
Idea of College Germinates
As the weeks and months sped by, an idea was begotten in my mind. As the Work was growing, the need of additional trained help was becoming more and more apparent.
Up to this time I had been holding nightly evangelistic campaigns in various towns and cities in Oregon and Washington. Nearly always there had been enough converts to organize a small church group. But there was no minister to pastor the little flock. Not one of them lasted longer than six months. I had to realize that sheep cannot endure without a shepherd.
In Eugene, one of the four larger churches conducted a school for training ministers. It became headquarters for a new denomination. I had noticed that once they established new small church groups here and there, their little churches continued to hold together and grow. They had ministers available to pastor each new church raised up. They had a school for training ministers.
If necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps God created the necessity to get through my thick skull the realization that God wanted a college of His own for the training of His ministers, as well as other trained personnel that soon would be required for His rapidly growing Work.
What Kind of College?
And so it came about that, by the time of my flight to New York in late March 1946, I was well aware of the need for a college. And I knew that college must be located in Pasadena, California.
As I thought and planned—and prayed for wisdom and guidance—the kind of school to be established gradually took shape in my mind. It must not be a “Bible school” or a theological seminary. There was a vital reason!
The one profession no man is free to choose for himself is Christ’s ministry. The true ministers of Jesus Christ are chosen by Him—just as He chose His original apostles. Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you …” (John 15:16).
I had learned, by observation and experience of others, that invariably if God does call a man to His ministry, that man will try to run from it—as Jonah did. I did the same myself. But, if a man decides for himself that he wants to be a minister, invariably time and the fruits demonstrate that Christ never called him.
The students in this school must not come with the expectation of becoming a minister. Again, specialized Bible instruction alone would not be enough. In today’s world of wide diffusion of education, only an educated ministry can adequately represent Jesus Christ.
The type of college soon became crystal clear. It must be a liberal arts college, offering a general cultural education, with biblical and theological training offered as ONE of several major courses. And then there could be a graduate school of theology for those who, after four years of undergraduate work, appeared as possible or probable future ministers chosen by the living CHRIST.
Also, because we would need trained girls and women in the Work, and because most effective development of character, personality, poise and true culture is better achieved by social contact of both sexes, it became plain that the college must be coeducational, admitting girls as well as men.
With all this in mind, I planned to fly from New York to Los Angeles.
And that explains my cross-country flight to Los Angeles in one of the very first dc-4s, about the first of April 1946. Arriving early that morning in Hollywood, I telephoned Mrs. Armstrong at Eugene, and we decided she would catch a plane that same day and join me in Los Angeles. That flight is one of the reasons she gave up flying, except when it was absolutely necessary. She had suffered a severe case of airsickness.
In Search of a College Location
By that time I knew there had to be a liberal arts college. I knew what kind of college. I knew what its basic policies must be.
What I then had in mind was a small college of one building. There was no idea of beautiful campus grounds. The beautiful, spacious, magnificently landscaped campuses we now have were of God’s planning, not mine.
But I did not yet know Christ’s mind as to what constituted a suitable location. My conception was merely a building with three or four classrooms, and a small auditorium or assembly room. Of course there had to be office space for our growing mailing office. There was no thought, then, about dormitory space or housing.
After Mrs. Armstrong joined me, we remained for some two or three weeks recording the daily program in Hollywood studios, and spending all available time searching for a location in Pasadena.
It was a long, arduous, tiresome search day after day. Finally, I found a vacant lot west of the arroyo that seemed somewhat near my conception of a suitable location. It was in a residential section, where two streets joined like the base of a V at an intersection. This lot was triangular in shape, rather rounded at the base of the V. It contained perhaps a third of an acre of ground. I envisioned a triangular, V-shaped building to be erected on this lot. The idea of spacious campus grounds simply did not occur to me.
With this concept in mind, I consulted two architects in Hollywood who worked in partnership. They designed preliminary sketches of the building I had in mind. When laid out on paper, the building occupied nearly the whole of the lot, leaving room only for a small patio.
We returned to Eugene, Oregon, with the problem of how to manage the purchase of the ground, and the financing of construction. This problem proved to be a real headache. We had the money for neither. The income for the Work must have been between $50,000 and $75,000 per year at that time, but operational expenses of the broadcasting and publishing work had a habit of keeping equal with, and always trying to run ahead of income.
In June we returned to Hollywood, accompanied this time by our two sons. Dick was then approaching 18, and Ted was 16. I began to feel we needed more ground. I continued the daily trips to Pasadena. Finally I found a vacant plot of some four or five lots—perhaps 250 feet by about 100 feet, on California Street, on a corner. This site would at least make possible a larger patio.
I made preliminary plans to buy it. The money was not on hand at the moment. But I planned to set aside a definite amount each week, until enough for a down payment would accumulate. I hoped to have this within three months.
The First Baptizing Tour
Meanwhile, scores of letters had been received from radio listeners coast to coast requesting baptism. There were requests from all over the South, the Middle West, and even Florida. You’ve heard people speak of things tugging at their hearts. If ever anything tugged at our hearts these appeals did. Mrs. Armstrong and I felt they could be deferred no longer.
So we had planned a nationwide tour to visit these people personally and baptize all who were found ready. We were still driving our 1941 DeSoto. It was one of the best cars ever manufactured in America, but it was now more than five years old. While recording in Hollywood, and searching further in Pasadena, we left the car for about a week in a Hollywood garage for a complete overhaul.
Meanwhile, I spent many hours in our hotel room sorting out many scores of electrical transcription discs that had been broadcast six months or more previously for repeat broadcast during the weeks of our tour. These had to be sent to the stations so that the program would continue daily until our return to Eugene, when I would resume recording new programs.
I felt that by our return from the baptizing tour we might have enough accumulated in a special fund for a down payment on this Pasadena plot of ground. The hope was that we would be able to pay off the balance within a year, and then, with the ground paid for, obtain a loan with a mortgage on the ground for construction of the college building.
We started the baptizing tour one evening so that we could drive through the heat of the desert to Las Vegas during the cooler hours of the night. It must have been near 2 a.m. when we arrived in Las Vegas. The car was now in good shape mechanically, even though 5½ years old—it was in good shape, that is, all except the tires.
Perhaps many of our readers will remember the scarcity—almost nonexistence of good tires after those war years. Our tires were mostly recaps. The rubber supply had been largely shut off during the war, and the tire makers had turned to synthetics. They were not yet perfected in quality as they are today.
I think it was the next day out of Las Vegas we began having our tire troubles. Time after time we had blowouts. At one filling station a dealer sold us a recap tire that lasted just long enough to get us far enough away that we could not afford to turn back and demand a replacement. Finally, at a town in Texas, we found a man, whom I believe I baptized, who had ration coupons or some kind of priority for two or three new tires, which he insisted we take, at his sacrifice. After this we had little tire trouble.
I think a few of the unique experiences of that first baptizing tour are worth recording.
Sometime before this, I had obtained in Eugene a lightweight rubber wader’s suit. The soles of the feet were of heavier rubber, and the suit came up to the body almost to the armpits. I used this rubber suit for baptizing. In nearly all cases we were able to find a local stream or small lake, suitable for the baptizing ceremony.
One night we had been delayed by previous visits by some hours in reaching Lake Charles, Louisiana. It was rather late in the evening—perhaps 10 o’clock—when we arrived. We had made appointment by letter to meet a number of people at this home. They were all patiently waiting when we arrived. But there was no available river or lake for baptizing. I do not remember the details specifically. But I seem to remember that there had been rains, and there was swamp water, and it was positively unsafe—either because of snakes or poisonous matter in the water.
I do remember these people said there simply was no available water anywhere for baptizing. The idea of using the bathtub was suggested. I had never done this, or heard of it—but the requirement was enough water to “bury” the candidate in the “watery grave,” and so I decided the bathtub could serve in the absence of anything else. It was a struggle to get the candidates completely “buried” in the water, but I succeeded.
We had to forgo baptizing one man in Florida altogether. He said the swamp waters in the area were so dangerous he would not risk his life going into them. There was no bathtub!
On this tour we zigzagged up and down, going north from New Orleans through Mississippi as far as Memphis, back down through Alabama, into western Florida, up the Atlantic Coast through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, into Washington, D.C., New York, and as far as Portland, Maine. Then across New Hampshire and Vermont, and up to Montreal, Canada.
Then on to Ottawa and Toronto, with a side-tour by boat to Niagara Falls and return. Then across Canada to Windsor and Detroit. On to Chicago, Des Moines, then again south into Oklahoma, then west through Kansas and back to Cañon City, Colorado, where I had held the evangelistic campaign a year or two before. Then northwest across the Rockies and on to Eugene, Oregon.
Led to God’s Location
By November 1946, I had again gone to Hollywood for recording, and was again making trips over to Pasadena in search for a location for the college.
I had not been able to save out the weekly amounts planned to accumulate a fund for the purchase of the site I then had in mind. And by this time I had learned that being a nonprofit church and not a commercial business, it would be impossible for us to borrow the money to construct a college building, even if we had the ground already paid for.
It seemed every door for opening the college was slammed shut in my face. Yet I knew God was leading me to start a college that would be His college. There was no doubt whatsoever of that!
It was discouraging. It was frustrating! But I was determined not to give up. One real estate broker I had contacted in my search was a Mrs. McCormick. Her husband had been a real estate broker, and after his death she carried on the business. I had found her to be an intelligent and experienced businesswoman in her field, who at the same time remained every whit a lady of culture and refinement. In going the rounds of real estate agents, I chanced to drop in once again at her office.
“Oh, Mr. Armstrong,” she said, “I’m glad you dropped in. I have a property I’d like to show you. It isn’t quite what you have in mind, but I think it might be worth your while to take a look at it.”
I was taken to a small mansion of some 18 rooms, on Grove Street just off of South Orange Grove Boulevard—Pasadena’s “millionaire row” residential street. This was a 2½-acre place known as the “McCormick estate”—because it had been built by a Mr. Fowler, who was vice-president of the International Harvester Corporation, and Mrs. Fowler was the daughter of the founder of International Harvester, Cyrus McCormick.
The property was on a hillside. It had been magnificently landscaped, although it appeared not to have been maintained in good condition for a few years. Besides the main building, there was a four-car garage with two servants’ apartments. To the east of these buildings was a beautifully contoured slope to a balustrade, and then a six-foot drop of ornamental concrete retaining wall under the balustrade, dropping to a long, level space known as “the lower gardens.” This space was headed by an ornate concrete tempietto, and ended at the other end with a large square pool and a classic pergola.
I could not see how we could use the building which had been a residence, or the large garage, but it did seem that the lower level space might become the building site for the classroom building I had in mind.
Of course, this space was well grown up in weeds, but I knew we could clear that. Also there were two other fountains at either side of the tempietto, and built in as part of it.
But the price was $100,000, and the owner, a Dr. B., whom I will not name for reasons that will be obvious, wanted cash. I shook my head. Indeed it was not quite what I had had in mind!
The next day, however, I began thinking it over. The thought occurred to me that it might be possible to use the big house as a classroom building. After all, I remembered suddenly that it was not designed in residential character, but was a concrete building with a flat roof, architecturally of institutional appearance rather than residential.
Of course, I didn’t have the $100,000 cash. Nevertheless, I called Mrs. McCormick on the telephone, suggested this possibility, and asked if I could inspect the property once more, viewing it from this new and different angle.
She arranged another inspection with Dr. B. I could see on this visit—I had hardly taken notice of the inside of the building on the first visit—that the large living room, about 27 by 30 feet, could make a good library room, and even serve as an assembly room. The adjoining large dining room could serve as an additional library room. A small office room off the entrance hall could serve as a small classroom for 10 or 12 students.
Upstairs there were three large bedrooms, of adequate size for classrooms seating from 30 to 65 or more students, besides other smaller rooms. There was a small three-room penthouse above.
Then I inspected the garage building again. The main garage room, intended to accommodate four automobiles (it had originally been horse stables, but had been rebuilt into a four-car garage and servant apartment building), was even larger than our main larger office room in Eugene, Oregon, used as the mailing room. The apartment rooms to the rear could house our printing department. That left a small office in front, and the living apartments on the second floor could supply the other administrative offices.
For the first time I began to envision God’s type of college location. Here were beautiful grounds to provide a small but, once cleared of weeds and relandscaped, magnificent campus with beautiful and majestic trees—palms, deodars, magnolias and other fine specimens.
I asked the two Hollywood architects to inspect the property. “Why,” they exclaimed, “here is your college, already built, and with a small but outstandingly beautiful campus.”
I telephoned a boyhood Sunday school friend, Dr. Walter Homan, at that time dean of student personnel at San Francisco State College. I had previously consulted him about the founding of a college. I described this property to him.
“Providential!” he exclaimed. “It sounds positively providential!”
I telephoned Mrs. Armstrong to come to Hollywood immediately, to have her opinion. She, too, felt it was just the place—and, if we outgrew it, perhaps adjoining estates could be some day acquired.
But how could we make the purchase without any money? That, you may be sure, was the real problem now. Besides, I was not yet convinced in my own mind this was the location God had selected.
An idea came to my mind. It was already mid-November. The first college term would not start until the next September—10 months away. Why not submit a proposition whereby we would start making the largest possible monthly payments, but not take possession until nine payments had been made, by the following July 1. That would give time to prepare for a September opening.
I asked Mrs. McCormick who was the best attorney in Pasadena for the handling of a property transaction. She recommended Judge Russell Morton. I arranged an appointment and went to his office.
Judge Morton recommended, under the circumstances, that a lease-and-option contract would be more attractive as an offer to the owner. I had suggested that we would make monthly payments of $1,000. That was certainly a maximum ambitious monthly payment for me to offer in our financial circumstances.
But 1 percent per month was rather common practice, and I feared any smaller offer would not even be considered. If this was where God wanted us, I felt I could rely on Him to increase the income enough to cover it.
Judge Morton suggested we draw up a contract providing for taking occupancy the following July 1, continuing on a lease rental basis until the end of 25 months. Then the $25,000 so far paid would become the down payment on the purchase, and we would then exercise our option, be given the deed to the property, giving Dr. B. a trust deed until fully paid.
The ‘Catch’ in the Deal
The proposition was drawn up in legal form, and I gave it to Mrs. McCormick to present to Dr. B. with my check for the first $1,000.
Then I prayed earnestly. I asked God to reveal His will respecting His college by causing Dr. B. to accept if that were God’s will, but to cause him to reject it if this was not the place God had chosen for His college. I realized there did not appear to be any chance in a thousand that a man who wanted $100,000 cash would let his property go for only $1,000 per month, with no down payment at the start whatever—and taking two whole years and one additional month to build up a 25 percent down payment.
I was not at all sure this was the place God wanted us—and yet it had begun to look more and more like the finest place we could possibly have. But I knew God would cause it to fall into our hands if that were His will.
I did not hear any answer for two or three days. Then Mrs. McCormick told me she had the contract all signed, sealed and delivered! The date was November 27, 1946.
For the moment I was elated, grateful, thankful!
But what I didn’t know was that apparently Dr. B. had no intention of ever letting us get possession. He was not a medical doctor. He was a doctor of law.
As time went along, it became evident that when July 1, 1947, arrived, Dr. B. had no intention of letting us gain possession. It appeared that his intention was to keep the $9,000 and keep the property too.