Now we come to the year 1959. The office my son Dick had opened in London had expanded as far as it could expand. It then occupied the entire floor of an office building in downtown London.
However, the office building occupied but small ground area, and each floor consisted of only three office rooms, besides corridor and lift (elevator to Americans).
When Garner Ted and I boarded an sas (Scandinavian Airlines System) polar-flight dc-7 plane at Los Angeles International Airport in early June 1959, we had no idea whatsoever of establishing another liberal arts college campus in England. Our purpose was to find larger office quarters.
We did have in mind combining new and enlarged office space with an altogether different kind of college. We felt it might be advisable to open a small college for men only, of various races and nationalities. The idea of such a college was to make it primarily a college for training men either as ministers or for religious service among various races and countries, as the broadcast and the Plain Truth developed need.
We arrived in Copenhagen about 3 o’clock in the morning. It was already becoming daylight—Copenhagen is far north where the days are verylong in summer and very short in winter.
There was some mix-up in our hotel reservations. I think we were to go to one hotel and learn there what hotel our travel agent had booked for us. Anyway, I remember that after an hour or two waiting in the lobby of the hotel to which our taxi first took us, we transferred to another hotel several blocks away.
First Ship Radio Station
This was our first visit to one of the Scandinavian countries. We took this flight, stopping first at Copenhagen, because we wanted to contact the first radio station that we had heard of operating offshore from a ship. The offices of this station were in Copenhagen. Also, we wanted the thrill of a polar flight, and, as I remember, only this sas flight from Los Angeles to Copenhagen was then operative as a polar flight. Flying on the pre-jet prop plane was much slower than today’s jets.
I was not able to contact the manager of the station, who was out of town. However, I did contact him later by telephone. Nothing definite came of it at the time, but it did open to our investigation the idea of broadcasting from offshore ship stations to countries where no radio time can be purchased or used by The World Tomorrow.
We enjoyed a day in Copenhagen, and then flew on to Cologne, Germany. We carried with us a portable Ampex tape recorder. In fact it was the first of the Ampex 600 models—I believe ours was the first set from the factory. This was the first portable tape recorder that was of professional broadcast quality, so that programs recorded on it would be acceptable for broadcast by the largest, most discriminating radio stations.
At Cologne, in our hotel room, I recorded a program, which I wanted to do from inside Germany.
German Enthusiasm for Work
We were much impressed by the phenomenal progress the Germans had made, since our last visit, in recovering from the war. Now factories and downtown business blocks and stores and offices not only had been rebuilt, and residential apartments constructed, but we noticed a much finer, more expensive quality of merchandise displayed in store windows.
Cologne suffered one of the worst beatings by Allied bombing of any city—80 percent to 90 percent destroyed. In all their cities, the Germans rebuilt first their factories and industrial and production facilities. People lived in temporary shacks or small temporary houses. They kept them neat and planted roses, flowers, shrubs for beauty outside working hours. Stores operated, at first, from bombed-out wreckage or any temporary kind of quarters.
Production came first, not fine living. In 1956 and 1958 I was awakened frequently in hotel rooms by Germans walking briskly to work about 5 or 5:30 a.m., yodeling or singing lustily. While the English, supposedly the victors of the Second World War, lolled around, came to tea and took an occasional work break, the Germans worked with enthusiasm, vigor and purpose.
Today the whole world sees the result. I talk a good deal about cause and effect. Every condition is the result of a cause. If Britain has gone down economically, no longer a world power, virtually bankrupt today, there has been a cause. The English, in their proud and stubborn attitude, have refused to acknowledge the cause they were producing. Now they are down and, as an important nation in the world, out! They have toppled the bars of moral restraint. They have gone in for laziness, indolence, gambling and haughty, stubborn indifference. They are beginning now to really reap what they have been sowing!
The British have written a lesson they still refuse to learn or admit.
But every visit we made to Germany, we noticed the cause of a dynamic economic upsurge—hard work, industry, vigor, purpose. They have purposed to come back. They are once again beginning to shout: “Deutschland über alles!”
Office Hunting in London
From Cologne, Garner Ted and I flew over to London. There, Raymond McNair, in charge of the Work in Britain and Europe, and our business manager of the London office had been searching for a larger, more suitable office space prior to our arrival, hoping to have a few desirable selections for our decision. This time we wanted office space in a building where additional office rooms could be leased as our needs expanded.
But up to that point their efforts had not been very rewarding. Most of those they had inspected were not suitable or worth showing to us. They did have three or four, one of which they termed “the least of the evils.” After looking them over, we agreed with their appraisal.
One we inspected was a three-story, old, badly maintained apartment building. We supposed it could be used for the kind of college we had in mind, for a small number—perhaps not over 35—men of different races. They could live in the apartment rooms, mostly very small, and the one or two lounge rooms might be enlarged by tearing out a few partitions and doing a remodeling job. These might be used as offices and classrooms. But the place was of third-rate quality, old, ill-kept—and the price was too high.
It was very discouraging.
Lastly, they showed us “the least of the evils.” It had once been a mansion, or home of very good quality, three stories, and a block and a half north of Regent’s Park. It was fairly close to the downtown business section. The location was good. It occupied a lot of about 75 or 85 feet width. But it, too, had been neglected, poorly maintained. Of course we knew we could give it a going-over. It could provide sufficient office space, and perhaps we could use it for our small, limited-size college of the type we then had in mind.
And Then—Out of the Blue!
We had spent two or three days looking. Mr. McNair had spent several days looking prior to our arrival. It began to seem like we were going to have to settle for this “least of the evils.” It could be bought, and on terms we could handle. But we were not a bit happy with the idea.
Mr. McNair had entered Ambassador College in October 1948, in the second year of its existence. He had always been a steady, balanced, persistent “plugger”—never quitting—never giving up. He didn’t give up now. He continued to telephone estate agents.
Then, suddenly one of these agents suggested something he didn’t suppose we would be interested in—but he ventured to suggest it; a place just outside greater London, north by northwest, in the Green Belt. It was a fairly large house, larger than the “least of the evils.” It had a few acres of grounds.
“Could you handle the office work from a location that far out?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Mr. McNair, “I think we could if the place were otherwise satisfactory.”
“Why don’t we go out and have a look at it yet this evening?” I suggested.
It was arranged.
Finally, after we had gotten completely out of London, we had to drive down a lane, and then a still narrower, winding, twisting lane. It didn’t raise our anticipations. But then, we were getting used to disappointments.
Finally we turned in to the place. There was a sign: “Hanstead House.” I don’t know why, but that name sounded very unattractive to me.
Then suddenly we came to the iron gates in front of the mansion. It was like turning suddenly from the back alleys of discouragement and dilapidated disappointments into a millionaire’s beautiful mansion and grounds!
This place, too, had been neglected for two years. Weeds were hip-high. But the house looked proud and majestic. We could not see in very well—it was almost dark—but what we could see appeared to be in reasonably good condition inside. The building was of stone and stucco. It had a very attractive and fairly impressive entrance. There was, on the south side, what appeared to have been an expanse of lawn—now high in weeds. But on either side of that weed-grown lawn were rows of the most beautiful and stately cedars of Lebanon we had ever seen.
We were a little excited. This began to look promising!
“I want to see the inside of this mansion,” I said. “Can you arrange for us to come back tomorrow morning, with the agent, to let us inside?”
“We’ll stop by his home on the way back to the hotel and try to arrange it,” Mr. McNair responded. It was arranged for a complete inspection at 10 the next morning.
This time two others of our staff went along. We planned to arrive at 9:30, to go carefully over the grounds and talk it over privately among ourselves before the agent arrived.
When we arrived, in full daylight, all four of us were tremendously impressed. We began walking around. I noticed three large urns in what appeared to have been a garden in front of the front entrance—one a very large and costly urn. Then we discovered that there was an aviary. We discovered a little brook running down what appeared to have been a very fine and costly garden. At least I noticed, among the weeds, several plants I knew to be very fine and expensive shrubs.
We also had noticed that there was an informal English sunken garden on the east side of the mansion, and there were four large greenhouses.
We didn’t know, then, that there was such a beautiful formal garden on the west front, the most magnificent rose garden we had ever seen, and a very exotic Japanese garden through which the little brook ran—these were so thickly covered with weeds we did not discover them.
The young men began to shout.
Almost in unison, we all exclaimed, “This is providential! This means God wants another full liberalarts coed college in England, just like the one in Pasadena!” It was like a sudden realization—a knowing—a recognizing of the divine guidance and intervening to show us His will!
The other fellows were shouting for joy.
“Hey, pipe down!” I said. “Not so loud! If that estate agent arrives and hears you fellows, the price will double! Besides, we haven’t bought it yet, and we don’t know whether we can!”
There was not really any doubt in our minds, though. It was like recognizing a revelation straight from God. We knew this meant we were to establish a college in England. Not the kind of college we had in mind. The kind we now recognized God had in mind.
This may seem preposterous to some readers, I know. But we are engaged in God’s Work. We have learned how God works. It was like God had flashed a message straight from heaven like a sudden bolt of lightning.
Here was a college campus, already there! We knew that, for this purpose, we would need additional buildings for administration offices, for dormitories, perhaps for additional class and lecture rooms. We knew, too, that in the Green Belt it would be almost impossible to obtain a building permit to erect additional new buildings.
But on this place we noticed there were quite a number of very superb horse stables, cow barns and even a building for an electric generating plant. We felt sure we could obtain a permit to remodel those existing buildings suitable for our usage.
Of course we knew there were many problems to hurdle. We had, first, to see whether the county authorities would grant us a change of occupancy permit to operate a college at that location. And there was the rather big matter of negotiating for the purchase—and whether we would be able.
When we inspected the inside we saw that this Hanstead House, as it was then named, was a very ornate building of fine quality—comparable in quality and size to Ambassador Hall on our Pasadena campus. Ambassador Hall is the former Hulett C. Merritt mansion and estate, the most fabulous place in Pasadena. Ambassador Hall had come to us virtually as a gift. When we saw the ornate interior of Hanstead House, we began to have misgivings. Perhaps we would find the price completely beyond our reach.
Besides, the estate agent’s office had intimated that twa was considering the purchase of the property to be used as a school for stewardesses.
Yet this mansion, with these outstanding gardens, the aviary, greenhouses, cedars of Lebanon, all finally came to us for £8,000 (us$22,800)—the not uncommon price of a five- or six-room cottage on a 40- or 50-foot lot in America—and that on terms that gave us several years to pay.