LESSONS FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW
seems like another person and a different culture, but it is the story
of my early childhood. After discussing some of it with my sister
(half-sister), Ann, this morning, it seems well to spend a few hours and
put it on paper. Of all those mentioned below, only Ann, Troy, Mildred,
and myself are still alive.
sources of information are recollections given me over the years by my
mother, father, grandmother, sister, her father, and my father's
family had come over from the Old Country. They were Germans, and the
children were treated with harshness, bordering on cruelty. All of them
that I met had a pronounced German accent, yet my father had almost
this time, you might wonder what my fathers name was. I did not know
until after he died. I knew Harold was not his original name. His
sister, Aunt Betty, told me, in the late 1970s, that it was John Edward.
John became a teenager, he began following the harvests. Following
the harvests, in the central states, meant harvesting the crops
farther south, and then working northward as the season progressed. For
a time he worked in the fields with the harvesting equipment. But then
one day, a thrashing machine tore off most of his right index finger.
The doctor told him it would have to be amputated, but John said No. He
would rather have a stub of a finger than none at all. For the rest of
his life, that finger was three-quarters its proper length and would
hardly move. So he was made cook for the harvesting crews. He would
prepare the pancakes, bacon, and stews.
this time, he was of age; it was the mid-1920s, and my father had
nothing at home to keep him. So he decided to go west. Everyone had
heard about the glories of California.
money into his clothes, he illegally hitched the freights westward. When
others asked him for money, he would pull out his empty pockets and tell
him he had none. Each night, he would rip out only enough money to tide
him over for the next days meals. Arriving in San Francisco, he
bought an orange and sat on the curb to eat it. Such conduct was fine in
Gilman, but not in San Francisco! A policeman walked over and threatened
to arrest him for vagrancy. When he showed that he had some money in his
pocket, he let him go. Never again did my father sit on a curb anywhere.
he answered an ad and was hired to drive a stage for Pacific Edison
Power Co. at Huntington Lake, California. In the late 1940s, he drove
Mom and me up there and it truly was a mountain paradise. A beautiful
lake, surrounded by fir trees, in the Sierras. When he initially got
that job, his supervisor looked at him and said, I don't like your
name; I'm going to call you Harry. From that moment on, that was
the name he went by.
not only drove the stage which brought people up the torturous mountain
trail to the lake, and back down again to the valley below; he also knew
the best fishing holes on the lake.
of the members of the board was Mr. Shell, the founder of Shell Oil.
Whenever he came to the lake, they would get Harry to take him out to a
good fishing spot on the lake. Mr. Shell always seemed quite friendly.
told me that, nearly a decade later during the depression, he went to
see Mr. Shell in his palatial headquarters in San Francisco, in the hope
of getting a job. Somehow, that poorly dressed man managed to get into
the presidents office! But Mr. Shell had no interest in an old
friend, and he was not hired.
the late 1920s, my father moved to the San Diego area.
mother was born on May 19, 1902, in Sparta, Wisconsin. Her name was Fern
Thorp. She was four generations removed from Ethan Allen, and had an
ancestor which came over on the Mayflower. Later, she moved with
her parents to the Idaho-Montana area. While living there, a colporteur
passed through one day, and stopped at their farmhouse and sold them a
book. I was told it was Great Controversy. Grandmother Thorp was
fascinated with it.
acquainted with my work know I have done whatever I could to help
canvassers have the missionary books they needed at low cost, in order
to place them in the homes of the people. We have printed hundreds of
thousands of them and distributed them at just above printing house
cost. Colporteurs do a godly work. I personally owe a lot to an unknown
colporteur who came to my grandmothers house in 1911 or 1912.
my mother was 12 years old, Elder Charles T. Everson decided to set up
his tent in that area and preach an evangelistic series. Elizabeth Thorp
went to the meetings and took Fern along. Shortly afterward, both were
baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Oddly enough, of that
entire, large family, those were the only two who remained in the church
through the years which followed.
her early 20s, Fern attended Bellingham Normal School in Washington
State for a year, but was forced to drop out because she did not have
enough money to feed herself properly. Fortunately, back then, one did
not have to complete a teaching course in order to be hired.
afterward obtained a teaching job in Goldendale, Washington (where,
coincidentally, I would live for a time about 40 years later). At the
end of the year, she left for home.
grandmother was a powerhouse of energy and determination, as are most of
my other female relatives and in-laws. She eventually decided to go out
canvassing herself and, after moving to the Seattle-Tacoma area, she
went on colporteur tours to various parts of western, central, and
eastern Washington State.
back home one day, she found her husband, George, my grandfather,
preparing to burn her religious books in the backyard. My grandfather
was an avowed atheist. She said, George, if you ever try that again,
I will leave you! He knew she would and never again opposed her in
day in her travels across the state, she stopped at a well-to-do
farmhouse in the Yakima area. After giving her canvass, the farmer, upon
learning her name, asked a few more questions and then told this story:
had been at Goldendale when her daughter, Fern, taught there one year.
He liked Fern and decided to marry her. But when he told her so, she
said he would have to wait for an answer until she came back in the
fall. He saw her off on the train, but she never returned. I was
going to marry Fern, but she never came back, he said.
mother told me that story years later, and added that she intentionally
did not return in order to get rid of him. But then she added wistfully,
But perhaps I made a mistake. He had inherited a large farm in the
Yakima Valley by the time my grandmother met him.
young man from Montana, by the name of Troy Price, was completing a
four-year hitch in the Navy, and met Fern in Bellingham, Washington.
They married in 1924 or 1925 at Mount Vernon, a little south of
Bellingham. Although introduced, at that time, to Adventism by Ferns
mother, Elizabeth, he did not accept it.
September 3, 1927, my sister (actually half-sister) was born. Mother
named her Ameryllis (but, when she was grown, she changed it to Ann).
young married couple spent a year or so in Montana, between Freud and
Poplar, and nearly starved and froze to death. So, they decided to go to
wonderful California. Even back then, people called it the golden state.
In 1928, they moved to the San Diego area when Ann was six months old.
Shortly thereafter, Troy was converted at an Adventist camp meeting, in
Glendale, and was baptized.
was trying to support the family by picking fruit, and Fern got a job at
the county farm, north of El Cajon, a retirement home for the elderly.
Eventually, Troy also hired on there as an employee.
Harry arrived in San Diego, he took what money he had and managed to buy
a service station. At last, he felt he had really arrived! He was in
business for himself and owned his own gas station. He was succeeding in
life. But then he found that he had to work extremely long hours to keep
the station open, and he could not afford to hire anyone to help him.
The profit from filling tanks was negligible, and there were too many
service stations competing for business. He told me the view from the
station was miserable, mostly desert sand and scattered buildings.
as he later told me, he advertised for someone to buy his station. But
no one wanted it, not at any price. Then he got an idea and placed a
different ad in the newspaper, asking for someone who would buy in as a
partner at a low price. Soon after, the ad was answered, and he had a
turning to his new partner, Harry said, Here it is, all yours.
And he left.
this time, Harry bought a motorcycle. He was single and could afford to
live dangerously. Reminiscing about it years later, he told me it was
dangerous taking curves on the sandy streets there. On one occasion, he
slid on the sand and almost went under a streetcar. It very nearly cost
him his life, but he kept riding the motorcycle.
he answered an ad and got a job at that same county farm.
was about this time that the 1929 stock market crash occurred. Some
inside information, from a financial instructional firm, came into my
hands in the 1960s. The 1929 crash was purposely manipulated, but then
got out of hand, taking down most of those who had driven down the price
of the stocks in order to make a killing when they rebounded. But this
time, unlike most panics, the stocks did not rebound. Multiplied
millions of dollars were lost by people, large and small, all over
America. The entire Western World was adversely affected for over a
decade. Ultimately, nearly 40 percent of the nation became jobless.
home in central Illinois, the stock market crash ruined Harry's folks.
Through thrift and hard work, His father had done well; so well that he
mortgaged his Gilman farm in the 1920s, in order to buy another over
near the Indiana border. When the crash came, he lost everything. His
wife decided she did not want to live with a poor man, so she left him
and moved to Florida. He died brokenhearted.
years I have told people: Don't be like my grandfather; don't go
1930, my father noticed a woman at the county farm who attracted him.
She was remarkably unpretentious and reminded him of his own mother.
They were actually quite similar, hard workers with a strong
later told Fern that he liked the fact that she would wash her face in
the faucet in the yard and not worry about makeup, as did the other
women who were too prim and proper to face their faces in public. Mother
laughed years later, when she told me that. She was a very practical
off-duty back at their home, Fern and Troy were quarreling quite
regularly. In later years, Troy admitted he had a bad temper back then.
Yet, if he had not said so, no one would have suspected it. All the
years I have known him, he has been a kind, gentle man.
then Fern was not the type to oppose. By this time Ann was three.
this point, I will mention E.T. Smith: In the summer of 1958, having
completed four years of college and three at the Seminary, I was headed
west with my wife to take a position as a pastor on the West Coast. The
sign said that the next turnoff was Beaumont, California.
Beaumont! I said, this was where Beaumont Smith lived!
mother had mentioned a Beaumont Smith when I was young; it was someone
she knew when she had been in the San Diego area. She also said his name
was E.T. Smith; somehow I remembered that also. Turning off the highway,
I stopped at a pay phone and looked in the book. Sure enough, there it
was: E.T. Smith. So we quickly drove to the street address.
very old lady answered the door. She was Mrs. E.T. Smith. Her husband
had died a year or so before, but she had left the phone number in his
she learned who I was, she was astounded, saying: Your mother said
she did not want to be married to a man who carried a Bible! And here
you, her son, are a Seventh-day Adventist minister!
was Troy who carried the Bible around, and by her own statement, that
was part of the reason my mother left him later.
got what she asked for, yet in later years she mellowed. The deep
interest I showed in religious things, throughout my childhood, never
seemed to bother her.
the friendship between Harry and Fern deepened. The fact that Fern was
someone else's wife did not bother him; he had decided to make her his
wife. But Troy knew nothing about it.
quarreling at the Price home seemed only to intensify, and Fern
threatened to leave him. But he replied that, if she did, he would get
year was 1932. One day while Troy was away at work, Harry came over in a
car (it may have been borrowed, since he had a motorcycle then) and they
loaded all her and Ann's few belongings in it and headed off.
what mother told me years later, there must have been a hill with no
houses on it not far from that home. For, as the car got to the summit,
Harry stopped the car. The two were quarreling. It appears that he was
already beginning to question whether he wanted the responsibility of a
family. Mother said she should have gone back right then, but she
Troy came home that night, he was desolated, utterly crushed. Yet all
the leads led nowhere. He had absolutely no idea where she had gone to.
had suddenly quit her job, broken all contact with Adventists and local
churches, and just disappeared. What Troy did not know was that she was
living with Harry, one of the co-workers he associated with every day at
the county farm.
in Lemon Grove (today part of La Mesa), there was a little rectangular
house on Vasser Street. It was halfway up the hill on the right side.
Someone had planned to build a subdivision there, but ran out of money
when the depression came. Harry and Fern were now living in that house.
Just across the street was another house, about the same vintage, with a
goat farm off to one side.
day, the doorbell rang and Fern hurried to the door, and then started
back when she saw who was there. It was a lady from her church, who
spent her time colporteuring all over the county. They had known each
other well. Hoping the woman had not seen her inside, Fern watched as
the woman stood there for a time and then left and went to the next
house. It was a close call. Ferns concern that Ann not be found by
Troy had become an obsession.
4, 1933, was the bottom of the Great Depression. The headlines
proclaimed that Monday, March 6, the banks would not open. Unemployment
was at its highest. San Diego county was as badly hit as the rest of
America. A man living in that area checked around and, after careful
inquiry, because such things were illegal back then, obtained the
name of an abortion doctor.
the best I can tell, it was near the end of that month that the young
couple went to the physician to get an abortion. Later, when I was told
the story, this is how it was related to me:
doctor asked them why they wanted the abortion and the couple gave him
the obvious answer: Employment was so uncertain, they could not afford
to have a baby. He told them that it would probably be a beautiful baby,
and they should have it anyway. But, no; they declined. They wanted the
abortion. So he went ahead and performed it.
the embryo should have been destroyed, or, if it could have survived,
should have been grossly deformed. At any rate, as my mother explained
it when I was a teenager, I was that baby. She laughed when she told me;
she thought it was funny. It is interesting how time can make
near-tragedies (or miracles) seem funny.
Sunday morning, December 3, 1933, a physician was called to the little
house on Vasser Street, and delivered me. Ann was six by then, and had
been sent across the street to stay with the neighbor during labor. The
home I was born in is still there; now painted light green. I saw it
this summer (1995).
only times my mother got away from that imprisoning house, was when she
went with Harry, riding on the back of his motorcycle! That was the
first vehicle I ever rode on. My mother said I was riding it before I
was born. She only went with him in the evening, when she could not be
recognized in the darkness.
the quarreling got worse. My father was utterly disgusted that I had
been born and, my mother told me, would not look at me for the first two
days. It is likely that he was the one who pushed for the abortion.
Whether the physician was convicted he must not carry out the abortion
or whether it miraculously did not succeed, we will never know this side
has a purpose for everyone's life, and I know I have to fulfill my
purpose for being here. You must fulfill yours also.
Harry did not like Ann either. She was not his child and, while she was
young, he seemed to hate her. This only added to the troubles in the
home. Fortunately, I was his; but, as I grew up, he generally ignored
my mother determined to leave Harry. She had left a man before and was
not afraid to do it again. One day when he was at work, she packed basic
necessities for my sister and I and herself and boarded a train for
her mothers home in the Seattle area.
Harry came home that night, he experience what Troy before him had
experienced. The family was gone, and he had no idea where.
in Seattle, Ann was sent to an Adventist
school with Ferns younger sister, Bonnie. What might have
happened next, one can only surmise. But Lynn got involved.
all Ferns brothers, one especially like devilry. One day, Lynn was
driving a little too fast (perhaps because of some liquor inside) when
he was pulled over by a policeman. Laughing, he pulled a gun and said,
Climb in and Ill show you how fast I can drive! With that, he
drove like a Jehu down the road. When they finally arrested him, he was
jailed for several months.
Lynn thought he would have some fun at mothers expense. So, while
Fern was living in hiding at her mothers place, Lynn was sending
letters to Harry, telling him where she was.
have so many other husbands in this world, with this information in
hand, Harry went after his wife. Quitting his job, he headed north.
Arriving in San Francisco, he sold his motorcycle and bought a car. Then
on he drove to Seattle to get Fern.
few months before she died, mother told me that she just happened to be
looking out the front window that day and saw him drive by, looking
for the house. She knew he would turn around and be back within a few
minutes to get her.
a moment, she panicked. Then, on the last night I saw her alive
(December 1972), she told me, I decided I would go back with him, for
your and Ann's sake.
everything up, they headed south. But it was 1934, and the depression
was severe. Harry had quit his good job, and getting another would not
in San Francisco, Harry looked for work, and Fern changed her name. Now
she was Lila. Harry now changed his middle name also, from Edward to
was frantic that Troy would somehow get Ann. But, in addition, Harry had
creditors in San Diego county. Mother told me years later that he felt
he had sufficiently paid that which he owed them, with the exception of
some of the interest. This added to the reasons he wanted anonymity.
same year, 1934, Troy filed for a divorce and obtained it. Troy had
grounds to obtain custody of the daughter, but he had no idea where Ann
in San Francisco, Lila and Harry moved into a house on a hill. Later
they moved to another house, probably on the same hill; this second one
was just behind a two- or three-story apartment house.
was put into a Lutheran day school at St. Paul's Church at Eddy and
Gough Streets. She walked down to it each day. I believe this second
house was on Sutter Street, a few blocks directly above that Lutheran
church. In one school year, she had started the second grade in San
Diego, transferred to a Seattle Adventist school, and then was
re-entered into the Lutheran school in San Francisco.
1935, Lila made a mistake she would regret for years to come. It came
about in this way: Soon after arriving in San Francisco, Harry had
gotten a job working down on the waterfront wharves, loading and
unloading freighters. One day in December 1934, as telephone poles were
being unloaded, some rolled onto Harry, breaking his ankle.
of work and on relief, he could only hobble around the house on
crutches, while Lila went out and did housework. This was the beginning
of a pattern that continued throughout the rest of her life till she
turned 65: Lila kept working.
while she was gone during the day, Harry was at home taking out his
resentment on little Ann. It was not a happy home.
week, Lila would walk to the welfare office for food bags. It was
probably located a few blocks west in the Fillmore District. Ann, seven
by this time, would tightly hold to her little brothers hand as they
returned, for only mother could carry the food bags. The little tyke was
only a little over a year old.
the grinding poverty, and hardly enough to eat, Lila decided to write
Troy and ask him to send a few dollars to buy a pair of shoes for Ann.
last, Troy knew where Ann was! He immediately wrote back. Declaring that
he was coming to get the girl, he asked that all her things be ready
when he arrived. Terrified that Troy would get Ann, Lila immediately
took her across the bay to Oakland on the ferry, and put her on a train
headed eastward. Ann was eight and her little brother two. It was
December 1935. They would not see each other again until he was 16.
Troy arrived at the little house behind the apartment house, once again
he was crushed. His daughter had been sent off, and he did not know
the train pulled in at the Chicago station, Ethel Jennings met it. She
and Ann stayed overnight at friends, and then went by train to Rio,
Wisconsin, near Portage.
following summer, Troy managed to locate Ann. Although Lila had known
her for years, Ethel was actually related to Troy. Visiting them, he
obtained legal custody, but decided to leave Ann in Ethel's care until
had been working as an orderly at a Seattle hospital, and, while there,
met Mildred Healy, a very competent registered nurse. Later he was
transferred to another hospital elsewhere in the city. Mildred had
noticed that he carried out all assignments faithfully, something many
orderlies did not do. She respected his integrity and was intrigued with
his principled manners.
later, in the middle of the night, he had to bring a sick friend over to
that same hospital for care. Having done so, he stopped by her work
station and asked if she would like to go for a drive. That particular
night she would be off-duty between 2 and 5 a.m., so she said okay. Down
the road they parked under a street light, and sat in the car and ate
lunch. Immediately, Troy opened the Bible, and gave her a study. She
liked Gods Word and they become close friends.
she was baptized and, in November 1936, they were married. In the summer
of 1937, they got Ann. She was 10 by that time.
later years, Mildred put Troy through medical school at Loma Linda, and
he became a physician.
in San Francisco, Harry and Lila no longer needed to hide from Troy, or
argue over the way he was treating Ann. This probably reduced tensions
quite a bit. But Harry kept his changed name, Harold Edwin; and Lila
kept hers, Lila Fern.
his ankle healed, my father got a job at Armstrong's U-Drive, in back
of the Richlieu Hotel on Van Ness Avenue. The hotel is still there; I
saw it a few months ago.
some point between 1935 and 1939, my family moved to 806 Webster Street.
This was the home of my earliest memories. Everything already mentioned
above happened before I was aware of what was going on. It was in 1939
that, for me, my life really began. From that point onward, I began
January 1939, my mother took me over to a
nearby park (Jefferson Park), hugged me, and sent me off. I
looked back at her and she at me as I started off to my first day at
that same Lutheran church school Ann had earlier attended for a short
time. I had turned five only a few weeks earlier; she needed me in
kindergarten so she could go out and do housecleaning for rich folk, and
bring home enough money to help support the family.
is my earliest dated memory. Oddly enough, the incident may also have
saved my life.
a year ago I was reading, for the first time, a detailed account of the
Korean War. At the time it occurred, I paid little attention to it; I
was too busy doing other things. But now, for the first time, I noted
that the war began on June 25, 1950. That rang a bell. I was 16 in the
summer of 1950, and not eligible for the draft. When I turned 18, on
December 3, 1951, I should have been drafted, sent over to the
frontlines and, amid the bitter cold and back-and-forth fighting of the
next three years, very likely been one of those who died.
I would have graduated from high school six months after turning 18, in
June 1952. Having registered for the draft at 18, I would have been
drafted that summer, as soon as I graduated, and been sent over to
many years earlier, my mother had been anxious to put me into
kindergarten as soon as possible, so she could do housework through the
day. It just so happened that, back then, in most San Francisco schools,
a child could begin a grade in January as well as September. I started
kindergarten three weeks after turning five. A year later, I started
first grade, in January, at six.
in January 1944, I began the first half of the fifth grade at a public
school. But, in September, mother transferred me to a private school
which only operated on a fall-to-fall calendar. The teacher, Mr. Truitt,
had to decide whether to promote me half a year or put me back. He
decided to promote me to sixth grade. Because of this, I only had half
the fifth grade.
of this, while still 17, I graduated from high school, and that fall,
three months before my 18th birthday, I was attending Pacific Union
College as a theology student. This gave me a ministerial
exemption. The war ended, two years later, on July 27, 1953, while I
was still enrolled in college.
was not until a few months ago that I realized the significance of this
connecting link of events.
back on these events, I wonder at how God protected my life during those
early years. I also marvel at the fact that He moved on my heart to love
Him, when so many around me seemed not to be aware of His existence.
They were fine people, but they were so busy getting through life that
they had little time for Him.
know that neither of my parents will likely be in heaven, and I am
saddened by the fact. It has been over twenty years since they passed
wherever we are in life, we must learn the lessons we can from the paths
we have trod, and keep pressing forward in fullest faith in God and in
His Son, Jesus Christ.
my memories at the Webster Street house only extend from 1939 to 1941,
when we moved away, I have few recollections there.
of my earliest was trying to go to sleep in an oversized crib each
night, which was at a far corner of the living room, the only room which
had windows facing the street. Each night, the barroom lights from
across the street, glared in through those windows. From that saloon,
would boom out the music, Roll out the barrels, for well have a
barrel of fun. It sounded hideous to me, and to escape I would pull
the covers over my head till I fell asleep. How young children ever
survive city living is a marvel.
were different back then. I recall looking out on the street, in the
early morning, as mother prepared breakfast. There has hardly a car to
be seen. Asking about it in later years, I was told that a city
ordinance, at the time, required every car to be garaged each night.
Since there were not many garages, you can imagine how few people back
then had automobiles! Most everyone rode the street cars. The 1930s and
the 1990s are a century apart.
was an unknown word back in those days. One day mother sent me to a
little store called Mr. Greens delicatessen, around the corner
on McAllister Street. She handed me six cents, and I brought back a
large loaf of bread.
day when I was older, I was playing on the
east side of Jefferson Park, by Golden Gate Avenue, and some
ladies approached and asked the children if they would like to hear some
stories. Along with several others, I walked with them directly across
the street to, what had been an empty street-level store front, that had
been outfitted with some small chairs. There the ladies told us children
Bible stories. I shall never forget how very much I liked it. It seemed
like such a pleasant place. Far different than most everything else in
this place I called home.
can be categorized by mobility. In the earlier ones I had to be with my
mother, and could not be out on the street by myself. One of my very
earliest memories was also at that park. My mother had taken me there
and, while romping on the grass, I had moved farther and farther away.
entire park was two blocks in size and on the side of a hill. At that
time, it only had grass and no trees. I had wandered upward to the
northwest corner, where few people went.
man was sitting in the passenger side of the seat of a car by the curb.
When I noticed him, he was about 30 feet from me. He had the door open
and his legs were on the Laguna Street sidewalk, nearly at the corner of
Eddy. There was no one else within
half a block of us. Holding his hand out, he was asking me to come to
him so he could give me something nice.
recall standing there for a split second, totally uncertain as to what I
was supposed to do. I was almost too small to know. Then the thought
came: Run to Mama! Off I ran as fast as my little legs could carry
me downhill to where mother was, about half a block away. She had been
sitting on the grass, occupied with talking to a lady. When I turned
around, the car was gone.
till we reach heaven will we know all the dangers we have been protected
May 1941, we moved away from the Webster Street house, not long before
the entire block was torn down to make room for an extension of the Acme
Brewery (which, itself, was later torn down). All the while we lived
there, we could smell beer when the wind blew from the bottling plant.
Fortunately, the prevailing westerlies came from the other direction.
moved to 1750 Page Street, which was in the Haight-Ashbury District. The
word, Hippie, would not be invented for 24 years. This third-floor
rental flat was only a block from the panhandle, and a few more from
Golden Gate Park. I was fortunate to have all that park to play in.
the best I can tell, it was 1941 or 1942 that a very special event
happened. I was seven or eight years old at the time. Years later, when
I was a teenager, my mother told me about it.
Sunday, my father agreed to accompany my mother to a Protestant church
on Waller Street. Such an occurrence was quite unusual. The next week,
the pastor of that church (the Hamilton Methodist Church) dropped by our
house and visited mother.
she related it, he said, Why not leave the Adventists and come
worship with us? That way you can unite your family. That was a
tempting offer, and mother said she seriously considered it. Harry
seemed willing to go to the Methodist Church, but not to the Adventist
that night, as she related it to me a decade later, she had a dream.
Now, I do not recall my mother talking about dreams, and she was not the
type to have religious dreams. Ann fully agrees with me. But, Mother
said, That night I had a dream. An angel came to me and said, Don't
leave the Adventists, for Vance's sake.
was just young enough that, if she had completely broken with Adventism
at that time, I would very likely not have remained with Advent beliefs
and might never have discovered the Spirit of Prophecy.
because of that dream, I did. Over the past fifteen years, I have
written thousands of pages of important warnings regarding dangers our
people now face.
afternoon in the summer of 1944, I noticed a girl from around the
corner, on Cole Street, lugging home six good-sized books from the
public library in the next block. I asked her what she did with them.
Were they for her parents? She told me that six books were all the
library would let her take home at a time. She would read them all and,
she said, a week later would take them back and get six more. I was
astounded. True, she was about two years older than me (I was ten at the
time), but how could a person read so much? I was a poor reader at the
I went to the library and took out one book and brought it home. My
mother helped me with the first couple chapters. I still remember that I
stumbled over the word, cupboard. That year I went from the fourth
to eighth grade reading level. I know that because, before the school
year was over, I borrowed a couple eighth grade books from the teacher,
and found I could read them with ease.
From that time onward, my reading ability helped me in everything
I set myself to do.
would read and study everything I could find on history, science, or
other subjects. It was good that I did, for each evening I was home
alone. My father worked nights and slept days. So he was gone in the
evenings. My mother had worked hard all day, wanted an opportunity each
evening to visit friends, so she would leave.
could easily have run the streets and gotten into trouble. But I am
thankful I chose not to do so. Instead, when not running paper routes, I
bought some aquarium tanks, stocked them with tropical fish, and spent
my spare time going to aquarium stores, reading books, or playing with
my pet white rat. Later, I was one of only three young people who were
members of the San Francisco Aquarium Society. I attended regular
meetings, but knew better than drink the coffee and rolls they offered
living always seemed like a worthwhile thing, and I decided not to drink
the coffee my mother urged me to drink. She said I could not get through
life without coffee. But it seemed to me that if I needed a lift that
much, I should go lay down.
did I get those principles from? It must be a combination of reading the
Word of God and being impressed by the Holy Spirit. Yet without
obedience to the Word, the Spirit cannot do as much for us as He would
like. Surrender to God and obedience to Him brings a resolute
determination to do right because it is right. Lacking that settled
determination, a person will always fall.
the time I was ten, I was going to church twice a week. I continued this
from the fifth to eight grade. Every Sabbath I would bike the 27 blocks
to the California Street Adventist Church, and every Sunday I would go
to a Protestant church closer to home. I just enjoyed being with
Christians. Sometimes my mother would go to church with me on Sabbath.
But most of the time, I went by myself. She never tried to stop me from
attending either service.
late 1945, when I was eleven, an evangelistic effort was begun by Elder
Chester Prout at that California Street Church. Back then, evangelistic
meetings lasted a full six months, and this one was no exception. The
meetings were held six nights a week, and, after my afternoon news
routes, I pedaled hard the many blocks to get to each one.
following spring, when they made a call to come forward for further
studies in the back room, I and about four others did so. A couple
months later, we were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
mother knew she had to keep me busy, so she could work in the
afternoons, so when I was ten she got me a job delivering newspapers. I
could easily have gotten out of it then or later. But I enjoyed the
work. It was good having a duty, a job to do. Years later, as a
professional educator, I read in a book that some young people want
freedom, and some want responsibility. The first tend to become
vagabonds; and the second, hard workers. It is something to think
about as you prepare for adult life.
seven years I had newspaper routes, and I am thankful I had them. They
gave me flat feet, but also a determination to carry a job through to
completion. One of the great crimes of our age is the theory that young
people should not work until they are eighteen. By that time, many are
no longer interested.
for six years, I had shown myself responsible, in 1949 the newspaper
company (the San Francisco News) offered me their best route in
our area: St. Mary's Hospital. This required knocking on about 400
hospital doors each afternoon, talking with people, selling them
newspapers, doing it within a few hours, and all the while keeping
everyone happy with the service, including the hospital staff. That job
taught me how to meet people and talk with them. I held it for two years
until I started college.
have often thought, since then, how much those paper routes and that
sales job helped me in later years. Liking responsibility, enjoying
work, and knowing how to meet people is a good preparation for life's
I was a year younger than others in my class, school was a little more
difficult for me until I entered high school. It is always safe to
assume you only have average abilities and that you will have to work
very hard to succeed. By the 11th grade, I was at or near the top in
every subject except math.
Polytechnic High School, I was told that I would have to take a year of
Spanish or Latin. Spanish seemed more practical, so I signed up for
that. The first day we were given a list of words to learn, and I
ignored it. The next day we were tested and I flunked the test. It was
clear that every day there would be a test and, worst of all, all the
material would be cumulative; what you learned today, you would use all
year. One could only succeed by studying beforehand, not afterward. From
that day forward, I got straight As in that class. The only other
student who did so was a Mexican who never opened the book.
those high school years, I would spend an hour each evening, from 9 to
10, reading a worthwhile book before going to sleep. I found it
satisfying to do so. One book I went through was Uriah Smiths Daniel
and Revelation. Another was the Great Controversy. No one
told me I had to do this.
feel sorry for those young people who have the rare privilege of growing
up in a Christian home, yet strive to avoid religious opportunities and
activities. If they only knew the miserable adult life they are thus
preparing themselves for. Avoiding God and the study of His Word is what
got my parents in trouble. Many spend their lives running from their
Best Friend. Cannot we not learn from the experiences of others? Must
we, ourselves, continually repeat their mistakes?
never had one family worship in my home that I ever recall. But then I
never heard either my mother or father say, I am sorry or
please forgive me. I never heard my father say I love you to
anyone. And I never heard my mother say, I love you to him. That
was the way our home was.
look back on it now, and know without a shade of doubt that it is the
Bible and Spirit of Prophecy which gave me the affection, the
principles, and the solidness of character I so much needed. Both my
parents were well-meaning. Neither smoke nor got drunk. They were
hard-working folk. Yet there was so much depth of happiness that they
never experienced: happiness which is alone obtainable through a
relationship with Jesus Christ and an obedient study of His Inspired
was another experience which also helped. That is not always the best
for a person, in developing a rounded personality. When there are
siblings, they interact, compete, dominate, and yield. But when there is
only one, he may grow up in too soft an environment.
from the age of 12 onward, I found it necessary to increasingly resist
my parents concerns that I live a worldly life. As soon as I was
baptized, deep convictions came to me that I must stop going to movies
with my parents. Yet that was their primary family entertainment. Saying
no was not easy. But, by the time I was 13, I was successfully doing it.
Week after week, month after month, I was refusing motion picture
attendance, coffee drinking, trying a glass of wine, going to dance
halls and dancing, and attending theatrical plays. I later realized that
the situation had trained me to resist duly constituted authority, when
it deviated from Gods Word. That had a strong effect on my outlook
when I grew up.
my high school years, I only attended the Adventist Church (San
Francisco Central, on California Street). I determined to do whatever I
was asked, whether it be praying or preaching. I recall my first sermon
was given at the Philippino Church. It was on Elisha and lessons from
his life. The second was based on the consecration chapter in Steps
to Christ. It is only by working that we learn how to work.
that time, I was faithfully attending every prayer meeting as well. One
evening, a young man in a leather coat was there. Surely he must be a
church member, new to the area. He had said little and no one paid much
attention to him. So, after the meeting, I spoke with him
enthusiastically for about half an hour, and then offered to drive him
home. It turned out he was a young soldier stationed for a time in the
Presidio (at that time a federal military reserve). I was so happy in my
faith, and enjoyed talking to others about it.
was not permitted to drive through the gate, so we stopped just outside
and spoke a little longer. But time passed, and it was not until about
11:30 that he finally waved good-bye and walked into the Presidio. I had
told him of point after point of the Advent faith, and he eagerly
listened and asked questions.
turned out that that was the first time he had ever stepped foot in an
Adventist church, and he knew nothing about us.
next Sabbath, he attended church and asked the pastor (Elder Daniel E.
Venden) for baptism. Following studies, he was taken into the church. I
understand that he is retired and living in Montana. He has been a
faithful believer all these years. His name was Dana Clow.
you may know, nearly every General Conference Session, from 1918 to
1954, was held in San Francisco. Because of that happy fortuity, I
attended portions of several of them (1941, 1950, and 1954). Grandmother
Elizabeth Thorp would come stay with us and encourage mother to attend
one of the meetings at the July 1950 Session, I was deeply convicted
with the thought that I should give my life to God and, if it be His
will, become a minister. I mentioned it to grandmother as we walked back
to the car, and she encouraged me with the thought that it was possible.
my last year of high school, the conviction of my personal
responsibility deepened even more strongly, so I laid plans to attend
this, my mother tried to dissuade me from going into the ministry. She
told me if I would attend the University of California at Berkeley, she
would buy me a new car and pay my way through to a baccalaureate. She
recommended optometry, but said I could take any course.
was convicted that I should attend an Adventist College and take the
preparation for it, I canvassed my last summer before going to college.
My folks did not favor that either, and the conference seemed to have
forgotten San Francisco that summer, but I had learned how to stick to a
job and spent the summer at it. I spent the summer canvassing in a city
which, because of the cold response of the people, even the professional
first day I determined to go out; I had absolutely no idea where to go
and not much more about what to say if they opened the door long enough
to let me in.
I prayed and drove. Then I stopped to pray and drove. I turned this
street and then that, across town. Although I did not know it at the
time, interestingly enough I finally parked not far from the area where
Ann used to live. Then I climbed a steep street and knocked at a
three-story flat. No one was home on the first floor, and the lady shut
the door at the second. But, when I rang the top floor bell, an older
lady let me in.
wasn't interested in the book (I had wanted to sell religious books,
but the conference office had decided that only the one volume, Modern
Medical Counselor, was to be sold), but she asked what church I
attended. When I told her, she said she was interested. She had known
some Adventists years before, and liked them.
California Street church was about 12 blocks away, but I arranged for a
family to pick her up each week. She was still attending all the while I
was there, and thoroughly appreciating the services.
the summer ended, I left San Francisco and went to college.
I have any regrets about my youth; things I did which I wish I had not
done? Yes, I have three: the three night jobs I had. The first was
delivering papers (the San Francisco Examiner) from 4 to 6 a.m.
every morning for six months. There is no gain in tearing down
your health. The other two are two night jobs I had while attending the
Seminary: an all-night job, janitoring in the General Conference
building, and a milk delivery job. If I could do it all over again, I
would not have accepted night jobs.
are lessons from my childhood. It is my prayer that it may serve as a
guide and warning to others. Everything in life is a desolation that is
not centered in loving, praising, and obeying God.
thing I know for a certainty: God protected me from death before my
birth, and He has protected and guided me ever since. I love Him and
intend to live out my days serving Him.