All posts by Keith Call

A kaddish for the Red Grange candy bar

Harold “Red” Grange, one of the greatest American football halfbacks, was responsible for knocking out the teeth of many players on opposing teams. As a celebrity endorser, the Wheaton native was (less directly) responsible for rotting out the teeth of many admiring children with the distribution of the Red Grange candy bar, which included a collectible trading card displaying  “The Galloping Ghost” in action. Produced in 1926 by Shotwell Candy Company, the Red Grange candy bar struggled briefly in the competitive sweets market before disappearing forever.

Judging by this cross section, the Red Grange candy bar resembles the Baby Ruth, which has survived since 1921: a caramel or nougat center surrounded by nuts and encased with milk chocolate

Steve Almond in Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (2004), offers this amusing lament to obsolete candy:

…I think about the candy bars of my youth that no longer exist, the Skrunch Bar, the Starbar, Summit, Milk Shake, Powerhouse, and more recent bars which have been wrongly pulled from the shelves — Hershey’s sublime Cookies ‘n Mint leaps to mind — and I say kaddish for all of them…Oh where are you now, you brave stupid bars of yore? Where Oompahs, those delectable doomed pods of chocolate and peanut butter? Where the molar-ripping Bit-O-Choc? And where the Caravelle, a bar so dear to my heart that I remain, two decades after its extinction, in an active state of mourning?

Whether the retirement of the Red Grange candy bar was mourned or not, it has joined the pantheon of discontinued candies: Cherry Humps, Blizzard Bar, Clark Coconut Bar, Bob Cat Candy Bar, Jumbo Nerds, Goodnuff Peanut Bars, Luv Pops, Goofy Groceries, Life Savers Holes, Gatorade Gum, Merri Mints, Orange Heads, Tangy Taffy, Wonka Bar, Mr. Buddy, Bit-O-Licorice, Bonkers Fruit Chews, Mr. Melons and many more.

 

Dizzy Dean at Wheaton College

Famous preachers, authors and lecturers often visited Wheaton College during the 1930s, but students were particularly delighted when Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean visited for a day. Dean, a Major League Baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Browns, was hosted by his friends Coach Fred Walker and Captain Doug Johnston of the campus football team.

l. to r., Captain Doug Johnston, Dizzy Dean and Coach Fred Walker

Like Yogi Berra and Bob Uecker, later players-turned-commentators, Dizzy Dean was renowned for his colorful personality as much as his athletic prowess. The following excerpts from the Record, published on September 26, 1936, detail Dean’s visit:

“A great school, I never saw a better spirit anywhere,” drawled Jerome “Dizzy” Dean, famous St. Louis Cardinal baseball pitcher, grinning at the cheers of 1200 Wheaton College students in chapel Monday morning…It was the first time in his life he had ever been in a college chapel, but he declared that the thundering, whole-hearted singing and sincerity of the students  gave him “one of the biggest thrills of his life.” He was so impressed that he later told Walker, “From now on, Wheaton College is my college.” His publicized joviality was never more evident than in a walk around the campus escorted by Walker and Johnston. Still limping slightly with a sore shin injured by a line drive the preceding day when he lost to the Cubs in a hectic eighth inning, he commented favorably on the lawns, buildings and athletic field, declaring them “real pretty.”

Dizzy spoke again and again of his admiration for Walker. In his short speech in chapel accepting the football he told how their friendship started when the new Wheaton tutor was coaching a baseball team in Texas where Dean played in his minor league days.  “You got a good coach. I know him,” he told the student body, who staged an almost unprecedented demonstration in applauding him. Just before he got into the coach’s automobile to leave for Chicago, the good-natured sportsman shook hands with Johnston.

Dizzy Dean, belying his own wit and keen intuition, describes himself: “The Good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong right arm, a good body, and a weak mind.” Retiring from playing in the late 1940s, he continued as a successful sports commentator. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953. He died on July 17, 1974. Wheaton resident Robert Goldsborough in his historical mystery Three Strikes, You’re Dead (2005), featuring series protagonist Snap Malek, police reporter for The Chicago Tribune, uses Dizzy Dean as a character, along with Al Capone and Mayor Richard J. Daley.

The Process Church of the Final Judgment

It is not uncommon for Wheaton College students to explore various denominations, investigating differences in ecclesiastical polity and practice. But those who journeyed from the comfortable suburbs to the Near North Side of Chicago to attend the Process Church of the Final Judgement were surely surprised to hear from its black-robed ministers that God is composed of three gods, Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan.

The Process, splintered from L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology, was founded in London in the early 1960s by Mary Ann and Robert de Grimston, who soon established chapters in major U.S. and U.K. cities. Charles Manson was allegedly a member of the California chapter, but this assertion was never proven.

A Processan minister inducts two acolytes into the Church, at which time they become initiates of the Covenant of Christ and Satan.

Wheaton College student writer Sinclair Hollberg chronicles his visit in “Record Investigates Process Church in Chicago,” published on November 5, 1971. Hollberg visited as an attempt to learn more about one of the cults that were increasing in number at that time, and challenging the church.

During the service Hollberg approached “Mother Mercedes,” director of the Open Chapter, who explained the unique Processan doctrine:

“God is within us, his stature and character are inherent in our lives. But there exists also the part of man which is anti-god, it is contrary to God’s character and is responsible for the conflicts and tensions of life, the uncertainties, fears and shortcomings that rob man of happiness. The way we can resolve this tension is by uniting ourselves through knowledge of him. But the problem comes because we cannot describe God; if we could describe God then we could define him and to define him would be to limit him to the level of the finite and mortal. We can only describe the parts of God. God is composed of three gods — Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan. Jehovah is the wrathful god of vengeance and retribution, demanding discipline and ruthlessness. Lucifer is the light-bearer who urges us to enjoy life to the fullest, to be kind and loving and live in peace and harmony. Satan, the receiver of transcendent souls and corrupted bodies, represents two opposites. First, to rise above all  human and physical needs to become all soul and spirit; and, secondly, to sink beneath all human values and standards of morality to wallow in depravity.”

Hollberg writes, “Salvation, under Process Church perspectives, comes by resolving the conflicts, tensions and frustrations of life through knowledge of that part of God within us that applies to the problem. So one may have Jehovian tendencies of harshness and willfulness, or Luciferian characteristics of agreeableness or Satanic leadings of idealism or depravity. All are in one god, all are unified through Christ. So man may have freedom from the dilemmas of human life by realizing that his behavior is reconcilable with god.”

According to Occult Chicago, the Process founded the Chicago chapter in 1970, locating variously in buildings on Wells, Deming and Burling streets, its black-caped Messengers of the Unity distributing literature throughout the neighborhoods. The Process eventually departed Chicago and other cities, breaking into less colorful organizations.

George W. Griebenow, Nazi Hunter

Students on the campus of Wheaton College during the 1940s had grown up in largely sheltered environments, free from bombings or foreign invasions, worshiping  safely amid families and churches. It was surely enlightening, if not jarring, for these young men and women to interact with veterans like George W. Griebenow, who returned from WW II not only a decorated combat survivor but a key figure in apprehending a top ranking Nazi general. Seasoned at the age of 20, he had a few stories to tell.

George W. Griebenow, looking somewhat uncomfortable in his 1943 college application photo.

A freshman at Wheaton College when inducted into the Army on July 10, 1944, Griebenow returned to campus after the war to pursue ministerial studies. For a few months during his Wheaton College career, he dated Elizabeth Howard, later well-known author and wife of missionary Jim Elliot. Griebenow’s roommate was Ed McCully, who would later die with Jim and four comrades in Ecuador at the hands of the Waodani Indians.

While serving in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, eighteen-year-old Sgt. Griebenow was assigned leadership of a squadron tasked with capturing General Ernst Kaltenbrunner, head of Hitler’s Gestapo. Under cover of darkness, the young infantryman’s patrol moved quietly into the Tyrol mountains of Central Austria, still held by strong bands of dedicated Nazis. Using acquired intelligence gathered from sources, Griebenow and his patrol suddenly seized Kaltenbrunner and his colleagues at a remote cabin on the last day of the war in Europe. “We had expected to find Kaltenbrunner’s subordinates but not the S.S. leader himself,” recalled Griebenow. “We surrounded the hideout — 14 of us — after having marched all night. However, we did not have much trouble as he had only a light bodyguard of four Nazis.” He added, “We captured him in a ski hut. He had more than $250,000 and American $20 gold pieces, but we got him and got the poison out of his mouth before he could commit suicide. It was cyanide.”

The notorious general stood six feet tall, sporting a network of scars across his face. Initially denying his identity to his captors, a search for official papers in drawers, mattresses and rafters clearly revealed his rank.

SS General Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Chief of the Gestapo, Criminal Police and Intelligence Services

Griebenow and his patrol with their prisoner re-traced the journey  through the rugged countryside, risking potential ambush, to the U.S. camp station. “He was tough,” said Griebenow. “He kept up with us.” Sent to Nuremburg for trial, General Ernst Kaltenbrunner was sentenced with other leading Nazis and hanged for war crimes and crimes against humanity on October 16, 1946.

Sgt. Griebenow received the Army Commendation for the successful mission. He also received the Bronze Star for dragging a comrade out of enemy fire during the machine gun attack on Erfurt, Germany, and the Purple Heart for wounds received during the crossing of the Rhine at Frankfurt, March 28, 1945.

George W. Griebenow, ordained in 1955, later served as district director of the Small Business Administration in Minneapolis. He died at age 60 in 1987.

He Found the Secret

What are the possibilities of the Christian life? To what bold frontiers might our faith aspire? Are a few believers destined for magnificent ministries, while others languish in mediocrity?

Dr. V. Raymond Edman, fourth President of Wheaton College, pondered these questions in his book, They Found the Secret: Twenty Transformed Lives That Reveal a Touch of Eternity (1960). He studied the lives of twenty prominent Christians to reveal a commonly shared “secret” that empowered each of these women and men for service.

Among the 20 figures featured in the book, Edman profiled: 1) John Bunyan, the unchained life; 2) Oswald Chambers, the highest life; 3) Amy Carmichael, the radiant life; 4) Andrew Murray, the abiding life; 5) Eugenia Price, the bouyant life;  6) Major W. Ian Thomas, the adventurous life; and 7) D.L. Moody, the dynamic life.

The secret (which is not really secret) is available to all who claim the name of Christ, not merely a select few.  It is a matter of exchange.

“What is the exchanged life?” asked Edman. “Really, it is not some thing; it is some One. It is the indwelling of the Lord Jesus Christ made real and rewarding by the Holy Spirit…It is new life for old. It is rejoicing for weariness, and radiance for dreariness. It is strength for weakness, and steadiness for uncertainty…It is lowliness of spirit instead of self-exaltation, and loveliness of life because of the presence of the altogether Lovely One.”

 

 

 

 

Ghost in the Machine

As the Wheaton College community bids farewell to WETN, perhaps this is an appropriate moment to commemorate W9ZXR, the “other” ham radio station. Since its inception in 1937 until about 1980, ham radio station W9ZXR was located in the base of the Tower of Blanchard Hall. Students were responsible for scheduling and programming,  learning many of the skills of broadcasting. However, as various media expanded, interest in ham radio gradually diminished, and many of those involved with its operation simply shifted their activities to WETN, then located in the basement of the newly-constructed Billy Graham Center.

In the late 1970s, Col. Warren Schilling, assistant director of the Physical Plant, was tasked with locating and shutting down campus energy drains. Consequently electrician Gary Beeman was sent up the Tower to investigate. Entering the rooms at the base of the Tower, he was amazed to discover that the studio, dusty and forlorn, had been abandoned for some time, perhaps years. Even more amazing, he discovered that the transceivers and generator were still fully operational and, in fact, currently activated, humming quietly to silent airwaves. Indeed, he had discovered an enormous energy drain. According to Beeman, it was as though the last announcer simply stood up from the console and walked away, locking the door behind without a thought of returning. Beeman shut down the controls, snipped the necessary wiring and began the process of dismantling the equipment.

Off campus, the tradition continues locally with the Wheaton Community Radio Amateurs, who meet to promote the advancement of the hobby and science of amateur radio.

1939 postcard advertising ham radio station W9ZXR, broadcast from Blanchard Tower

WETN Signing Off

Ed McCully (left) speaks with Dick Gerig (right), WHON station manager, 1948

Operation of WHON, the Wheaton College radio station, commenced on October 2, 1947, after students advocated for approval from the administration. Located in a closet beneath the Pierce Chapel pipe organ, WHON 640 AM was the second radio station to air in DuPage County. Alerted by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System in Washington, DC, that the call letters, WHON, had been assigned to a commercial station, the staff changed the official designation to WETN on April 8, 1948. “Actually, WETN comes closer to spelling Wheaton than any other set of call letters,” Dick Gerig, station manager, remarked at the time.

Broadcasting initially to the campus and the local community for two or three hours per day, WETN eventually broadened, connecting for a time with WMBI, the radio station of Moody Bible Institute, to relay music, evangelistic preaching and other programming to a wider audience.

WETN announcer, late 1960s

One of the signature WMBI programs was “Songs in the Night,” originating from Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois. In 1958, WETN relocated to the basement of Breyer Hall, the chemistry building. But even with its impressive new facility, the station reached less than 1/4 of the campus community, earning the nickname “the weak squeak.”

Four years later the FCC granted WETN permission to switch to FM. After that the station covered athletic games, presidential campaigns, concerts, chapels and other significant events. In 1980, WETN again relocated, this time to the basement of the newly-constructed Billy Graham Center, boasting a modernized control board and sophisticated computer system, operated by students and faculty, airing its programming schedule 24 hours a day.

In the late 1990s, WETN moved to the internet, reaching a worldwide audience, including far-flung missionaries. However, because of shifting markets and the dizzying array of informational resources available in the years following, the Wheaton College administration recently decided to cease broadcasting its campus radio station. After 70 years of on-air service, WETN FM 88 will shut down in January, 2017.

J.R. Smith, former director of media resources, astutely observed in a 1996 interview that there are two WETNs. “One is on the air today in DuPage County,” he said. “The second exists in the memories of alumni and others.” Indeed, as WETN discontinues operation, it will hereon broadcast solely — and affectionately — on the airwaves of memory.

WETN staff, late 1970s

Prexy says, “Merry Christmas and fear not!”

President and Mrs. Edman decorate the tree, 1954.
President and Mrs. Edman decorate a tree, 1954.

Dr. V. Raymond Edman, fourth president of Wheaton College, wrote a brief devotional called “Prexy Says” for the Wheaton Alumni magazine. Here is his confident exhortation for December, 1959:

Of course we believe in angels – but do we?

The Christmas story abounds in references to angels who spoke to Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. The scriptures assure us that angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14).

They are our unseen but very real helpers; and we should believe in them Christmas Day and every day.

And here is his entry for December, 1960:

There is no need to be afraid! The Christmas story abounds in assurance for the apprehensive. The word to Zacharias was, “Fear not…” (Luke 1:13). To Mary it was, “Fear not…” (Luke 1:30) To Joseph it was, “…Fear not” (Luke 2:10). And to all of us it is, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10).

Afraid of something or somebody?

Fear not!

Project Evangel

The Evangel 4500, constructed by pilot-mechanic Carl Mortenson of Wycliffe Bible Translators, was the first twin-engine airplane specially designed for missionary use in the most remote, rugged areas of the world. Before Mortenson’s innovative engineering on the craft, small planes were limited to single-engine capability, susceptible to power failure during takeoff and landing on short jungle runways.

EvangelReceiving funding from several Chicago laymen, the Evangel 4500 was ready for its first major mission in 1969. Passengers for thetwo-month voyage to South America were pilot Mortenson, Dr. Paul Wright, chairman of the chemistry department  at Wheaton College, and nine other board members of Project Evangel.

Explaining the need for the plane, Wright remarked, “We don’t feel it’s right to expose missionaries to the hazards of a single engine plane. The Evangel 4500 can carry two passengers in addition to its 4 x 4 x 9 storage area, or the entire space can be used for passengers. It can take off with a full load in 498 feet. Its maximum altitude is 22,500 feet, but one with engine gone it can still fly at 7100 feet.” After the successful flight, Wright often lectured at local churches, telling the story of the unique airplane and its mission.

The Drum and I

This exotic object might resemble the genie’s bottle from the 1960s TV comedy, I Dream of Jeannie, but it is actually a drum. In 1946 diplomat Kenneth Landon traveled frequently to Thailand, attempting to define how that country might integrate into the United Nations. One trip involved attending the cremation of the newly deceased king and the coronation of his brother. During the immediate post-war years many Thai experienced tremendousdrum difficulties after surviving the Japanese invasion of their land. Attempting to re-establish their influence, the Thai often exercised hard decisions, such as offering artifacts to visitors they trusted. One family claimed that their lizard skin drum with its abalone mosaics was authentic to the monarchy of either King Mongut or his son, Prince Chulalongkorn, both featured in Margaret Landon’s classic novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which was later reworked by Rodgers and Hammerstein into the popular Broadway musical The King and I.

The family offered to sell Kenneth the drum which they assured him was a prized possession.  He was able to ship the drum to Washington, DC in the diplomatic pouch, thus avoiding the complications of a private sale. Kenneth and Margaret’s son, Will, received the drum as an inheritance from their estate.

The papers of Kenneth and Margaret Landon are available for research in Special Collections, Buswell Library. Thanks to Will Landon for providing the artifact and information.