Great Britain offers an abundance of superb mystery novelists, but after Agatha Christie, the reigning contemporary “Queen of Crime” was undoubtedly P.D. James, who published 22 books, fiction and non-fiction, and several short stories between 1962 and her death in 2014.
A committed Anglican and lay patron of the Prayer Book Society, James’s stories usually feature at least one religious character. In fact, her hero, Adam Dalgliesh, Detective Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard and poet, is the son of a vicar. The dynamics of good vs. evil are typically explored in her books. As such, P.D. James is often compared to another Anglican mystery writer from an earlier generation, Dorothy L. Sayers, whose papers are archived in the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.
Sometime in the early 1980s, Barbara Reynolds, president of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society, introduced Dr. Beatrice Batson, Chair of the English Department at Wheaton College, to P.D. James at a soiree in London. Batson and James immediately fell into a comfortable friendship, discussing books and faith.
Eventually Batson, ever seeking opportunities to expose her students to fine literature, boldly asked James if she would like to travel to the States to teach a course on creative writing for one semester at Wheaton College. To Batson’s amazement, James quickly agreed.
However, with Batson’s retirement encroaching in 1985, administrative plans fell apart and P.D. James never visited the campus.
Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, late professor of English and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center on the campus of Wheaton College, is closely associated with seven British authors, particularly C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers and J.R.R. Tolkien. In light of those interests, Kilby is not often mentioned in relation to American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams (1911-1983), author of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, Night of the Iguana and many other successful plays, short stories and films.
But there is a connection, however slight. As this Christmas card to a colleague reveals, Clyde and Martha Kilby’s roots sprawled deeply throughout the rich southern soil that also produced one of America’s greatest writers.
After years of profligate sexual activity and prescription drug abuse, Williams famously sought to “get my goodness back” by joining the Catholic Church in 1969. Evidently, Williams hoped to vivify not only his personal piety, but also his lagging creative and professional career. Instead he found himself more interested in ritual and architecture than doctrine. As a result, his renewed interest in spirituality did not solidify and he descended into a drugged stupor throughout most of the 1970s, only periodically producing new work.
If Tennessee Williams had discovered the writings of Lewis, Sayers, Tolkien and the other authors represented in Clyde Kilby’s Wade Center, perhaps his desire for a lively, enduring goodness might’ve permanently settled his disquietude for the final act of his life.
According to the website for the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center, the rectory in 1993 was in danger of being torn down to accommodate a church expansion. In an effort to preserve this historic literary landmark, the yellow and blue gingerbread home was loaded onto flatbed trailers and moved to Main Street, where it was restored. Three months after the grand opening, Tennessee Williams was honored with a U.S. postage stamp, and a public ceremony was held in the home.
Recently honored with the designation of a National Literary Landmark, the home serves as the official Welcome Center for Columbus.
100 years ago today, teacher and evangelist Oswald Chambers passed away while serving as a chaplain in Egypt during World War I. Chambers was born on July 24, 1874, to Clarence and Hannah Chambers in Aberdeen, Scotland. Chambers’ best known work, My Utmost for His Highest, has stayed in print since its first publication in Britain in 1927. It has been translated into over forty languages and ranks in the top ten of religious bestsellers in the United States with millions of copies in print—becoming a Christian classic.
In October 1915 Oswald traveled to Cairo, Egypt to work with soldiers through the YMCA. Two months after Oswald’s arrival, his wife, Biddy and two-year old daughter, Kathleen joined him and together they began a ministry among the thousands of soldiers stationed there. While in Egypt Chambers served the soldiers as a counselor, pastor, and teacher. He was available daily to meet with them and held daily bible studies.
Though there were others from the YMCA assisting in the work, it was demanding and took a toll on Chambers’ health as can be seen by his tired and drawn appearance. One comfort was that Biddy and Kathleen were in Egypt with him. On October 29, 1917 Oswald was taken to a Red Cross hospital in Cairo with severe pains in his abdomen. An emergency appendectomy was performed that evening, and Oswald began to recover. A week later he suffered a series of relapses from a blood clot in his lung, and he died on November 15, 1917. Word was spread to England and abroad by cable that read “Oswald in His Presence.”
One friend wrote in his diary that he was shaken by Oswald’s death, not with “hopeless sorrow or resentment, but sheer staggerment.” 100 soldiers were a part of the funeral cortege while Samuel Zwemer, a missionary to Muslims, spoke at his graveside service. His life was described as the “finest commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.”
Those assembled at the grave sang Psalm 121 from the Scottish Psalter:
I to the hills will lift mine eyes
From whence doth come mine aid.
My safety cometh from the Lord,
Who heav’n and earth hath made.
Thy foot he’ll not let slide, nor will
He slumber that thee keeps.
Behold, he that keeps Israel,
He slumbers not, nor sleeps.
The Lord thee keeps, the Lord thy shade
On thy right hand doth stay:
The moon by night thee shall not smite,
Nor yet the sun by day.
The Lord shall keep thy soul; he shall
Preserve thee from all ill
Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep for ever will.
In many ways, Chambers’ death should have been lost to our memories amidst the staggering losses of World War I. But this is not the case. Though an accomplished teacher his writings and name are more known today than when he was alive. All of the published writings of Oswald Chambers come from the sermons and lessons he gave, which Biddy took down verbatim in pitmanic shorthand (up to 250 words a minute) and then transcribed after she and Kathleen returned to England. The vast majority were published posthumously.
On October 8, 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan came to Wheaton College at the invitation of the campus Republicans. His visit came after receiving his party’s nomination during the fall campaign season and was covered in the Record student newspaper. Edman Chapel was filled early in the afternoon by students and area residents eager to see and hear the former California governor. State and county political figures, including Illinois governor James Thompson, filled the platform and spoke at some length when Reagan failed to appear at the scheduled time. A busy day of campaigning, which had begun in Youngstown, Ohio, delayed his arrival by one hour.
The governor’s whistle-stop visit was accompanied by numerous religious references within the first few sentences of his speech. He spoke of deliverance, rebirth and C.S. Lewis–words that were well-chosen and that resonated with the audience. Candidate Reagan’s address centered not on war or the proliferation of nuclear arms, but on education.
This work of educational excellence and missionary work is truly in the tradition of the biblical injunction: ‘Go ye, therefore and teach all nations.’
Only if the people closest to the problems of education — teachers, parents, school boards, and boards of governors — are allowed to make the basic educational decisions, will the quality of education improve.
He praised Wheaton as a school with a mission. Reagan promised, if elected, to form a task force to analyze federal educational programs. He expressed support for tuition tax credits for parents sending children to non-public schools.
What we want is so simple, so elementary. All we want is to live in freedom and in peace, to see to it that our nation’s legitimate interests are protected and promoted. We want to worship God in our own way, lead our own lives, take care of our families and live in our own style, in our own community, without hurting anyone or anyone hurting us…We want the kind of personal security human beings can reasonably expect in a system of economic freedom and democratic self-government.
At the conclusion of his address Reagan laughed when presented with a stuffed mascot-sized replica of Perry Mastodon by Brad Bright, president of the campus Republicans. Obligated to hurry off to his next campaign stop, the visitor had no opportunity to tour the campus or chat informally with students.
Reagan would defeat Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter the following month in the general election. President Carter himself came to campus twelve years later to give the Pfund Lecture.
This past summer on July 5, Irina Ratushinskaya, former Russian poet and novelist who survived four years in a Soviet prison camp, died in Moscow.
Her heroic story captured the attention of the West after being arrested in 1983 for anti-Soviet propaganda. She composed hundreds of poems while in prison and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband. She was released before the Iceland summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and would later meet the U.S. President in Washington, D.C. after securing her freedom.
The papers of Irina Ratushinskaya came to Special Collections, Buswell Library, beginning in the summer of 1992 through contacts of Associate Professor of Communication Emerita, Myrna Grant. They include works of poetry, correspondence, articles, audio and artwork. As well, they include a memoir of her time in prison, entitled Grey Is The Color Of Hope. The largest portion of the collection is devoted to secondary material about Ms. Ratushinskaya while she was imprisoned and as human rights individuals advocated for her release.
One of her poems speaks to the harsh labor conditions and her periodic hunger strikes at the prison camp:
And I will tell of the first beauty I saw in captivity.
A frost-covered window! No spy-holes, nor walls,
Nor cell-bars, nor the long endured pain —
Only a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 serviceHollberg 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.
In the years following World War II, returning soldiers enrolled at Wheaton College to pursue their college degrees. While the popular G.I. Bill assisted in paying the tuition and living expenses of the veterans, many of the former soldiers’ wives also worked outside the home to support their families. Wheaton College President V. Raymond Edman observed this service, and to acknowledge the wives’ significant contribution to their husbands’ education, created the “Putting Husbands Through” or “PHT” honorary degree.
One recipient of this degree was Joy Henricksen. Joy worked at the Wheaton Academy to support her husband Charles’ Wheaton education. Charles had served in the Air Force as a bomber pilot in Europe during the war where he had flown 30 missions. After returning from the war, he married Joy, before enrolling at the University of Arizona and then transferring to Wheaton. When Charles graduated from Wheaton in 1949, President Edman presented Joy with her “PHT” certificate.
Joy and Charles’ daughter Susan reported that her mother was always proud of this recognition. Joy even directed that it be mentioned in her obituary and in the eulogy at her funeral. Susan recently donated her mother’s cherished certificate to the College Archives, where it witnesses to Joy’s service, as well as the contributions of other World War II-era wives.
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.
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.
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.