Chapter 17: Our Life at University

At this point in our lives, my life changed completely. Chuck was preaching at University Christian Church and we lived at the church parsonage on Denker. I did not work outside the home because the family was still too much for me to take care of. However, it happened that Chuck began having problems with pain in his left arm. I tried to get him to go to a doctor to find out why, but he refused. Perhaps he thought he might be told something he didn’t want to hear. At any rate, I had to agree to go back to school to prepare myself to get a job before he would go to the doctor to have a checkup. His idea was that if something bad were to happen to him, I could step in and provide for the family. It took a lot of thought and prayer, but we finally decided I should go into teaching.

I could be gone from home the same hours as the children, and it would take little outside help to care for them. So, I agreed to go to Pepperdine College to get a teaching credential as a public school teacher. I could go to school while the children were in school and take classes when they were taking their classes. So that’s what I did. Chuck went to the doctor to have his checkup. He learned that he had muscle strain from carrying the children. Merilee was probably about three or four years old by that time, and if he were carrying her, it is possible he could have been having muscle pains because of it.

What we feared might be symptomatic of a heart attack was not that at all. I would not be left without a husband after all, or have to provide for myself and the children on my own. Well, I praised God for that. But for some reason, I went ahead with the plans we had made. I was no longer to be a stay-at-home mother and wife. Instead, I was to become a working mother of four.

Going back to school turned out to be quite a different thing from what I had expected. I enjoyed my schooling at Pepperdine, and it was like going to school all over again, only this time, it was quite interesting. I appreciated my courses thoroughly and got much more out of them than classes I had taken in previous years. I majored in Education and minored in social studies.

I took my teacher’s training at Seventy-fourth Street School in Los Angeles, and my specialty was the fifth grade, which I loved. The second grade was my second love. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Education in 1963, I got a job teaching for LA City School District at 107th Street School in Watts. This was a new school, having students coming from two different schools. I didn’t realize it at the time, but bringing those two schools together created its own set of problems.

At first, I really loved the experience, but then I found I had many more students in my class than I had when in student teaching, and it was not like that experience at all. My student teaching had been done at a school under ideal conditions unlike anything found in the real world. The children in my class at 107th Street were widely different in their abilities and backgrounds, and although I could group them and teach them according to their levels, there were just too many. One girl in particular was too old for the class and just wouldn’t stay in her seat. I learned later that I should never have accepted her in my class in the first place because she was too mature for the rest of the children, but I didn’t know that at the time. Also, it may be that this was the Lord’s way of helping me to learn to endure hardship which I never would have learned in any other way.

I discovered that some of the children in the class were beating up on others after school on the way home. The blacks were teaming up against the Mexican children. On talking to the principal about this, we decided it would be best to let the Mexican children leave earlier so they could get home before the others left school, and that took care of that. Overall, the pressures I was bearing in my class were too much for me to handle. I ended up going home after school and just crying and crying. One of my fellow teachers told me that the experiences I was having in one semester here were more than I would have at any other school in three years.

The following year, I asked for a Special Education Class because I knew it would be easier for me to handle. I had third grade level children who had “special” abilities, and there were only 18 children in the classroom, instead of 40. I was able to provide new experiences for these children by bringing in special materials that I got at the children’s museum at Exposition Park. I enjoyed my class, and the children did well. I used video materials and other things they could see and touch. They were able to make and build other things for themselves. That was a very enjoyable year.

When we were still going to Crenshaw Christian Church, Chuck and the boys joined the Indian Guides, a father/son bonding organization. That was a very good program. Chuck was in it with them, although he never really was quite like the rest of the Dads somehow. They also got into Little League that year, although it might have been only Ken who played. He played his Little League games at a park where there was a swimming pool. Once, when Ken went swimming, his experience wasn’t too good. He had difficulty with some bullies, and after he got dunked under the water several times, he didn’t want to go there anymore.

All of the time I had been going to Pepperdine, and then teaching at 107th Street School, Chuck was preaching at University Christian Church, so we had two incomes. I was extremely proud of the fact that I was able to add a substantial income to the family, and all my college education had finally paid off, giving me the highest paid starting salary as a teacher. At this point, it would be possible for Chuck to go back to school full time while I was the main breadwinner, and we could be better prepared for our future as missionaries.

At that time, we lived in the parsonage on Denker, and the children were going to school at 87th Street School. On Sunday nights, after church at the old location, we were often invited to go over to the home of Sterling and Marian Allen. There we enjoyed having good fellowship and hamburgers. Our kids enjoyed their kids, and to this day, we still pray for their children, even though their parents have long since been gone.

One couple we will never forget was Erna and Dick Branson. They were having problems, and the church helped them out with their food supply. I got so that I went with Erna to help her purchase food supplies, and then one summer, when they were having particular problems, we even took three of their children into our home and took care of them until they could get back on their feet again. We took Douglas, Susie and Debbie to be with us. They went everywhere we went, and I remember taking them to the park where they went swimming in the wading pool. Our children and they played well together and had a lot of fun. They seemed just like siblings to our children, and they seemed like our own children, too.

When the church was at the corner of Santa Barbara and Budlong, the old location, I taught the Young People’s Class, and really enjoyed that a lot. There were several in that class for whom we were looking for spouses that would be just right for them. We started praying for that, and it wasn’t long before Donna Sunkler married Gordon Hahn and Betty Reeve married Sheldon Welch. I couldn’t really take credit for getting them together, but at least I did pray about them for several years.

The church was in the process of selling the property to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and we had an agreement with them that until we could move into our new location, we could meet in their facility on days and nights they were not using it. On one Wednesday night, our group was having our Bible study and prayer meeting in one part of the building while the Seventh Day Adventists were having their boys group in another part. The youth were all dressed up in uniforms, and when Merilee, our youngest daughter, happened to go into the room where they were meeting, she saw them all and said, “What are all you cops doing here?” She didn’t realize who they were and that this was really their church building now, and they had every right to be there.

We had Junior Church downstairs while the adults had their service upstairs in the main sanctuary. Mildred Tucker was our choir director, and I would sing in the special number and then go downstairs to work with the Junior Church. Elders brought us the Lord’s Supper for those who had accepted Christ and were Christians already, so we got in on that, too. The Junior Church service was wonderful. Later on, Esther DeBar took over that program and did a fantastic job. When we moved to the new location, Gail Ruhlen took over Bible school and Junior Church administration, a post she held for over forty years.

When the church finally got into its own building on Wooster Street, right off Centinela Avenue, we had a wonderful time of fellowship and praise to the Lord during our services. Gordy Little often led the singing and Vera Hulburt played the piano. Often after the Sunday evening services, we would go to someone’s home to continue our praise and prayer together. We would have snacks and the kids would play together and watch TV. This was really rich fellowship. Going back to our children’s school, I served as a room mother at 87th Street School one year, and later was the chairman of the room mothers. We had a tremendous Easter celebration that year, and all the children had a wonderful Easter egg hunt. Because I was the chairman, I had to call a lot of women in the school for one reason or another, and some of the mothers brought their problems to me. I think I acted more as a counselor for mothers from school that year than I did in all my years as minister’s wife.

When Kenny was in kindergarten, his teacher used to send notes home about his behavior. She sent a lot of them! I went to school to talk to her about this, and we decided that, to save paper and ink, she would send a note when he was good rather than when he wasn’t. When he got five good notes, we would take all our children to play miniature golf. It wasn’t long until Ken was bringing good notes home almost every day, and almost every Sunday night after church, we would take the children miniature golfing. Peer pressure really worked to bring about behavioral change. As an added benefit, the entire family enjoyed the good experience of going miniature golfing.

The year Ken was in first grade, he used to tell us of all the funny things that a certain boy named George did in his class. We would laugh and laugh at some of the things he told about, and it got to be an interesting thing to learn what George would do next. After about two weeks had gone by of that first semester, I got a letter from Ken’s teacher asking me to come in to see her. I did so, and when I got there, she began to tell me of some of the things that he had been doing in class. “Well,” I said, “I don’t think he could be anything like George is!” Her answer was, “George? Who is George? There is no George in our class.” I realized that instead of George, it had been Ken himself who had been doing all those things he had told about at home. And I had been wondering what kind of a mother George must have. And all along, it was I.

We had many good years living at the house on Denker and many good memories. We had dinners in the backyard, and counted the planes and jets coming in to land at the Los Angeles Airport. The kids made friends of all sizes and colors, as did Chuck and I. But we were unknowingly getting prepared for our future.

We heard that Robert Morse and his wife, missionaries to China, Tibet, Burma and Thailand, were home on furlough and staying at Pacific Christian College campus in Long Beach. We decided we wanted to talk to him about Chuck going back to school to get a doctoral degree. We were, in a sense, asking the Lord to work through Robert to know what we should do about our future.

On July 4th, 1962, we went down to the Long Beach campus, and talked to Robert. He had just completed a degree in Linguistics at Indiana University, and he was excited about what he had learned and how it could be applied. He shared this with us, and after talking to Robert Morse, Chuck decided he wanted to get graduate degrees in linguistics. And so it was that we started to plan our departure from University Christian Church. The church had moved from the location at Santa Barbara and Budlong and gone to 5831 W. Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, which was just across from Culver City. They had the first of several buildings completed, the membership was growing, and they were in good spirits, and we praised God for that. We loved the folks there dearly.We knew Chuck needed to go to UCLA full time, but we also knew that UCC needed a full time minister, and he could not do both simultaneously. He had been accepted at the UCLA graduate school, and it was time to start. I myself was employed full time with Los Angeles City School District, so I could take care of the family finances. It was a difficult thing to do, but we eventually turned in our resignation at University. We moved from the parsonage to a house in Westchester, and Chuck began work on his Master’s Degree in Linguistics at UCLA.

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