Bethel College

(1935-1939) -- (18-21 years)

Chapter 4 Section D



by Glenn D. McMurry


Skating to Town

There were two theaters in downtown Newton. I couldn't afford the ritzy one, but I didn't care. In the afternoon the cheap one cost only ten cents. I was always excited when I had a dime to spare and could get to the theater on Saturday afternoon. There would be two or sometimes three features, a comedy and a serial. The serials were always adventure stories, and each episode ended with the hero in dire danger. Naturally, everyone was eager to see the next episode. I guess that was the forerunner of today's TV weekly or daily sitcoms and adventure shows. It was my big ambition to go to the Saturday afternoon show before hitching a ride to Burrton for the rest of the weekend. On one occasion, Grandma Deal, knowing how I loved to go to the movies and that I was usually short of money, gave me a whole dollar. What a thrill! I had enough to see ten shows.

The next problem, after getting the dime to go, was getting downtown from the campus. At times I would borrow a pair of roller skates and skate to the show. When I learned to skip the rough cracks in the sidewalk, the skates worked fairly well. Several skinned knees were a small price to pay to get to the movie.

Since my Uncle Joey had a bicycle shop in Newton, it occurred to me that he could loan me a bike. I asked, but I guess he didn't feel that I needed a handout. He was nice about it, I thought, but he was firm. He said he didn't have a bike to spare. I felt a little cheated as he had given my sister one some years before. That bike had long ago worn out, but I guess he figured he had done his duty toward his sister's kids.

I believe I should add here, that although Uncle Joey didn't give me a bike when I was at Bethel, he did leave me a sizable amount in his will. Much of the interest from that money is used by us since retirement for traveling, not by bike, but in our motorhome, in the air or on cruise ships.

Burrton Fun

I have to admit that I sometimes got homesick those early days at Bethel. It was very hard to get back home, but the weekends at Burrton, about 30 miles away saved the day for me. As a matter of fact, all during my four years at college, I often visited my Grandmother Deal's home in Burrton.

Since my Uncle Leo, the youngest of my mother's brothers, never married, he still made his home with grandma. He worked in the oil fields nearby when he was called. At other times he made a living by painting.

After her divorce, Aunt Nelle and her two younger sons also lived with Grandma Deal. Gene, the older brother was a loner and kept to himself. Marion wasn't like that. We did all kinds of things together those weekends. We would play games, and take long bicycle rides. Marion played the trumpet and I would help him with his music. He was quite good at it and really should have kept playing. Despite the fact that he rated high on the contests he entered, as he got older he got tired of playing and quit. That was sad, I thought.

My Uncle Ed's family lived nearby so I was able to visit with them, too. There were three kids in the family, Verga Beth, Jay, and Charles.

Indeed, those weekends in Burton allowed me to get well acquainted with my uncles, aunts and cousins, and I've always been glad for that.

Especially during my first year at college, when I could get a ride to Burrton on the weekend, I would take my dirty wash and pick up the food I needed for the following week. Mom and Aunt Nelle had an agreement. Since Ted was still living with my parents on the Hanston farm the first year I was at Bethel, Aunt Nelle, Ted's mother, in turn, would do my laundry and furnish some of my food.

There were some problems with the arrangement. A Cappella Choir or other activities kept me from going occasionally. Sometimes I would have to stay on campus to put in a few more work hours to keep my scholarship in good order. Even when I was free, getting to and from Burrton wasn't always easy. There were two students from Burrton, a brother and sister, who drove back and forth each day. That, usually, gave me an opportunity to get a ride, but they weren't really very cooperative. I never knew for sure whether they would bother with me. Several times when I had assumed that they would pick me up on Monday morning, they left me stranded. Sometime, when I missed them, I could hitch a ride elsewhere. However, I have one distinct remembrance of a Monday morning I missed my ride and had no luck hitchhiking. The only thing I could think to do was to call Uncle Ed. He lived on the old farm just south of grandma's house. At times Uncle Ed could be rather gruff, but deep down he had a heart of gold. This morning he was disgusted with me for missing my ride. I felt very hurt about the entire episode, and sorry that I had to ask him to make that sixty-mile trip. I didn't have much to say throughout that trip, but you can be sure I didn't ask him to give me a ride again.

Going Home by Train

Finding a way to go home to Hanston from college was very difficult. Of course, airplanes were out of reason. In fact, there were no planes flying in our area. Dodge City was the closest airport, but it was forty miles southwest of Hanston. Even if there had been planes, I wouldn't have had money for a ticket. Hitching a ride meant taking an almost sure chance of getting hung up somewhere between "here and there." I either had to wait for the folks to pick me up or attempt the train, and again, saving up enough money for a train ticket was no easy accomplishment.

Two accounts of going to Hanston come to mind. The first one was when I took a train all the way from Newton to Hanston, and the other one was when Ted and I attempted to hitchhike rides to get there.

I was excited about that train trip. I was homesick and had managed to save money for a ticket. However, that trip was somewhat like taking a cruise in a canoe across the Pacific. In one way it was worse, because on such a cruise I wouldn't have to change canoes. There was no problem with the beginning of the trip. Newton was a railroad center and the train went right to Larned. There I had to wait for the Hanston "jerky," as we called it. There was only one train running back and forth from Larned each day. That is, each day except Sunday. Since there was no mail delivery on Sunday, there was no train. The United States Mail Service dictated that schedule.

That day the train was late getting to Larned, and then I had to wait until all the cars were switched around into the proper order. Since I was anxious to be on the road, the wait seemed especially long. The distance from Larned to Hanston was only about 35 miles, but what an experience. That particular time there was no car for passengers so I had to ride in the caboose.

I had no previous idea just how rough those last miles would be. In the first place the rails were so uneven and rough that the engineer could go only about 15 miles an hour, even on a straight-a- way. Then, there were the necessary stops to dump and pick up the mail. Certainly, five minutes or so should have been adequate at each stop, but no! They were always switching cars around at each stop. After all, that train was the lifeblood for moving commerce from Larned to Jetmore and back.

The train was scheduled to get to Hanston about noon and that meant about six hours to make a 35-mile trip. I felt as if it took hours at each stop, and I was sure we'd be late. To my surprise, we arrived nearly on schedule, so I suppose the stops were routine. They just seemed unreasonable to me because I was so eager to get home.

Hitchhiking to Hanston

"Let's go to Hanston." Ted said one Wednesday afternoon prior to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. "I'll bet that if we start now, we can catch a ride to Larned, or maybe, even on to Hanston."

Although I was pessimistic about the idea, I reluctantly agreed. I knew he wanted to get to Hanston to visit his girl friend and I was always eager to see my folks.

We walked to Highway 50 as quickly as possible and as luck would have it, very soon a man picked us up. He took us all the way to Larned. We felt very confident now that we had it made. We were sure that very soon someone would come who was going on to Hanston. As it turned out, we didn't figure the odds very well.

After waiting quite awhile, I decided we should start to walk. Ted had a different philosophy, however.

"We should stay right here. This is a good place to thumb a ride," he insisted.

Well, time went on and no one stopped. Finally, I insisted we should walk. I reasoned that every step we took we'd be closer to Hanston and, maybe, while walking we'd have a better chance of being picked up.

"O.K.," Ted said. "You walk your dang feet off, and I'll wait for a ride. Then, when I get one, I won't be tired and you will be bushed. Don't worry. I'll pick you up along the road later."

Well, I was stupid enough to start walking quickly along as though I was going to beat Ted there. Soon a man did stop for Ted and they stopped for me. Just as we were feeling very lucky, the guy pulled to the side of the road and said, with a straight face, "This is where I turn off. I wish you lots of luck. There are not many people on the road at this time of the evening."

You know, that guy knew what he was talking about. Not only were there few cars, but those who did come by weren't inclined to pick us up. Even Ted began to get worried, and upon my insistence, he finally agreed that we should start to walk.

After walking what seemed to be a hundred miles, and watching the sun set, we both knew we were in trouble. Suddenly I thought I saw a small light in the distance.

"Look there, Ted. Is that a farmhouse? Maybe they have a telephone that we can use."

"Naw," Ted moaned. "That's only a star."

He was right, that little light was only a star. We trudged on. After what seemed like a hundred miles more, again I thought I saw a light.

"Look, there's a light on the right side of the road. See it?"

Ted strained to look and finally admitted it looked like it might be a farmhouse with a flickering light shining through its window. Now we were really getting excited. Although we wanted to run, we were so tired about all we could do was walk. The moon hadn't come out yet and walking in the near dark was a little scary, but we went on, hoping to get to a telephone.

Finally, we reached that farmhouse and sure enough we saw someone inside. I knocked on the door. Nothing happened. I knocked again. After what seemed an eternity, we heard a man's voice.

"Who's there?"

"May we please use your phone? We were hitchhiking from Bethel College in Newton, and got stranded at Larned," I said in sort of a begging way. "My folks live in Hanston and I hope to reach them so they can pick us up."

"How long have you been walking?" he asked as he opened the door for us.

"We're so tired, it seems like we've walked a hundred miles. I'm sure it's more like ten or fifteen," I answered.

"Certainly, you may use the telephone. It's right here in the next room."

How lucky for us he and his wife hadn't gone to bed that night. Being a typical farmer, he probably was used to retiring rather early. Had they decided to go to their bedroom and carry their gasoline light from the window where it was glowing so beautifully through the crisp dark night, we would never have seen it. That would have been a disaster for us, believe me.

"Where are you?" Dad asked. Since that telephone system was typical of those in the country at that time, he sounded miles away.

I knew we were somewhere between Larned and home, and that there were two little towns, Rozel and Burdette, along the road, but I had forgotten just which towns we had passed. The farmer explained that we had not gotten to Rozel as yet.

"Dad, we are just outside Rozel. Could you pick us up? We've been walking for miles and there are very few cars on the road. Those we have seen were all going the wrong direction."

"Sure, I'll come just as soon as Junior comes home from town with the car. Now just where are you?" Dad asked again.

"We're just on the other side of Rozel. I'm sure you can't miss us."

As soon as we hung up, Dad realized he didn't know how to interpret those instructions--"just on the other side of Rozel." Were we east or west of Rozel? Of course, he couldn't call back because we hadn't given him a phone number. How stupid of me to give such poor directions!

After thanking the farmer, we walked the half-mile to the highway and headed west. Again, should we stand there like a totem pole or walk? We were getting cold so we decided that we should walk to keep warm. The moon was just beginning to put out a slight glow in the east and, at last, we felt everything was going to be just fine. Dad was on his way to pick us up. Thank Heavens!

Can you believe that it wasn't long before a car offered us a ride? "Hop in, where are you headed?"

"Hanston," Ted said.

"Wait," I quickly said. "We can't do that. Dad is picking us up and he will miss us. He will drive all the way to Larned and back looking for us. No, we must wait for him. Thanks, anyway."

We continued to walk towards Hanston. An occasional car showed up in the distance, but not Dad. We were getting worried and even more tired. What in the world happened? He should have been here before this.

After more walking, which my body, specifically my feet, told me was another hundred miles, I spotted a field of corn shocks to the left of the road.

"Ted, let's rest. Let's just sit down and rest awhile. We can watch for Dad and run quickly back to the road when he comes."

"Great, I'm bushed and getting colder and colder," Ted replied.

We crossed the road, slipped through the fence and headed to the nearest corn shock. "Look, Ted, let's burrow a hole in that shock and keep warm."

As we sat waiting and getting warm, we both went to sleep hidden within that shock of corn. What a beautiful corn shock. It was a miracle made in Heaven, just for us.

I don't know how long I had slept. All I know is that I awoke hearing the sound of a car coming along the road. I jumped out of that corn shock and ran toward the road waving my hands. It was Junior, by beautiful brother. He had been late getting home from town, but he had come as soon as he learned we were in trouble. Of course, Junior had been in a dilemma. Just where were we, just out of Rozel? Was that east or west of the town? Oh, well! We found him and he found us. We were all relieved.

I decided right then that I would never try hitchhiking home again. I learned that those were wide plains out there in western Kansas, and that it was no fun to walk along those lonely roads, especially in the dark. No, from now on I'd get home some other way or just stay at college.

Snowball Dare

One hilarious tale that was told and retold on the campus was about a "snowball" dare.

Bethel College boys were known to pull pranks and make dares just as other boys did under similar situations. Being a Christian college attended by supposedly Christian students made absolutely no difference so far as pulling harmless pranks was concerned. Boys will be mischievous at times regardless of their religion.

There were several men's dorms on campus, and this incident concerns the one called the Whitehouse. That was the dorm where I roomed, and, incidentally, I always considered it the dorm that housed students with moderate means. I thought the Leisy Home and the Western Home dorms were for the more affluent students. That may or may not have been true. However, it was true that during my college days "living high on the hog" wasn't one of my pleasures.

The administration building, known as the Ad building, was on the north end of the main campus road. The Whitehouse Dorm was a long block west of the Ad building.

The weather on the night of the "snowball" dare was usual for wintertime in Kansas. A very cold wind was blowing snow from the north making the evening quite miserable. Some of the guys on the top floor of the Whitehouse began daring each other to strip naked, place a snowball on the top step of the Ad building, and get back without getting caught. That was a "chicken dare" if I ever heard one. It was like trying to beat a train at the crossing. Don't ever try it, because there's a great chance that you'll lose the race.

The dare soon turned into a bet and when the stakes got to $5.00, one guy decided that was too good to pass up. He stripped off his clothes, including his shoes. The hard snowball was prepared in front of the dorm. Then with an appropriate send off, he headed toward the steps of the Ad building.

Remember, he was naked as a jaybird, the north wind was blowing the snow on the sidewalk and street, and it was very cold. The obvious thing to do was run like a hyena and complete his task. He raced down the sidewalk, rushed up the twenty-some steps in front of the Ad building, deposited the snowball on the top step, and started to head back to the dorm.

My first memory of the snowball incident was rather vague. I couldn't remember who the student was and whether he got caught. It seemed to me that President Kaufman had stepped out of his front door for fresh air and had seen the naked guy on his run. I remembered that he mentioned the situation in his talk at the next morning's chapel service. He had a rather dry wit as he preached and would include what he considered interesting tidbits in his sermons. That morning the good doctor, in telling about the last evening's escapade, had dressed it in such a way that many of us had trouble trying to get the point. In other words, his remarks were made only for those involved in the incident. It wasn't long, however, before the meaning of his words became clear as news of the escapade spread throughout the entire campus.

Some 56 years after this incident happened, I visited Charlie Tubbs in his home, and read my version of the story to him.

"I was the guy that put that snowball on the Ad building steps," Charlie said to me. "You know, just as I turned to go back down the steps, the librarian, who had been working late, opened the door and caught me face to face, naked. And guess what! She squealed to the president."

How surprised I was to find that Charlie was the victim of that bet. The many times I had told the story I always said I didn't know who did it and whether he was punished. After all, what's so wrong about running naked in the snow? I had always supposed that the president was just amused over the whole thing and after his remarks in chapel had let it drop. Well, Charlie also put me straight on that matter.

"I certainly was punished!" he told me. "Kaufman called me into his office the next morning. After lecturing me soundly, he grounded me for two months, meaning I couldn't leave the campus. He also tried to get Coach Unruh to keep me from being captain of the football squad, but that didn't work."

Charlie also had a few well-chosen words to describe his thoughts about the lady who had squealed on him.

Incidentally, he said he did collect the $5.00, and in those days that was lots of money to a college student.

Experiments in Hypnotism

I loved Dr. Schellenberg's abnormal psychology class. He was a good teacher, and the subject of abnormal psychology was very interesting to me. I don't know how I happened to take the class, but I worked hard in it and enjoyed every minute of it.

"In our next class we will discuss the phenomenon of hypnotism," he said one day. "Read the entire chapter and tomorrow we will discuss any questions you may have."

Oh, boy! I had always wanted to know something about how that stuff worked. This was my chance.

I got right down to business and read with great interest the hypnotism chapter. I really wanted to learn how to hypnotize a person.

"This course will require an oral report on a subject of your choice," the professor told us.

I didn't think I'd have any trouble with that. I read what I could find and soaked in all the information I could get from the professor on hypnotism. Not only was I preparing for a report, but also I was planning to try out what I had learned.

I got an "A" on that report. "That's a very good report," Dr. Schellenberg told me. "It sounds is if you really know all about how to hypnotize a person."

Since the professor thought I knew just how it was to be done, I wasted no time in trying my new-found knowledge. Just imagine, maybe I could control someone by mere suggestion. Surely it couldn't be that easy. I had to find out.

Ed and a couple others were in my room one morning and I mentioned how easy it would be to put someone into a trance.

"Ed, would let me put you into a trance?" I queried of him.

"Sure, what shall I do?"

"Just lie down on the cot."

I had memorized thoroughly the several steps that would put him to sleep and make him perform simple tasks. To prepare him properly, I told him he must listen only to my voice.

"At the count of three you will go into a deep sleep. From then on at the count of three, you will obey any command I give you," I explained.

I then counted to three and it seemed to work just as the book had said.

"Ed," I then continued, "at the count of three, I am going to ask you to hold out your arm and it will be suspended unaided. You will not move. Your arm will be rigid. It will remain in that position until I tell you to relax it."

To my amazement, it worked! Not only did that part work, but also after I brought him out of the trance, he remembered absolutely nothing about what had happened. Wow, I was a hypnotist, for sure.

I tried hypnotizing several of the guys and it usually worked to a certain degree. The most exciting time was when I tried post-hypnotic suggestion.

First I put Ed into a trance, and then I gave him the suggestion. "Ed, after you awaken, I will say the word 'window.' You will then turn around, grab the light chain, and turn on the light. You won't understand why you are doing it. You will just do it."

After awakening him, I waited several minutes and then gave the command "window." He immediately pulled the chain, turning on the light. There were several witnesses when I gave Ed the command. Believe me, all of us were surprised. When I asked him why he had turned on the light, he wasn't even aware he had done it. A few minutes later I said the word again, and sure as heck, Ed turned the light on again.

Later, I admitted to Dr. Schellenberg some of the things I had been doing. He listened with interest, and then warned, "Although what you did was probably harmless, I suggest that you be careful, especially with the post hypnotic suggestion."

I took his advice, and from then on I confined my newfound powers to more simple experiments.

Although my experiment on Kuhnie was not hypnotism, it did put him into a trance of a kind. Actually he passed out. I'm not sure where we got such an idea, but someone said that a person would go to sleep if you pressed on his neck just below his ears. One day I decided to try it.

"I'll bet I can put you to sleep this way, Kuhnie," I said as I placed my hands on either side of his neck. "Hold your breath and count to ten."

It worked, all right. In fact it worked too well. When I pressed, he dropped to the floor with a thud. It was several moments before he came to, and found several scared guys around him trying to revive him. Of course, I was the most scared of all, and you can be sure I never tried that dumb trick again.


The Problem

Close to graduation time I was called into the office by Dean Goetzs, and told that I didn't have enough credits to graduate. I was short five credits. I was absolutely stunned.

"What do you mean, I can't graduate?" I blurted out. "Do you mean to tell me that nobody bothered to check until now, and that I can't graduate with my class?"

Not only was I stunned and disgusted, I was mad! I told the dean that I had always been told everything was just fine, and if there were problems, the office would warn me of them before the last semester. I knew that I wasn't a straight "A" student, but I did know that I had no "D's" or "F's" during those four years. After all the counseling I had gotten since arriving at Bethel, I simply couldn't believe what I was hearing.

A typical report card

"Glenn, it was your responsibility to read the catalog and understand the requirements for graduation," the dean said.

There was nothing I could do to convince him that the college officials had at least a little responsibility in the situation.

"Well, what can I do about it at this late date?" I asked.

"There is one thing you can do, Glenn," he said. "If you will agree to select a five-hour class and complete it during the summer session, the college will permit you to graduate with the class. However, your diploma folder will be empty. As soon as your class is completed, you will receive your sheepskin."

I left the dean's office dejected and not knowing what to do. I was embarrassed and very hurt. My friends and my folks would all find out my predicament. Just what could I do?

Bennie to the Rescue

Bennie Bargen, my wonderful mentor and friend came to my rescue. He was an expert teacher and he knew my capabilities. I had worked for and with him for four years. I cherish the close relationship that had been built between us, and I'm also indebted to him for his support when I was in trouble at graduation time.

"Glenn," Bennie said. "I will help you. I will tutor you through a five-hour class in accounting and then after finishing the lessons required, I will give you an examination. I'm sure you will get a passing grade."

So it was arranged and I was allowed to go through the graduation exercises with my class, and receive a blank folder.

Egads! When I took at a look at that accounting textbook, all of two inches thick, loaded with numbers to be added and arranged into tables, my emotions began to build up. If I was ever going to cry about something, this was a good time to do it. I wasn't even good in arithmetic in grade and high school. For some reason adding numbers and getting correct answers was always a problem for me. There must have been a thousand problems in that book to be solved and my stomach began to tighten up. I've got to figure out some way to get out of this dilemma, but how? I was going to have to work myself silly for a couple of weeks doing something I absolutely hated to do, manipulate numbers.

Bennie was a perfectionist in everything he did. He was so organized that he wouldn't even sit at the breakfast table until everything was in perfect order. I didn't take any classes from him, but I watched him teach it.

"Errors must be scrupulously rooted out, logged and analyzed," he would say.

For every error there was a reason and he had an immediate remedial procedure. I knew he would expect some of that perfection to rub off on to me, and it did. I had begun to adopt his methods of doing things. Actually, I became a Bennie clone in many ways. Since I had worked with him and learned his ways for nearly four years, I decided he surely could help me get through that accounting class with at least a passing grade.

"But I don't have the money to pay the class fee, let alone pay my room and board," I said.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," Bennie said. "We would love to have you stay with us while you are taking that class, and we can use some help around the house."

Bennie and Esther had three kids, Ralph, Eldon and Joyce. Since I had already learned to love the family and the family liked me, the arrangement was great for both of us. I would stay there the two or three weeks it took for me to pass that class, and in return I would do some odd jobs to help them. Because of Bennie's crippled condition, there were many little things that were hard for him to do. We had lots of fun working and playing together those weeks. As a matter of fact, we took a mini-vacation from my studies and I drove Bennie and his family to Mountain Lake, Minnesota, to visit his sister and his old home. Then Bennie put me back on that hard, straight road that led to my passing the accounting course.

It was tough, but I made it, although my final grade was only a "D." I didn't really care, because that was all I needed to go to the registrar's office and get my diploma. So, at last, it was "Goodbye, Bethel," and "Hello" to the world of work.

My Diploma

Shortly before graduation, the school paper interviewed some of us, asking "What will you most remember about Bethel.? "

My answer was, "The experience I've gained. My school work is only about one-fourth of what I've learned."

As I look back now I realize how true that assessment of my four years at Bethel College was. I have many people to thank for all those wonderful experiences.

End of Chapter Four