Memories of PBTS from the 1930s
Pastor Carl Wheeler (class of 1934)
Part two in a three part series: Memories of PBTS from the 1930s. Today I am posting about Pastor Carl Wheeler who graduated in from PBTS in 1934.
I first heard about Pastor Wheeler from reading a Touchstone interview his nephew Don Hall did with him and his wife Florence, who went to be with Lord October 2005. I was excited reading about John A. Davis from someone who knew him. I had been emailing back and forth with Don Hall asking what he knew about John A. Davis from his research and he mentioned that he would give me his Uncle Carl’s address. Naturally I thought he would be emailing me his postal address, but no it was his email address! Wow! I was excited. An Alumnus from 1934 had an email address. I was thrilled. We began a great correspondence over email during the later part of the summer of 2006. By the beginning of the school year we had exchanged many emails and I had set up an interview with him over the phone for September. He related many stories over email before our phone interview. One was about him and Billy Sunday:
A PBTS student and I had privilege of a Youth Ministry in what may have been the last campaign of Billy Sunday. A converted well known baseball player, got saved and became an Evangelist which dominated and influenced in the early part of last century. In our ministry in the campaign in the Bronx, N.Y. 1934 we transported "Billy and Ma." Sunday as they were called, from his hotel to the Church. A great honor and here is some thing from my "collection' which is a glowing tribute to the Savior, Billy loved. I have and autographed picture which I treasure and his signature in my well worn Scofield Bible.
In another email over the summer I had asked about the school split of 1932. He recalled this:
The School split during my summer vacation from being a freshman. So much going on in every way and a big problem what to do the next fall. A crucial decision I had to make while sitting alone in a borrowed car and I can't remember the name of that Main Street or avenue. So thankful my steps turned toward Practical and a new Semester amidst questionable circumstances with many of my former teachers not there... My mind says "Floral Ave." Right?
So on Floral Ave Pastor Wheeler prayed and continued to go to PBTS. One other email I received gave me a chuckle. Pastor Wheeler wrote:
Am such a novice. At School learned much about Israelites, Canaanites, Jebusites but know little about Megabytes...Am pre school age in that realm.
Yet, he is the first person I know that is 94 years old that knows how to email and instant message people. I do not know of anyone else. Some of his emails sound like they are from someone that is my age in the fashion they are written. Pastor Wheeler and I became great friends over the internet by the beginning of the school year.
It would be the first Alumni phone interview I would do. It was on Thursday, September 7, 2006
Great energy I heard over the line. Pastor Wheeler told me he was born January 20, 1912 and I could not believe it. I would have thought he was only in his 60s by the energy in his voice. He was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania and grew up there before coming to New York to PBTS. His brother Clyde had come to PBTS in the 1920s and had graduated in 1926. Pastor Wheeler also mentioned that one of his oldest brothers was named Earl, and he was killed in WWI. The name Earl was passed on to his nephew Earl Wheeler who is on the Board here at Davis College. It was through the death of his brother that he was able to come to PBTS. God works in interesting ways and usually the ways we will not or do not want Him working in.
Pastor Wheeler remembers going to school for the Summer Conferences. His brother Clyde did much with the Student’s League of Many Nations, while he attended PBTS. He would go around and put up posters to get areas ready for the League’s arrival months ahead of time. Yet, it would be the calling of the Lord to serve Him that drew Pastor Wheeler to attend the alma mater of his brother.
He also mentioned how the League came to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania on several occasions. It was a fasted paced program with flags and patriotism for the countries they represented. It was a three fold service according to Pastor Wheeler that had songs and testimonies of what God had done in their lives. It never dragged, because Dr. John A. Davis was a fast moving kind of person. There would be an appeal for others to accept Christ during the time and also an appeal for others to join in the work of the ministry of Christ. After 80 years these events still are very vivid.
The energy of Dr. John A. Davis also continues to be clear in his mind. He wrote in one of his emails that Dr. Davis had “no grass growing under his feet.” He was very energetic to say the least. Even though he had lost his voice in 1912 and only gained some of it back the energy he had made up for it. He had a Billy Sunday kind of mentality. He could put his foot and kick it up over the chairs when preaching and put emphasis on certain words by inflecting them upwards. Even with the energy he had only some voice. He had a squeaky voice when Pastor Wheeler knew him. From what I know from my own research Dr. John A. Davis lost his voice in 1912 and was only able to regain some of it with some therapy. He had a powerful voice in his days, but with the lack of amplification in the late 1800s Dr. Davis lost his voice preaching to crowds of thousands of people. Pastor Wheeler was thankful for having a great person like Dr. Davis around when he was at PBTS.
During his time at PBTS Ira Weyhe was Pastor Wheeler’s best friend and roommate. Ira was the president of the class of 1934 and also the chief writer for the Theologue of 1934. Another good friend was George H. Kyrk. Pastor Wheeler and two other friends had a trio that would travel to different churches and minister to the congregation. They all lived in the Inner Circle, the converted Merry-Go-Round. The Inner Circle was right behind the Old Main Building and he remembers looking up and knowing exactly where his sweetheart, Florence, was. Sometimes he would write a note to Florence and have the night watchman slip it underneath her door.
He and Florence met while they were doing their different duties on campus. She would work in the dinning hall and he would take her dishes out. Florence would not have been able to stay if it were not for the care that the Davis’ had for the students. They would put some of their own money on the student’s bill or find them other jobs to do around campus to pay for their time at PBTS. It was like one big family at PBTS during the 1930s.
Yet, even with the family unit there were hard days for the school. Being the Depression the food was limited. Sometimes a farm in New York or Pennsylvania would have some extra potatoes and have the students come down and dig them up and take them back to PBTS. Looking back they did not think of themselves as being poor, but being college students even in the 1930s funny things were bound to happen.
He remembers a prank that Florence and some of the girls did on one occasion. They rounded up some cats and released them in the guys’ dorm and caused some excitement. They most likely got in more trouble for getting to close to guys’ dorm than for releasing the cats. Yet, other trials arouse while Pastor Wheeler was there, one being the splitting of the school.
In the summer of 1932 the school split and some professors and students went and formed Baptist Bible Seminary at the First Baptist of Johnson City. As was mentioned earlier in this article Pastor Wheeler remembers praying for God’s guidance on Floral Ave. After much prayer he decided to stay at PBTS. His best friend Ira was still there and Baptist Bible had already started a few weeks earlier. Pastor Wheeler was very thankful he stayed at PBTS, because it would be in 1932 that he and Florence would meet for the first time. To help out Dr. Davis people like Dr. Lowe, a graduate of PBTS came to teach where he would be the rest of his life teaching the Word of God. He believes that the stress both from the death of Charles Davis in 1931 and the school split in 1932 was kept from the student body, but Dr. and Mrs. Davis had to be under immense stress because of both events.
Pastor Wheeler remembers Doctor Wagner very well. Not only him being the class teacher, but he preached the Gospel and loved the Lord. He lived and preached to the students to live as if Jesus were coming back that day. He was also a matchmaker trying to get Pastor Wheeler and Florence together. Many of the professors left churches to take up the burden of PBTS. It was a labor of love; their love for the Lord and their love for the school and its mission.
Another person that he had great respect for was John R. Clements the first president of PBTS. He remembers him writing music and poems all over campus. He would play on his Bilhorn organ also. On one occasion he remembers him writing a poem outside the Inner Circle and he had Mr. Clements write it down for him later on. It was called “On the Jesus Way.” Pastor Wheeler still remembers most of it and treasures its words. It talks about the storms that happened during life and being protected by Jesus Christ. A great man of God who loved his Lord served Him through music and poetry.
In January of 1934, John A. Davis had a series of strokes. The school continued to operate as normally as possible. The classes plugged away. They would have days of prayer and fasting for Dr. Davis’ health. Florence was in a trio that sang at Dr. Davis’ bedside at the cottage. When John A. Davis passed away he remembers the bell on the top of the Main Building ringing 62 times. Yet, even though he was in glory the memory of Dr. John A. Davis would live on.
Pastor Wheeler remembers the Practical Helps that Dr. Davis would give to help people going into the ministry. How to conduct oneself when preaching or visiting a house and the appearance you bring. They were great tips that he has passed down to his children and grandchildren. Dr. Davis gave good practical help for ministers of the Word. He would preach his sermons and be “full of life” and be jumping around. “He was an innovator” for his time doing things that most would not dare to do. He would put things together in a clever way and originate new and different ways to present the gospel (read Education that Educates). A great man of God was Dr. Davis the founder of PBTS
My interview with Pastor Wheeler concluded after one hour and ten minutes on the phone. It was a great phone interview and it was well worth my time to learn more about the rich history of the school. We continued to communicate via email and finally met last month in October here at Davis College. View the picture here. Pastor Wheeler I believe is a living example of era of Dr. John A. Davis, because he has a great bundle of energy and I believe he could jump over a chair.
Coming up next week on Davis College History...Part 3 of 3 Mrs. Ruth Kummerer (Class of 1934)
Labels: 1926, 1931, 1932, 1934, Charles J. Davis, Don Hall, John A. Davis, John R. Clements, Lowe, Pastor Carl Wheeler, prank, Summer Conference, Susquehanna, the Inner Circle, Theologue, WW1