Memories of PBTS from the 1930s
Mrs. Ruth Huson Kummerer (class of 1934)
The final part of the three part series: Memories of PBTS from the 1930s. Today, I am posting about Mrs. Ruth Huson Kummerer who graduated in from PBTS in 1934.
I have been contacting individuals that graduated in the earlier years of PBTS and one of those individuals was Mrs. Ruth Kummerer from the class of 1934. I was thrilled when I found a letter in my box one morning. I devoured every word on the five pages of information and memories. By the end of the letter I had a wonderful glimpse into the life of Ruth from childhood up to present day.
In her letter she told me of the hard times that occurred during her early life. She was the first born in her family. A brother was born after her, but he only lived eighteen months. “Then my mother died when I was five and I went to live with my paternal grandparents” she wrote. Her father was a farmer and her so were her grandparents. Her father sold the farm that they had lived on and moved to Liberty, NY where he found work, and “he and I went to live in a small apartment.”
The only bright spot was that my father was a Christian and had always taken me to church if he was where he could. Liberty Baptist Church was the joy of my life. I publicly accepted Christ at 12, but I cannot remember a time in my early days that I did not have a strong love for the Lord. The church had various contacts with Practical and pastor encouraged me to attend – and at that time I had not heard of any other Bible School.
Yet, there was a problem. Ruth was only 16 years of age. The entering age at the time was 18 years old. Ruth had to get special permission to go to PBTS at that earlier age. She left “with $98.00 (money saved from gifts and a little from working). God took good care of me. At the end of three years I only owed $20.00.” At that time the room and board was only seven dollars a week, what one meal costs now at Davis College. Oh, how time changes.
She took the train from Liberty, NY, in the Catskills region of New York, to Binghamton during the summer of 1931. She was able to see the campus for the first time and was able to see the Summer Conference on the Sunset Knoll of 1931, which took place from July 23 through August 2nd. She remembers the grounds and how wonderful the campus was when she first entered it. The summer conference was a week long of good solid Biblical teaching. Then there was Dr. John A. Davis.
She remembers Dr. John A. Davis very well. Ruth wrote that “he was a real giant in the faith. He had such a strong desire to help students (especially those who had little money and background). He had a great ability to draw out the best in people.” He would give a student body pep talk once a week, mostly on Fridays. He would teach them on evangelism. Ruth remembers that he had great illustrations. He might have a student stand and read Scripture and then continue on with his illustration while the student was still standing. It was a way to drive home the point. When Dr. Davis was done with that point the student could sit down. She told me her mind did not wander when listening to Dr. Davis since he had such an energy and presence. He would be preaching away and hammering away at points in his sermon that no one fell asleep. He was great to listen to even with his weak voice from losing it years before. Yet, he was a man interested in potential.
Dr. Davis was always on the lookout for potential. Most of the students had little money and came from families with little money. Everyone had duties at the school. There was no tuition at that time, but only room and board so the work they did offset the other bills. Ruth’s job was in the kitchen. The school would help find you other jobs on the campus to help you pay your bill. It would be in the kitchen that she would meet her future husband, but I will tell you about a little later.
Ruth’s room was on the third floor of the Old Main Building. Room 216 to be precise and her roommate was Jeanette Herman Selleck. Ruth and Jeanette remained close friends for all their years. “She went to be with the Lord a few years ago. Her oldest daughter is named Ruth and mine is Jeanette.” Ruth mentioned that she had another roommate during her time that was on Student’s League of Many of Nations. She was hardly ever around because of League, but when she was there they had a great time together. She would die at a early age even before graduation Ruth recalled.
Ruth did not remember the death of Charles Davis on Sunday, November 22, 1931. She recalls Charles being at the basketball games. He was good coach for the men’s team. The girl’s basketball team that Ruth was on was coached by Dorothy Gardner. Ruth wrote of her basketball memories:
I had never even seen a basketball game before PBTS, but I was anxious to be included in everything I could. The girls team only had a few games –mostly with church teams. Our outfits consisted of borrowed men’s white shirts and bloomers. We even won sometimes.
Ruth remembers a bus trip into Central New York to play one of the church teams and the fun that they had. During the Depression it was a privilege to be able to travel. It was her favorite basketball memory. Yet, tensions were beginning to happen during the end of her freshman year that the students were unaware of.
Between her freshman and junior year at PBTS the school would split creating Baptist Bible Seminary. Ruth wrote of this event:
The summer of 1932 I spent as a waitress at a fisherman’s lodge near my home. I had very little contact with students or the school. I did not hear of the difficulty until I returned. I had no decision to make. I was already there ready to start. Looking back on the situation now I can even see God’s hand in the division. I have always felt that Dr. Davis conducted himself well and was not guilty of infractions.
However, without the split there would never have been Baptist Bible Seminary –and it has been a great blessing to many people.
She thinks that the whole event had blown up during the summer after the students had gone home for break. Charges were thrown around and there was much conversation throughout the student body when the school year resumed.
It was after the split of the school and lack of teachers that Dr. Lowe came on staff fulltime. He had been making trips from his church to teach for a few days then return for the weekend. After the split he moved up and lived on campus to teach fulltime. He was Ruth’s favorite and from what I can tell many other Alumni called him their favorite. Ruth wrote that “he had such a great way of using illustrations that I still remember.”
Between all the learning the students of PBTS in the 1930s....were students. From what I have learned from Alumni in the 1930s is that they were kids just like the students that go to Davis. They were in their teens and twenties at one time in their life too. Ruth also remembers the cat prank that Pastor Wheeler told me of. The stray cats were rounded up and released in the guys’ dorm. She said it happened just before Halloween one year. It was either in 1932 or 1933. As part of the same prank or at another time they put roller-skates on a cat and sent it up and down the hallway in the girls’ dorm. Ruth did not see it happen, but she remember the stories being told about it.
“One afternoon while I was making molasses cookies for the evening meal I met a handsome freshman in the kitchen doing his required work.” It was Claude Kummerer. They had been assigned extra work for that day and they got talking as she worked on cookies for the meal and Claude was cleaning the floor in the kitchen.
In January of 1934 began the decline of Dr. John A. Davis. “It was evident that he was under a lot of stress before his stroke, but of course it was a great shock to everyone. He did not go to a hospital. Male students volunteered to watch over and care for him at home.” The students knew he was declining and they were as prepared as they could be for the death of this wonderful man of God. When he died the bottom fell out. Ruth and most of the student body were in their rooms at 7:45 PM when Dr. Davis died. From 7 to 9 PM was the study hour for the students before bedtime at 10 PM.
Ruth remembers students standing at the casket of Dr. Davis 24 hours a day keeping watch until the funeral of Dr. Davis. Ruth was working overtime in the kitchen preparing more food the guests attending the funeral. She remembers being in King Hall and on the Knoll almost falling asleep because of the fatigue from working in the kitchen. She wrote that “the funeral and the burial on the knoll were a great testimony to a great man.”
After the funeral Dr. Wagner, who was the class teacher, wanted to change the Theologue. “He immediately said that what was written was not satisfactory for this year and in less than a month he and the class produced the hard covered book” for the class of 1934. Dr. Wagner and the class rallied together to take out some parts of the 1934 Theologue and put together a wonderful book about the life of Dr. John A. Davis.
Ruth graduated in May 1934 and found work in Binghamton doing housework, and on January 19, 1935 Claude Kummerer and her were married. He continued his school work and became student pastor of Wilseyville Community Church. After his graduation Claude became full time pastor of East Lawrence, PA Church. This was the beginning of Christian services for 50 years in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
After retirement we moved to a retirement home in Southampton, PA. In a short time he was asked to be chaplain of this organization of about 500 people. After four year had a severe stroke and lived one week in the hospital (August 28, 1984) and God took him home.
Ruth is still very active being 91. She does a women’s Bible study through her church twice a month. She was wonderful to talk to and I learned much about the school’s history.
This concludes the 3 part series of PBTS in the 1930s. I am working on a new series that will come up in December and January. I will tell you more when I begin the interviews. If I receive more information from the wonderful Alumni in the 1930s I will post it here. So stay tuned.
Labels: 1932, 1934, basketball, Binghamton, Charles J. Davis, Depression, farmer, funeral, John A. Davis, Lowe, prank, Ruth Kummerer, Summer Conference, Theologue