I began my first (or junior) year at the Calvin Theological Seminary in September 1932. There were fourteen members in my class, all except one of whom had graduated from Calvin College the previous June. My cousin George Stob was the exception: he had graduated from Calvin in 1930. Originally headed for the seminary, he had undergone a change in sentiment on graduation from college and, while residing with his parents in Englewood, had spent the past two years in a number of jobs in the business world. I visited him often during this period and noticed in him a growing desire to return to his first love; and in the summer of 1932, with a renewed sense of calling to the ministry, he decided to enter the seminary. I rejoiced in his decision, and, after conferring with Leroy Vogel, I invited him to join us at Butler Hall, an invitation that he readily accepted.
The seminary building had been erected in 1930 on the southwest corner of the college campus (at Franklin Street and Benjamin Avenue), and we entered that new building when the fall classes convened. There were six professors offering instruction in various fields. The president of the seminary, Louis Berkhof, B.D., was the professor of systematic theology. Fifty-nine years old at the time, he had joined the staff in 1906 as professor of exegetical theology, had since 1914 been professor of New Testament studies, and had in 1926 assumed the chair in systematics. Samuel Volbeda, Th.D., was the fifty-one-year-old professor of practical theology. He had joined the faculty in 1914 as professor of church history but had since 1926 been teaching practical theology. Clarence Bouma, Th.D., had joined the faculty in 1924 as professor of systematic theology but had in 1926 chosen to assume the newly established chair of ethics and apologetics, a circumstance that permitted Prof. Berkhof to undertake the teaching of systematics. Martin Wyngaarden, Ph.D., was professor of Old Testament studies and, like Bouma, had joined the faculty in 1924; both of these men were forty-one years old at the time of my enrollment. Henry Schultze, B.D., at thirty-nine the youngest of the group, was professor of New Testament studies, having been appointed to this post in 1926. Dietrich Kromminga, B.D., fifty-three years old at the time, was the professor of historical theology. He had joined the faculty in 1928, the year I came to college.
Four of these professors were foreign born Berkhof, Volbeda, and Bouma being Netherlanders by birth, and Kromminga being a native of Oostfriesland in Germany; Schultze and Wyngaarden were Midwesterners, born in Iowa and Wisconsin respectively. Although only three of the six professors had acquired advanced degrees, all had engaged in graduate studies at various institutions of learning. Together they constituted a creditable body of scholars, teachers, and preachers.
In the academic year 1932-33, I took six hours of Hebrew with Dr. Wyngaarden; three hours of New Testament introduction, three hours of New Testament history, two hours of hermeneutics, and two hours of public speaking with Prof. Schultze; three hours of ancient church history with Prof. Kromminga; three hours of history of doctrine and two hours of introduction to dogmatics with Prof. Berkhof; three hours of theological encyclopedia with Dr. Bouma; and one hour of homiletics, one hour of liturgics, and two hours of practice preaching with Dr. Volbeda thirty-one hours of instruction in all.
The seminary levied no matriculation fee, and no student paid more than fifty dollars a year for tuition. Students from outlying districts paid only twenty-five dollars, and those coming from the far south and west paid no tuition at all. Classes were held only in the morning. Each of the professors had his own classroom, and in each of these rooms there was a small “office” that was seldom used. Out-of-class contact between faculty and students rarely occurred; pleasantries passed between them in the halls and after mid-morning chapel, but when classes were dismissed, all went their several ways. Counseling programs did not exist then, and I dare say none felt in need of them.
The students were organized into a group known as “Corps”; but, except for an early group meeting to elect a “praetor,” the student body tended to dissolve into little more than a friendly aggregate of individuals, though some formed the kind of association that George, Bird, and I enjoyed. There were among the students two or three who had entered college late in life and had come to seminary already married, but the vast majority of students were unmarried. It was the rule in those days that no one entered into matrimony until his studies were completed and he was ready to enter the active ministry. Engagements were embarked on with the utmost seriousness and were not lightly broken. It happened once that a student broke his engagement to a young woman and escaped expulsion only by expressing his deep regret to the faculty and entering a tearful plea for clemency.
The three of us at Butler Hall formed a congenial group. We moved a bed and a desk in for George; but the rent remained the same, which meant that each of us paid only four dollars a month for our accommodations. George proved to be an expert cook, and it was he who was now charged with preparing the grocery list and with cooking the noon meal. We ate cereals in the morning, more often than not spaghetti with canned tomatoes and meatballs at noon, and for the evening meal we traipsed to Mrs. Stadt’s boarding house, where we feasted on potatoes, vegetables, and meats in the company of several other students. I don’t remember what we paid for this evening repast, but it could not have been more than fifty cents. In those Depression days one could eat at the Cody Hotel cafeteria in downtown Grand Rapids for less than that. Sunday specials there featured roast young turkey with dressing for thirty cents and fricassee of chicken with tea biscuits for twenty-five cents. The coffee we bought for use in our apartment cost nineteen cents a pound, and we consumed heroic amounts of it. Bird and I washed and dried the dishes, and I continued to sweep and dust the premises.
We entertained many visitors. Henry Zylstra, Rod Youngs, John Daling, and fellow seminarians came regularly to our door; when their studies at the university permitted, Clarence Pott and Tunis Prins would also drop in. And on occasion Hilda De Graaf and her friend Hermine Weeber would stop by. But we did not neglect our studies, and all three of us managed to earn acceptable grades. At year’s end I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Manhattan Junior prize, given annually to a beginning student selected by the faculty. The award yielded the princely sum of five dollars.
Our group was saddened during that year when George’s mother fell ill and soon thereafter passed away. When the news came that she was stricken, we managed to get George aboard the Pere Marquette train just as it was pulling out of the station. After the funeral, George considered suspending his studies in order to be with his sorrowing and inconsolable father; but we dissuaded him from adopting such a course, and he was later glad he had heeded our advice. My own widowed mother sold her house in the fall of 1932 and lived first with my sister Gert and her husband, and then with my brother Tom and his wife. Mart, meanwhile, took up residence with my brother George and his wife and managed to get a government-supported job hauling refuse out of Cicero alleys with a large horse-drawn wagon.
The event of the year was, of course, the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Presidency of the United States in November 1932. Herbert Hoover left office on March 4, 1933, and soon after his inauguration Roosevelt put into place a political and economic “New Deal.” Already on March 5 a bank holiday was declared, and thereafter the government passed one resolution after another calculated to restore the economy, increase jobs, and secure savings and investments. To provide employment, Congress established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Public Works Administration (PWA), and the National Recovery Administration (NRA). The Emergency Banking Relief Act and the Federal Securities Act were passed, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was established to forestall any future stock market crash. To aid the impoverished, Congress established the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). By the end of June 1933, all these programs were in place and the people took heart, even though 30 percent of the work force was still unemployed and dust storms had begun to erode the farmlands of Oklahoma and Arkansas. In another sense, “spirits” were lifted throughout the land, for on January 1, 1933, the twenty-first amendment, which repealed national prohibition, went into effect, legalizing the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages. For many it was a day of celebration.
A long month before President Roosevelt assumed office, a national leader of quite a different sort seized power on the European continent. On January 30, 1933, Adolph Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Von Hindenburg. He soon thereafter claimed dictatorial privileges and became “Fhrer of the Reich.”
Things were also happening on the local scene. In June 1933, Rev. R. B. Kuiper, having been appointed professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary, relinquished the presidency of Calvin College and was replaced in that office by Dr. Ralph Stob, who would serve as president for the next six years. To fill the gap created by Prof. Stob’s departure from the classroom, William Radius was appointed assistant in Greek at a yearly salary of $1,700. In late August, Henry Zylstra left Grand Rapids in order to begin teaching at the Western Academy in Hull, Iowa.
When the school term ended, I returned to Cicero and lived all summer with my brother Bill and his wife Tillie, who provided me with room, board, and companionship at no cost, a circumstance that permitted me once again to devote the monies I earned at Smith’s produce market to my own needs.
I came home furnished with a preaching license, and I delivered my first sermons on two Sundays in June 1933, once at the Cicero I Christian Reformed Church and once at the Roseland II Christian Reformed Church.
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I had a good but uneventful summer. I went out very little. I didn’t even attend Chicago’s World Fair, which, among other things, featured the fan dancer Sally Rand. After working all day, I spent a good deal of time with my mother, with Mart, and with my other brothers and sisters. From the newspapers I read during that summer, I learned that a sixty-six-nation economic conference was held in London; that H. L. Mencken had laid down the editorship of the American Mercury; that the United States was about to give formal recognition to the Soviet Union; and that construction was beginning on the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. I believe it was also during that summer that Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, was killed in Miami by an assassin’s bullet meant for President Roosevelt.
When fall came, I was off to begin my second (middler) year at the seminary and about to put into operation a plan we had hatched during the summer. Why, we had said to each other, shouldn’t Mother and I live together in Grand Rapids? She had no fixed home, and I, free to live where I wished within reach of school, would much enjoy and greatly profit from her presence and care. And so it was decided. Informing Bird and George of our plan, and receiving their well wishes, I retrieved my belongings from Butler Hall and moved into a pleasant upper apartment I had rented at 904 Kalamazoo Avenue in southeast Grand Rapids. Mother arrived just as school was about to begin.
Mart had accompanied her on the train, and, heeding Mother’s wishes that he remain close to her, he began to look for a job in Grand Rapids. Practiced in the butcher trade, he did in fact find employment after a few days’ search, and the three of us happily shared our new apartment. Mart, however, was engaged to a fine young lady in Cicero, and he now proposed that they get married and live in Grand Rapids. So it happened that on October 15, 1933, Martin J. Stob and Therese Vander Molen were married in a Cicero church at a Sunday evening service. Mother and I were, of course, at the wedding, at which I served as Mart’s best man. Mart and Therese moved promptly to Grand Rapids and established themselves in a house located near the apartment Mother and I occupied.
I thoroughly enjoyed the year with Mother. She furnished the flat with items she had brought from Cicero, gave the whole establishment the appearance of home, prepared the meals, farmed out the laundry, and made life in every way pleasant for me. I did the shopping, took her to church, helped with the dishes, and involved her in my works and ways. It was a blessed time, and I have ever since been happy that we were able to spend our life together during that period.
It was also during that year that I began to court with greater regularity the girl of whom I was growing steadily fonder. I did not see Hilda often, but we did have several Sunday evening dates. I was introduced to the members of her family, and I took her once to meet my mother. In this way the prospects of our eventual union grew slowly brighter.
My studies at the seminary followed the prescribed pattern: with Prof. Wyngaarden I took one hour of advanced instruction in Hebrew, three hours of introduction to the Old Testament, three hours of Old Testament history, and two hours of Old Testament exegesis; I also took two hours of New Testament exegesis with Prof. Schultze, six hours of church history (medieval and modern) with Prof. Kromminga, six hours of systematics (theology, anthropology, and Christology) with Prof. Berkhof, three hours of Christian theism and three hours of Christian ethics with Prof. Bouma, and two hours of practice preaching with Prof. Volbeda.
Being licensed to “exhort,” I conducted Sunday services on nine occasions in various churches during the year, receiving for each of the eighteen “sermons” a five-dollar honorarium. In those days one did not travel to outlying districts on Sunday. This meant that we students would leave on Saturday to fulfill our preaching assignments, lodge with a member of the church, and remain until Monday morning. If the distance we had to travel was not too great, we might be permitted to leave for home on Sunday night a minute after midnight, but no earlier: one was allowed under no circumstances to desecrate the sabbath by traveling on it. I was once assigned to preach in the local West Leonard church and suffered a rebuke when an elder of the church saw me alight from the streetcar I had taken to reach my destination. He expected me, I suppose, to use the legs the Lord had given me. The meals we were offered by our Sunday hosts were generally good, but one Sunday I preached in a rural community where the lady of the house apparently objected to cooking on the sabbath and placed on our plates a bowl of cold soup. I still recall with what distaste I broke through the crusted fat in order to reach the congealed substance that lay beneath the surface.
There were no student clubs at the seminary, which left us free to pursue our studies and prepare the sermons we were called on to preach. However, I was engaged in another extracurricular activity that year: I had been elected national president of the League of Evangelical Students, and this involved me in regular correspondence with other officers and in a number of group meetings. As part of my duties, I undertook to prepare for publication and distribution by the league a pamphlet on “The Doctrine of God.” The pamphlet, with my four chapters and an additional one by my successor, appeared a few years later. It also happened that, after submitting relevant essays, George Stob and I were fortunate enough to be awarded proportional shares of the fifty-dollar Bethany Muskegon Mission Prize at the end of the year.
Things were happening outside seminary as well. In the Christian Reformed Church the Psalter Hymnal made its appearance, freeing congregations to use hymns in public worship, provided the psalms be not neglected. The Dutch language remained alive in the church, but in the course of that year Synod decided to publish its Acts in the English language only. The church was saddened by the death on November 9, 1933, of Prof. Emeritus William Heyns and on March 21, 1934, of Prof. Emeritus Foppe Ten Hoor, but it rejoiced with Prof. Albert Rooks for his having reached his fortieth-year milestone in his teaching career at the college.
In Germany the Hitler regime was fastening its tentacles on the church, but the establishment of the Confessional Synod (“Bekenntnis Kirche”) and the publication of the “Barmen Declaration” in May 1934 brought hope and encouragement to the steadfast Christians of the land. The evil strength of Nazism was manifested, however, by the Hitler-inspired murder of Ernst Rhm, the head of the Strmabteilung (SA), and by the replacement of the SA with the SS (Schutzstaffeln) under Heinrich Himmler.
In 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born in Canada. In the same year, the United States Congress passed a bill granting Philippine Independence after a ten-year period of economic and political tutelage. In the Midwest the farmers continued to suffer as drought and dust storms devastated the land.
As the 1933-34 school year was drawing to a close, Mother and I had to make plans for the summer. I was committed to return to my job on Chicago’s South Water Market. Mother could remain in the Grand Rapids apartment and be looked after by Mart and Therese; but she chose wisely, I think, not to do so, but to spend the summer in the company of her daughter, my sister Jen. Jen and Hank (Vander Molen) had just lost their eleven-year-old son James, and Jen was now in the last stages of a pregnancy and could profit from Mother’s presence and services. About the first of June 1934, Mother and I moved to Cicero, I to live with Bill and Till, and Mother with Hank and Jen. Saddened by Jamie’s death, we rejoiced when Jen gave birth to a daughter, Betty Ann, in July 1934.
Wishing to preserve our lease on the Kalamazoo Avenue apartment, we offered in school notices to sublease it for the summer, and we were pleased when Prof. and Mrs. R. B. Kuiper decided to accept our offer. They occupied the premises for the full three summer months. Besides working at Thomas S. Smith’s, I also engaged in some preaching: I conducted Sunday services in seven different Chicagoland churches. I was also happy in midsummer to escort Hilda De Graaf on a tour of Chicago’s World Fair.
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I began my senior year at Calvin Seminary in September 1934. Sometime before classes convened, Mother and I re-established ourselves in our Kalamazoo Avenue apartment and settled down for another year of life together. During that academic year I took two hours of Old Testament biblical theology and two hours of Old Testament exegesis with Prof. Wyngaarden; two hours of New Testament biblical theology and one hour of New Testament exegesis with Prof. Schultze; two hours of American church history and one hour of Christian Reformed church history with Prof. Kromminga; six hours of systematics (soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology) with Prof. Berkhof; two hours of applied Christian ethics with Prof. Bouma; and three hours of church polity, one hour of catechetics, one hour of pastoral theology, and two hours of practice preaching with Prof. Volbeda.
All these courses, as well as those I had taken in the previous years, were prescribed. The curriculum provided room for only one elective, open only to seniors, and I chose to conduct a study of German Idealism under the guidance of Prof. Bouma. I was the only student involved in the study, and during the semester I plowed through Helmut Groos’s massive volume I dealismus und Christentum and regularly presented typed summaries of the text, with commentary, to Prof. Bouma when we met for our weekly consultation. The 500 pages of involuted German taxed my powers of understanding and interpretation, but in the process of reading I learned a good deal about continental philosophy and markedly improved my grasp of the German language.
It is not easy properly to assess the education we received at the seminary. At the heart of the curriculum stood systematic theology: we received seventeen hours of instruction in prolegomena, the history of doctrine, and the six classical loci from a kindly man whose orderly mind construed biblical truth in strict conformity to the Reformed Confessions, particularly to the Canons of Dort. Already in those days I had problems with an eternal decree of reprobation and with the doctrine of limited atonement; but Prof. Berkhof held that these and related doctrines were not only firmly grounded in the Bible but were also in no way offensive to sound reason. Thus he usually met my inquiries concerning these things with the benign but bland reply “I see no problem there.” I respected Prof. Berkhof and benefited from his instruction and friendship; but he was not, in spite of his considerable attainments, a theologian who grounded us in the classics or engaged us in dialogue with modern and contemporary thinkers. We read neither Augustine nor Aquinas; we were neither required nor encouraged to read Luther and Calvin; and we heard nothing of Schleiermacher and Ritschl except that they were “subjectivists” undeserving of our attention. Barth, likewise, tended to be dismissed as yet another “liberal” whose critical view of Scripture disqualified him as a mentor. This does not mean that we were left without guidance. Basing his teaching on Kuyper, Bavinck, Hodge, Warfield, and Shedd, Prof. Berkhof constructed a theology that incorporated important elements of Dutch and Scottish Calvinism and which, while breaking no new ground, did present in an orderly and comprehensive fashion the substance and flavor of Reformed orthodoxy.
Our training in practical theology was sound but by current standards minimal. We had three hours of instruction in church polity, and six hours were devoted to practice preaching; but in the course of three years we received only one hour of instruction in each of the several other practical disciplines ,homiletics, liturgics, catechesis, and pastoral theology. There were no courses in counseling, church administration, or hymnology, and field work was entirely absent. I did not engage in catechism or Sunday School teaching, in the activities of young people’s societies, in mission work, or in any other ecclesiastical endeavor. We were licensed to exhort and we did engage in “preaching”; but there was no monitoring of our performance, and we were in no way held accountable for these exercises. And, of course, our summers were unburdened: we were free to spend them as we pleased.
Yet I enjoyed Professor Volbeda’s classes. He was not strong on “practice” and gave few methodological hints or prescriptions, but he laid bare the theological grounds of preaching, pastoring, and worshiping, and this stood everybody in good stead. He delivered his lectures in a latinized English freighted with polysyllabic words, and he seldom got beyond the prolegomenon of any subject he taught; but his eloquence and spiritual fervor lent grace to his utterances, and he was gladly heard. Of lasting value, I think, was his prescription for exegeting a text and for settling a sermon on it. Discover, he said, the single theme of the text, phrase it aptly, and then, apprehending from an analysis of the text the three or four angles from which its theme may be viewed, state in precise language how you propose to illumine it. We attempted to do this in practice preaching, but we seldom did it to his satisfaction. His suggestions would then follow, such as: The Success of Importunate Prayer Guaranteed: “(1) Its express authority, (2) Its significant iteration, (3) Its universal range” (Luke 11:9-10). Or, The Patriarch’s Faith Surviving in Death: “(1) The object of faith called for it, (2) The vision of faith facilitated it, (3) The confession of faith pledged it, (4) The life of faith betokened it” (Heb. 11:13-15). Or, The Resplendence of Moses’ Countenance: “(1) Its miraculous origin, (2) Its mediatorial purpose, (3) Its intermittent manifestation” (Exod. 34:29-35). I suspect that sermons so fashioned are rare these days, but his did actually unfold the text.
Prof. Kromminga taught church history with competence and Germanic thoroughness; but he was somewhat impatient with questions of philosophical import, and I was sometimes taken aback by his curt responses to my inquiries. However, he was in great favor with most students, and he doubtless lent substance to the faculty.
I tended to be closest to Prof. Bouma, whose interest in philosophical theology had been nourished at Harvard. Although he was staunchly “orthodox,” he addressed contemporary issues in ethics and apologetics with understanding and empathy and with considerable powers of mind and spirit, and I profited from his lectures. He was an early ecumenist, and through the Calvin Forum, which he founded and edited, he sought to reach out to the worldwide Reformed community as well as to the secular world around him. Unfortunately, he was not on the best of terms with Prof. Jellema, and this displeased me; I was not able fully to allay his suspicions even though I did seek to moderate his judgments concerning his colleague.
Professors Wyngaarden and Schultze were there to teach us exegesis and biblical theology, and they did so with varying degrees of success. Prof. Schultze was a popular preacher and an able exegete, but he was not a notable New Testament scholar and made no claim to be. In the classroom he addressed his subject with a certain competence, but also with a loose informality that at times bordered on the lackadaisical. He was, however, honest in his approach to biblical texts, open to critical insights, and indisposed to reconcile the varying gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, words, and deeds. Unlike others in his generation, he regarded the “Synoptic Problem” beyond resolving. All in all, most of us appreciated his unpretentious presence and academic candor. Prof. Wyngaarden was generally held in less esteem and left most of us with a truncated view of the Old Testament and a less than adequate grasp of Hebrew. Since he was the successor to the deposed Prof. Janssen, perhaps his fear of stumbling led him to avoid critical confrontations and instead to seek refuge in a staid orthodoxy and the advocacy of a completely inerrant Bible.
Hilda De Graaf and I had for some time now been “going steady.” I courted her on Friday and Sunday evenings, traveling to and from her home by streetcar. Because the cars stopped running at the stroke of midnight, on some evenings I had to return home on foot ,and that through several dark and lonely miles. Hilda and I did not often indulge in outings and excursions, and we were infrequently seen in public places. We spent most evenings in her living room in the presence of her parents, although when weather permitted we retired for privacy to the porch swing and there consumed the cocoa and cookies that Hilda generously provided. At other times we would go for long walks or simply amble to the corner drugstore for a soda or an ice cream cone. Hilda would normally accompany me when I preached on Sunday evenings, and when I was free of such assignments I would attend the worship services at Coldbrook Church with her. We were both poor. Hilda was working then at Steketee’s department store as an interior decorator and earning thirteen dollars and fifty cents a week. Out of this sum she bought her daily lunch, paid her mother three dollars for room and board, and set aside a tenth for charity.
One of our dates stands out vividly in my memory. On March 15, 1935, I took Hilda to the Dies Natalis banquet at the seminary, and later that evening I asked for her hand in marriage. She happily accepted my proposal, and we sealed our compact with a kiss. Some days later I sought and received her parents’ approval of our engagement, whereupon I went to Engbers jewelry store on Seymour Square and bought a diamond ring to symbolize our commitment. Newspaper ads in 1935 advertised wedding rings for two dollars, and diamond rings at $8.50, but the one I bought cost the princely sum of thirty-five dollars. The purchase depleted my resources, but I rejoiced in the expenditure and looked forward with eager anticipation to an eventual union with the girl I loved.
During that academic year I “preached” in sixteen different churches and on seven occasions delivered sermons in Dutch.
The senior students were now nearing graduation, and almost all were looking forward to candidacy and an eventual call to ministry in a church. I had, however, fallen in love with theology, particularly on its philosophical side, and began contemplating graduate study. My mentors encouraged me to move in that direction, and I applied to four schools. I was happy when in April and May the divinity schools at Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, and Hartford offered me graduate scholarships of differing amounts. None of the stipends was large by the standards that later prevailed, but they fit the temper of the times and were sufficient unto the day. Princeton offered a scholarship of $100, Chicago one of $250, Harvard one of $350, and Hartford offered me a Jacobus Fellowship yielding $500. I was at first inclined to go to Harvard, and I sent several letters of inquiry to Dean Sperry. But I understood that Prof. Farmer was teaching systematics at Hartford and that the retired Prof. Mackenzie was still active there; and this, together with the prospect of receiving $500, moved me to decide in favor of Hartford. So, on May 23, 1935, I wrote a letter of acceptance and thanks to Dean Rockwell Potter and informed him that I would be in Hartford when school convened in the fall.
On April 1, I passed the oral examination leading to the Th.B. degree; in May the Board of Trustees took note of the fact that I was not standing for candidacy and voted to extend my preaching license; and on June 4, 1935, fourteen of us received our diplomas at the commencement exercises held in the Welsh Auditorium. The graduating class consisted of Henry Evenhouse, Charles Greenfield, Elco Oostendorp, William Reinsma, John Schuring, George Stob, Henry Stob, George Vander Kooi, Bernard Visscher, Edward Visser, Leroy Vogel, Nicholas Wassenaar, George Wieber, and Roderick Youngs.
The end of the school year involved the end of my apartment sharing with Mother; we vacated the apartment in late May and moved in with Mart and Therese at 936 Watkins Street. Mother continued to live with her children there until the spring of 1936, but I stayed only a few days after commencement. I then returned to Cicero in order to take up residence with Bill and Tillie and resume working at Thomas S. Smith’s.
As usual, things were happening outside the seminary classrooms and halls. In 1935 the United States Congress established the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the National Youth Administration (NYA), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Congress also passed the Neutrality Act, which authorized the President to forbid the sale or transport of arms to any belligerent. Of special interest was the passage of the Social Security Act, which stipulated that payroll taxes were to be levied beginning in 1937, and that pension eligibility was to begin in 1940. During that year, Huey (“Kingfish”) Long, the senator from Louisiana, was assassinated in the streets, and the CIO under John L. Lewis separated from the AFL.
In Europe there were wars, military expansions, and dictatorial restraints. The Italians under Mussolini conquered Ethiopia. Adolph Hitler introduced compulsory military service in Germany, and under Nazi pressure Karl Barth transferred from Bonn to the University of Basel.
Things were happening at Calvin too. Sometime during the year, Clarence Bouma launched the monthly magazine Calvin Forum. In May 1935 the Calvin Board of Trustees required every student to sign a card pledging obedience to the college rules forbidding participation in worldly amusements (movie attendance, dancing, and card playing). In the face of unfavorable communications from the college faculty and the student council, the Board reappointed Ralph Stob as president for the regular period of four years, believing that “the present unrest in faculty and student body . . . can be settled if the Board stands firmly behind the President.” At the May meeting the Board also appointed Albert Muyskens to be instructor in mathematics and physical education, and as coach of basketball, at an annual salary of $2,100.
Although Harry Jellema was greatly appreciated by most of his students and revered by some, he was in disfavor with some members of the faculty and board, and this presumably led him to consider transferring to another school. In any case, at its meeting in May 1935, the Board of Trustees was informed that Prof. Jellema had accepted an appointment in philosophy at Indiana University and would not be available when college classes resumed in the fall. The faculty proposed that Dr. Cornelius Van Til or Dr. Cecil De Boer be appointed in his place, but the board was not ready to act and decided “to postpone the matter of appointing a successor to Professor Jellema until next year.” The executive committee and the faculty were meanwhile charged with “making arrangements for the teaching of philosophy during the coming year.” Jesse De Boer, a 1934 college graduate who had spent a year at the University of Illinois in pursuit of a philosophy degree, was thereupon asked to fill the temporary vacancy, and he began teaching at the college in September 1935 at an annual salary of $1,600.
Leaving my fiance in Grand Rapids was not pleasant, but I could ill afford to forfeit the money I could earn on the South Water Market. I tried to make up for my absence by accepting as many Michigan preaching appointments as I could. As it turned out, I preached in Grand Rapids and environs on nine different Sundays and was thus able to spend many weekends with Hilda and my mother. On six of these Sundays I preached in both English and Dutch.
Thomas S. Smith’s Wholesale Produce establishment was now declining under the weight of the depression and would be put up for sale the following year. I was thus informed that at summer’s end my employment would be terminated. The news did not bother me, since my student days were drawing to an end and the Hartford Fellowship would see me through the next academic year. I had been employed at Smith’s every summer for a period of ten years, and when it came time to leave, I expressed to Mr. Smith my heartfelt thanks for his willingness to take me on and bade him and my associates a fond farewell.
In late August I said goodbye to my kinfolk in Cicero, stopped in Grand Rapids to visit with Hilda, Mother, and Mart and Therese, and in early September 1935 boarded a train for Hartford, Connecticut, and a two-semester stay in historic New England. I was now twenty-seven years old.