My Press Conference with Billy Graham

It’s time to be grateful for Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at age 99. I have several BG stories, but what means the most is that Billy was the focal point of my first press conference in 1971. Afterward, the story that resulted became my first journalistic byline in Texas Christian University’s The Daily Skiff. It meant a lot that this inaugural byline story combined journalism and faith.

TCU Horned Frog and Campus Crusader Doug Macfarline arranged passes for us to this press-only event. I had the “sort of” legitimate press credential, majoring in journalism and getting the editors’ permission to represent The Daily Skiff. Our friend and driver Mike Sears provided car and camera. We were set for the conference at the Cowboys’ Texas Stadium press room. Not only was Billy Graham there but also Dallas Cowboy’s coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach. Texas heaven! Handsome Billy was larger than life with a firm handshake and steady eye contact. Tom and Roger impressed us, because they quietly made time to meet the college students.

Billy Graham, 1971, Dallas
Billy Graham visits with Doug Macfarline and blurry me. Photo by Mike Sears

This week I dug out my “Evangelist Says Young Are Vital.” It strikes me from

How the story appeared.

reading it that back in the 1970s American youth led the way to many cultural changes. Perhaps they are doing the same this past week in protesting the cultural violence that has become too commonplace.   Here is the story:

 

Evangelist Says Young Are Vital

By Cynthia Schaible

Evangelist Billy Graham confessed Wednesday, Sept. 15, his work would have “petered out” except for the interest of young people.

He talked about youth and the Jesus Revolution to some 50 media persons at a press conference in Dallas’ Texas Stadium.

Coach of the Dallas Cowboys Tom Landry, also executive chairman of Graham’s Dallas Crusade, introduced Graham by saying, “His team has only one quarterback. If I had his quarterback, I wouldn’t have any trouble either.”

Graham, 52, said he feels that his evangelism is much more acceptable now than in the first few years of his 21-year career. Some 60 to 70 percent of the audiences are under 25 years of age. “Young people want more than a creed in their heads; they want an experience in their hearts.”

Jesus People

“Problems are deeper than materialism. Our problems are with the heart. This is something my generation has not understood. We’ve got the finest set of civil rights laws ever, but it does not solve the race problems. Love must come from the heart and Jesus can put it there,” Graham said.

Graham, who just returned from a tour of Europe, commented on his amazement at the interest in the Jesus Revolution both there and here, “We’re all Jesus people, who love Jesus.”

He said that five years ago the youth were turning to drugs and eastern religions for answers, but now young Americans are becoming aware these are not the answers.

Commenting on the difference between the old generation and the new, Graham said parents who suffered in the Depression and World War II did not want their children to suffer in that way, but he added, “I think my generation somehow got the idea that man can ‘live by bread alone’.”

“Problems are deeper than materialism. Our problems are with the heart. This is something my generation has not understood. We’ve got the finest set of civil rights laws ever, but it does not solve the race problems. Love must come from the heart and Jesus can put it there,” Graham said.

Included in the Jesus Movement is the Pentecostal Movement. Graham said this movement is happening because “we went through a period where the church starved for true experience. People are hungry to know Christ personally. Some are going to extremes. Emotionalism could cause a backlash.”

Church Errs

One purpose of the Crusades is to relate young people to the Church. Graham said some churches make either one of two errors. The fundamentalist error is the view that all a person needs is to be saved; the other error—achieving social justice and not worrying about salvation.

“I think there is only one gospel. The first commandment Jesus talks about is to love God with all your hearts, souls, and minds, and then love our neighbors as ourselves…The first four commandments talk about a relationship with God; the next six talk about a relationship with man…there needs to be a balance.”

Graham, crusading for the third time in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, hasn’t been here since 1953. The Crusade runs Sept. 17-Sept. 26, the first event in the almost completed Texas Stadium.

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A Little More on Billy and Ruth

“Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Billy Graham preaching at crusade, Charlotte Armory, 1947, (photo, Billy Graham Library).
Billy and Ruth Graham comfort victims from a 7.5 earthquake in Guatemala, 1976 (photo, Billy Graham Library).

 

A cemetery gravesite for two shows the marker for Ruth Bell Graham, surrounded by grass, flowers, and tree.
Ruth Bell Graham’s gravesite on the Billy Graham Library property in Charlotte, North Carolina (CSB photo, 2017).

 

A marker at Ruth Bell Graham’s gravesite says, “While riding down the highway years ago, Ruth noticed a sign beside the road, “End of Construction–Thank you for your patience.” With a smile, she said that these were the words she wanted on her gravestone.”

A marker at Ruth Bell Graham's gravesite says, "While riding down the highway years ago, Ruth noticed a sign beside the road, "End of Construction--Thank you for your patience." With a smile, she said that these were the words she wanted on her gravestone"

Our New Friend Knew Hitler

He is an elderly man with Einstein hair and a blue cane covered with stars and suns. After shuffling into the booth next to our table at IHOP, he chats in a friendly German accent about pancakes, weather, and Adolf Hitler. We introduce ourselves, and he says his name is Wolfgang. Here is some of our conversation.

IHOP Crepes
IHOP crepes–Chef Wolfgang’s recommendation

Sleepovers at Hitler’s Home

Wolfgang says his father was one of Hitler’s drivers prior to World War 2.  Every year Adolf would hold spring and fall picnics for employees and their families. However, babies were not allowed; the invitation extended to those ages four and up.

At one of these picnics Wolfgang discovers a playmate in Kristina. She is one of at least two children fathered by Hitler through different prostitutes and reared in the Hitler household. “No one talks about any of this,” says Wolfgang, but he states he knows the truth because he experienced it.

Hitler poses with a little boy and girl who look like they are caught by surprise. Identities unknown.

Wolfgang spends many overnights at Hitler’s home, sleeping with his childhood friend. At age eight Kristina and he declare they will marry each other when they grow up.

Soldier at Age 12

War disrupts those plans. Wolfgang  says he is drafted into the army at age 12 and a half. He is placed in charge of four other boys simply because he is the tallest. Toward the end of the Battle of the Bulge his charges are dead, and he finds himself dropping into a foxhole in No Man’s Land. He claims that an American soldier, not much older than himself, is already in the hole.

The two young soldiers eye each other with suspicion and dread as the bombs explode over them. Wolfgang says it seems like two hours but probably is only twenty minutes.

American soldiers of the 290th Infantry Regiment 75th Division photographed in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. {Amonines, Belgium 4 January 1945}
American soldiers of the 290th Infantry Regiment 75th Division photographed in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. (Amonines, Belgium, January 4, 1945, Wikipedia photo)

The American soldier suggests, “You crawl out first; I’ll follow.” Wolfgang knows better. “No, you go first.”

Their situation is so crazy they finally break out laughing.

Then they agree to both throw their weapons toward their respective front lines. Wolfgang hangs onto the soldier’s leg until both of them are out together and both run in opposite directions.

POW Life

Not that day, but eventually Wolfgang becomes a POW. He is fortunate to get a job assisting in a GI kitchen near his village. Unfortunately,  he runs away with some food to take to his starving mother and two siblings. He is caught and presumed AWOL.

German soldiers surrender from The Battle of the Bulge (December/January, 1945).

He says he is lined up against a wall with four soldiers ready to fire upon him.

The officer in charge, however, asks him why he ran away. He explains that he intended to return after giving the food to his family. Mercifully, the officer believes him and returns him to the kitchen.

A week later he is called into the commander’s office where two soldiers stand at attention. Wolfgang says he again fears for his life.

But the commander points to a large basket of food and says, “You will go into the village to your family with these soldiers. When the weekend is over, they will pick you up and bring you to work in the kitchen.” For some time that becomes Wolfgang’s routine.

After the War

Chef rather than Cook

After the war, Wolfgang receives a letter from Kristina in Argentina. She wants him to come to her. His parents tell him absolutely not, and he obeys.

As an adult Wolfgang travels the world learning various cooking styles. He tells us about several local jobs he quit, because the employer wanted a cook rather than a chef.

Wolfgang and Prayers

We converse a little about faith, but Wolfgang is absolute in his agnosticism. He reasons one really cannot know what truth is because everyone believes so differently. He is neutral about whether God exists or not. I tell this elderly man  I will pray he finds Jesus close to him in the days ahead. Wolfgang says he is fine with that.

It is a remarkable conversation one doesn’t expect while eating bacon and eggs at IHOP. Chef Wolfgang declares he likes to eat his crepes cold, but we are long done with our breakfast. It is time to say Auf Wiedersehen.

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Note: I could not document the girl Kristina in a quick online search. Wolfgang says he is writing his story and sending excerpts to his sister in Germany, who puts them on a website. 

My cousin Jeannie has a newspaper photograph clipping of my Great Grandmother about to shake hands with Hitler. My Uncle Johnny, a WW2 veteran, couldn’t stand that picture and almost threw it away. Unknown to me he decided to keep it.  I am glad my cousin Jeannie recently shared this info with me. The fact remains that Hitler, in his time, could appear as an angel of light to many. (Note: an earlier version of this blog unknowingly stated the clipping was destroyed. A copy of it is below.)

Great-grandmother, far left

 

 

Robert “Burns Supper”–Bag Pipers, Highland Dancers, Haggis

Have you heard of a Burns Supper? I was invited to one this month and was privileged to take in the Scottish tradition of honoring bard Robert Burns.

Robert Burns portrait
Robert Burns (1759-1796), portrait in public domain

 

The annual supper, going strong for 200-plus years, occurs worldwide around Burns’ January 25 birthday. It’s a great excuse for Scottish folk to come together and celebrate their culture and poet. The supper’s festivities may include kilted bagpipers, Highland dancers, poetry, whiskey toasts, and haggis. What’s not to like?

What is Haggis?

You may ask, “What is haggis?” Robert Burns, although a poet, was also a farmer. Sensible country folk know that on the farm when one butchers an animal, such as a sheep, one utilizes everything

Server carries honored guest "haggis."
Server carries honored guest “the haggis.”

except the baaaa. Haggis is a Scottish sausage made from sheep’s stomach stuffed with diced sheep’s liver, lungs and heart, oatmeal, onion, suet, and seasoning. It’s cousin is scrapple, made with cornmeal and pork scraps and enjoyed in the Mid-Atlantic states. 

Burns appreciated Haggis so much he wrote “Ode to a Haggis.” Here’s the last verse in English:

You Powers who look after mankind,

And dish out his bill of fare,

Old Scotland wants no watery, wimpy stuff

That splashes about in little wooden bowls!

But, if You will grant her a grateful prayer,

Give her a Haggis!

No Watery, Wimpy Stuff!

A somber kilted gentleman leads the haggis march.
Burns Supper is serious business.

Because of this epicurean fondness, at a Burns Supper, the haggis is the first course brought in with pomp and circumstance—bag pipers and drummers escort the meat held high on a platter to a center table. A kilted Scotsman addresses the haggis, reciting Burns’ poem. Theatrics may include a drawn knife that hacks a thistle (from a vase) and then plunges into the meat.

Drummer leads the server carrying the haggis.
Here it comes to a drummer’s tap-tap.

Two drummers twirl their sticks.

Diners are served thin haggis slices with mashed potatoes. The rest of the meal is more common banquet fare such as salad, salmon, polenta, roasted carrots, and cake.

Upstanding Whiskey Toasts

I don’t recall ever tasting whiskey until this past month. The warm liquor gets a thumbs up along with the haggis. A wee amount of whiskey is served to each guest. Diners rise “upstanding” and do five toasts with some light-hearted speeches thrown in. At my Burns Supper there were toasts to: the U.S. President, the Queen, “The Immortal Memory” of Burns, “The Lassies,” and finally “The Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.”

Burns did love his lassies. He had several illegitimate children with several women and nine children with his wife Jean Armour. While he farmed with his father and brother, Burns composed rough drafts of his poems without paper. With encouragement from his friends and in need of supporting his family, Burns published Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect to great success. Following, he wrote and helped collect many of Scotland’s folk songs into several volumes. Unfortunately, poor health resulted in his death at age 37.

You May Know Poems by Burns

After being invited to a Burns Supper,  I vaguely remembered as a student reading a few Burns’ poems like “To a Louse.” This poem is the one where Burns observes a louse on a pious woman’s bonnet during a church service.

That famous line: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men” comes from Burns’ poem “To a Mouse,” after he accidentally destroyed the mouse’s winter home with a plow.

Burns’ poem “Auld Lang Syne” (For Old Time’s Sake) has given me my word for 2017: “kindness.” At Burns Suppers people sing this song in closing as they often hold crossed hands. Kindness is a good word to remember as we plunge farther into this topsy-turvy year.

Four children sing "For Auld Lang Syne"
Kindness For Auld Lang Syne

A “We Can Eat” Prayer

Burns Suppers often include the recitation of this meal prayer, which has 17th century roots. Tradition says Burns recited this prayer while attending a dinner given by the Earl of Selkirk.

Selkirk Grace (1)

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
[The last line is often varied to read]
And sae the Lord be thankit

Selkirk Grace (2)

Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit.

Below are links to explore Robert Burns’ poetry and a five-minute rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poets/robert-burns