1968: A Year for Change in Our Family

None of you great-grandchildren were born when Aunt Viola and Uncle John went as missionaries to Africa so I’ll tell you how it happened.

Your great-grandfather, Wilbur and I bought a Travel Queen Camper just before we retired and planned to travel over the United States in it. We had also decided we wanted to see more of our California children and grandchildren so we planned to spend the winter in that state and in Arizona.

Our first big trip was to visit them in early 1968 and then drive on to New Orleans to visit your Uncle Roger and Aunt Ann who were living there while working for Boeing. One event on our way to New Orleans stands out. On the morning of April 5, 1968, when we got up and went outside we could tell something was wrong, something had happened.

We were told that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated the day before. There was a dreadful feeling of suspense and fear in the campground there in Louisiana. It was frightening. When we got to our son’s we were cautioned about walking about on the streets.

A day or two after we arrived at Roger’s and Ann’s we received the shock of our lives. A letter from Viola and John told us they had sent an application to the Baptist headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to go as missionaries to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is now called Zaire. Reading that was almost the same as reading that one of them was dying. Why hadn’t they told us when we were visiting them? Because they had just been talking about it then.

Just before we arrived in Anaheim John had attended a Baptist Men’s Retreat in Redlands. One of the men from Valley Forge told of the urgent need of a man to go to Africa to take the place of one of the missionaries. Preferably this person should be a college graduate, be proficient in auto mechanics and electrical work. At this time John was teaching math and auto mechanics in a high school so he fitted the requirements. John spoke with the man and gave him his name and address and had heard nothing up to the time we were there. Because John was needed so badly everything was rushed through and the usual red tape matters were dispensed with. By late May, when we were visiting my cousin Frieda Franquiz and Tonin her husband in West Virginia, they were assured they would be going to Africa and they would be commissioned in Boston at the National Convention. So we drove to Boston to meet them there. One of the opportunities we had there was going to a Boston Baked Bean dinner. We really looked forward to that, but what were we served? Campbell’s baked beans!

The time between June and August when the Allans left for Africa was a hectic time. Physicals had to be taken by all the family, passports and visas obtained, a six-week preparation period at a college in Newark, New Jersey. Everything but what you really needed had to be gotten rid of. The house had to be ready to rent or sell: new carpeting, painting, a garage sale, dinner every night with friends who hated to see them go.

Wilbur and I decided to drive to California to help them out. We wanted to see as much of them as possible before they left. We took two of our granddaughters with us, Cara, age 10 and Gloria, age 7.

Two things I remember about the trip. At a country store in Oregon, off the highway, where we had stopped for gas, we bought our first kiwi fruit, 40c each. When we were camped at Canyon Creek in Oregon we walked to the river in the evening and struck up a conversation with a man who was walking his dog. In the course of the conversation he said, “Seattle took the best pastor and neighbor we ever had. His family lived next to us and our boys grew up together.” He asked if we had ever heard of Max Morgan. Yes we had. He was our pastor.

We had quite a time convincing Cara and Gloria that it was safe to take a shower even if the stalls had no curtains and there was no lock on the outside door. I had to stand out side to ward off any strangers.

Missionaries pack and ship everything in empty oil drums. One company in California supplies these. Every item in the drum had to be listed, even rags if there were any, and a notation had to be made if the item was new or used as well as estimated cost.

After a drum was packed Viola would stand on it so that John could get the cover clamped on and locked.

Nancy, Viola’s youngest, was a little jealous that her grandparents had brought two other grandchildren to share their affection. The three didn’t get very friendly during that visit.

While we were there, Wilbur and I celebrated our 40th anniversary but in all the turmoil Viola had forgotten. We were too tired to do any celebrating anyway. But Cara remembered, or probably heard me mention it. She and Gloria tried to persuade us to go out for dinner and they would stay home by themselves for the Allans had been invited out for dinner. At dinner that night they surprised us by decorating the table and giving us a present they had purchased at the drug store not very far away.

At midnight of the day before the family flew to Zaire we were still painting and packing. When they left the house Viola had curlers in her hair and was carrying her best shoes. Wilbur and I hadn’t had time to clean up so stayed home trying to finish getting the house ready for the renters. I would have cried anyway. As it was no one had time for that. Verna and Hans and the three boys had driven from Seattle to say goodbye taking Cara and Gloria home with them and leaving Peter and John for us to take home. That story will be in the next chapter.