[Here is something that to my knowledge I haven’t posted previously. It is a transcript of a document of Gordon Clark’s remembrances, given in his later years.]
Γορδονος Κλαρκος Απομνημονευματα
(Gordon Clark Remembrances)
though they are not so memorable
My earliest memory is of a vacation trip to Niagara Fall when I was just a few days under four years old. There is a rather swift but narrow stream that flows from Lake Erie about a mile before tumbling over the Falls. My father found a small wooden strawberry box. He had a stone or two in it, threw it in the stream, and watched as it sailed off the Falls. That winter as my father sat in a rocking chair in our dinning room on 2438 N. 19thSt. in Phila., I would ask him if the strawberry box had by then reached the Atlantic Ocean.
It must have been that autumn that my maternal grandmother died. She and my grandfather lived on the third floor of the house. My mother, my grandfather, and perhaps my father were in the bedroom. My mother was very upset, and presumably as my grandmother gasped, my mother told me to run down to the kitchen and bring up the small bottle of aromatic spirits of ammonia. There was always a few bottles of medicine on the open shelf of the cabinet. I brought up the bottle, but my grandmother had died.
The funeral was very English, for my grandparents were English. A crepe hung outside on the front door. The English relatives were present – I had never seen them before. After a service that I do not remember carriages took the mourners to Hillside Cemetery – almost as far as Willow Grove. Some of them returned to our house. Years later automobiles took my mother to the same place.
My grandfather, naturally remained in our house Once in two weeks or so he would visit his son, my Uncle Charlie, in Haddonfield. Coming back, he would have to walk up a small hill from the ferry boat to the street car. During his last illness he groaned that he could not manage to walk up that hill anymore.
Until his death in 1913 or 1914 he gave me Chatterbox as a Christmas present. This was a child’s magazine published monthly but bound together in a year’s edition. One story was Martin Hyde, an excellent boys story by the well known author … Another year it Little Christian’s Pilgrimage in twelve parts. I read it a dozen times.
My grandfather worked as a wool carder until he was about 60 years old. His oldest boy, Charles K. Haddon, struck it rich, and I suspect he paid my mother to take care of their parents. My grandfather was also a member of the Plymouth Brethren.
Having had little schooling in England and desiring to know more about the New Testament, he taught himself Greek. I do not know what become of his New Testament. I had it for a time, and in it I could see how few verses he could cover in an evening.
Our house had no electricity until after his death. The ordinary gas lighting was quite yellow. Bright white mantles could be put on the gas jets and the result would be brilliant. But my grandfather preferred a student oil lamp. With a shade, dark green on the outside and very white on the inside, it gave a very good light. Every morning he would come down to the kitchen to trim the wick, refill the oil, and be ready for the evening’s study. I don’t know how he spent his days; but once a day I would go up to the third floor to receive a piece of candy. I don’t think this continued after I was eight or so, possibly six when I began to go to school.
Though I had no realization of it as a boy, my parents were very poor. The church paid my father a very small salary and once it was nine months in arrears. Even later my mother never told me much about their poverty; but once I heard her say that he sent me to the butcher’s shop for ‘a half a pound of the bottom of the round, run through the grinders’ because she was so embarrassed to go to the butcher’s and buy so little.
Uncle Charles gave us Christmas presents, but until later they could have hardly alleviate our situation. He gave me Victor and another year a cornet. Still later he gave his three nephews – cousins Joe + Bessie, and myself – a hundred dollar check and he gave my mother a thousand dollar check, but mother died after receiving only six of them.
Uncle Charlie must have become a millionaire by the end of Word War I. His close friend Eldridge Johnson invented the Victor Talking Machine, called Victor because his dog really did recognize his master’s voice. Thomas Edison sued Victrola for infringement on his patents. The Victor defense was that the sound box was sufficiently different from Edison’s approaches that it was no infringement. In the trail an important witness was a judge, a friend of the judge in the case. Johnson – when a child my mother had played with him + her brother – was anxious to get a very important bit of evidence before the jury. The Victor lawyer led up to the question, but when he asked it Edison’s lawyer protested, successfully, and the trial judge ruled it inadmissible. I suppose the Victor lawyer tried at least twice. Since the trial judge and the Victor judge were good friends, they discussed the point, and the Victor judge agreed that his friend, the trial judge, was quite right in ruling the question inadmissible. Then when the confab. – two judges and two lawyers – was over and the witness-judge resumed his seat in the witness box, he spoke to the jury “I am not allowed to answer this question, but if I were, I would answer. Yes.” Edison’s lawyer exploded. The trial judge was flabbergasted but contented himself in telling the jury that they must not allow that answer to affect their decision. Of course Victor won the case.
This was really the legal beginning of he Victor Talking Machine Co. Johnson, my mother of course always called him Eldridge though she really met him after she married, conferred with Uncle Charlie as to who should occupy the highest position: he of course wanted president, Uncle Charlie would be Sec’y-Treasurer – and did ?? work his brother – my uncle Joe – in the group. For some unknown reason Uncle Charles excluded his brother. Later Uncle Joe got a job in the company, perhaps half way up the ladder but his immediate superior mad his life miserable. In 1928 (?) Victor sold out to RCA. In 1925 Uncle Charlie, I think, set up my Uncle Joe and my cousin Joe in the chicken business. Cousin Joe had been manager of the Purdue Univ. chicken department, and he knew chickens from A to Z. Eventually the price of feed went to high and they had to quit. Uncle Joe still had his 25 or 30 acres, but cousin Joe became a policeman and was killed in an auto crash, in Fort Washington, PA. (mid 50s) In 1926 m parents took a long vacation, in conjunction with a General Assembly meeting in Denver, and I stayed with Uncle Joe. I read Strack and Billerbeck [editors note – These are German New Testament commentators] every morning for two hours, and gave dubious help on the chicken farm the rest of the day. My work was not hard, but Joe had to bury a water pipe in a trench, and he remarked to me, “This requires a strong back and a weak mind.”
My father was born in Prospect Pa., 1859, where his father, James Armstrong Clark and other members are buried in a plot surrounded by what is imposing obelisk for the village. He went to Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where his favorite professor was Dr. Shunk. When he graduated from Princeton Seminary, he had no definite plans and intended only to return to Prospect. On the train to Phila. the man who sat next to him began a conversation and asked if he could postpone his trip home and preach that Sunday in Camden (???) – I think it was the Third Presbyterian Church. My father stayed for three years. Then he was called to Wissionoming, a suburb of Phila. One day a girl appeared in church wearing a red hat and apparently the attraction was so obvious that she never wore it again. They were married in 1895 and I was born in 1902. About that time my father became Asst. Pastor to Dr. Mutchmore, a rather prominent minister. He started a mission at 19th, York St. a locality which had until then been farm land – or at least not built up. I remember in 1910 when the basement for the S.S. building was dry – the church building was built in 1904 – they dug out an immense stump of a tree. My father could not have stayed very long at Wissionoming, for he was pastor at Bethel (19th+ York) from 1895 to his death in 1939, just a bit before his 80thbirthday. My mother had died in 1932. Shortly after, my father married again, and it almost destroyed the church. About 1/3 voted to ask him to resign. Our church had very few fights. One big trouble – not a fight – was basketball. The basement of the S.S. building was made deep enough for basket ball. It was so sufficient that it attracted many teams: but somehow a rough element developed, and the session put an end to the games. There was a later fuss. We had a member Mr. Merkle, who with his family and relatives, were a small group. Mr. Merkle was extremely excitable, and on one occasion he thought that one of the elders had insulted him. It was the youngest elder Bill Campbell, a bachelor who took very good care of his frail mother. The elders, no doubt as tactfully as possible, suggest that he apologize to Mr. M. They knew he had done nothing that needed an apology, but they also knew Mr. M. Bill did so – a very precious act of self-effacement, and so the congregation did not lose six or eight members.
Before World War I, in 1915, Billy Sunday conducted a six week evangelistic campaign in Phila. He had a tremendous tabernacle where the main library now stands, and the sawdust was thick on the ground floor. Later the speech professor at the U of P. told me that the tabernacle had + was designed to have excellent acoustics. Not that the prof. Was much in favor of the Gospel, but he recognize acoustics. He even defended Billy Sunday’s acrobatics, and, making a limp gesture asked how polite gestures could ever be impressive in such a large auditorium. He might also have mentioned Billy Sunday’s voice – for there were no loud speakers in 1915. Our church received about 150 new members that spring. Most of them disappeared after a while, but a few very good people stayed.
For a number of year in the 20ies my father taught in the Phila. Deaconess School, 1277 Spruce St. It was run by Presby. Ch. And the RCA. One of his student was a Miss Brown, a very lovely character [The girls were all older then, later they came at college age] who went to Chimayo N.M. as a missionary to the Indians. It was she who gave me the large Indian blanket, so tightly woven, that now has. (???) She died some years before my father did.
Ralph Wallis was a boy in our church. I don’t think he ever went to college; but a little later than usual he decided to become a minister, and went to Temple – now Temple University – for night school. When my father died, the neighborhood was becoming largely negro; the church had a moribund existence, and was merged by Presbytery with Ralph Wallis’ church in the northern end of the city. R.W’s first church was in Daretown N.J. and though him I met Floyd Graf. R.W. then went to a church on Broad St. near Temple, and then to the north. He grew exceedingly fat + died, at an early age.
Throughout my life I have never dreamed very often, once a month or once in six weeks, or even longer. Two boyhood dreams I distinctly remember> I was probably about eight years old and I dreamed my mother sent me to the grocery store, Robinson + Crawford, on the corner, with some small change to buy some small items. I walked down the street to 2430 and there dropped a nickel on the side walk. It landed on its edge and rolled in a circular path and fell into the street. I suppose I dreamed I picked it up; but there the dream stopped. The following morning that is what actually happened: the dream came back to me as the real nickel rolled on edge into the gutter.
But the second dream, it was a series of identical dreams, was frightening. I would get out of bed – in my dream – and walk to the door of the sitting room, also on the second floor – rear – It was a long room. Towards its rear there was a curio cabinet, containing a few coins, pieces of different kinds of wood, shells, etc. The cabinet stood on legs, about 24 or 30 inches from the floor. There was a foot long rope of tobacco which my father had brought home from Jamaica. Franklin Baker, the clerk of our session and S.S. Superintendent, a man everybody loved, founded a firm that dealt in coconuts. He made and lost three fortunes, and then his eldest son kicked him out with a pension + made the firm profitable. Well, Mr. Baker took my father to Jamaica on one of his ships. At any rate, the curio cabinet stood near the rear of the sitting room. In my dream I got out of bed + walked to the door of the sitting room. From under the curio cabinet a mouse of ordinary size came out from under the cabinet. It filled me with great terror, really great terror. I turned and was unconsciously transported to the third floor at the top of the stairs. Somehow I floated down the stairs partway and found myself horizontal over the door of the closet in my bedroom. Then I rolled down an invisible inclined plane, landed on the bed, turned over once and woke up. Had I not turned over that once I would have died. This dream recurred many times, 8, 10, 12, I don’t remember. Every detail was exactly the same. One day I said to myself. I’ve got to stop that dream. Shortly after that decision, the dream came again – but this time the mouse was the size of a small dog, and very horrible. I don’t think I went to the mouse or the mouse came to me. But I had him in my hands and choked him to death. That dream never came back again.
One day my mother visited uncle Joe in Fort Washington. Several people were sitting in the dining room – I was not there. A terrible thunder storm was in progress. There was a flash of lightning, a blue ball of electricity came from the outside o to the base board, about as big as a baseball – it moved slowly around the base board to the radio set, blew it out with a clap of thunderThe people all sat still, then without speaking they slowly faded out across the hall into the living room. The radio was a mess of burnt wires and junk, but no fire was started.